You’re Not Alone

Hip Mama and Rad Dad provide forums for unconventional parenting

As a new, young mother in the mid ’90s, I was shocked by how my “open-minded” North Bay community treated me. Strangers, mostly women, repeatedly pulled me aside at Santa Rosa Community Market, the Salvation Army thrift store and even the Health & Harmony Festival. “Oh, my,” they’d begin, “you’re so young! Were you able to finish high school?” And, my personal favorite, “Is the father involved?”

As my daughter finished preschool, I was pregnant again. I also had more tattoos, crazier-colored hair and a different partner. My idea of quality family time included weekend protests at Headwaters Forest, Saturday afternoon prison-reform marches in San Francisco and Sunday mornings cooking with Food Not Bombs. Sure, I used cloth diapers, made almond milk and sent my oldest to a Waldorf school like other linen-clad granola moms in the area, but I was also a young pseudo-anarchist feminist with radical political views, and very few fellow parents that fit into the same misshapen box as me. I felt completely alienated from my supposedly forward-thinking community.

Luckily for myself—and my kids—I found Hip Mama magazine.

“Back in the day, you had your baby, you had your cigarette, you had your little umbrella stroller and you did the best you could,” laughs Hip Mama founder Ariel Gore. “Class diversity or family-structure diversity was just barely visible then. That was one of the key reasons I started the zine.”

Gore first launched Hip Mama as a senior project at Mills College in 1993. A young single mom, Gore became the poster girl and champion of the “alternative” parenting scene through her unapologetic writing about the realities of raising kids outside of the norm. The articles in Hip Mama included personal essays on raising children as an LGBT parent, about parenting children with special needs, about sexuality after parenthood and even tips on how to breastfeed with nipple piercings.

“When I started Hip Mama,” says Gore, “there was Anne Lamott’s book [Operating Instructions], there were feminists’ books, a couple of kind of punky underground zines, like China Martens’ Future Generation. But in terms of an easy forum for single moms or younger moms or urban moms or anybody who didn’t fit in, there were literally three or four places you could access images of nontraditional families, including Roseanne, which was kind of a traditional family but they were working-class, which was a big deal then.”

Twenty years later, Gore is relaunching the print magazine this winter after a brief hiatus and temporary move to Santa Fe, where she cared for her dying mother while raising her second child, Maxito. The magazine, she says, will feature regular columns from Teen Mom NYC blogger Gloria Malone, Rad Dad zine founder Tomas Moniz and the magazine’s new political editor Victoria Law. Gore’s daughter Maia, who’s just weeks away from graduating college, is working on a new logo and other graphics. The new format will also include more food writing, more art, and, as always, it’s sure to contain sharp wit and insight.

Along with Hip Mama, Tomas Moniz of Rad Dad zine is relaunching his seven-year-old publication with a redesign as well.

“I just started a zine for fathers to talk about fathering in meaningful, feminist, anarchist ways. I started the zine I longed to read,” says Moniz. “It started as a place for fathers, but now anyone can write for the zine, and, in fact, in Rad Dad #20, my favorite essay was by a queer man in a relationship with a person who didn’t want kids, so they chose to live communally with a family who has kids. It is so amazing. Everyone needs to hear those stories.”

Moniz says that, like Hip Mama, the new Rad Dad will feature regular columns along with reader submissions, and will include stories on pop culture, race, queer parenting and more.

And between Hip Mama and Rad Dad, parents can rest assured that they are not alone with their weird-ass co-parenting, radical, farmsteading, anarchist, sex-positive, home-schooling (or, God forbid, public schooling), attachment-parenting, activist approaches to child-rearing.

“All of the things I was told would ruin her life, and that I was being selfish for not giving her up for adoption—they did not come to pass,” says Gore. “And kid number two, he’s 17 years younger than Maia, and I’m not that worried about him. I don’t care what y’all think of me. Part of it, I think, is getting older, I guess. But I could not care less.”