The idea to write a play about motherhood came to me when I was writing my last play, Flipside and nursing my second child. Actually, it had been gestating since the day I was nursing my first child and complaining to my HartBeat Co-Artistic Director Greg Tate that the intersecting struggles of child care, career and being broke were making motherhood feel impossible.
To this my wise friend said, "Well that's what's behind the movement for counting childrearing as part of the Gross Domestic Product. Think about how much easier this would all be if raising children was valued for what it is - producing human capital, which is two thirds of any nation's capital." Hmmm... that was something to think about.
But I didn't really think about it again until that second kid came along and I was consumed with the feeling that life could spin out of control at the drop of a pacifier. What would it look like if motherhood was valued monetarily in the US? How different would my life be? How different would all of our lives be?
Gross Domestic Product is (or at actually I should say, "will be") a music-theater work that explores motherhood in the "post-feminist” era and its relationship to our country’s economy. It will examine the ever-evolving question of what our country would look like if we included motherhood, and care-taking in general, as part of the gross domestic product (GDP). As award-winning journalist and Pulitzer Prize nominee Ann Crittendon noted, “Why is motherhood as American as apple pie and still the job least valued in our country?”
I began the research process and was introduced to the work of Selma James, MomsRising, Stephanie Coontz, the Global Women’s Strike just to name a few mind-blowing sources. I quickly learned what many of you who faithfully follow MomsRising probably already know:
- The only nations in the world that do not mandate paid maternity leave are Lesotho, Swaziland, Papua New Guinea and the United States.
- In the US, motherhood is the single biggest risk factor for poverty in old age.
- Hundreds of countries around the world have a family or child allowance that is not means tested (meaning every family receives it regardless of economic status).
Now I am entering the interview/creation process. Over the course of the next nine months (yes really - nine months) I will be talking with mothers throughout the state of Connecticut, and hopefully the country with the help of our on-line survey, about their struggles and triumphs.
And for those of you in the CT area, tonight (April 4, 2014) we will be holding at story-gathering social event called Moms Night Out at our Carriage House Theater in Hartford, CT. Come over and tell your story!
I will chronicle the whole creation process here on this blog because, you know, writing a play isn't enough. I have to write about writing a play. Its all very meta.
My hope is that this is a lively, interactive process. After all, HartBeat's work is about real lives and real stories, even when it is set in a fictional context.