Saturday, May 25, 2013

Q&A with writer Leslie Morgan Steiner

Leslie Morgan Steiner
Leslie Morgan Steiner is the editor of the anthology Mommy Wars and the author of the memoir Crazy Love. Her third book, The Baby Chase, will be published later this year. She writes a column, Two Cents on Modern Motherhood, for, and has written for The Washington Post, Seventeen, Money, and other publications. She lives in Washington, D.C.

Q: Your memoir, Crazy Love, recounts your marriage to your first husband, who was physically abusive toward you. How difficult was it for you to write that book, and why did you decide to do so?
A: I have been a writer since before I could read. When I was 5, I used to pretend to write books even though I did not know how to write. So it was natural to try to unravel my complicated, destructive first marriage through writing. It was painful but cathartic. The hardest part was writing my own character. In the early drafts, she was intensely dislikable. I realized I had to forgive my younger self before I could write about “her” with compassion and accessibility.

Q: Your first book was an anthology, Mommy Wars. Do you feel that there is a particular type of work-life balance that makes women feel more fulfilled and happier, or do you think it varies given each woman’s particular situation?

A: Motherhood is so personal, and our love for our children makes us very vulnerable to outside and self-criticism. I wish all moms could feel great about ourselves, and have societal support for whatever choices we make. What matters most to kids is having a happy mom and a stable home life. My personal belief is that most moms need time with their children and fulfilling work outside the home – on a daily basis. Our culture of an intense work ethic, a lack of flexibility and trust from employers, male-dominated workplaces and government, coupled with limited, expensive childcare makes this very difficult for most women, so we have to choose, and then live with the very imperfect choices our culture offers.

Q: What impact do you feel the book has had on the debate over women’s choices when it comes to work and family?

A: The best thing about Mommy Wars is that it got women talking about what had been a taboo subject. By sharing our stories, we realize no one has work-life balance figured out. That mutual compassion makes it easier for us to support each other and help each other accept our choices and challenges on a daily basis. Readers describe Mommy Wars as a kind of therapy – it makes them feel less alone in the daily sitcom of motherhood, and it makes them feel much better about the kind of moms they are.

Q: Your next book, The Baby Chase, examines surrogacy and its impact on families. Can you tell us more about that book, and what you learned while writing it?

A: I learned how awful – a life sentence – infertility can be if not treated. Everyone who wants a baby should be able to have a baby. Fortunately, today art and surrogacy makes this possible, but because it currently costs $100,000 to hire a surrogate in the U.S., this is not a fair, or longterm, solution. The couple I profiled, a nurse and firefighter from Arizona, had to go all the way to India to find a surrogate they could afford. They came home with three beautiful babies, but no one should have to travel so far, and suffer so much, to become a parent.

Q: Anything else we should know?  

A: I love being a mom, and I am immensely grateful to my own children, and to other moms, for sharing the joys and chaos of motherhood with me.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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