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The Difference 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 all.

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 couldn’t see me, they might go do something other than cling to my ankles.

Having little 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.

For well-over 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 wasn’t their fault, mother was a writer.

I’d stopped 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.

“Daddy’s writing,” the oldest explained. “We’re not supposed to bother him.”

“What about, MOMMY'S WRITING?” I yelled at him when they were in bed.

“Don’t blame ME if you’re not able to communicate your needs to the children,” he said.

“They could’ve been sticking their fingers in the light sockets, drowning in the bathtub, bleeding!”

“One of them would’ve tattled,” he said.

I clung to Shirley Jackson’s, 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 would’ve been up for that.

But all writers know late night drinks don’t mix with little voices early in the A.M. One morning, trying to believe my husband’s 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.

“It was supposed to be a surprise!” they chorused, as my husband slept on.