So there I am, scrolling through my Facebook feed, which I do once a day in the mid-afternoon (usually), and I come across a long post from a male sci-fi author who ended up at mystery writer’s conference. Sci-fi tends to be a male dominated field, though that’s (slowly) changing, but in the mystery genre women writers are well represented.
Mr. Sci-Fi was appalled at how many of the lady attendees were retirement age–not because they were older, but because they had put off writing their books for decades. Until retirement, until the kids were raised, until the grandkids were beyond the day care years, until the elders expired, until the house was paid off… His post was a plea for women writers to prioritize their publishing dreams, to push back against all the familial demands, and to align themselves with people who support their writing goals.
On the one hand, I wanted to give Mr. Sci-Fi credit: He noticed something many others haven’t. Women put off their dreams for the sake of others.
On the other hand, I wanted to kick him, hard, where it counts. Not once did he mention family leave, gender wage inequality, a woman’s right to reproductive freedom, workplace harassment and sexism, affordable health care, affordable day care, affordable housing–all of which disproportionately affect women.
And what got me was not his cluelessness–the house will pay itself off, of course, and elders don’t need looking after, and children can just go raise themselves, right?–but the comments, largely from women, stating how important it was to do as Mr. Sci-Fi said, and “make the time” or “find the motivation” to do the writing.
NO. What’s important is to educate Mr. Sci-Fi, who meant well, to the sheer impossibility many women face (and men, too, for that matter) when it comes to following his simple fix-the-victim prescription.
I did not start writing until my daughter left home. She–like forty percent of American children–was being raised by a single parent. I was also running my own law practice. How, exactly, was I supposed to “make the time,” or “find the motivation” to write, when I went for years without getting adequate sleep? Against whom was I supposed to push back? My mortgage company? The body that craved more than five hours of sleep a night?
Oh, I got so steamed. I fear too many women don’t even HAVE dreams, because their entire adult lives have been subsumed with all the unpaid and underpaid roles without which society would cease to function–and that goes double for women of color. What do you think? Are your dreams coming true, or are you still waiting to dig them out from under a pile of laundry, dishes, family obligations, and unpaid overtime?
I’ll add three commenters to my Lady Violet Investigates ARC list. (Which reminds me, the Lady Violet ordering links for all six books have been uploaded. Wheee!)
I have paused my dreams several times and am now hoping to achieve them. As I type this note, I am staying overnight at a hotel with Laci. We have a dog show tomorrow – we are on at 8am. We’ve been to handling classes and are working as a team. She needs to major wins to finish. Fingers crossed.
Renovating our kitchen is long over due. It’s been put on the back burner for years. Tuition for my daughters under grad and law school and outside projects took priority. We’ve met with an architect and our builder and hopefully, the project will start in 2022. I am looking forward to a bigger sink, fridge and a pantry. And prep space for cooking and baking.
I am still working from home. The extra 2+ hours that I have gives me time to do a few chores or enjoy a book or a tv show. It’s really been a stress reliever for me. I am happy with my job- I am pretty independent and my mangers are very respectful.
I spent a lot of time juggling work, home and childcare. At times, I felt it very overwhelming. I had three friends who helped me when I worked it seemed that the Moms always understood when help or a plate of brownies was needed. It’s hard to put myself first— I am taking step though!
I have often referred to this situation as the “Cinderella Situation.” Do I mean Cinderella’s Step-Mama is preventing her from going to the ball? Not exactly. If you remember the story, Cinderella tells her Steppers she’d like to go to the ball and Step-Mama tells her OF COURSE she can go to the ball BUT….she has to clean the kitchen, change the bedding and…and…AND..what about those darn cinders in the fireplace? If can get all that done, she can go. And her Step-Sissies add their little tasks to the pile. It is neigh IMPOSSIBLE for her to go because no human can do all those things, get gorgeous and head off to meet the Prince.
Women are like Cinderella–oh sure, we CAN go to the ball but all of those things need to be accomplished first. It’s hard to pay a mortgage, drive a carpool, pay for kids educations, take care of the old folks or grandkids when you are livin’ the dream. And who would want to? How do you know what your dream is until you’ve experienced what it isn’t?
I was 50 still working the job I got when the kids were in junior high (director of choirs for a middle sized church), and they were in undergrad at that point. The longer I worked, the more miserable I was. One year, my spouse told me I didn’t have to work anymore if the job was making me stressed. I had needed to work until my husband got his practice going and because our kids were going to expensive private universities. At that point, I didn’t and it was a HUGE relief.
