Zadie Smith Talks Parenting: Are Two Kids Too Many?
Zadie Smith is one of those writers that, honestly, I had never heard of before embarking on this project. Yet, as I’ve read White Teeth and learned more about Smith, I’ve grown to respect her immensely, so much so that I’d love to somehow be able to interview her on this blog. Gotta try, at least, right?
Anyway, I’ll definitely be reading more of Zadie Smith’s work when this is finished. I love her writing style and witty humor.
Smith is the mother of two kids, and she took issue to an article written by journalist Lauren Sandler a couple of years ago in The Atlantic. The title of the piece? “The secret to being both a successful writer and a mother: have just one kid”
Sandler explained how many of the female writers she “revered” only had one child: Susan Sontag, Joan Didion, Mary McCarthy, Elizabeth Hardwick, Margaret Atwood.
She quotes Alice Walker, who said female artists “should have children – assuming this is of interest to them – but only one … Because with one you can move. With more than one you’re a sitting duck.”
Zadie Smith took issue with Sandler’s article and responded.
“I have two children. Dickens had 10 – I think Tolstoy did, too. Did anyone for one moment worry that those men were becoming too fatherish to be writeresque? Does the fact that Heidi Julavits, Nikita Lalwani, Nicole Krauss, Jhumpa Lahiri, Vendela Vida, Curtis Sittenfeld, Marilynne Robinson, Toni Morrison and so on and so forth (I could really go on all day with that list) have multiple children make them lesser writers?” said Smith. “Are four children a problem for the writer Michael Chabon – or just for his wife, the writer Ayelet Waldman?”
Smith added that the real threat “to all women’s freedom is the issue of time, which is the same problem whether you are a writer, factory worker or nurse”.
“We need decent public daycare services, partners who do their share, affordable childcare and/or a supportive community of friends and family,” she wrote. “As for the issue of singles v multiples v none at all, each to their own! But as the parent of multiples I can assure Ms Sandler that two kids entertaining each other in one room gives their mother in another room a surprising amount of free time she would not have otherwise.”
Game. Set. Match. Zadie Smith wins.
I don’t really see how the amount of children a female author has affects said author’s work in any way. As Smith points out, does anyone care how many kids a male author has? Nope.
One. Two. Three Kids. To each his/her own.
Image: Wikimedia Commons