Writing and Motherhood: Are We There Yet?

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I recently re-read Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1988 essay on mother writers, titled “The Fisherwoman’s Daughter.” It’s been a few years since I read it in a college literary criticism class, but I never forgot it.

Le Guin writes about how society has long preached that women writers are unnatural, and mother writers even more so. Society’s reasoning being that either the children or the books would suffer if a woman attempted to fulfill both callings. Le Guin argues that it can be done, without anyone putting anyone’s head in the oven (a la Sylvia Plath). Exhibit A: Le Guin herself has written books and raised children, quite successfully. The essay a very encouraging read.

As a woman who hopes to both have kids and get published, I started wondering: are we there yet?

As a society, have we stopped marginalizing mother writers?

I think of J. K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, Suzanne Collins, and Shannon Hale right off the top of my head. I think of all the women I know personally who are mothers (or plan to be mothers) and who are writing books. I haven’t heard anyone tell them they can’t do it, or they’re not suited for it. I haven’t been told any such thing myself. The only bar I can see today to being both a mother and a writer is the one that has always existed: that pesky limit of only 24 hours in a day.

If anything, society now says it is unnatural to be a mother without some other profession, or for women to hamper (pun intended) their potential by being mothers at all.

I think we can safely say the pendulum has swung. Thanks to Le Guin and others, mothers and other women writers have stepped out of the margins and onto the page where they were always meant to be.

The only downside is that the pendulum may have gone a bit far. Now the fight is for motherhood itself to be an acceptable occupation for women.

Moms, women, writers–your thoughts?