Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother by Beth Ann Fennelly might be the only parenting book you'll ever need. Perhaps, because, it's not about parenting tactics or tricks at all; it's advice from a mother who is figuring out the day-to-day of how to make it work as a parent and as a creative person. The book is essentially a pile of encouraging and honest letters from Ms. Fennelly to a dear friend who's about to embark on motherhood and a dissertation. (And we're the lucky readers who are peeking into the shoebox.)
I first read Great with Child while I was pregnant, but I keep it by my bedside, still, because the things that made me nervous during pregnancy (the labor and birth) are so much different than the points of stress I face as a mother today (there is never enough time to do the creative work that I want to do, and, ironically, time is going by so fast—am I present enough as Sophie's mom?)
The other night while I was flipping through my copy, I came across these gems that I must have whizzed by the first time around (there was, after all, a delivery to fret about!):
On Work/Life Balance
"I wouldn't say every woman needs all of the things on my list, but the more you have, the better your chances. Ideally, every woman who hopes to raise children while producing creative work would have: a supportive spouse and extended family, a room of one's own (or at least a corner of a room with a door you can shut), mom friends, writer friends, and mentors."
On Faking It
"… gamble on yourself as an investment that will pay off. It isn't always easy to have this kind of confidence. Sometimes when Claire was very young I'd hire a babysitter to come to the house so I could write. Then I'd be at my desk thinking, is this poem worth $6.50 an hour? At that thought, whatever little seedling poem I was trying to trellis would shrivel and die. Women aren't normally encouraged to provide themselves time and resources, especially if doing so requires sacrifices from others. But it's a skill we need to practice. So start by faking a confidence in your talents and after a while you might have the results to justify the confidence."
On Not Having it All
"Accept mediocrity. Be underwhelming. You can't do everything, so choose some things to sacrifice, and absolve yourself from guilt. It may be that you can raise a child child and write a dissertation—but have the ugliest lawn on the block. And that's okay. Let someone else win "Lawn of the Month"—someone with a nanny."
I hope her words inspire all of the creative women out there, with and without children, to look to their peeps in their corner, to take a risk and double-down on yourself, and to pass over that endless list of yard-work that needs finishing, guilt free.
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