Double Lives: Writing & Motherhood

Double Lives : Writing & Motherhood

Edited by Shannon Cowan, Fiona Tinwei Lam, and Cathy Stonehouse

McGill-Queen’s University Press

I picked up this book, hoping for inspiration about my life as a mother and aspiring to be published writer.

What I got was a good dose of other people’s reality and mine too, once I looked closely enough in the mirror.

“Double Lives: Writing & Motherhood” is an anthology that resonated with me, though not always in a positive way. The essential message is that good writing, real writing, requires time to think. Time where your brain is not crowded with endless domestic thoughts and tasks. Time that is longer than a toddler’s nap.

Most of the moms in the book were totally unable to separate their two worlds, making writing about anything other than motherhood an almost impossible task. Like me, many of them thought they would have their kid and just pick up where they left off a few days later. In fact, that is what I actually did. The January issue of our newspaper was due at the printer and our daughter was two weeks early. I had to sit on my stitches and get it done. It wasn’t the prettiest issue in our almost ten year history, but it wasn’t a disaster. A day after we went to press, I slept for 12 hours. I had run that issue on adrenalin and my body paid the price for the lack of recovery time.

But back to the book: these academic essays are not the fluff I was half expecting. Frankly, I also expected a little humour to be injected but I didn’t find much. What I found was women who were profoundly divided in their loyalties. They loved their children and wanted to be there for them. They needed to write as much as they needed to breathe. How to reconcile these two worlds?

In several cases, they didn’t. For a period of their lives, they simply stopped writing, several alluding to a ‘fallow’ period during which they focused on their children. Others wrote when they could, seemingly ever disappointed in what they managed to produce.

I have always found it difficult to write in the snatches of time that are available to me, mostly because like most people, I am unable to just ‘switch it on’ and get my creative juices flowing the minute the kiddo is out the door. I tend to ‘plan’ some of my writing while lying in bed, fighting the usual bout of insomnia that has plagued me since becoming self-employed but getting down to the business of writing is a difficult thing with a preschooler around.

This book is nonetheless inspiring for one simple reason. All of these women ARE writers AND parents. So despite the issues and blocks and problems, it is possible. Thank goodness. I can breathe again.


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