A Guest Post
It’s interesting that “balancing family and work” was suggested as a topic for this blog post. In Death at Chinatown, the fifth book in my Emily Cabot mystery series, this is just the dilemma faced by my protagonist.
In earlier books Emily has been a trail blazer when she is thrilled to be one of the first graduate students at the University of Chicago when it opens in 1892. She studies the new discipline of sociology and later becomes a factory inspector at Hull House and is active in the labor movement during the Pullman Strike. But in this book she has married and, with two small children to care for, she cannot see how she can resume her studies and work at the university.
I am not married with children myself, although I do have to struggle for time to write while maintaining a full-time job in the systems department of the University of Chicago Library. However, Emily’s dilemma in the book was actually inspired by something I heard a prominent woman mystery writer say at a conference. She commented that she wasn’t sure that she could continue her series character, a woman private investigator[EV1] , if the character had a child. She speculated that the responsibility of motherhood would have to mean that the character would not be able to risk being in dangerous situations once she had a child. I think the writer was soon to become a mother for the first time herself.
I confess the suggestion bothered me and I wanted to debate the point. Rather than debate it, I wrote it into the story. Emily has the good fortune to have a husband and friends who want her to return to her job lecturing and even to her work with the Chicago police detective she has helped in the past. It is Emily herself who resists being drawn back into her work outside her home. She has to struggle with her feelings before being able to leave her children for her work.
I knew that the characters in my series would not remain young forever. In fact, I have plans to bring them through the early years of the twentieth century, beyond WWI and to the brink of the Great Depression. There are a lot more stories to be told. On the other hand, I also did want to bring the romantic plots to satisfactory conclusions. I think it becomes tiresome if there is an obvious romance between hero and heroine yet they never quite manage to come together. I am actually looking forward to writing about a more mature heroine and to do that she does have to face the issue of balancing family and work. I hope her conclusions in Death at Chinatown are at least believable and somewhat satisfactory. Emily’s situation is in contrast to the even more restrained condition of the young Chinese women she meets in the story. Heaven help us if women were unable to act just because they are mothers. On the contrary, I think in real life that kind of responsibility brings out the best in women in their work beyond the confines of their homes.
Frances McNamara is author of five Emily Cabot mysteries, Death At Chinatown being the most recent. She is a librarian at the University of Chicago and a native of Boston who has lived in Chicago for two decades.
This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.