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S. J. Parris and Stephanie Merritt

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Is the pram in the hall still the enemy of good art?

Saturday 20th June 2015

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For about the first decade of my son’s life I thought Cyril Connolly had it bang to rights. This despite the fact that, of the eight books I’ve written, seven were produced while also trying to be a mother. I say “trying” because there is always this sense that you are scrambling to catch up, never feeling on top of things, short-changing your work and your child. That’s a feeling common to most working mothers, I think, whatever their profession, but creative work makes particular demands that are, in my experience, not easy to reconcile with parenthood.

Most obviously, creating art demands the best of your energy and attention. So do children. People think being a writer must be an ideal job to fit around raising a child because it’s so flexible, but those people have usually not written novels. When you’re immersed in creating an imaginary world, you have to live inside it, and that requires time and solitude – both of which are in short supply for mothers. It’s true that being a parent opens up a range of emotional experience that can be invaluable for novelists, dramatists or songwriters, but, as with any demanding job, you can only really do it if you have someone else on hand to do all the boring, routine, nuts-and-bolts parts of looking after children.

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