A couple of online searches later and I ended up downloading one episode of the podcast called “On being” presented by Krista Tippett, where she had Rebecca as a guest. To my complete surprise: they were discussing her new book, which was published last year and that, among other things, explores the question of motherhood and cultural expectations attached to it.
I was about to type the passage where they talk about this topic, when I noticed the transcript was already readily available on the website. How wonderful (and what a fantastic team behind this production!).
I’d listen to the whole thing, if I were you, but if you are short for time, here it goes:
Ms. Tippett: I’d just love to have a conversation with you about this piece that was in Harper’s not that long ago, about about the choice not to have children.
Ms. Solnit: Oh, yeah. It’s called “The Mother of All Questions.”
Ms. Tippett: “The Mother of All Questions.” And part of what you were reflecting on, or a jumping-off point for your reflection, was the fact that people are so curious about that and, in fact, so presumptuous about it. And I think you make the case very quickly that it’s a valid and life-giving choice, not to have children. But in fact, the piece, like so much of what you write, becomes a reflection on the vast expanse of what it is to be alive. And so there’s this: you said, “People lock onto motherhood as a key to feminine identity in part from the belief that children are the best way to fulfill your capacity to love, even though the list of monstrous, ice-hearted mothers is extensive. But there are so many things to love besides one’s own offspring, so many things that need love, so much other work love has to do in the world.”
Ms. Solnit: Yeah, exactly.
Ms. Tippett: And you say: “There’s so much other work love has to do in the world.” I just feel like that’s so worth just putting out in public life and reflecting on.
Ms. Solnit: Yeah, and it’s partly — we overemphasize this very specific zone of love. It’s as though we’ve hyper-mapped it and obsessed about it and shone lights on it and things. And then there’s this whole other territory of relationships, to the larger world in particular and to public life, to — I hang out with a lot of climate activists, and there’s this profound love they have for the natural world, for the future, for justice. And that really shapes lives and gives them tremendous meaning. And it benefits all of us that they have this and that this motivates them, because they’re acting on behalf of all of us. And we should call that love.
Ms. Tippett: And it’s a passionate love, right? It’s a passionate love.
Ms. Solnit: Absolutely. It’s just — it’s ferocious, and it’s protective the way that mother love can be. And if anything’s going to save the planet, it’s that love. But mostly we don’t even acknowledge that it exists, and so we have these blank spots on the map of who we are. And I want to try and fill those in and encourage people to go there, to recognize that actually, their lives can take place or are already taking place there and that this will give them this bigger sense of self.