Mama’s Writing is Raising Mothers’ monthly interview series, curated by Starr Davis.
What recent writing accomplishment(s) are you most proud of? Was this accomplishment shared and supported by your children?
I recently signed a major two-book deal for my next two non-fiction works with Flatiron Books and I feel so proud because it really feels like I’m officially a writer now, I don’t only have one book out there but this is now my career. It means I make enough to just focus on my writing and to have the flexible schedule I have always wanted. My children are very young so it’s hard to say that they “support” my accomplishment but they are certainly very adaptable and understand that when I head out to my studio, I’m doing my work and that my work contributes to the life they get to live.
Tell about a time mom-guilt emerged (or emerges) in the midst of your writing process.
While I love my flexible schedule I also have a hard time prioritizing my writing as a result. If my kids have an activity or a playdate, I always want to be the one to take them but that means that I often miss my writing goals for the week. When I do choose to stay in and write I always feel guilty because technically no one else was making me be in my office all day, I technically could have done the work at another time but I remind myself that this is my job and in order to reach my goals I have dedicate the time to it that it requires. I try my best to find a good balance of being there with them as much as possible while also being okay with my husband or their nanny being with them instead.
If you could go back and give yourself advice before becoming a mom, what would it be?
I might tell myself to take it easier and relax more, take more days to myself to just sit and relax because those opportunities are so rare these days. I’m either working or I’m with my kids but I don’t have as much time to myself, so I would just tell myself to cherish that a little more rather than making myself busy without good reason and committing my time to too many different things that were not all that important.
What topics, artistic channels, or forms have become present that were not there before in your writing since becoming a parent?
I’m definitely a more efficient writer now that I’m a mom, I have no time to waste, I have clearer goals and less windows of time to accomplish them. I have also started to work on children’s books since having my kids, I feel very inspired by picture books.
Do you ever find yourself dealing with censorship as a mom-writer? Explain your thoughts on your children eventually becoming acquainted with your work.
Not at all, I see my writing as one of my contributions to our larger social justice movement and I want my children to feel emboldened to write as honestly and bravely as I try to in my work. I hope they see my pieces as additional permission for them to break any barriers others try to place on them.
How has parenting bolstered or inhibited your creativity?
I have so many ideas that come to my mind all the time these days. Parenthood has correlated with a burst in creativity and confidence for me, I really feel like I can do anything and I have started to envision more beyond writing books, I want to write screen plays, I want to explore other forms of content creation, I want to raise money to have a mural painted in honor of the women at the center of my first book. The only way it sometimes inhibits me is because I am more tired than I have ever been so I find myself getting sleepier while writing and needing to take a few more breaks but I think having grace with myself also allows me to be a better writer, it just forces me to be a little more patient sometimes.
Was there a noticeable shift in your writing before and after parenthood? If yes, how so?
In the immediacy of giving birth to my firstborn I had a hard time adjusting back to writing. It honestly felt like it hurt my brain to try and focus on reading a book, or researching articles, or editing my work all day so I told myself that it was similar to the recovery my body was undergoing, my brain had changed too and I needed to appreciate those changes while also getting my brain back in writing shape and discovering new things my brain could do. I started to become a better multitasker, for example.
How has the internet influenced you as both a writer and parent?
The internet is critical in my work because my writing is so heavily research based, I need access to databases and journals that help me travel back in time and become better acquainted with what others are saying in my field. As a parent, I am constantly looking things up online: how to treat symptoms, how to handle new stages of their lives, etc.
How have other mother figures you have encountered in your community influenced your parenting? Your writing?
Having other parents around me has been one of the biggest blessings of parenthood, I have learned from them and also found comfort when I’ve needed it. Parenting can be very difficult and each stage brings new surprises so it’s best to navigate all the different terrain alongside others and in community.
How do you balance motherhood/parenting and finding the space to write?
I could not do my work if we didn’t have access to childcare that I trust. I am so deeply grateful for our nannies who I love and who take care of our children with such thoughtfulness, that’s what allows me to walk out to my office and for a few hours at a time dive into the world of my writing rather than worrying about what my children are doing all day. The same can be said of my son’s school and his teachers. He started pre-school this year and I have so much trust in his school, I know he is happy and safe while he is there so I am able to focus on my work until it is time to pick him up. I feel balanced because I have support.
Who are your writer-mama heroes?
The list is long but to name a few: Alice Walker, Angela Flournoy, Jessica McKay, and Eve Rodsky. All women who I have also been fortunate enough to know personally.
Dr. Anna Malaika Tubbs (she/her) holds a Ph.D in Sociology and Masters in Multidisciplinary Gender Studies from the University of Cambridge in addition to a Bachelors in Anthropology from Stanford University. Anna’s research, writing, and talks are centered on gender and race issues in the U.S., especially as these relate to the pervasive erasure of Black women.
Anna’s debut book, The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr, Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation is a New York Times Bestseller as well as a New York Times Editor’s Choice and an Amazon Editor’s Pick.
Anna has published articles on topics ranging from the importance of inclusivity and feminism to addressing the unique burden Black mothers carry in the U.S. for Time Magazine, New York Magazine, The Guardian, CNN, Motherly, Blavity, Huffington Post, Darling Magazine, and For Harriet.