I resigned and took a year to decide I wanted to conduct a chamber choir. Never looked back. Tomorrow we have our first concert in TWO YEARS and I couldn’t be happier. : )
What’s on the program?
I don’t write anything much longer than a page. I’ve usually riled the recipient sufficiently. But while I am writing, I am deaf, dumb and blind to everything else. This is not fair to husbands, pets or children.
I traveled a bit when I was single, drifting and poking my nose into things like I do on the internet now. Again, not fair to a family.
I’ve been blessed with a large, caring extended family who have supported us and our children on our way as we have with theirs. It’s worth a lot, maybe even dreams.
Luckily, I didn’t have to put any dreams on hold; Blessed
My cousin did& now it is too late; her ex murdered her I finished my education goals decades ago!
Oh, wow, AnnG. I am so sorry for your loss and the horror your family went through.
Oh AnnG, what a tragedy. God bless your family, a death like that is something one never truly gets over. Your cousin would be so proud of you reaching your goals.
Preach, Sister! Then we finally get on our pittance of pensions (living longer apparently is somehow cheaper according to actuarial tables ) & end up dealing with health issues on our lonesome after everyone else is dead or gone. While people around us ask, “Are you ever going to write that book?” as if we’ve been lying around eating bonbons instead of fighting for survival all on our lonesome. Grrrrrr!
Oh dear, I am one one of those people who created the dream of doing the best I could for my kids. They are now grown and …. I indulge in sleeping in and reading endlessly, but my dream? I have no idea.
I am retiring soon, but my dreams have changed. I will enjoy having more time to read, time to take a nap in the afternoon, time to watch TV programs and series. I haven’t had time to watch TV in years.
My arthritis and balance issues have put an end to the more active things I had dreamed of doing. One of my favorite things was wading in clear running streams and going fossil hunting with my group. I can still read about it so that is something. Watching the fish swim past in the stream is one of my favorite memories.
It is important to remember that when one door closes, another one opens.
I want to add to this the devaluation of traditionally “feminine” dreams. I have put aside much to parent my special needs kiddo that I hope to get to next, but that doesn’t mean my domestic dreams are less important.
There are societal obstacles to my “productive” dreams and I feel trapped and exhausted by my specifics often, but the dream chasing he propounds is reliant on that system and being at the top of that system’s hierarchy. His ability to pursue a dream is directly dependent on others doing the work he likely doesn’t think about or value given his flippant advice, and importantly, not having a choice. The system requires defined groups to not have a choice in order to perpetuate itself. He should put his efforts into fighting for universal healthcare and childcare etc. and making sure the work in his own world is shared equitably and/or fairly compensated and think about why he has been allowed to follow a dream and acknowledge it was on the backs of many, many others who had no other choices. And unacknowledged privilege rant complete.
Dreams? For me that begs the question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” I was lucky enough to be a stay at home Mom while my kids were growing up. We certainly did without a lot of material things but we felt the payoff of Mom at home with the kids was a trade off we were willing to make. I did go back to an outside job when our youngest was in high school and had a career I absolutely loved, where I got to be creative each and every day. Now, at the ripe old age of 70, I think about whether I have any unfulfilled dreams, but maybe I’m just a person without grander ambitions? I love my life as it is now. My wonderful husband and I are both retired, still (knock wood) in good health, not wealthy by any metric, but we can pay our bills as they come up. I love cooking and have the best time cooking for friends and family (we just had “Friendsgiving” for 10 of our besties last night!). I am writing my third cookbook (just for distribution to friends and family), building and decorating a dollhouse, and basically just enjoying where we are right now. I look around me and wish for all those young’uns out there that child care and all those things you pointed out were available so the next generation of kids (including my grandkids) had the luxury of a stay at home parent. Sadly, this country spends too much on war machinery and too little on things that will actually improve life rather than end it.
ooo, I would be steamed too, Grace!! The massive inequalities that men are so blithely blind to are infuriating. I am SO for affirmative action. And my hubby, who was in management, is always so affronted by it. And I’m like, you’re a white dude, you shouldn’t’ get a vote on this- YOU’RE THE PROBLEM!
