About The Mother Lode
Hi I’m Cindy. Thank you for joining The Mother Lode.
When I came up with the name for this newsletter, I thought I could call it The Mother Load because I was thinking about the weight of motherhood: the expectations of who you will become, as if becoming a mother flips a switch and you are somehow a different person, willing to sacrifice everything for this new being under your care. I was envisioning the amount of work mothers perform each day, invisible work that begs for acknowledgement (but is often only seen when it is not done). Maybe I was thinking of the psychic weight of the ticker tape of to-dos in our heads, or the emotional burdens we hold - tracking how our children are doing, what support our parents might need, the state of our world. These loads sometimes feel like they might bury us.
Alas, I learned that the term is actually “the mother lode,'' a mining phrase that originally referred to a region in California where gold was discovered. It means a “principal vein or lode of a region,” in other words, a source of precious gold. It can also be defined as a “principal source or supply.” I realized this phrase is even more appropriate, as mothers are the source of everything. We literally birth new beings into existence. We create people, families, meals, communities, and homes. We also birth new worlds.
That is what I am attempting to do in this newsletter. Give voice to a different way of mothering, a new set of terms, because the old terms of motherhood, frankly, sucked and were steeped in patriarchy. The pandemic was an awakening for many mothers as we were faced with an impossible situation, mothering 24/7, with no breaks, no babysitters, no place to send our kids. But motherhood was never easy even in the Before. I want to explore what is worth returning to, and what parts of American motherhood we should leave in the past.
Motherhood is a thankless job, an unsupported endeavor, and also literally the thing that keeps our world going. During this latest government refusal to support paid leave, I was envisioning the signs I would carry if I marched to protest the insanity. First option: “Childbirth is not a vacation” (understatement of the year). Second: “Without us, you’d have no taxpayers.”
One of the many books I read during the pandemic was Sue Monk Kidd’s Dance of the Dissident Daughter. I’d tried to read it many years before, back when I’d worked at HarperOne Books and we’d reissued Dance after Kidd’s first novel, The Secret Life of Bees, became a major bestseller.
I realize now that trying to read Dance at age 24 was like trying to read Shakespeare in kindergarten. I wasn’t ready for it. I hadn’t yet experienced what the world can do to a woman.
In it, Kidd writes: “Carol P. Christ states that a woman’s awakening begins with ‘an experience of nothingness.’ It comes as she experiences emptiness, self-negation, disillusionment, a deep felt recognition of the limitation placed on women’s lives, especially her own.”
This was my experience during the pandemic and I am trying to relearn new ways of being as I emerge from our isolation. A way of being that does not require me to sacrifice myself for my children. A conviction that I do not need to be a good girl at all times. A realization that it is not my job to make others comfortable, to always accommodate, to put others first. This feels revolutionary and it is, because our conditioning as women is to take a back seat, to put our needs last, to take one for the team. But I do not want that legacy continuing with my two daughters. This newsletter is, in part, for them. It documents mini acts of my rebellion against who I was taught I should be. As a woman, as a mother, as a writer, as a wife.
I live in Palo Alto, with my two daughters and one husband. My previous careers include working as an editor for nine years at HarperOne, and as the ghostwriter of eleven books. I’m the publisher at Literary Mama, and my published writing can be found on Scary Mommy, The Lily, The Brevity Blog, and The Voices Project. I was born in Chicago, spent most of my childhood in St. Louis, Missouri, went to college at Wake Forest University, and then moved to California, where I truly feel at home. I’m an identical twin, an exvangelical, and an avid reader of books. These identities will inevitably appear in the writing, as they all influence who I am as a mother.
Why Substack? Many of the seeds of these thoughts were first explored on social media, but those platforms tend to be extremely limited on word count. As I began to write for established publications, they too were (overly) concerned about length (the piece that I wrote on pandemic motherhood on The Lily originated as an essay of 4500 words. I slashed it to 1300 for their website. Called Emptying the Altar of Motherhood, I promise to share it in full here). But longer form writing is traditionally relegated to book publishing, and in case you aren’t aware, the publishing industry moves at a glacial pace. What I was writing felt urgent, essential to this moment in time. Thus this medium seemed like a good way to be able to control when/what/how I publish. In addition, it can provide me with some income so that I can continue to give voice to my own thoughts, instead of leasing my creativity to someone else’s endeavors (see my post on ghostwriting on The Brevity Blog).
I’ll keep most posts relatively brief and engaging. I hope you will respond in the comments and propel the discussion further. I know I won’t get everything right in my posts, and invite readers to call me out on perspectives I’ve missed, or angles I haven’t considered. I truly envision The Mother Lode as a place for conversation and the kind of consciousness raising that happened in the second wave of feminism. The world needs more than one voice; it needs all of us together calling out for what we deserve.
Subscribers also get all the behind the scenes action: book and podcast recommendations, articles that I feel are helping to push the conversation forward about what it means to be a mother today, and access to everything I post.
Whether you chose to subscribe or not, I’m honored if you choose to read my writing. Thanks for joining me.
To find out more about the company that provides the tech for this newsletter, visit Substack.com.