Tag Archives: children

Shirley Jackson, Madeleine L’Engle, and Motherhood

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I read much of Shirley Jackson’s memoir of raising four children, Life Among the Savages (1952), on a weekend when I was caring for three children. For a brief stretch—maybe five pages—we achieved a fragile equilibrium and they were all attached to me as I read. The eight-year-old snuggled against me reading his own book. The six-year-old sat on my lap, idly turning pages I didn’t want turned, and I had made the mistake, earlier, of telling him that Shirley Jackson’s husband seemed kind of terrible, so he interrupted me to ask exactly how he had been terrible.

“He didn’t help with the kids or the cooking or the cleaning,” I said, leaving out the affairs and trying to find my page. My son didn’t seem sufficiently horrified, so I added, “He didn’t think men should have to do those kinds of jobs.” He put his hand over his mouth and giggled. “But what else?” he asked. Wasn’t that enough?

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