The best thing about baby friendly events is the gentle sound of baby noises – it made the perfect backdrop to an honest conversation between friends, authors and parents Holly Walker and Emily Writes. The City Gallery theatre was dressed like a comfortable lounge which made the room inviting. Both hosts made it clear that they were tired, which suited the tired parents and lit-crawlers in attendance. With a warm welcome to all, the talk commenced.
Holly Walker’s book is called The Whole Intimate Mess and is published by BWB as part of their Texts series. The book came out of her occasional blog on the Green Party website about balancing becoming a parent with her role as an MP. It is a good account of the pressure placed on women to ‘do it all’ and the fear of admitting difficulty in what is a universally challenging time – the challenge of parenting/ work and becoming a mother. Holly’s experience of postnatal depression is raw and honest. Of special note in this book is Holly’s personal book list – the reading that helped her to understand her experiences and feel brave enough to share them publicly.
Emily Writes’ Rants in the Dark is a collection of essays from her popular blog. Emily uses humour and honesty about parenting. It is the first time that I came across a book so honest about the work of parenting and the myriad of ways that actual parents cope. I will never forget the words and illustration of the birth of her second son. It is remarkable that, after years of no sleep, that she could procude such a beautiful account of parenting.
The theme of the talk was honest discussions of parenting. Holly and Emily became friends because, amongst shared interests, they had children that didn’t sleep. It was lovely to see that they each had their own copy of each other’s work with them – both looking well-read. Both talked about the need for more stories about becoming a mother and parenting. In particular there was a lot of discussion about postnatal depression and the severe anxiety that came as a result.
One of the more interesting discussion threads for me was about the process of writing when it involves your family members. I was fascinated to learn about the depth of reflection that went into mindfully writing about your loved ones. Emily noted that she sits on blog posts for a fortnight so she has time to reflect on her writing – she also prints the posts and puts them into a box – a reminder of the permanence of the internet. Hilariously she told the story of her rather reluctant husband being asked on camera a question about his role in her book – and he confessed he hadn’t really read the whole thing but had ‘skimmed it.’
Both writers have helped to bring attention to issues affecting parents in Aotearoa and in particular making public the invisible work of parenting. It can be stressful, relentless work, and it is OK to seek help, or to change plans. The expectations on parents, particularly mothers, can be so high. Sharing these stories publicly helps to validate these parenting experiences. As such the talk was a great way to continue the conversations started in their respective books, and a great addition to the Lit Crawl programme for 2017.
Litcrawl extended event: the Whole Intimate Mess: A Rant
Featuring Holly Walker and Emily Writes
Rants After Dark
by Emily Writes
Published by Penguin Random NZ
The Whole Intimate Mess
by Holly Walker
Published by BWB Texts
Ed’s Note: I highly recommend both of these books as a present for a new mama or even an old one. Both books work towards changing the perception of the many roles of mothers in NZ, and both are fantastically well written. (Sarah)