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Mothers rock! Sayz Ma Generation zine

An interview with Lee Snodgrass
from Wisconsin

by Elke Zobl
June 2004

Can you tell me first of all a little bit about yourself? How old are you, where are you originally from and where do you reside now?

I am a thirty-five year old married mama working at home raising my five year old daughter and my three year old son. I am originally from the East coast but spent the majority of my so-called formative years in Wisconsin. I guess I am an official Midwesterner now.

What do you do besides your zine?

Besides the aforementioned mothering gig, I am a trained birth doula (labor assistant), and I work as a fitness trainer at the YMCA once a week.

For how long have you been running your zine now? Are you the only editor or is there a team?

It's just me. I have been saying I would write a zine for years but only in the past year have I gotten enough sleep and free time to actually bring it to fruition!

What made you decide to start this project? How did you come up with the idea and the name?

I knew I would write about my life as a parent, because that is what I do. That is my material. I liked the take on words of "Ma Generation" from "My Generation". And my kids call me "Ma" instead of "mommy" so the name fit beautifully.

What do you hope to accomplish by making and distributing your zine?

Flex my rusty writing muscles. Give myself an outlet for my creativity and record some of my life for me and the kids to reflect back on. I don't keep a journal anymore so this is a sort of substitute. I hope to be able to flesh out some essays for publication in the future.

What topics do you discuss most often in your zine?

Motherhood challenges, my children, what's going on in my brain: what I like, what I do, what I don't like, my dreams.

Which role(s) did (and do) zines and zine making (and reading) play for you as you became a mother?

After becoming a mother, I found out about Hip Mama. It was a breath of fresh air from the mainstream parenting magazines. I wanted to read about real, imperfect women and their challenges as they too transitioned from working woman to mother. I also have been a long time subscriber to the East Village Inky. I think after seeing that zine, I really thought, "hey, this is something I can actually try and do too."

What do you love and find challenging about zine making?

I love when the ideas all come together. I love it when the words flow and I get ideas for clip art or photos or drawings to bring it all together. I love the idea that I could potentially entertain someone with our adventures. The challenge is simply finding the time. I have so many things I want to do each day and so many things I must do each day. The pocket of free time is slim and I don't always prioritize writing.

What are some of the zines you read and admire?

As I mentioned before, I like "Hip mama" and the "East Village Inky" a lot. I also really, really enjoy "Miranda", "ZuZu and the Baby Catcher", "Hausfrau" and a lesser known home schooling zine called, "Home Time Zine". The writing in all of those zines is phenomenal.

What advice would you give to a mother who wanted to start a zine?

Just go for it. Collect your ideas and inspirations. Sit down and go for it. A supportive partner helps too!


Do you feel part of a (local/national/international?) zine community or network? If yes, what does the alternative mothering/parenting/feminist zine community or network mean to you?

I fell like the new kid on the block, which I am. The women who have published zines for years are women I look up to. The women at the web site, Mamaphonic have been very helpful in offering encouragement and advice.

I feel that there is a boom of mama zines in the USA right now. Why do you think is this? And what could come out of this?

I think there is too, and honestly before I started mine, I hesitated because I thought, "Who really wants to read about another mom and the doldrums of her life". But then I realized, "I do!" I love reading about other mother's experiences and challenges. It makes you feel like you're all in the trenches together and that somewhere in another part of the country, someone else is tired of wiping snotty noses and soaping stinky butts for the zillionth time. I am glad there is an explosion in mama zines. I think the more exposure mainstream America gets to alternative forms of parenting, lifestyles etc., the better off we all are.

I am very interested in the international zine community. Have you ever heard of a mama or feminist parenting zine from another country? If yes, can you tell me more about it?

I haven't actually. Language barrier aside, it would be fascinating to read about a Japanese mother's daily life.

When I look at all the different mama zines which are currently out there - from punk to alternative to radical mama zines to feminist parenting to feminist home schooling -, I wonder if women have enough of the stereotypical image of mothers in mainstream magazines and that the image of motherhood has changed in the last years (or decade) in the US. Do you think it has, or is it just because zines recently started talking about alternative views of motherhood? How do you regard the role of zines in relation to mainstream magazines, in particular magazines on mothering?

I think more and more women have begun to speak out about the "hidden" side of mothering. It's not all wine and roses. From books like, "The Mommy Myth: How the Idealization of Motherhood and How it has Undermined Women" by Susan Douglas and Meredith Michaels and "Mother Shock: Loving Every (Other) Minute of It" by Andrea Buchanan, more and more people are being exposed to more realistic views on parenting. The zine scene is certainly contributing to this, albeit on a more modest level. Self published zines really grow from word of mouth and internet exposure such as Grrrl Zine Network. I think our influence is more subtle but no less effective as a whole.

