Don’t Call Me Mommy (Unless You’re Under 10)

I recently picked up a book from the library that, according to the tagline, was supposed to offer advice on building and maintaining a writing career while raising kids. I was looking for ways to tune out “My Little Pony” cartoons, strategies for getting kids to leave you alone when you’re on deadline, maybe a time management tip or two. What I got was “how to write about being a mommy.”

OK, that wasn’t quite the topic of the whole book, but it made up a lot more of the text than I’d been led to believe, and it was the final straw for me. A lot of books and websites claim to be for mothers who write (they’re not hard to find—almost all of them have “mama” or “mommy” in the title somewhere, as if children will be the ones Googling for them), yet most of them lean heavily on writing for or about kids. If you have no interest in writing children’s books or articles about breastfeeding, you’re out of luck.

Not that I’m slamming on anyone who does want to do that. If that’s what you love to write, go for it. There are certainly enough outlets for that type of writing, and if you can come up with a fresh take on the divisive cloth-vs.-disposable diaper issue, believe me—the world needs you.

But why does the assumption seem to be that, if you’re a writer and a mother, you must want to write about mothering? The same is not true for fathers who write. I can’t even imagine a site called “Writer Daddy” taking off.

This theme also does not gel with reality, at least not my reality. I know a lot of female writers, and most of them are mothers. Yet none of them write about being a “mommy.” They write sci-fi, drama, mystery, and humor. They write about the law, sex, healthcare, entertainment, and technology.

I’ve been able to find the advice I was looking for on other sites, especially on other writers’ personal blogs, so it’s not that the information isn’t available elsewhere. Most writers are juggling families and other careers too, so I suppose that finding the time to write is a struggle that’s not unique to mothers.

So I’ve learned my lesson—if I want advice on writing, I need to stick to the sites and books for writers, because the “writer mommy” genre is always going to think I’m more “mommy” than “writer.”

Photo: Courtesy of miguelphotobooth, Flickr

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6 Comments

Filed under life, writing

6 responses to “Don’t Call Me Mommy (Unless You’re Under 10)

  1. Meghan

    I don’t have kids but I do live with my sisters, Mom, stepdad and nieces. One thing that helps me when I get bogged down with life and all the “Hold Mes” and “Can I climb on you then trash your laptop while smiling sweetly so won’t cares.” Is a conscious time mangement effort I try to set aside at least an hour for me night or early morning works best. Sometimes all Iwrite is a sentence sometimes its a thousand words its really a crap shoot that way but at least I still enjoy doing it.

  2. Jon Nilson

    Very, very well said – as usual!

  3. Jen

    Ah, that must be so annoying! I laughed when you pointed out that the Writer Daddy blog isn’t going anywhere.

    You’re right that there are plenty of female authors out there, but I wish they got more respect. There were some interesting conversations about it in the Tournament of Books judgments and commentary, and I really enjoyed reading it. For example, why do novels about men or by men almost always get passed automatically into the “literary” realm, while novels by women or with female characters often get categorized as “chick lit” ?

    • The only way Writer Daddy is taking off is if Eggers and Chabon do it in a weird, ironic way.

      You’re so right. If the main character is female, under 40, and not paranormal/sci-fi/fantasy in some way, it’s “chick lit.” I can see how the name came about, since there was a whole “girls who shop” trend in the ’90s (I blame Candace Bushnell for that one), but it seems to have become far too broad a category now.

  4. I feel your pain. I feel like 90% of my life is comprised of kid “stuff.” So when I’m writing, I tend not to have characters who are young moms. I guess I do in my short stories (sometimes) but not in the novels-in-progress.

    My favorite craft books are by Donald Maass and Blake Synder. Just an FYI! :)

    • My favorite craft book so far is Write Away by Elizabeth George. Although that one is mainly “how to write a novel” and not how to do so when you’re squeezing in the time between Girl Scout meetings. :)

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