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“Raising young kids is all consuming, so cut yourself a break and don’t make yourself (or them!) miserable by hyperventilating about your professional status (or lack thereof).”
~Elisa Albert, Author of After Birth
PP: Describe your life in the context of writing, parenting and other employment (if applicable).
EA: “Describe your life”: what a fabulous invitation! How much time do you have? I teach sometimes, work as a doula sometimes, study yoga regularly, write most of the time, travel periodically, and am a homemaker all of the time. I want to reclaim “homemaker”, which has such a pejorative stank on it, but which I think really aptly describes what I’ve always done, first for myself alone, and alongside the beloved people who comprise my family.
“I feel blessed to be a mother and I am glad to be a writer. The two never seem to be in conflict.”
I live in a depressed, unglamorous American city and my husband and I do all the grocery shopping and school shuttling and birthday party planning and violin lesson arranging and babysitter wrangling and running around and dinner making you’d imagine.
PP: How do you integrate creative writing into your parenting/work responsibilities?
We’re both writers, so we tag-team, and we “give” each other time. Things have, of course, gotten easier now that we’re not the parents of an infant or toddler. Those years were taxing in ways that are difficult to communicate unless you’ve been there.
Now we have most of the day (school hours) and nice calm evenings, and we’re relatively well rested, and we’ve both taken weeklong residencies a couple times a year, too. The baby/toddler years were something else altogether, though it’s only in hindsight that we can see how fleeting they were.
PP: What’s awesome about being a parent who writes?
Well, it’s awesome being a parent and it’s awesome being a writer, so I guess it’s awesome squared? I really can’t answer this question. I feel blessed to be a mother and I am glad to be a writer. The two never seem to be in conflict.
“Relax, you’ll have plenty of time to put pedal to the metal, ambition-wise.”
If my career is a maybe a somewhat stunted in the short run in favor of hanging out with my offspring, I’m cool with that, but that’s more about my own constitution/values than anything else. Creative success or striving can napalm ego balance, and children have this magnificent power to root our feet in the dirt, where they belong.
PP: What’s challenging about it?
I suppose parenting can be challenging if you don’t have community, whereas writing can be challenging if you have too much community.
PP: What’s your advice for other parents who write?
Same as for anyone who writes: read a lot. Then, too, I’d add: raising young kids is all consuming, so cut yourself a break and don’t make yourself (or them!) miserable by hyperventilating about your professional status (or lack thereof). It’s like a decade and a half before your kids are like: please leave me alone, right? And hopefully creative fertility is forever. So relax, you’ll have plenty of time to put pedal to the metal, ambition-wise. Like ani difranco says: you can have it all, but not all at the same time.
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Elisa Albert is the author of After Birth (2015), The Book of Dahlia (2008), How This Night is Different (2006), and the editor of the anthology Freud’s Blind Spot (2010). Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Tin House, The New York Times, Post Road, The Guardian, Gulf Coast, Commentary, Salon, Tablet, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Believer, The Rumpus, Time Magazine, on NPR, and in many anthologies. Albert grew up in Los Angeles and received her MFA from Columbia University. A recipient of the Moment magazine emerging writer award and a finalist for the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, she has received residencies and fellowships from The Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Djerassi, Vermont Studio Center, and The Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies in Holland. She is an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia’s School of the Arts and Visiting Writer at The College of Saint Rose.
The Pen Parentis Research Project is a series of interviews with parent authors in order to learn how they mange time, publish, earn a living, nurture creative community, and care for their kids. Managed by Mary Harpin, the project will culminate in a book with stories, data, and helpful information that other parent writers can apply to their own busy lives.