The women of Same Here, Sisterfriend are tossing life rafts made of self-deprecating humor and sweet sincerity to fellow mamas.
Once upon a time, there were 12 women who called each other “Sisterfriends.” They lived in castles with their prince husbands and reclined on chaise lounges as they watched their cherub-like children play with each other quietly. These women, with their perfectly coiffed hair and well-rested eyes, wrote their memoirs on parchment with ornate feather quills, never once spilling a droplet of ink on the silk fabric of their elegant gowns. Everyone lived happily ever after.
Said no Sisterfriend ever.
Maybe there were 12 women in an earlier time who fit this description, but the Sisterfriends of today will tell you they don’t live in castles or spend their days in corseted gowns, idly watching their children entertain themselves. They do write, but they’re not using quills and parchment. And if an inkwell were within arm’s reach of their children … well, a finger-painting-gone-wrong situation would surely ensue, and the traumatizing tale would end up in the very place the ink was originally supposed to go: their book, Same Here, Sisterfriend.
The Sisterfriends wrote this compilation of “mostly true tales of misadventures in motherhood,” a humorous catalogue of literal—and figurative—sticky situations in which these mamas have found themselves and their precocious protégés. Holly Mackle assumed the role of curator for the project, which blossomed from a seed of an idea she had from her long-time book club.
“As the members of book club started having babies, the ability to read the book went down, but women still kept coming when they could,” she says. “Then somebody picked a humor book, and everyone read. From the women with the tiny newborns to the women with older kids—everyone read. That struck me and made me wonder why, and also wonder why there are so relatively few Christian women writing humor compared to how many women are writing humor for the more general market. I know a ton of funny women in the church who love both their Bibles and a perfectly timed Mary Katherine Gallagher impersonation—maybe they needed a platform for their voice?”
The humor book the club read was a compilation of essays by one author. The book’s overall structure and contents gave Holly the idea to compile her mama friends’ essays into a book. “I consider myself more of a curator than a writer and love lifting up the voices and talents of other women just as much as I enjoy writing myself, so right off the bat the idea was to have a compilation of multiple voices.”
Most of the women are local and know each other well, but a couple are long-distance friends who contributed from afar. Almost every woman responded to Holly’s request to write for the project with disbelief that she was asking them.
“They are all so humble and self-deprecating, and every time they turned a piece in to me I could almost hear their knees knocking on the other end of the email,” Holly says. “Then we went through editing and back-and-forth-ing and finding the specific voice and purpose of each piece, and as we did so it felt like each contributor was owning her voice and her gifting and her story a little more. It’s fun to write pieces myself, but it’s huge for me to feel like I’m helping others step into who God has called them to be.”
Each essay bears a title followed by a personal, light-hearted blurb Holly wrote about each contributor. The book itself – a collection of multiple voices – is a reflection of its purpose: to remind those who read any or all of it that they’re not alone; that another mama out there has experienced similar surprise, distress, embarrassment, realization, et cetera.
“In spite of what you feel or hear in your head, it’s just not true and it’s highly likely there is someone (closer than you think!) who has felt or is feeling exactly the same way,” Holly says. “That’s the most frequent comment I’m getting about the book—the feedback typically goes something like, ‘This part made me wake up my husband I was laughing so hard,’ and then, ‘I thought I was the only one…’ and then they tell me which part got to them that way.”
Sophie Hudson, author of “A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet,” wrote the book’s foreword, and in Holly’s words, “hits just the perfect note.”
“When I give examples of women who are already doing what I hope this book will do, Sophie is the first name that comes to mind,” she continues. “Her books are hilarious, friend-making and winsome, and also full of the truth of the Gospel. She doesn’t shy away from who she is as both a believer in Jesus and a funny woman—and it would be easy to shy away from one or both of those characteristics.”
In the spirit of the book itself, here’s what the local contributors had to say about the project.
Lindsay is 32 years old, and despite having four babies in her 20s, she didn’t feel like a legitimate adult until she turned 30. “I’m happy to say I arrived.”
She grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, and moved to Birmingham to pursue a degree in vocal performance at Samford. She got the degree and a husband and never left. She performs sporadically and teaches a few private voice lessons and preschool music classes. Her creativity results in at least five half-finished projects sitting around her house at all times, which her husband appreciates.
What did Lindsey contribute to Same Here, Sisterfriend?
“A whole lot of drama, that’s what,” she says. “Seriously, only my sad, poignant, heartbreaking pieces were able to make it into this book. (Fingers crossed for Sisterfriend Part Deux). I’m so thankful though, not only to be a part of this book, but also to share about ways I’ve been impacted as a woman by other women, and how that feeds my mothering.”
Lindsay’s pieces were mostly already written before the book came about, but she was new to the process of having someone else edit her words. “Especially since my pieces were so personal, things that were implied within my mind made no sense outside of my brain, so I had to learn to flesh them out for others.”
Highlights for Lindsey include “being a part of such a loving, funny group of women,” and Holly’s messages via the Walkie Talkie app called Voxer. “Writing can be a very solitary thing, so the fact that all of this happened in community was very special,” Lindsey says.
She hopes her children will read the book after they have children of their own because “then they will totally get it.”
And she hopes the book will bring comfort to fellow mothers who need some solidarity in the hustle and bustle of daily life.
“I hope it will feel like a warm arm around the shoulders of other weary mamas after these long days with little ones. It’s easy to convince ourselves that we’re on our own, and this book is like that outrageous friend that texts you hilarious and inappropriate things to remind you that there’s so much joy to still be had in the chaos.”
Carrie, 42, of Birmingham, grew up in Nashville and graduated from Samford University in exercise science. She worked in pre-press layout for invitations and stationery for nine years. She enjoys playing the drums, Bullet Journal, running and organizing for fun.
Carrie’s contribution to the book was “The Cat Plan,” a colorful tribute to her middle child’s aspirations to live in a large house and own lots of cats when she grows up.
“I would love for my children to read it,” Carrie says of the book. “My cat-planning daughter has already read her chapter about seven times. She feels famous.”
Beka, 30, grew up in southern California and Colorado. This stay-at-home mama loves to read, write, practice yoga and watch cooking shows (she hates cooking). She contributed several essays to the project and was the unofficial “humor editor,” sprinkling her brand of irreverent humor throughout the book.
“The book is equal parts tears and laughter,” she says. “Nearly everyone I’ve talked to has mentioned being pulled to both extremes.”
Like Lindsey and the other contributors, Beka wants it to remind women they’re not alone, especially in the feelings of inadequacy they might experience during motherhood.
“We all feel overwhelmed a lot of the time,” she says. “Overwhelmed by the task of raising small children and overwhelmed by the love we have for them. A lot of these contributing writers really seem to have it all together from an outside perspective. This book is a chance for them to be vulnerable and say, ‘Same here, Sisterfriend. I feel it too.’”
Someday, Beka will use the book to offer her children a glimpse into her life in the early days of their existence. “I’m going to wait until they have children of their own and then I’m going to call them at 3 a.m. and read it out loud to them as payback for all the sleep I’ve lost.”
This 34-year-old Memphis, Tennessee native went to Evangelical Christian School, attended Samford University as an English major, received a master’s degree in secondary education at UAB, is married to Andrew and has two toddler boys. She taught middle school English for nine years before staying home with her kids.
“I wrote a chapter on the joys of pregnancy (wink), and fighting to rediscover the fires of romance and sass in the midst of early motherhood,” she says.
Emily likens submitting her writing pieces to an editor for the first time to crowd-surfing naked; she’s never done it, but she imagines the exposure and vulnerability would be similar. “I really questioned my worth and value and was stripped of intellectual pride. But, I came out so grateful and amazed at how Holly and the editors guided me into finding that I had something to offer the reader – vulnerability, honesty and humor.”
Highlights for Emily were realizing she had some funny friends who taught her how to replace despair with laughter in the midst of motherhood; and learning how trustworthy Holly is and how capable she is of bringing women together in a likeminded way.