Do you consider mama zines in particular and grrrl zines in general as an important part of a social movement? Do you think grrrl/mama zines can effect meaningful social and political change at large?

I do think they are important. I don't hold hopes that the zine movement is going to radically change the least not overnight, but I do believe as a collective our ability to influence the opinions of others or expose people to new ways of viewing women and mothers is nothing to balk at. It's like Margret Meade's wonderful quote, and I may be slightly paraphrasing, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughful, committed citizens can change the world....indeed its the only thing that has". I hold on to that quote as a way to remember that each small thing I do as an individual, contributes to the more effective and influential "big picture".

Has the experience of making a zine been empowering to you? In which ways? What were some of main influences that have empowered you in your life?

It is surprisingly empowering! I think that was shocking to me how good I felt sending my words out into the world, so to speak. My mother has always empowered me. She is a strong and strong-willed woman. She led by example in the sense that she let us know that nothing could stop us from accomplishing what we set our minds to. And I have to say my friends are also great influences. I am fortunate to hang out with a small group of women who inspire me in many ways. They are all accomplished and committed in their own rights and while being terrific mothers, they each also nourish their "other" non-mother roles as well.

Which role does play the Internet for you?

It sucks up too much of my time! Seriously, I love the immediacy and wealth of the information available at the click of a button. The flip side is that it is all too easy to "waste" away hours going from site to site or blog to blog.

Do you define yourself as a feminist? What are the most pressing issues you are confronted with in daily life (as a woman/mother/feminist/…)?

I think I have been a feminist since birth! I am proud to call out my feminist beliefs loud and clear. I don't really understand when women are asked this question in interviews and always say, "yes, BUT" or somehow categorize their feminist beliefs. I see it as more black or white. Either you are pro-woman (and I mean that in all senses of the word) or you are not.

Most pressing for me as an at home mother is the fact that though I am working (raising the future citizens and tax payers of this country), I am not collecting social security. That is just a travesty and really shows how little we as a nation truly value unpaid, care giving labor. On a more personal level, I still have to occassionaly justify my decision to stay home for awhile. I don't feel like I should have to justify this decision to others.

What do you think about feminism today? Do you see yourself as part of "Third Wave Feminism" and if yes, what does it mean to you? Or why not?

I think there is a slight lack of cohesiveness to the feminist movement today. In it's hey day in the 70's there seemed to be more of a sense of united purpose. Today there are many individual agendas (working mothers, at home mothers, women of color, child-free women, young feminists) and it often seems to me that we are going off in a million different directions with no real progress being made in any one area.

I think the message of Second Wave Feminism was sometimes suggesting that you cannot have it all. I feel like Third Wave Feminism is more embracing of having it all. I just worry that we are all going to exhaust ourselves trying to have it all at once!

When I tell people in the US that in Austria (the country where I come from) all mothers get a paid 2 and a half year maternity leave as well as the father half a year (or the other way around), they hardly can believe it. However, in Austria there are discussions by feminists that this causes women to stay longer at home so that they loose connections to the work environment, or completely drop out. On the other hand, when I tell people in Austria the situation in the US, they tend to think it's "cruel" to give 6 week-old-babies into day care. What would a feminist utopian family-friendly society look like in your view? How do you think society might be re-thought and transformed to come closer to an "ideal" world for mothers and families? Do you have any suggestions for the development of progressive-mum-friendly-but-not-conservative-stay-behind-the-stove policies?

Wow. That is a deep question. I think the important thing to remember is that one of the wonderful things about our country is that we have choices. Some people choose and are financially able to stay home. Others choose or are financially required to work. Though my choice (and I stress that is was very much MY choice) was to be home, I try not to judge another woman's decision to continue working outside the home. I do think if our nation, as a whole, had more family friendly work/parental leave policies and benefits, that more women would return to the work place. I just felt, if I was going to be away from my children, it had better be for something more important than selling paper (which is what I did for a fine paper mill). If I worked in social services, I may have been working at least part-time.

What are some of your personal wishes/visions/ideas/plans for the future?

Somewhere in my sleep adled brain there is an unwritten novel. Maybe someday I'll get published by someone other than myself! Obviously I hope to give my children a rich and varied childhood. If I can help raise thoughful, kind and forward thinking children, I am the proudest, happiest woman on earth. And I don't think there is anything cliched or shameful in saying so.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Mothers rock!

In Issue #2 of Ma Generation:

Naked from the waist Down in a Hotel With Virtual Strangers
Mold Unleashed! The Bathroom Saga Continues
A Pie Man Named Simple Simon & Other Neighbirhood Treasures
Curse of the Children's Television Workshop
Small Town Zaniness
Betty Dip & Other Culinary Legends
Book Regrets and Reviews

$ 2 or trade

Email Lee at:

lee_snodgrass [at] yahoo [dot] com


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