Ursula Le Guin on Motherhood and Creative Work
Writer Ursula Le Guin passed away yesterday at 88. I haven’t read any of her work (she wrote over 20 novels), but, after hearing this excerpt from a 1988 Fresh Air interview, I’m planning on it.
On disproving the notion that women can't be mothers and do creative work at the same time
I feel a certain obligation to sort of stand up and be counted as a woman who has had kids and brought them up, and also done creative work, which — particularly in the arts — there does seem to be almost a sort of agreement that this can't be done. ...
The fact is, creative work has replaced having a family for some women. That's fine. Having a family has replaced creative work for other women. That's fine. Then there are some of us who really need to do both and are perfectly capable of doing both.
Another thing that I've found ... [is that] women who write, who have children, their work tends to get "disappeared." They're not quite respectable. The few women who are counted part of the great canon of English literature tend to be childless and often unmarried. ... I have to say, the men seem to prefer it that way.
On how being a mother ultimately enriched her writing
There is a time during one's life when, if you are responsible for the care of your kids, it is very hard to do other creative work. You have to do it around the edges, in the middle of the night, or you never can get up before your kids, so it's usually late at night. Or, if you have the money, you hire some kind of babysitter or some kind of childcare.
It's hard. Your energy, your creative energies are being spread thin and strained. On the other hand, you are living an extremely rich life at the same time. And this is going to enrich your work, inevitably, I think. It may not seem so at the time, but ... babies don't stay babies for very long, whereas writers live for decades. You do outlive your babies.
What do you think, mom? Do I start with this one?
Cover image via The Nation