Emily’s neighbor cried after she gave her a copy of the book. She had recently had her first child, and told Emily, “All I need right now is to laugh, and now I’m crying because these women understand!”
“Nobody is a super mom until they accept that they don’t have it all together,” Emily says.
Nicole, 36, grew up in Panama City, Florida, and married her high school sweetheart. They moved to Birmingham to go to Samford University, and fell in love with Birmingham. Nicole is a high school English teacher and works at Briarwood.
She wrote three essays for the book. “The initial draft was always pretty fast. Motherhood is full of funny stories or small moments that seem to hold a lot of significance.”
Nicole confirms that anytime the contributors convene—even if it was just chatting with each other on Voxer—hilarity ensues. And that comfortable friendship is what they want fellow moms to feel they’re a part of in reading the book, and to find for themselves in daily life.
“I hope other mamas will feel a sense of community as they read it and I hope it will give them the courage to make friends they can share their own funny stories with,” Nicole says. “Friendships aren’t made through phony perfect personas, but by sharing the real truth of our daily lives with others.”
Laura, 48, works as a speech pathologist at UAB. She is married to Doug and has two daughters, ages 4 and 6. She went to college at Auburn University and graduate school at the University of Alabama. She enjoys traveling and minimal Pinterest attempts.
Laura’s contribution to the book was a story about an experience she had in the lactation center where she works.
“It was one of those moments where I was simultaneously shocked at my lack of filter, yet kind of proud that I didn’t care as much as I probably should have,” she says.
Laura credits Holly and the other editors with exhibiting “the patience of Job” as they guided her through the creative writing and editing process.
“It has been fun to see the responses of women who have read the book and felt connected and understood by it,” Laura says. “A complete stranger posted something on her social media account about how my piece affected her positively, and it was a neat reminder that our need to feel connected is not bound by where we live or socioeconomic statuses. I have always known this is true, but it has been an unexpected highlight of this project to be an instrument that helps others feel more connected.”
Laura hopes other moms will experience a sense of rest when they read Same Here, Sisterfriend, and tacitly grant permission to each other to admit they don’t always know what they’re doing. “The more we can readily relax, no matter what path our life is taking, the more joy we will have as our own stories unfold.”
She also hopes her children will someday read the tales she and the other women shared in a spirit of vulnerability and solidarity. “I would love for them to understand that in the end, nothing taught me the truths I needed to know more than being their mom,” she says.
This 38-year-old self-proclaimed “tumbleweed” landed in Birmingham after living all over the South. She completed her undergraduate studies at Samford University and holds dual master’s degrees from UGA and UAB in foreign language. She loves to read and write, and does both whenever she has a chance. She is a gardener and writes for some gardening venues like joegardener.com. She spends most of her free time explaining to her two young daughters that their hair will not do exactly what Queen Elsa’s does in the movie “Frozen.”
Like the other contributors, Holly hopes the book leaves readers feeling empowered to seek out friends for their particular phase of life – that they will feel confident to step out and invite someone on a play date, or get a small group together for drinks.
“I’m so sick of this isolation construct that does nothing but to further women deeper into dark holes of feeling like they’re the only one dealing with loneliness or sadness or fear,” she says. “It’s a self-feeding monster, and there are women who want to be at your back and who need us at their back, and in order to help each other we’ve got to find each other.”
Holly, too, hopes her girls will read the book one day when they are mothers. “I hope they’ll think, ‘My mom felt this way? And my mom’s friends felt this way? Well then I must not be crazy to be fearful of ___ or worried about ___. And maybe I should call a few friends and start a book club…’”
A Sisterfriends Part II is already on Holly’s radar. In the meantime, the best way to stay up-to-date is through Instagram @sameheresisterfriend. New weekly content is ongoing at engagingmotherhood.com and on Facebook @engagingmotherhood. The book is available at Books-A-Million, and online at Amazon, pcabookstore.com and barnesandnoble.com.