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I balance between my children’s needs and mine because I believe I’m modeling self-care for them (if things are urgent for my children or important for their emotional and physical well-being, I take care of them, but there are times when I allow them to wait and take care of myself first… yes, I would take the dawdling three-year-old off the potty if I needed to go… and if I later needed to clean poop off the floor, I’d just do it :-)). And I take whole days off from all obligations–work and family. I know all this allows me to earn more, be happier, and be my absolute best self for my children.

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How little kindness he shows his family! With us he is never anything but severe and indifferent. His biographers will tell how he helped the porter by drawing his own water, but no one will know that he never once thought to give his wife a moment’s rest, or his sick child a drink of water. How in 32 years he never once sat for five minutes by his sick child’s bedside to let me have a rest, or a good night’s sleep, or go for a walk, or simply sit down for a while and recover from my labours.

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The next morning, I picked his underwear up from behind the bathroom door and wondered if he was right. I will say this: it is probably easier to be an artist and an asshole. It is probably easier to get the time you need to work if you don’t care how it affects the people around you. It is easier to focus on achieving one thing than achieving two things.


Tolstoy’s wife wrote in her journal:

And she has not published a book. And I have published two. It is not because I am a better writer. It is because, when she solved for X, I came first. And if I came first, she came second.

Inside the Classroom and the Second Plane Crash

She raised me alone. When I first wanted to go to a boarding school, my grandmother chastened her—“It’s cruel to let the girl look at those catalogs when you could never afford to send her.” But send me she did, and paid for four years of college, and supported me again and again as I tried and failed and tried to have a career as a writer. I have lost count of how many times I have moved back into her house. I am living there now with my husband and children!

But when Watkins has a baby, her working life is thrown off-kilter:

The tragedy of Dorothy Parker, it seems to me, isn’t that she succumbed to alcoholism or died essentially alone. It was that she was too intelligent to believe that she had made the most of herself.

I will have to live with questioning this for the rest of my life.

It does not matter how brilliant a writer you are, your children cannot put you first. I could not put my mother first, nor can my boys put me first. Children are a hinge that only bends one way.

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The idea of not having my children, my husband, my life, is unbearable, and I find myself thinking of Dorothy Parker, alone and drinking herself to death with her poodle bitch at the Volney Hotel. Robert Gottlieb writes about her regrets at the end of her life in a profile for . He asks: “Yes, ‘you might as well live,’ but for what?”

Bush Leaves for Booker Elementary

If only she hadn’t won celebrity so early and so easily. If only she had been blessed with Hemingway’s talent, had written her novel (and it had been any good), hadn’t succumbed to the easy life and money of Hollywood. If only she had married Mr. Right instead of lumbering herself with all those Mr. Wrongs. If she had had that baby…