|Tolstoy with his wife Sofia and their 8 kids.|
She wrote that in a short piece for The Atlantic that caught the attention of several female writers, mothers of multiple children. Among them was the formidable Zadie Smith who must have been pissed over what she read because she went right in and posted a COMMENT below the article, like we mortals do:
I am Zadie Smith, another writer. I have two children. Dickens had ten - I think Tolstoy did, too. Did anyone for one moment worry that those men were becoming too father-ish to be writer-esque? Does the fact that Heidi Julavitz, Nikita Lalwani, Nicole Krauss, Jhumpa Lahiri, Vendela Vida, Curtis Sittenfeld, Marilynne Robinson, Toni Morrison and so on and so forth (i could really go on all day with that list) have multiple children make them lesser writers? Are four children a problem for the writer Michael Chabon - or just for his wife the writer Ayelet Waldman? The idea that motherhood is inherently somehow a threat to creativity is just absurd. What IS a threat to all women's freedoms is the issue of time, which is the same problem whether you are a writer, factory worker or nurse. We need decent public daycare services, partners who do their share, affordable childcare and/or a supportive community of friends and family. As for the issue of singles versus multiples verses none at all, each to their own! But as the parent of multiples I can assure Ms Sandler that two kids entertaining each other in one room gives their mother in another room a surprising amount of free time she would not have otherwise.I am not a mother but I am a feminist, so first, I can only agree with Smith. Second, I must point out that there are plenty of mommy-ish mothers of one... as if that's helpful. And ... last but not least ... I wonder why we are having such a debate about women, among women... as if parenthood is so purely gendered.
Can we have this conversation... about balancing personal and professional fulfillment... without dragging kids into it?
P.S. I don't think so.