Does Motherhood Impact Women and Our Writing Careers? And If So, What About Women Writers Who Aren’t Mothers?

I thought these were good questions to post in this blog when I read The Boston Globe’s article, “Others forge writing careers while they raise children,” through the eyes of Erika Dreifus, a writer I know and respect.

In her blog Practicing Writing, Erika responds to the article from the perspective of a woman without children (you’ll want to read the Globe article first, I think, otherwise you’ll be confused).

I’ve only asked a couple of questions about the topic here. It’s probably obvious, since I wrote an entire book on the topic that I believe that motherhood impacts me personally as both a woman and a writer. I also believe that it’s an interesting topic of discussion for all women who are mothers and writers.

I didn’t have any trouble finding almost 300 pages of material on the subject, though my book primarily focuses on teaching writing career skill sets, NOT offering parenting or mothering advice.

Even so, I personally feel that there is a lot that can be said about this topic. I believe that my perspective only scratches the surface of one very particular branch of the discussion, which is mothers who wish to write nonfiction for traditional publication.

That description alone, I think, indicates what a huge topic this is that could spin off in so many interesting directions. But let’s stay with the issues that Erika’s post brings up, for now.

I think that issues of identity and the impact of individual identity within society are pretty big topics. I want to be clear that what I am about to say is a very personal one based on my own experience and that I would never attempt to speak for all moms who write or women who write.

Having said that, my attitude is that women who identify themselves as mothers, as a subgroup of people who identify themselves as women, are incredibly diverse. I was aware of this before I wrote my book and I am even more aware of it today.

Therefore the idea that one book or a few books or a handful of publications on motherhood and writing address us all equally is not possible in my mind. I celebrate the multitude and diversity of voices in the ongoing writing mothers’ dialogue. I definitely see it as an ongoing conversation, in which Erika’s response counts as much as any response. And I don’t want to see it end.

So, do I feel that moms who write and write about being moms have a responsibility to temper or taper our discussion to include women who don’t have children?

That’s a really interesting and tough question. And it’s one that has come up in my personal life, in fact, a couple times recently.

I don’t experience my identity as limiting me or my voice. In fact, I feel a certain amount of responsibility to write about it. To stand on my rooftop, as the poet Rumi describes it, and “sing my note.”

Nor do I feel limited by my personal experience. I write fiction. I’ve written about rape and the abandonment of a special needs child. Neither are my personal experience. And thank goodness for that.

I see my identity as an endless source of writing material. Of course I do; I am a writer. I doubt I’ll stop using that material any time soon. And I hope that other people will explore the intersection between their identity and writing too.

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1 Response to “Does Motherhood Impact Women and Our Writing Careers? And If So, What About Women Writers Who Aren’t Mothers?”


  1. 1 Beth Blevins July 10, 2008 at 8:00 am

    I wrote about this recently in a posting on my blog, “Do Motherhood and Creativity Mix?” (http://beblevins.blogspot.com/2008/06/do-motherhood-parenthood-and-creativity.html). Since then, I’ve seen a lot of traffic on this topic. Helium currently has a question posted for comments, “Does motherhood really spell the end of writing?” (http://www.helium.com/items/1040897-does-motherhood-really-spell-the-end-of-writing).

    I think it depends on what kind of writing you’re talking about:
    –Writing articles for a newspaper where you already have a job? Of course.
    –Writing a novel or well-researched biography while nursing a one-week-old? Probably not.

    All this pondering on motherhood and writing has made me wonder about how women, historically, have managed to write books, despite social constraints, economic situations, and sometimes limited education. So I’ve started to compile an in-process web page on this topic at: http://howdowomenwrite.googlepages.com/. I welcome any info people have to share regarding famous women writers and children.


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