Is there a transformation more personal and dramatic than becoming a parent?
My sister once said to me, “You’re a different person now” after children and my reaction was something like, “Of course.” How can you not be changed when you have two helpless creatures looking to you for not only food, water, shelter, clothing but to shape them into the adults they will become? You will teach them to speak, to read, to love, to have compassion and strength. World events that were merely scary or sad before take on a large and looming terror that can turn your hair gray and keep you up at night because your vulnerable babies are in this same frightening world. The love for one’s children is fierce and elemental and feels like a superpower with its all-consuming strength. You are jolted into another world, never to return.
My evolution into motherhood runs parallel to my evolution into the writing world. The decision to step away from full-time journalism into a freelancing/creative writing hybrid lined up with the birth of my first child and of course the timing was no coincidence. Motherhood – that major seismic shift in my life – has infused my writing every step of the way.
My first attempt at a novel was about a good man who did a good job raising his girls, and still one of them falls into sadly avoidable tragedy. I never managed a quality novel out of this, but I salvaged the concept for a short story, “Connection Lost”, eventually published in issue 160 of the Cimarron Review. The piece was a meditation on this fear in the core of every parent: What if your best isn’t enough?
A short story I wrote for Literary Mama was directly inspired by my parenting life. I’d made a careless parenting mistake borne of exhaustion and one tiny lapse in concentration. Nothing happened, but the realization of what could have happened inspired, “What Kind of Mother.”
My short story “Tony Deranged“, is really about a scrapyard worker in a dive bar, but it touches on the subject of sibling rivalry, that old “Mom always loved you best” bugaboo which vexes every parent of two or more.
In my debut novel, Real Life and Liars, Mirabelle Zielinski is nearly twice my age and her children are grown. But she wonders how much she really did shape their destinies, and how much of their lives was out of her hands all along. That’s my anxiety talking. Despite my best efforts, will my children follow paths that will take them through fear and danger and heartache? In other words, what if my best isn’t enough?
I won’t always write directly about motherhood, but I can’t imagine a circumstance when this huge task given to me – raising my precious two children – won’t seep into my work. As a writer, I pour myself into everything I do, and my children have changed that self: permanently, willingly, joyfully.
— Deb Kristina
(p.s. I’m traveling today so I may not be as prompt in my response to the comments, but I’ll get to them! Promise!)
7 Replies to “Motherhood as extreme makeover, by Deb Kristina”
Kristina, I love this analysis of how motherhood affects your writing and how it changes you. I have to agree on all counts!
Lovely piece about what it feels like to put on the “superhero” cape of mommyhood and try to serve and protect! And, yes, it totally affected my writing, too.
Mirabelle Zielinski is a fascinating name that already has me wondering what is SHE like, let alone her children. I’m “hooked,” Kristina.
Extreme makeover indeed. Perfect perfect analogy.
The years go by, though, and one day you aren’t thinking about the little rascals quite as often. Nor are they about you. They stay in the writing, of course. They never leave.
Thanks for the thoughtful post, Kristina. It was lovely meeting you in NYC, and I’m looking forward to reading your book!
There really is something to the “seismic” shifts we make in our lives (be it children, moves, career changes, death etc) that have a huge impact on our writing. Very interesting.
Chiming in almost two days late, just landed a few hours ago from my NYC trip….
Larramie, thanks! I hope the book lives up to her name for you.
Thank you ladies, for your thoughts. Becky, I find that hard to imagine now, a time when my little critters won’t be constantly in my thoughts!
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