Yet putting yourself last is one of the best things that can happen to a writer.I make no moral claims for motherhood — which can bring out the worst in a person, in the form of vicarious rivalry, bitchiness, envy and even mental illness — but going through the ring of fire does change you and bring about a deeper understanding of human nature.All novelists who have had children are acutely aware that the very best of our sex — Jane Austen, George Eliot, the Brontës, Virginia Woolf — were childless.We all worry about doing two things badly rather than one thing well.
And all mothers born in the post-war years have experienced the shock of growing up with all the education and ambition once accorded only to men, then finding it hard even to remember times tables once you’ve had a baby.
I have recently revised for two sets of GCSEs (in subjects I don’t know, such as Ancient Greek and Russian) and am piloting an attempt to get into Oxbridge.
As a result, my seventh novel is once again delayed.
Some novelist mothers, such as Antonia White, have been denounced as monsters of indifference by their children.
I myself have a stern rule about not being interrupted when writing unless a child has broken a leg — but it isn’t, of course, obeyed.