Mom Interviews

Gwendolen Gross

Writer and Author of The Other Mother

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When I was first pregnant, and then when my son was born, I was floored by how otherwise independent, successful (in various realms), seemingly satisfied women suddenly acted like they were in high school when it came to the public arena of parenting. I had shrugged off the relatively new idea of the mommy wars until I saw it firsthand. But I also felt that the voices of individual women could do much to explain the insecurities and guilt that are the driving force of judgmental words and actions. I knew from the outset that I wanted to write two women--full characters with full lives and the complicated feelings of motherhood---and to write them both in first person, so the reader might find her or himself "siding" with one or the other, then hopefully switching. The first person narrator has a lot of power as a confidante.

Is this book personal? Did you write about many of your own feelings about the choices you've made as a mom?

Absolutely. Writing is personal. It's all about the tiny truths of life, and the bigger ones, that make me who I am. I'm neither character, but each has some of me in them. As a part time working mom, I'm a little of each. I have some of Thea's naturalist background. I worked in children's publishing, like Amanda. I am addicted to my Franklin Day Planner. I live in suburban New Jersey. And of course, having going through the babysitter-daycare-different-bests-for-different-children merry-go-round, I enjoyed using real details (and made up ones to make it more consistently interesting) in my characters' stories. And, of course, I invented.

I've used both babysitters and daycare, and have both been at home and gone to work, though I've never had to manage full time. I can easily imagine how either absolute could make a mother feel restricted and free, judged and judgmental. I've felt the horrific guilt of first-day drop-offs, and the pleasure of both time to write and teach and time with the kids.

I have not enjoyed other people's judgments, but have learned to forgive them. Most of the people who judge are unhappy or guilty about their own choices. I've tried to learn not to judge other women for their parenting choices, no matter how many hours they spend away from home or in the home. Respect is essential in the relationships of women--and if I'm respected, I'm more likely to offer my respect. In some cases, I must simply, like my characters, agree to disagree.

What do you think about this whole idea of mommy wars? The words are on the back of your book -- according to one reviewer, your book is supposed to fuel the mommy wars further.

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