Sunday, December 27, 2009

Write On, Baby

By Lisabet Sarai



I like to think that I can write on any topic. This week's subject, however, has me stymied. I'm completely unqualified to offer my opinions on "Writing and Parenting".

I'm in my fifties and have been married for more than twenty five years, but, by choice, I have no children. It's not that I don't like kids--I do. I get along really well with children, mostly because I have vivid memories of what childhood was like. I can still summon the excitement of a snow day, school being canceled, an unanticipated gift. I remember the games I used to play in the woods with my brother and the stories that I made up for my dolls. As I recall, though, my favorite dolls were teenagers or adults, not babies. My fantasies involved living in a "studio apartment" (whatever that was--it sounded exciting!) and having a job as a famous scientist, not feeding bottles and changing diapers.

Anyway, I don't regret being childless, although I sometimes think that it's a waste of excellent genetic material. My husband never wanted kids, and I had very little inclination in that direction either. We were rarely in a stable financial situation--we had boom years and bust years-- and I knew that to bring up a child, you need money that you can count on, for eighteen years at least. Both of us worked full time, and there was no way that we could afford day care or a nanny.

Still, lots of parents face financial obstacles but that doesn't dampen their desire for children. Sometimes I think I'm just lacking a maternal gene. Actually, neither of my siblings have children, either. Perhaps being childless runs in my family.

When I reflect on the question, I suspect that I would not have been a good mother. Overprotected myself, I've no doubt I would have treated my children the same way. Children have always seemed such fragile creatures. I worry so much about my husband and our cats (both of whom are more competent than the average two year old) -- I'm sure I would have driven my kids, and myself, crazy.

I know that I'm a rarity, in the romance world, at least. Practically every author I can think of is married with kids. All the other members of the Grip have at least one child, ranging from toddlers to teenagers. I don't know how they do it. I'm hugely impressed. No, awed.

Your kids have to come first. So how can you pursue a writing career with one or more little creatures demanding your attention? If your kids are older, how do you explain that you write stories that some people consider immoral or evil?

I suspect that I'll get the answers to these questions over the course of the week. As for me, I have the luxury of writing without sticky hands grabbing my skirt or rap music blaring from a teen's room over my head.

The only thing I have to worry about is cat fur on the keyboard.

23 comments:

  1. You have the good parental attitude, and you don't have to be a parent to have a good life!

    Secretia

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  2. My writing speed is about 1/10th of what it was before we had our son. It was easier when he was an infant, but much harder now that he's a toddler. It's actually the energy issue more than the time--he's exhausting! It's hard to settle into write after a long day of taking care of him.

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  3. Lisabet, I like how you think. Working for the welfare system in Utah, I see numerous single mothers that come in for help. Why didn't they realize they couldn't afford having kids, either? It's sad, really. And my own daughter got pregnant at 16, married, divorced, had another child with another man (but didn't marry this one, thank goodness), and is without child support. And she's just barely turned 21. Very sad!!

    Having kids is the easy part...it's when they become teenagers is what ages parents. (groans)

    ~Phyllis~

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  4. Lisabet,

    If you fancy borrowing a kid to have a taste at all the 'parenting fun' you've been missing, I can stick Ash Junior in a box and have him shipped over :-)

    And, if the answer is yes, remind me to put airholes in the box ;-)

    Best,

    Ash

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  5. Lisabet,

    I know a few people who have opted out of the parenting gig and I'm impressed with all of them. It takes gumption to deny your own parents grand children. It's often one of the most difficult aspect of deciding not to parent, if not THE most difficult. I love my kids and grand kids, but there were times I was sure I'd made the wrong choice. Those lil rug rats don't come with instructions and I was very sure I was doing it wrong. That's terrifying, at least it was for me.

    As for being a parent and managing a writing career of any kind. I have no idea how anyone else did it or does it. I suffer from insomnia at times and it ain't a bad thing. I often found myself writing at 3 and 4 AM quite happily.

    Explaining what I write to children/teens, well you do that carefully. My daughter knew much younger than my son. It all depends on what you think the child will be comfortable dealing with.

    I'm looking forward to seeing what the rest of the OGG gang post on the topic.

    Hugs

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  6. I had kids because I wanted to have kids. They're 15 and 18 now. I'm also a full-time writer and have been one for two years. Having kids didn't stop me from achieving my dream. There are writers who have no kids - no responsibilities - and still can't get their act together.

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  7. My husband and I raised five kids, so my writing was second to parenting for many years, but I have no regrets about that. Our family is the most important thing in my life and the writing success is second.

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  8. I remember this saying that seems to apply here:
    If you want to get something done, ask a busy person.

    I opted out of parenting, too, but like you Lisabet, love kids, am surrounded by lots of godkids and friend's kids and I love every minute I spend with them.

