In an interview with VULTURE, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie spoke on a wide range of topics. The author opened up on her career, raising children, empathy among others.
If she was worried about what having a child would mean for her art
Yes. I used to think I wouldn’t be a good mother because I was so dedicated to my art. I said to myself, I have nephews and nieces who I adore and I helped raise them, so those will be my children. That’s what I thought for a long time, because I felt that I couldn’t be true to both my art and my child.
On what changed
Getting older. I like to joke and say that you’re ready [to have a child] when your body isn’t ready and when your body is ready, you’re not mentally ready.
I guess you have the best eggs when you’re like 22, but at 22 you don’t even know yourself. Then when you’re 38 and know yourself, your eggs are not the best quality. Anyway, we’ll talk about eggs another time.
But my baby happened and it’s important to talk honestly about this, because having her changed a lot. Having a child gets in the way of writing. It does. You can’t own your time the way you used to. But the other thing that motherhood does — and I kind of feel sorry for men that they can’t have this — is that it opens up a new emotional plane that can feed your art.
If there’s any advice in her book, ‘Dear Ijeawele’ that would be hard to follow through
Yes, I wrote that ‘Dear Ijeawele’ when I wasn’t a mother and it’s easier to write about a hypothetical child than to write about a real one. The child that book was addressed to is sort of an idea of a child.
But having my own, you don’t realize how difficult it is day-to-day to combat negative ideas. Sometimes, when you are raising a child it’s like the universe is in conspiracy against you. You go to the toy store looking for something not necessarily “girly” and you’re overwhelmed by the pink and the dolls.
Even the prayers my daughter got from family members:
They were like, “We hope she finds a good husband.”
I am optimistic that those kind of things will change but I think about how women are socialized — even the most resistant women still get things under our skin.
On raising a boy
If I had a boy, one of the things I would do is not just say it’s okay to be vulnerable, but also to expect him to respect vulnerability.
Actually, shaming him into vulnerability is a good idea, because there’s so much about the way that masculinity is constructed that’s about shame. What if we switch that shame around?
Instead of shaming boys for being vulnerable, why don’t we shame them for not being vulnerable? I kind of feel I was going to say I feel sorry for men, but I don’t want to say that.