A Day In The Life Of A Smiling Woman by Margaret Drabble, 1973
The magic trick:
Incisively illustrating the nuances of parental love
Yesterday’s Drabble feature, “A Success Story,” considered the life and times of a 30-something playwright of some fame. Todays’ story highlights a similar protagonist – this time she’s a recognizable and respected television interview host – a TV presenter, if you will.
There are many things here to highlight, but I want to mention just one: the way our protagonist’s love for her children adds to the stack of stressors in her life. She describes it as a love of “unaccountable yearning.” “Sometimes,” the story tells us, “looking at them, she thought she would faint with love.” To label it a stressor probably isn’t fair. It’s a love that is also her lifeforce. But it’s clear that her children factor heavily into her daily existential dread.
It is a rare story that is incisive enough to illustrate the nuances – some of them exhausting – of parental love.
And that’s quite a trick on Drabble’s part.
In the morning, she woke up, as usual, at about half-past seven, and thought of the day ahead. Every day, she got up regularly at a quarter to eight, and gave the children their breakfast. Various people, including her husband, suggested from time to time that should engage somebody to help her with these things, but she always said she preferred to do them herself, she liked to be with the children and she did not like other people to see her at that hour in the morning. Also, she would say, smiling disbelievingly, I’m afraid I might get lazy. If I give myself half an excuse, I might get lazy and stay in bed.
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