Can Mothering Unlock Radical Social Change?

I share some powerful insights from Angela's new book, Essential Labor that will speak to longtime fans of The Double Shift Podcast.

Can Mothering Unlock Radical Social Change?

I read a galley copy of Essential Labor: Mothering as Social Change earlier this year during a few weeks where schedules aligned in such a way that Angela and I hadn’t talked in a bit. Reading the book made me feel like I was talking with her, that we were continuing to have one of our many spark-filled discussions that surprised and challenged each other. The only difference was her side was in book form and my side was nodding, starring, underlining and writing notes in my galley copy. 

Anyone who’s listened to The Double Shift Podcast since 2020 knows Angela and I have a collective nexus of ideas. We like to say we have different perspectives but shared values. Essential Labor feels to me like a wonderful expression of many of those shared values: around the power of community, reframing care and “mothering” and its value, asking hard questions about deservedness and capitalism and how we can come together and demand more from our family life. But what makes this book so special is Angela’s personal and historical perspective, on her family’s story as immigrants and careworkers, on feeding our appetites and re-envisioning our relationship to our bodies, our sexuality and the natural world. (Someone also pointed out to me that this episode where I interview Angela's mom is a wonderful companion to the book.) 

This newsletter is not going to be a comprehensive summary or a critique of the book. It would be just weird to attempt an “objective” review. I will instead implore you to go buy it yourself and swim with me in Angela’s velvety ideas. 

Instead, I’d like to engage more deeply with one chapter of the book, “Mothering Insists on Worthiness,” that I found expansive and full of ideas I had not yet considered. Angela explores how mothering can help us understand worthiness for all bodies, even in a society that often vilifies these differences. This is in spite of the fact that around 26 percent of adults in the US lives with a disability. Everyone who lives long enough will experience disability at some point in their lives or at the end of their lives. These are just facts. 

 Angela writes: “Disability allows us to vilify and denigrate those of us with obvious needs while lionizing those who can and are willing to work, ignoring bodies in favor of productivity. It allows people with power and money to say that unless you are willing and able to spend your time outside the home for wages, you are undeserving of care and financial support. It makes the fact that health and stability are human rights somehow negotiable.” 

Angela’s words have me thinking about how much capitalism disdains bodies and minds that are not perfectly calibrated to work for pay. It clicked in something for me about how we fail to protect large segments of our society.

Angela’s words has me thinking about how much capitalism disdains bodies and minds that are not perfectly calibrated to work for pay. It clicked in something for me about how we fail to protect large segments of our society. A pregnant or lactating body has demands and limitations on it – making it less immediately “valuable” in earning money, and less worthy of autonomy because of its inconveniences and “otherness.” A child’s body in the short term consumes wealth and doesn’t produce it, and as a society we place low to no social status on care for children. Elderly bodies have "lost their usefulness" in capitalism, so we warehouse them in nursing homes and pay those who wash and feed them very little. To lay this out so starkly shows us how we have been led to question the value of caring for the vulnerable at all.  This is exactly why we need to reframe care and mothering as the most essential labor to our humanity. It is one of the most central and powerful arguments of the book.

I hope you buy the book, enjoy the book and spread the word about the book. Check out Angela’s virtual and in-person book events, too. 


Did you “enjoy” what one of my Instagram commenters called “a dry-hump of a holiday” that is Mother’s Day? I wasn’t feeling it this year. There are more bellowing rants from me coming about the state of All The Things.

I’ll see Double Shift members TONIGHT in DC for a Hangout/Book Signing w/Angela! Email me at if for some reason you are a member didn’t get the deets. Become a member for more fun. We are also coming together to discuss the likely end of Roe in support and community later this month.

CALL OUT: I thought this request from a Double Shift member would speak to many of you. "I am a Durham, NC mother, artist, and educator fed up with the complete absence of parental policies for contract employees and adjunct professors. I found myself teaching online at two colleges the day after my son was born (Ed note: AHHH!!!!) I dream of creating a cross-college adjunct organization or union that would advocate for better benefits and working conditions for all educators, especially parents and caregivers. I would love to connect with anyone who might like to join me in this effort in the Triangle/Triad, or who might have experience or knowledge about this type of organizing in other regions. - Anna Wallace (

READ: Gonna retire the phrase "mom brain" thanks to this insightful piece by Julie Bogen at The Atlantic. 

Get Mad, Get Organized: The National Network of Abortion Funds is hosting a special webinar,   Wednesday May 11th Building Power with Abortion Funds at 7 PM ET- 8:30 PM ET/ 4 PM PT- 5:30 PM PT.  (TONIGHT!) “Together we will explore how to show up in this moment and center people most impacted by abortion bans in supportive, compassionate and non stigmatizing ways.” Register here.

 Parent Nation: I’ll be interviewing Dr. Dana Suskind Wed May 18th, 7PM EST about her new book Parent Nation: Unlocking Every Child’s Potential, Fulfilling Society’s Promise virtually at Politics & Prose in DC. RSVP for a lively conversation about this great book full of ideas about changing society to better benefit families. 


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