There were army men in the bathtub when I stepped into it this morning. Why do we never read about things like this in the far-future worlds of space opera, or the misty-eyed sagas of fantasy? I picked them up when I was done and put them in a box for my son to retrieve later, musing about this. My life is made up of funny, annoying moments; I have four children. It is inevitable that they seep into my writing, and sometimes I look at the books I read and see very little mention of children, parenting, or the daily hassles that make life so interesting.
I know that a lot of the golden age science fiction, ok, most of it, was written by men. But I also hear my father, who lives with us, muffle curses as he navigates the lego labyrinth that our living room becomes on occasion. Men notice the kids, for sure. Off the top of my head, I can only think of two series in SF that address children, in any real detail. And even they are prone to portraying wealthy families that can afford staff. What I wouldn’t give for a housekeeper…
When I write, I don’t necessarily try to write about mothering. It’s just been a part of me for almost half my life, now, I can’t help it. When I wrote Mindflow (Published in Something Wicked http://www.amazon.com/Something-Wicked-November2011-Magazine-ebook/dp/B0063ZZ6RI/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_5), I was thinking about the biological urge to have children, even when the circumstances aren’t right for it. What could be more wrong that a mother with no corporeal body, after all? I myself was suffering from depression at that stage in my life, and I felt like I wasn’t being a good mother, that I was mothering by remote from my own bed, or the couch, or, rarely but memorably, the floor when I couldn’t move any more.
It’s been years since it was that bad for me. My kids don’t seem to have been impacted, because I never gave up. I would have, though, had I thought it would protect them in some way… That’s what I was writing in Stargazer (http://www.amazon.com/Stargazer-ebook/dp/B0079O9W1S/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1), where the mother is a street performer with a terrible secret. She gives up her children, and then her life, to protect her sons. The opening, where she cuddles them to give them her body warmth, is a fear right out of my own nightmares about not being able to provide for my children.
The next two short stories I have coming out that address mothering will be about my nightmares, as well. Milkweed is a tale of a woman who has miscarried. I went through four pregnancies of bad nights where I couldn’t feel the baby moving and was so afraid… Snow Angel is about the mother of a special child, who worries about protecting him. I knew, when I started a family, that this was a high probability for me. My sister is severely autistic, and there are others in the family with special needs. I also knew that I would love that child beyond any other, but what happens when we are unable to take care of them, when our own human strength gives out?
I will continue to write about kids, and life, and being a mother. I suspect the next story will deal with a split household, or broken home. It’s so common, complicated, and ubiquitous in our lifetime, why should the future be any different? Or, for that matter, a world of fairies, dwarves, and halflings? There’s no preaching in my writing, because I don’t know the answers either. But I do know that next time he’s been in the bath, I will check the bathtub before I step in after my son’s been in there!