The Joys and Challenges of Being a Writer and a Mother

The Joys and Challenges of Being a Writer and a Mother

“Plant a tree, have a child, write a book.” This famous saying, attributed to Cuban poet and freedom fighter José Martí, encapsulates the desire to create a lasting legacy. As a writer and a mother of three, I’ve been contemplating the parallels between writing and motherhood, especially since the onset of the pandemic. And it has led me to conclude that this maxim is both simplistic and unfair. Let me explain why.

The Unexpected Love for Plants

During the lockdown, I found myself drawn to plants. I went beyond planting trees in my backyard and filled my home with houseplants. Taking care of them brought me joy and satisfaction. In contrast, navigating the challenges of motherhood during those uncertain and fearful months was incredibly tough. Especially as a mother to 19-year-old twin daughters and a 10-year-old son. Despite being fortunate enough to have part-time teaching jobs and the opportunity to work on my own writing, it felt like I could never do enough. Balancing my children’s needs, my students’ needs, and my personal and professional responsibilities seemed impossible. It was like being an orchestra conductor, soloist, and concertmaster while also managing a busy household. The pressure was immense.

The Unrealistic Maxim

One night, during a bout of pandemic-induced insomnia, it dawned on me how unrealistic the maxim “plant a tree, have a child, write a book” truly is. Not to mention its inherent patriarchal nature. Men in traditional relationships can fulfill all three roles because their partners often take on the burden of household and childcare responsibilities. While some men may have managed to balance their day jobs and writing during the pandemic, the unequal distribution of domestic responsibilities persists. This gender imbalance affects women writers significantly.

The Burden of Traditional Gender Roles

Historically, male writers like Carlos Fuentes and Gabriel García Márquez had their spouses take care of their homes and children while they pursued their literary endeavors. Nobel Prize winner García Márquez even gave his wife a meager sum to support the family while he wrote his masterpiece, “One Hundred Years of Solitude”. While I acknowledge the dedication and effort these male writers put into their work, they were not burdened with the same caregiving responsibilities as women.

The Uneven Playing Field

The COVID-19 pandemic further highlighted the disparities faced by women, especially racialized women, single mothers, low-income women, immigrant women, and those with disabilities. Statistics Canada reported that women accounted for 62.5% of overall employment losses during the pandemic. Despite these challenges, these women continued to write, stealing precious moments to craft their stories amidst their caretaking duties. Their resilience and perseverance deserve recognition.

Celebrating Women Writers

As an immigrant woman, a mother who writes and a writer who mothers, I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had in my writing career. Today, I want to use this platform to celebrate the bravery and determination of all women writers. I see your struggles, your dedication, and your stories. Whether they remain unwritten, unpublished, or loved by readers, I honor them all.

A Call to Acknowledge the Journey

Being a writer and a mother/caretaker is no easy task, even in the best of times. It’s crucial to pause and recognize the value of the individual journeys we undertake. I applaud all women who balance their writing ambitions with their caregiving responsibilities. Thank you for nurturing both your loved ones and your creative pursuits. Thank you for bringing your unique stories into the world. And please, keep writing. We can’t get enough.

Tips Tree Planting