And yes, how much sh$t gets piled on us as the lesser-valued half of society (valued less by the jerks in power). Now I’m getting livid, which is not good for my hopes for a placid Sunday afternoon, so I’d better stop venting. Grrrr
Thanks for saying this. Many a male has been able to follow thier dreams, at the expense of everyone else in thier lives. History is full of examples. My own life as well. Just the amount of comments I get about a clean house and expectations about how I’m supposed to raise children tell me how far the hubby has to go before he gets it. I have a messy house, and well behaved children. And when they are in school spend the rest of my time writing instead of cleaning… Because I need to take the time. And count myself lucky I’m the STHM (for now).
I used to think on the same line of Mr. Sci-Fi. I’ve known since I was 19 that I could never have children. With that knowledge, my dream could not have been mother which translated in my young mind to I could not be wife. I put everything I had into a career and self indulgence. I used to look at my non-career oriented mother/wife friends like they were freeloading off someone else’s hard work, spending someone else’s money. Like THEY were the ones who didn’t have goals and dreams. I grew up. I matured. I realized that the dream of mine that was squashed at 19 was the dream they were living. I spent many years trying to ignore what was right in front of my face, dreams take many forms and people choose different paths. Putting off the dream of a business/art, etc. career to have a career being mom/grandmother is a better career than what I lived. I’d trade all my success to have had the choice to follow that dream of a young lady of 19. You’ve contributed in a way I never could. Bless you all. If you’ve done the mom thing and you decide to do something else in your later years, more power to you! Maybe you didn’t put your dream off, but are now dreaming a new dream after you accomplished your first dream. I got married at 44. Living the real dream now, no kids, but much more happy.
My stomach literally rebelled when I read your post, Grace. Good grief, what an a__! I don’t know how old Mr. Sci-Fi is but I suspect he would also like to see more hot babes at the convention. There is so much wrong about his little diatribe. I’ll stand in line with you to take a turn at kicking him where it counts.
I could go on and on but it would basically be another version of what you said, without being half so diplomatic.
“I fear too many women don’t even HAVE dreams” — this hit me in the gut. I stopped working to homeschool my son through the pandemic — I live in a country where majority of kids still do remote learning — and whenever I see or think of something I’d like to do in the future, the default timeline is always when my son doesn’t need me so much. Homeschooling will end in the near future but it’s like, oh, his teenage years are coming up, can I really afford, as a single mom, to be very busy at a time when he might need me the most? This isn’t a complaint — for me, it’s a joy and a privilege to be a mom, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything — but there is a real opportunity cost either way when you make decisions about where to spend your time and energy.
I never was allowed to dream and not supported on things I might have been good at. So, dreams? what are those?
I was basically told since the age of 5 that I would die early. It left me with a subconscious thought that I would die before the age of 18.
It was years later that I realized, “wait a minute, I’m way past 18! what do I do now?”
So, I’m middle-aged and just now thinking about what dreams I might be able to accomplish just as my family situation is getting amazingly complicated and dreams are harder to make come true.
I think Mr. Sci-Fi has the same problem that people looking in from the outside of any situation always have; they think that just wanting to do something makes it possible to do. They also tend to think that “if I can do it, they can.”… which is also fuzzy logic.
I appreciate him trying to appear to be on the women’s side of the issue, but it was not well done and he doesn’t know enough to speak intelligently about it.
Grace – you just rock!
Back in the early sixties cliff Richard (pop star) made couple of films__happy fun type with lots of dancing,singing.I use to dream that I could write such movies and that I would meet all the cast,producers,directors.I did write a story but I knew it was not good enough for the big screen.But it helped me through difficult teenage years.Later in my married years my husband and I shared many likes in books ,music,films,tv.But science fiction was not one of those.Once when he was suppose to keep an eye on our baby son who was crawling stood up and pulled the tablecloth down off the table and plates and glasses fell on his head.My husband was so engrossed in StarTek and the battle of the universe on the television that he did not notice what was happening.I was in the kitchen preparing dinner. “Men are from mars Women from Venus” that’s what they say and sometimes I feel that’s right.Enjoyed Rogue in Winter my type of book with HEA.Looking forward to your mystery collection.
I read the same post on FB!
After reading your exactly-right blog, I’m wondering where you would stand on my late grandma’s frequent comment: “I don’t FIND the time to crochet, I MAKE the time.”
In the early years of her marriage, she was crocheting baby clothes for the five children she had, while my grandpa worked outside the home to keep a roof over their heads during the Great Depression.
In her later years, she had ‘time’ while retired and recovering from several bouts of cancer.
Which interpretation of ‘making the time’ would she go with?
I confess, I don’t know.