I sympathized deeply with Pauline as she discovered that motherhood is nothing like we imagined it would be. You’re a mother yourself—what were some of the things that didn’t turn out the way you imagined them? Any particularly nasty shocks, or pleasant surprises?
I hadn’t realized how exhausting motherhood would be. My husband, who is an entirely wonderful father by day, left the nighttime parenting to me. Since both my children woke frequently at night, after each of them was born I spent over a year before I had a good night’s sleep! As for pleasant surprises, I knew I would love my children, but I didn’t realize how strong that emotion would be, nor how much I would enjoy simple activities such as reading to them.
I think any parent can identify with the contempt directed at new parents when they bring their infants out in public. Your story opens with an infant on a transatlantic flight, a nightmare to many passengers. How did this story originate? Did the idea of the pauser occur to you before or after you had children?
I wrote the story when my first child was eleven months old, by which time we had taken him on his first pair of transatlantic flights. My husband and I took turns entertaining William on the flights: We managed to keep him happily occupied, so the other passengers weren’t disturbed. But it is an odd thing not only to be worried that your child might be unhappy, but also to be worried that strangers might be annoyed that your child is unhappy . . . I think the idea of the pauser was my husband’s.
Your story illustrates the darker side of how technology might replace parenting. Do you think there is potential for technology to make early parenting easier? Are there problems technology could solve for parents without parents relinquishing their roles as mothers and fathers?
Yes, technology can definitely help with some aspects of parenting. Old-fashioned technology provides invaluable help in the form of washing machines, dishwashers, fridges, and vacuum cleaners—not to mention vaccines and other medicines. Newer technologies such as video conferencing mean that you can communicate with your child when you are away from them. In the future, I expect there will be excellent software to entertain and educate children. Instead of a child passively watching a TV program, children could interact with the program.
Pauline is a single mother, but based on her own experience as a child, it’s certainly not only single parents who paused their children. Was it an important decision for you to make Pauline a single parent?
I didn’t deliberately set out to write about being a single parent, and I rarely make such decisions consciously—instead I come up with a character or a situation that draws me into a story. On the other hand, I can think of at least three more stories that I’ve written about mothers who are single parents (at least one of them written years before I had my first child), so there may be something in that situation that resonates with me.
Are there any new projects in the works? What’s in store for you next?
I am currently writing poetry rather than short stories. Most recently, I have been absorbed by a particular sequence of poems, and I am looking forward to writing more of that sequence. I have poems forthcoming in the Bryant Literary Review, the Evansville Review, the Green Hills Literary Lantern, and Red Rock Review. Thank you for your questions!