Evil Witches the newsletter

Evil Witches is a newsletter for people who happen to be mothers, a parenting magazine that’s actually about the parents and what they care about. We believe motherhood is life-changing, but not life-defining. 

This is a publication for people who don’t need to hear that it’s all worth it, or that the years are short, that this is the most important job of all. It’s for people who are tired of saying “I love my kid but…” and know it’s always inferred. It’s for people who wish that it was the norm to add “.... are you OK?” after parenthood begins, and not just “congratulations!”

We are the moms who don’t feel the need to debate whether you can care about your career/hobbies/relationships/wardrobe/pantry/pop culture/sex life and be a good mom at the same time. We already know we are pretty good moms (even if we have bad moments/weeks). But being a good mom is not the only thing you need to feel full. Quite the contrary—sometimes you need to take time off from being a mom in order to do the job well. 

We are the moms who will not be taken aback if you say something negative or irreverent about your family. (We will most likely try to make you feel better with our own story or joke.) We can do all this, and still say something adoring about your child on social media because we too look forward all night to bedtime and then paradoxically spend the evening looking at old baby photos.

Witches agree over a sense of “nobody told me” about motherhood. Or that something about the whole gig was lied about or covered up or elided. Something nefarious, and we’re mad about it.

Witches will offer to pick up a shovel and tarp for you if your partner exhibits signs of aggressive helplessness, or plays video games while you put the kids to bed despite a sink full of dirty dishes, or is a whiny b about you needing time to yourself beyond just a shower. Because one day it can be a harmless roommate foible but then another day it can feel like a micro-aggression or worse.

There are many varieties of evil witches all around the world. We are working moms, stay at home moms, home birthers, stepmothers, adoptive mothers, daycare moms, formula feeders, pouch feeders, breastfeeders, nanny-havers, academics, single moms, rural people, city people, straights, queer people, yellers, crafty people, criers, great cooks and helpless chefs. As long as you are curious, empathetic, relatively self-aware and know that we can’t function in this job if we can’t explore it, complain about it, laugh about it, and ask big and little questions about it, you can be witchy.

Evil Witches is most likely not for anti-vaxxers, fundamentalists, strict conservatives, MLMers, parents who don’t believe in fast food or television, or men who take the notion of masculinity very seriously. I am also sorry to report that this newsletter is not about witchcraft per se (it was named some years ago in an off-the-cuff manner) although we pay respect to the actual witches out there.

I hope each issue gets you to laugh, learn something, or makes you feel less alone. Some issues are about the act of childrearing or homekeeping but many more are about careers, relationships, mental health, beauty, food—the things we think about and care about when we are also being someone’s parent. Sometimes issues cover the fundamentals of raising kids or being a part of a family—other times they don’t involve family at all, except for the fact that they’re issues that affect mothers and therefore are part of the whole deal.

Also, I want each issue to be something you can read in a leisurely bathroom visit or before everyone wakes up or when you do a leisurely email catchup, whatever the drill.

Evil Witches the community

The goal of Evil Witches is for readers is to feel seen, to laugh, to learn things, to trade advice and commiseration, and to get more involved in their community, whatever that looks like. Each issue is unsponsored and free of affiliate links and therefore is funded by subscriptions only.

All newsletter subscribers, free and paid, can expect biweekly interviews, humor, reported essays, traditional/crowdsourced journalism and advice plus the occasional opportunity to fundraise or support small witchy businesses.

Paid subscribers also have access to weekly locked chats with a funny, intelligent, widely accomplished group of readers on topics that run the gamut from career advice to unused baby names to meatball recipes to complicated grandparents. Some comments on one thread about the TGIM mindset include “This thread is so validating!” “Just grateful to find out I’m not the only one who feels this way!” “I love this community so much!” “You’ve made me feel less like a monster.” Being a paid subscriber also means getting the opportunity to promote your business, projects, or social media to thousands of free subscribers, plus the chance to submit questions to upcoming guest experts.

Dads and childfree folks are welcome—I am especially honored when I hear that childfree people read E.W., sincerely—as long as everyone knows the default presumed audience is witchy moms.

Already a subscriber? Send an Evil Witches subscription to a new mom or one who maybe feels isolated or like she lives in a place where she can’t say what she really feels about parenting or wants something to read that’s about parenting but only sort of.

Give a gift subscription

Of course, not everyone can afford to pay the subscription fee. Some folks have dropped me a line to say they love the newsletter but it’s not a good time to pay and we’ve worked things out.

Who I am

I’m Claire Zulkey, a freelance writer living in my hometown of Evanston, IL.

This Substack is an output of over 20 years of writing and communicating online, working dayjobs in marketing and higher ed and also contributing to mainstream publications like the New York Times, Real Simple, the Atlantic, Parents, and the AV Club. I also write a lot for brands and for universities. I’m a graduate of Second City’s writing program, have contributed to McSweeney’s and am the co-founder of Funny Ha-Ha, a live humor reading series in Chicago. I’ve published books under my own name and others as a ghostwriter. 

I’m a mother to two sons, born in 2012 and 2015. I’ve been writing about being a mom for publications big and tiny since I was pregnant with my first child because it’s how I process and learn about the whole thing.

Here is a circa 2017 photo of one of my kids poking me in the eye and me pretending to think it’s cute:

My personal motto for Evil Witches is “I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m making this up as I go along.” I’m very grateful to get paid to do the kind of service journalism, storytelling, humor, networking, and personal-catharsis project you see here.

Ancient things

If you are new to Evil Witches and want to browse around, here are some of my favorite pieces:

It’s actually *good* parenting to skip some games

What “take care of yourself” means in a crisis

So you and your kid want to get matching tattoos

You’re not a bad mom if you want to sleep

How much of yourself you can put on your resume

The myth of minimalism

Downsizing/streamlining your kids’ events

How do I manage this ADHD child of mine?

Making family trips fun/tolerable

How to publish a book and be a mom

Who’s your empty nest icon?

Is it my kid, the teacher, neither, both?

Talking to a witchy vet, specifically about euthanasia

A guide to going to Disney without your family

What your friend in a marriage crisis could maybe use

Things you can try to do to so your kid's not a dick about other people's weight

People don’t regret sleep-training their kids

The dangers of putting too much pressure on the notion of best friends with kids

A former Delia*s girl becomes an unbleached flowy linen woman

The worst dates for a baby to be born

Things from the pandemic that we hope stay

A tale of three hysterectomies

What it’s like to unschool during a pandemic

Jolie Kerr’s advice for washing chunks out of sheets


When sex gets back to normal, or not

Teaching newbies about tampons

Summer camps

Sober parenting

Ghosting and getting ghosted


Ways you’ve been screwed by health insurance companies

A chat with two witches who gave birth before they got to the hospital as planned

Thanksgiving fights we have with our spouses

So do you have 3 kids or stick with 2?

How we are getting rid of our facial hair

A bad thing our kid is good at

How our belly button piercings survived parenthood/middle age

Not making kids feel bad about growing up

Being an adoptive mom

How to be a dad who is not that bad

Weird things we cry about

Rude shit our kids have said to us

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We are people who happen to be mothers.


I'm a freelance writer in Evanston, IL. I'm also raising two boys. You can find more of my writing here: https://zulkey.com/about/work-for-hire.shtml