The Courage to Be Someone Other Than a Mother
Talking with Erin S. Lane about her new book
It’s Mother’s Day season and I’m getting ready for my own mom’s celebration of life in about 10 days, in her iris garden. As a mother myself, I can hardly wait to see my son and his husband soon, and I get to see my goddaughter graduate from college this week. It’s definitely motherhood season!!
That’s why I love the Divine Mischief and not-ironic timing of a new book by my friend Erin S. Lane (follow her @heyerinlane). Erin’s #newbook is called Someone Other Than a Mother: Flipping the Scripts on a Woman’s Purpose and Making Meaning Beyond Motherhood.
I had the honor to read the manuscript and also interview Erin about her own creative courage to write this book (she’s been around this block before). In the process, it helped me reframe how I’m going to write a eulogy for my mom to be sure I describe all the ways she was a whole woman with a meaningful life beyond mothering.
Personally, I wanted (want) an identity fuller beyond mothering and know that I admired my own mother’s wholeness of life as not only mom, wife, grandmothers, educator, but also artist, gardener, world traveler, and so much more.
The Courage to Write a Memoir Manifesto
Someone Other Than a Mother is full of honest stories of women including the author’s own story, plus thought-provoking ideas, some history of our culture’s own messages. I love that Erin calls it a memoir-manifesto:
“a memoir about my own journey to make peace with my story, but how I used other women's stories in my life who were going off script and making meaning beyond the kind of the traditional shape of motherhood. What courage I took from them.”
I asked Erin to say more about the book being a manifesto, because that statement in itself is an act of creative courage. Here’s what she said:
One of the hardest things about writing a memoir is turning the me into a we. Some people are really good at it. And some people are really good at telling their own story, but not necessarily helping the reader connect to what the universal story is. And so I knew that if I wanted to write this particular book, it couldn’t just be my story, or else it would probably read like a pretty straight foster-to-adopt narrative … But that wasn’t the story I was most interested in. I was most interested in these messages women were getting about motherhood, whether they became mothers or not.
And so the shape of the book ended up eventually being that every chapter is a crappy script that women have been given about motherhood. So something that people say to women, like “your biological clock is ticking” or “parenting is the toughest job in the world” or “it'll be different with your own”, and really investigating that script, alongside my own story alongside other women's stories, and then also trying to offer a more generous rewrite of what can we say about a woman’s calling that’s bigger and wider and more generous than that ‘all her body wants to do is reproduce.’ And so that became the manifesto part that every chapter is this script and this rewrite, and I think of the rewrites as the manifesto, the rewrites as like, actually, you've heard it said this, but I’m suggesting to you that it’s more like that.
And just wanting people to also be invited into investigating the scripts they've inherited, because we don't all inherit the same scripts. I live in a particular body in a particular location, and a particular race and a particular gender presentation. All of that shapes the scripts I’ve inherited, but we’ve all inherited them in some form, or fashion, the live scripts that tell us like, what’s a good way to live? And how we can investigate those and set out to write our own story within some bigger stories.
Because I met Erin in her role as a Courage & Renewal facilitator, I asked how that training informed the way she approached writing her book. Asking “open, honest questions” is one of my favorite C&R practices, and I love what Erin says about the value of asking good questions, whether it’s in an interview or in how we can aim to create a meaningful life:
Something my agent said to me, after I turned the book in and, you know, I was fretting that it was just going to be a landmine of missed opportunities. And he said to me, ‘Erin, it’s not about whether you came to the right conclusions. It’s about whether you asked good questions. Because your answers, if you did answer something in the book, are going to change over time. You’re going to change over time. And you might write a totally different book in 10 years.’ And that's the risk of the particular medium of books, physical books. But I think that’s also the invitation to all of us is it’s not about getting the answers right all of the time. But are we asking questions worthy of our attention?
Gather Some Someones for a Discussion
Someone Other Than a Mother would be a REALLY GREAT BOOKCLUB read whether you are “child free” by choice or by chance, “child full” already, or pondering whether motherhood is a path you want to travel. Maybe you would like to embrace “mothering” as a verb, not a gender-specific idea only for female-identified humans. Maybe you’ll soon to be facing an empty nest or wished to have kids but didn’t. Erin’s book is a thoughtful exploration of all the ways we can make meaning of our lives by being “someone other than a mother” including whether that means both/and or not.
In Erin’s own words, this book is for you if you...
—often feel unacceptably female (there are gobs of us)
—want a purpose bigger than body parts (mom or non-mom)
—want an identity fuller than children (lack of or love for)
—want a legacy larger than your own kin (human or not)
—want better comebacks for crappy sayings (kidding, sort of)
—want to live with less shame, more contentment (yes, please)
Enjoy more conversations on YouTube
Stay tuned for future episodes of Creative Courage Live at my new YouTube channel that I’ll announce in this newsletter. I jumpstarted the channel with two episodes — this one with Erin Lane and also one with Becky Robinson, author of Reach (which I mentioned in my previous post). I’m planning to interview authors and other creatives to share their journey through the lens of creative courage. I hope to inspire your inner author (or inner artist), because I know these people are inspiring me!!
See my channel on YouTube: https://bit.ly/CCLonYT
What gives you creative courage? What would YOU do with more courage? Hit reply and let me know!
P.S. Here’s one of the first iris getting read to bloom in Mom’s garden in time for her celebration of life. I can’t help but repeat the Anais Nin quote,
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”