kasia headshotToday’s post comes to us from Kasia James, the editor of The Milk of Female Kindness, an anthology on modern motherhood. Her discoveries in the adventure of pulling together an international group of writers on a universal topic make for some interesting reading to anyone hoping to work collaboratively with a diverse group. Enjoy part one – part two coming your way next week.

Halloween 2012 was a life changing day for me. Under fluorescent glow, deep in the cave-like innards of Box Hill hospital, I gave birth to my first child. The next few months shook my world view faster and more completely than travel, work, and all of life’s other ups and downs.

One of the things I discovered, to my irritation and dismay, was the way mothers are treated and portrayed in popular media. I guess we’ve all heard of the loss of identity that many women experience when they become mothers, but to hit it yourself is another matter. Some people treated me as if I’d donated half my brain to my child when I gave birth.. Even medical information seemed to be supplied in dumbed down form, without the justifying science which would allow me to make my own choices.

Because I saw little in parenting magazines that addressed the whole woman, one whose interests extended beyond nappies, designer baby clothes and trimming my post baby body to eliminate any signs that I had become a mother, I started to chat with other women who I met in the blogosphere about a more well-rounded view of mothering. I found that the conversation about this complex and influential relationship wasn’t any better around the world, or as our children grow. The idea for The Milk of Female Kindness – An Anthology of Honest Motherhood was born a few months after my lad.

The aim of the Anthology is not to be a how-to guide, like many parenting publications. What we’re trying to do is simply to broaden the range of stories about motherhood out there – to pass on real and honest experiences by ordinary women. Some of the pieces will strike a chord with readers more than others, but even the ones readers disagree with will hopefully provoke deeper thought and understanding of what being a mother means. Some of the issues raised may not be palatable to mainstream media, but are nonetheless perfectly valid views. In sharing our stories, we hope to reach out and make women feel less isolated and alone.

Having a small child to look after, I was aware that my time for writing was extremely limited, so I started with a small core of women from America and the UK, and gradually searched out more contributors (including Cheri and Rai – thank you!) rather than opening the Anthology up for submissions. Some contributors I found within WordPress, others on the internet more broadly.  It’s a project which couldn’t have been put together twenty years ago, without the fabulous degree of connection we have today, although sometimes it felt like I was sifting through a mountain of gravel to find the diamonds. Interestingly, from those I approached ‘cold’ I got either no response at all (maybe the ‘Junk’ folder is to blame?), or a wholehearted and passionate enthusiasm for the project.

As work started to trickle in, I saw new areas that I thought ought to be covered and went out to find women who might speak on those issues, and the deadlines for submissions kept slipping back – from the end of April, to June, to August. It’s been a difficult balancing act to get a rounded and thought-provoking body of work, while realising that in my drive to make the Anthology as good as it could be, I could draw the project out indefinitely. Thankfully, now we are stumbling across the finishing line – exhausted but exultant!

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