Stephanie Burt

I was raised with the expectation that I would excel in a career and have time left over for kids, rather than the reverse, because the people who raised me didn’t know I was a girl.

(April 24, 2021) Stephanie Burt is a poet, literary critic, professor, and transgender activist who the New York Times called “one of the most influential poetry critics of [her] generation.” She has published four collections of poems: Advice from the LightsBelmontParallel Play, and Popular Music, and her works of criticism include Close Calls with Nonsense: Reading New Poetry, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Stephanie earned a BA from Harvard and PhD from Yale and is a Professor of English at Harvard University. She lives in the suburbs of Boston with her spouse and their two children.


Stephanie Burt
After Callimachus: Poems and Translations
Don’t Read Poetry: A Book About How to Read Poems
Rain Taxi
Drew Daniel
Kate Pryde
Catherynne M. Valente
octopus parenthood
George Eliot
Mr. Spock
Samuel R. Delany
The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson
Hilda Raz
Trans, by Hilda Raz
Advice from the Lights
“Butterfly with Parachute”
The Giving Tree

sound bites

“For an octopus, motherhood is the end of their lives. I know it feels like that for humans sometimes, but for an octopus, it’s sadly literal.”-@accommodatingly

“Learn how to sort what’s important to you, what’s important to the people you care about, and what’s actually not important. Learn how to sort what is actually your job from what seems like it could be your job, but you can delegate or blow off, and how to sort what’s on a deadline from what’s not on a deadline.”

“I try to encourage the people around me to figure out which deadlines are fake and which are real and to find time to do the things that we actually want to do.”-@accommodatingly

“I’m a mom. I am a parent who is a woman, and that makes me a mother, and I really like being a mother. Until the early 20-teens, people thought it was a dad, and that felt really awful.”

“I have had the experience not only of being asked, ‘How can you do all these things and still be a mom?’ but also the experience of being rewarded for the lesser amount of engagement, less than 30 percent of the household work that people expect dads to do in couples that are straight-appearing. I have experienced of a lot of kinds of privilege I didn’t want, some of which I no longer have and some of which, unfortunately, are matters of habit. I think about that a lot.

I’ve been able to get out of things at work by saying, ‘I’m sorry, I have to go parent, I will be right back. My kid needs a sandwich.’ And I love doing that. I recognize that some of my colleagues who are cis women who have less job security than me, can’t or won’t say, ‘I gotta go from this meeting, I’ll be back in 10 minutes, my kid needs a sandwich,’ because they think it makes them look unserious. And that’s fucked up. Everybody should be able to say, ‘I’ll be right back. My kid needs a sandwich’—unless you’re a cardiac surgeon or onstage in King Lear. There are very few things that aren’t worth interrupting if your kid needs a sandwich, and I want to encourage everybody to walk away from meetings if their kid needs a sandwich and try to set an example of that.”

“Everybody should be able to say, ‘I’ll be right back. My kid needs a sandwich’—unless you’re a cardiac surgeon or onstage King Lear. I encourage everybody to walk away from meetings if their kid needs a sandwich.”-@accommodatingly

“The conflict within parenthood, whether or not you’re a writer, whether or not you’re making art actively that day, is between doing things for your kid and saying, ‘I’m sorry, kid, I’m busy—do the thing yourself.'”-@accommodatingly

“Having multiple adults who are family, who are trustworthy, who have been in our pod during the pandemic, and who were just there is so great. These are adults who give our kids resources, from personality types to specific kinds of know-how that their pair of moms happens not to have. There are a lot of ways to be a good mom and a lot of ways to be a good parent—and I’m a fan of the ways that have more than two adults who are not blood relatives.”

“I decided in first grade or so, after seeing some Star Trek, which my father had on after work, that I have a great deal in common with Mr. Spock, and enjoyed pretending to be Mr. Spock, which apparently is a very common trans girl thing. My really wonderful, kind, thoughtful, normy parents decided, understandably, although mistakenly, that I thought I was Mr. Spock, and therefore, that was the beginning of my adventures with child psychiatry.”

“In the early 2000s there was a wave of books that said, ‘Someone I’m close to has a weird gender; how weird for me.’ The next wave is, ‘Hi, I’m the one with the weird gender. Can I have the microphone, please?'”-@accommodatingly

“There’s so much, very merited, wish to just forking dynamite the heteronormative and mononormative and cisnormative and patriarchal institutions and habits and unspoken expectations that have prevented so many of us either from being the parents we want to be or from finding other kinds of creative and interpersonal fulfillment. There’s just so much crap in the way, some of which was always oppressive and some of which served a purpose in a society that no longer exists.”

“Rage is valid, but rage is already available. Being responsible for young people is a good reminder that rage will only take you so far. The revolution is the easy part; we don’t just need to see what’s broken, we need to figure out how to do better.”-@accommodatingly

“I was raised with the expectation that I would excel in a career and have time left over for kids, rather than the reverse, because the people who raised me didn’t know I was a girl.”-@accommodatingly

“I learned to bring my work and hang out with other parents and learn about their work, parents who were often academics or quasi-academics. I would say, ‘I need to be within 10 feet of my child, and I’m going to sit here and grade 20 papers and listen to you talk about your particle accelerator.'”

“One of my tests for my giving too much is asking, ‘Am I being a martyr, or am I being generous? What choice would I want my kids to make when they grow up?’ I really don’t know where my own boundaries are.”-@accommodatingly

“The Giving Tree is a book about what we’re told to do to ourselves as mothers: destroy yourself in the hope that your adult child, who is paradigmatically a son, will come back and cry over your stump when you’re dead.”-@accommodatingly

“I want to be a good listener. I want to set the right boundaries for one kid on one day–and the right boundaries for one kid on one day are not the right boundaries for another kid on another. I want to be really good at reading my kids, to know what that kid needs on that day. I want to share their interests as much as appropriate and no more so, and I want to give them the right amount of space to grow, and put them in a space where they’ll find friends and other adults who will help them grow, because I know I can’t do it all myself. No one can.”

“The more self-help advice we get, the more we feel like if it’s not working, it’s our fault. And no, it’s not your fault.”-@accommodatingly

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