    It's never easy to go against the grain of what's expected. Sometimes I wonder where the hell I got the gumption to do so, although I have to sheepishly admit I did recently go to a fertility clinic at UCLA where I was about to get injected with a Brazilian soccer player's sperm (my friend said: Are you crazy, his sperm and not the fun of his body!') )but just as I was about to sign on the dotted line, a breeder I've had Golden puppies with said she'd had a new batch and I could have one, so I opted for Oliver the golden puppy instead of the baby.

    It's never easy, is it? Kids, no kids. Writing, not writing, We are all creative geniuses, I guess, finding the time to do what we're passionate about.
    The writers among you with kids are giving them such a great example of what it's like to live a passionate, complex, hopefully balanced life. Right on! Mary Kennedy Eastham, Author, The Shadow of a Dog I Can't Forget and the upcoming novel 'Night Surfing'

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  9. Hi Lisabet!

    I was wondering if you had any kids but felt shy about asking. This is so often a sensitive question for ladies, more than for men. One of the things that has surprised me over time is the typical person who writes erotica or romance. Erotica writers are the punk rockers of the literary world and i always figured that would be who the writers would be, young folks of college age with purple hair, frenetic sex lives, and loads of attitude. I was surprised to see they're mostly people like myself. People like you.

    I might wish for everybody to have kids who wants them, but it simply isn;t for everybody. You seem to have made the right decision.

    Garce

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  10. Hi, Secretia,

    I think I've always had an over-developed sense of responsibility. (I always feel that everything is my fault!) I guess that's parental -- but it's part of what kept me childless.

    Thanks for commenting.

    Warmly,
    Lisabet

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  11. Hello, Ed,

    I feel for you! I've learned a lot about trying to write with toddlers around from Helen Madden's Cynical Woman cartoons!

    Best,
    Lisabet

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  12. Hello, Phyllis,

    Thanks for your comment and your vote of support. Sometimes I feel as though I'm just selfish. But having kids is such a serious decision... It's not as though the world needs extra people, either.

    Warmly,
    Lisabet

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  13. Hi,Ash,

    I imagine that Ash Junior might enjoy the visit...!!

    Anyway, he seems like a sensible, mature sort of chap, based on his recent guest post.

    Warmly,
    Lisabet

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  14. Hello, Jude,

    Nice to see you back here!

    I completely identify with your fears of "doing it wrong"! I'd be terrified.

    Fortunately my parents never pressured any of us about having kids. My dad remarried, my step mom has three kids and THEY all have children, so he got to be a grandpa anyway.

    Hugs,
    Lisabet

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  15. When my then-husband and I were seeing a marriage councellor, we approached the topic of 'children'.
    (We have two.) His insight on the topic? "Having children ruins your life."

    During their early years I took correspondence writing courses. It was the only way to guarantee myself some writing time. I studied children's lit, and erotica. I - ahem - liked the erotica course better.

    However, Alice Munro, peerless author of short fiction, says she wrote short stories because she had little kids running around the house and didn't have blocks of time to devote to writing longer pieces.

    It worked for her!

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  16. Hello, Jolie,

    Thanks for your comments.

    I admire your determination and overall guts. You're certainly right that not having kids doesn't guarantee success. Sometimes I think that the writers who do have children are forced to be more organized and productive.

    Warmly,
    Lisabet

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  17. Hello, Maryann,

    Five kids! My hat is off to you.

    I definitely agree that family comes first. There's no competition.

    Warmly,
    Lisabet

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  18. Hey, Mary,

    Golden retriever pup or the scion of a Brazilian soccer player--what a choice!

    Seriously, you've got to listen to your heart, your instincts, and ignore what the world tries to force on you.

    Thanks for dropping by.

    Best,
    Lisabet

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  19. Hi, Garce,

    You don't have to be shy with me...;^)

    I don't know if there's such a thing as a "right" choice. My life would have been different if I'd had children, that much is clear. But I believe that we have many possible paths in life. It's a waste of time to wonder whether we would have been happier traveling a different road.

    Warmly,
    Lisabet

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  20. Hello, Madeline,

    Welcome to the Grip!

    If my husband had wanted children, I would have been swayed. But he definitely didn't. So I was swayed in the other direction, I guess.

    I'd love to write a children's book, actually. As I said in my post, I really do remember how it felt to be a kid. And I'm pretty sure that I could keep it clean.

    Best,
    Lisabet

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  21. Perhaps being childless runs in my family.

    I love that! They ought to put you in Bartlett's* with this priceless line.

    *The quotations compendium, not the pears.

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  22. Hi Lisabet, we were together and child-free by choice for a decade before it struck us that maybe we should change our minds...??? I felt the same as you those ambivalent years when I watched people I know juggle their own interests with the responsibilities of children.

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  23. For someone who was stymied by the topic, you certainly managed to put together a good blog post! Remind me to challenge you more often };)

    I agree that people should have as many kids as they want to have, from 0 to ???, so long as they can support and care for that number of kids. I'm up for a third, but will have to see what happens.

    Enjoyed the post!

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