Monday, March 07, 2011

Economics and Emotions of Parenting/Writing

Last week, Time published an online article saying parents exaggerate the joys of parenting as a way to compensate for the economic cost and stress of raising a child. (As the article said, kids used to be our staff, but instead they've become our bosses.) As a parent myself, I do have to admit that yes, childcare is expensive and it's hard taking care of one small child. My respect goes out to those who have more than one child, especially if they have multiples. It is especially hard when you're working and have so many responsibilities to juggle. That said, I know people struggling with infertility who would love to have these issues. And despite the lack of sleep and hearing loss from Alex screaming in my ears, I do find joy in sharing activities with my son, reliving my own childhood, watching him develop, and listening to him laugh. Am I exaggerating these joys? I'd like to think not.

Although parenting is the toughest job there is, at times, writing can be difficult too. We spend hours staring at computer screens or paper, writing and rewriting, only to deal with critiques, rejections, and bad reviews. Many of us dream of making a living from our writing, but few of us will actually be able to make it happen. Does this mean that we have to exaggerate the joys of writing too?

I personally think that the desires to write and parent are deep-seated in our psyches, deeper than economic drives. There's more to the need to create than reason will allow. It's also worth remembering that even though writing and parenting are difficult, it's the problems and stresses that make us grow as individuals. In the end, when you've created something or someone new, you'll be able to look back at the struggles of colic or writer's block and feel proud that you overcame them. I think we have to look at long-term projects like raising a child or writing a novel and accept the inevitable stress that comes with them. In fact, perhaps overcoming the challenges gives us reason to celebrate in the end.


Maria Zannini said...

There aren't a lot of perks to writing unless you like rejection, rewrites and self-doubt.

For me, at least, it's not something I ever felt I have to do. It's something I enjoy--despite the hardships.

Obviously, I'm a masochist.

Children were a different matter. I really wanted a child--but couldn't have one. Fortunately, biological clocks eventually stop ticking. :)

Sarah McCabe said...

That is one of the most horrendous articles I've ever read. I would say that our society has its priorities completely backwards. Lives and love are worth far more than money and comfort. Parents realize that. The family is the building block of civilization. I'm sorry (to the researchers involved) if having kids makes it more difficult for you to enjoy your lifestyle in exactly the way you want it, but tough. Grow up.

Oh, and hi from a new follower and mother of 3 (soon to be 4). :)

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Maria, I agree that you have to enjoy writing if you're going to do it.

Sarah, I agree families are very important, but I think the way families work has changed; they're more about emotions than economics than they used to be, and this research reflects that shift. The author of the Time article does sound like someone who doesn't have kids. I know my feelings about parenthood changed since my son was born. Congratulations on your growing family!

Donna Hole said...

Aw, such sweet sentiments.

But, I don't think you can overstate the joys or difficulties of raising children. It's just how things are.

I like this analogy to writing. My characters are as much my children - and my boss - as the real kids. I've nurtured them, watched them develope and grow, corrected they course when they stray, and yes, sent them off into the world to meet their fate.

Frustration and reward in equal measure.


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