Author Lauren Groff Answers Every Mom's Work-Life Balance Question Perfectly

"But until I see a male writer asked this question, I’m going to respectfully decline to answer it.​"

Mothers — especially those in the spotlight — have grown accustomed to being asked how they balance both their personal and professional pursuits. But, when The Harvard Gazette recently asked Lauren Groff, the award-winning author of Fates and Furies and Arcadia, how she juggles motherhood and her writing career, Groff respectfully declined to answer the question.

"You are a mother of two. In 10 years you have produced three novels and two short-story collections. Can you talk about your process and how you manage work and family?" Harvard staff writer Colleen Walsh asked.

"I understand that this is a question of vital importance to many people, particularly to other mothers who are artists trying to get their work done, and know that I feel for everyone in the struggle," Groff said. "But until I see a male writer asked this question, I'm going to respectfully decline to answer it."

Of course, this isn't the first time Groff's spoken out about this sexist line of questioning. In a 2016 interview with The New Yorker, Groff said:

"The questions I get most at readings or in interviews are about being a mother and writer, when I'm expected to do this sort of tap dance of humility that I have no desire or ability to dance. I think people are mostly kind and don't know that, when they ask these questions of women, they are asking us to perform a kind of ceremonial subjection — that we're not allowed our achievements without first denigrating ourselves or saying, with a sigh, 'Yes, that's correct, I'm a writer and a mother, and it's so hard, and no, I don't do it well."

Fellow writer Alyssa Knickerbocker posted a screenshot to Facebook, declaring Groff her hero and commending the interviewer for including the question in her final write-up.

"I actually don't hold the question against this specific interviewer," Knickerbocker wrote in a comment under her original post. "It's still a question that's standard/expected to be asked of writers who are mothers. I give the interviewer credit for leaving the question in, and for shifting immediately back to Lauren's work. She could have just cut the question when she published, to avoid making herself look bad, but didn't."

As The Huffington Post notes, Jennifer Garner's 2014 speech at Elle's annual Women in Hollywood event addressed the sexism behind such questions. Garner explained that she and then-husband Ben Affleck compared notes after a press junket they both attended and quickly realized she'd been asked about work-family balance by every single interviewer, while Affleck hadn't been asked once.

"[E]very single person who interviewed me, I mean every single one — and this is true of the red carpet here tonight, Elle — asked me, 'How do you balance work and family?' and he said the only thing that people asked him repeatedly was about the tits on the 'Blurred Lines' girl [Affleck's 'Gone Girl' co-star, Emily Ratajkowski], which, for the record if we're talking about them, they are real and they are fabulous. Take a look and enjoy," she said.

"As for work-life balance, he said no one asked him about it that day. As a matter of fact, no one had ever asked him about it," she added. "And we do share the same family. Isn't it time to kinda change that conversation?"

As Bustle writer Lydia Wang writes, "Well-meaning as the question may have been, hyper-focusing on the idea of the woman who "has it all" has a shaky, sexist history — and our societal obsession with working moms (over working dads) highlights the outdated idea that in a two-parent household with a mom and a dad, the woman should be staying home with her kids and feeling some kind of guilt if she chooses to continue or pursue a career. "

While work-life balance isn't easy to achieve, this sort of juggling act shouldn't be lumped solely on the backs of modern moms. These women might've birthed babies, but they shouldn't be tasked with birthing solutions to the seemingly insurmountable, as well. After all, they say "it takes a village" to raise a child, and no such establishment has ever been managed by only one person. Perhaps it's time to look at parenthood through a similar lens, too.

Cover image via Liderina / Shutterstock

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