Photo Credit: Random House
iVillage is thrilled to share this exclusive essay with you by renowned women and parenting writer Anna Quindlen -- who we like to think of as the mother of all mommy bloggers! Just as she did in her New York Times columns over the years, Quindlen sounds off on marriage, parenting and girlfriends in her latest memoir, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake. We got a sneak peak of the book and iVillage readers are discussing it on our message board, join in with your thoughts!
On Tuesday night, iVillage is celebrating Quindlen's book by hosting a Twitter party, which you can join at 9 p.m. ET by using the hashtage "#Quindlen," tweeting Anna at @AtRandom or following @iVillage.
One evening at a book event I was lucky enough to sit next to the legendary short story writer Grace Paley. And at one point in our conversation she leaned in and said with a wry smile, "Think of how prolific we would have been if we hadn’t had children."
She definitely had a point. It's impossible to write with very young children and no sitter unless you do it when they're asleep, at which point you're so tired that you want to sleep, too. I still write between 9 and 3 because those were the hours when my children were at school. And if, during those years, one had strep throat or the school called a snow day -- well, that meant all bets were off.
And yet at some level I am a much better writer because I raised three children. It's not simply that I was more focused, although I was, and that I eliminated a lot of the frou frou from my crowded life, although I did. It’s that the three of them made me take off the protective wrapping of maturity and feel life fresh and new. And that made all the difference.
Anyone who has or knows a child knows that they come into this world with sharpened senses and a knife-edge imagination. They find waves at the beach amazing, see the dragon in the fiery sunset. When they walk barefoot in the grass they feel the grass, really feel it. You've never truly seen a frog until you've looked at it alongside a three-year-old.
Some of that wonder goes away as they grow older, but other things take its place: the intense friendships, the first love affairs. The world is new to them, and so it becomes new to us. For a writer, it is an invaluable opportunity to hear, see, feel again, to take the commonplace, which is the heart of any description, and see it as distinctive, which is the heart of any story.
It’s happened to me over and over again, never more so than with this new book, which is about the span of my life and the feeling of growing older. Much of what I know about aging I know by observing youth, watching those three remarkable young people whom I first met in birthing rooms decades ago. If I hadn’t had to dole out their antibiotics, attend their dress rehearsals, drive them to camp and visit them at college, maybe I could have churned out an additional book or two. But, in terms of my work, the insights they gave me far outweigh the hours they may have cost me.
Anna Quindlen is the author of five previous bestselling novels and seven nonfiction books. Her New York Times column “Public and Private” won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992 and from 2000 to 2009 she wrote the “Last Word” column for Newsweek. You can visit her on Facebook here, or purchase her latest memoir Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake here.