Does Having Children Make You a Better Writer?

Maeve Binchy, who lived a wonderful, successful life full of affection, thank you very much, Ms. Craig

For the record, I’m having a pleasant low-key weekend while my parents are at the coast celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. Tonight one of my best friends is coming over for a girls movie night, and we’ll be binging on pizza, popcorn, and these delicious smores bars I’ve discovered.

However, yesterday I had a moment of blinding rage after I read this article by Amanda Craig in The Telegraph. The sub-heading lets you know this is going to be one rollercoaster of a read: “Does a female novelist need to have experienced childhood to truly understand human emotions?”

Why is she asking such a ridiculous question? She’s criticizing Maeve Binchy, an Irish writer who passed away earlier this week. Binchy’s sold more than 40 million copies of her books, has been featured in the New York Times bestseller list and Oprah’s book club, and won a “People of the Year” award in 2000.

But according to Craig, she would’ve been so much more successful if she had some babies too.

Starting with the photo caption, which states, “Maeve Binchy, who had no children on whom to lavish her affections,” this whole piece reeks of sanctimonious, patronizing, condescension. I cannot believe she has the gall to say that, “there is no practical difference between a man and a woman writer when the latter has not had children.” You know, because if you don’t use your womb, you might as well hand in your women’s ID card because it’s void now.

Let’s point out the real motive here: Craig is jealous. A writer with two children, she’s published six novels with relatively little fanfare. Oprah hasn’t chosen her for her book club. She moans that life is so hard when you’re trying to write and raise kids, so why can’t there be special mommy writing awards to celebrate all her extra hard work?

I have often wondered whether the Orange Prize should be renamed the Navel Orange Prize, given the difference in time and energy available to women writers before and after motherhood.

You’ve got to be kidding me! Craig is bitter at her relative lack of success compared to Binchy–and the echelon of childfree female authors, including Austen, Woolf, and the Bronte sisters–so instead she decides to judge a person’s career on their ability to reproduce.

Which by the way, is highly offensive, considering that many readers have commented that Binchy and her husband suffered from infertility. The woman just died, and you’re criticizing her life choices when she possibly didn’t choose them at all.

No matter what your experience of adult love, there is nothing as strong as the bond between a mother and a child.

I disagree wholeheartedly. Craig’s on a roll pouring salt into Binchy’s wounds, but even if Binchy was childfree-by-choice, this statement holds no weight. The bond between mother and child is just one kind of bond, and if you look to the likes of Casey Anthony, many women have not honored that bond. Love comes in many forms, between partners, spouses, friends, relatives, pets, etc. Love is not a hierarchy.

And by the way, men should also feel disgusted by this article for its inherent silence on fatherhood. Kafka and Poe never had children either, but you don’t see Craig judging childfree male authors. Are they somehow inferior to Hemingway or Fitzgerald because they didn’t create offspring?

Anyway, I could rant all day about this ridiculous piece of “journalism,” but I would love to hear your thoughts. I’ll just leave you with a final quote:

I make no moral claims for motherhood ­— which can bring out the worst in a person, in the form of vicarious rivalry, bitchiness, envy and even mental illness…

Finally, we agree on something, Ms. Craig, because motherhood has certainly brought out the worst in you.