It’s impossible to do this all, isn’t it? We have all the tasks, responsibilities, and aspirations we’ve always had–eating and sleeping and working and paying our taxes and taking out the trash and following our dreams–but now we have little people to care for on top of all that. Little helpless people with infinite needs. How can we do it all?
Ursula Le Guin was a full-time writer. She was prolific, publishing 23 novels, 13 children’s books, 12 volumes of short stories, 11 volumes of poetry, five essay collections, and four works of translation. Additionally, she worked as an editor and taught college undergraduate classes.
Oh…she was also the mother of three and the wife of a history professor, Charles Le Guin.
How did she do it all? How did he do it all? She and he didn’t.
“One person cannot do two full-time jobs,” Le Guin once explained, “writing is a full-time job and so is children. But two people can do three full-time jobs…That’s why I’m so strong on partnership. It can be a great thing.”
Parenting is so hard to do alone, so hard. One only needs to ask generations of mothers across history how they fared to understand how true that statement is. And one only needs to examine the career trajectories of centuries’ worth of men to understand how much they benefited from this matri-centered arrangement. But, of course, we are stronger when we, our children’s parents, parent together. We go further, together. It’s one of the only ways to make the math work–not just for the benefit of the children, but for the parents as well.
That’s what is so fascinating about Le Guin’s story: she and her husband made it work both ways. They supported each other. They pushed each other. They enabled each other’s professional advancement and creative fulfillment, while helping each other fulfill their parental responsibilities.
They were a team. And their goal was for everyone to win.