This week’s guest blog is by Gwendolen Gross, an author, most recently of The Other Mother, a novel about two moms, one of whom works and one who doesn’t. (We recently interviewed Gwendolen on Work It, Mom! - click here to read the interview.) If youâ€™d like to have your guest blog post featured on Work It, Mom!, send it in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please make sure itâ€™s relevant to working moms and is under 300 words or so.
About Our Children
I am an author, but I don’t write about my children very much. I talk about them, of course, in that way you talk with women friendsâ€”picking up the narrative over breaks, the way you might pick up a book after putting it down to work and make dinner and carve pumpkins and fill out a thousand book fair-girl scout-family night-health-insurance-formsâ€”a few days, or even weeks, later. I need the give and take of mom friendships; I need to compare my experiences to theirs (not in a ranking sort of way, but to touch the earth of common situation). But when it comes to writing, I feel like it’s a sort of betrayal to tell anything about my children’s stories. I feel protective, even, corresponding about them on mom-sites. I feel as though their lives are their own, and though I may borrow my experiences with them in the form of fiction, it feels wrong to make any characters who are clearly them. Maybe this will change, but I doubt it. Then there’s the contradictionâ€”I love to read blogs about parenting issues common to mine. I love to hear about the successes and difficulties of the photographed but blog-named children. I love to feel connected to the parents via our common experiencesâ€”and sometimes I write to those parents, but I never post about my children, except about the most surface issues. It just feels wrong.
Am I being selfish? I’m happy to share experience and wisdom and mistake in my writing, but only when I’ve given those experiences to imaginary people. I have friends and family who have thought they found themselves in my fiction, and the truth is, there may be pieces of them there, but never a whole, and rarely does anyone recognize the bits I shared by design, finding, instead, unintentional parallels.
So what do you think: is writing about your kids taking anything away from them? Or is it really more about your experience of raising them, which belongs to you, not them? I suppose I’m a private person, after all, but more about their business than my own. My mother, an artist, used to photograph us and use some of the images, albeit altered, in her work. I don’t remember feeling as proud of those pictures as the ones of other things, but I don’t think I felt particularly betrayed or embarrassed about most of them (okay, except the shirtless one at age 10). I don’t think I minded being a model, except that I had to stay still. But writing about my children seems like showing them naked, seems like taking something away from them. And yet I don’t think the same of other writers who write about their children.
Writers and bloggers out there, readersâ€”what do you think?