Writer Gender Makes On The Home Front
by Rose DeShaw
When the baby
crawled across the street one day while I was
writing and sat on a church lawn, gurgling, till
I noticed, I had cause to question whether
publishing and parenting really went together at
Trying to find a
way not to be got at, I usually followed the
Agatha Christie method; clearing off an end of
the kitchen table and writing longhand so the
family might think I was composing an extra-long
grocery list and leave me alone. Another time I
bought a four foot high roll of photographic
paper and sat it in the middle of the room on the
theory that perhaps, if they couldnt see me,
they might go do something other than cling to my
money, the case in most young families, any time
I took off from the spouse-house-sprout game to
write, had to result in immediate funds which
precluded any long novels.
thirty years I always had a column in one
periodical or another, waiting till the next-day
deadline to get the thing written, wherever I
happened to be. In between I wrote articles for a
variety of papers or short stories which were
anthologized, one bringing me a regular royalty
of about six bucks.
All three of the
children did their bit; bringing chickenpox home
from school for the little ones, outgrowing
things before they were worn. I had resolved
never to use them as copy, even when they were
adorable. It wasnt their fault, mother was
leaving them with their father for very long,
when I came home from a meeting to find them, all
under five, lined up with their toys outside the
closed door of his study.
writing, the oldest explained.
Were not supposed to bother him.
MOMMY'S WRITING? I yelled at him when they
were in bed.
blame ME if youre not able to communicate
your needs to the children, he said.
couldve been sticking their fingers in the
light sockets, drowning in the bathtub, bleeding!
One of them
wouldve tattled, he said.
I clung to Shirley
Jacksons, Raising Demons and Life
Among The Savages, about mothering and the
need to let loose. Someone who knew her said the
poet Dylan Thomas once chased her around the
kitchen, while her husband sat calmly at the
table, writing. I wouldve been up for that.
But all writers
know late night drinks dont mix with little
voices early in the A.M. One morning, trying to
believe my husbands claim that the kids
would be fine on their own for awhile, I suddenly
smelled cooking. Down in the kitchen with a
cookbook they were making banana bread with
sketchy reading skills.
Old oven, smoking,
set at 400. Loaf pan containing china cup filled
with rapidly melting butter, a handful of
browning flour and an unpeeled banana.
supposed to be a surprise! they chorused,
as my husband slept on.