That magical end-of-summer day has arrived for us–the first day of school. As Mojo Girl starts Middle School, this week feels almost as much like graduation as it does a new beginning (I guess that is why they also call it Commencement). I am relieved, happy, and yes, feeling bittersweet as I see my daughter growing up so quickly. The last two years feel like a time-lapse movie of development stuck on fast-forward. The other day my family was at a store together and as I caught a glimpse of Mojo Girl across the room, it took me a moment to pick her out among the crowd of adults. She’s that much more grown up all of a sudden. When we talk about seeing “eye to eye,” it’s almost true on a literal level now!
So all this brings up a question that has been on my mind all summer, “What do motherhood bloggers do when their kids grow up?” In many ways I feel ready to declare my own personal graduation from motherhood blogging. I don’t see this as better or worse, but just honestly the next step in where I am right now in own my life. It is impossible to hold on to the early years of motherhood forever, and I don’t want to try. I feel like I have been at this for quite a long time, writing about motherhood for the past eight years, and now it’s time for the next generation of Moms to start looking at the same issues though their own unique lenses.
Back when I came up with the idea for Mojo Mom, my daughter had started three-year old preschool, and blogging hadn’t even been widely adopted yet. When I started my website I posted “occasional articles” that had to be uploaded by my website developer. I embraced Blogger as a writing platform as soon as I learned about it, and my first Mojo Mom blog post was September 13, 2003.
As one of the early motherhood bloggers on the scene myself, I have had the chance to know and follow many talented writers, wondering and watching to see what my fellow bloggers do as their kids grow up. Two of my favorite writers, Karen Maezen Miller and Joanne Bamberger, have daughters about the same age as mine, and I can see them evolving and moving forward too. Karen’s first book was Momma Zen, and her new book is a Zen memoir Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life, which addresses her parenting life but is not focused on it. Her author website has also progressed from a Momma Zen “Cheerio Road” focus, to a more holistic KarenMaezenMiller.com.
Joanne Bamberger blogs as PunditMom as well as writing through MOMocrats, MomsRising, Huffington Post, and Politics Daily. This year, Joanne created the new book Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America. (In a nice bit of synchronicity, Joanne contributed to Courageous Parents, Confident Kids and I contributed to Mothers of Intention.) She has come such a long way since the early days years ago when I remember she wrote her Column Quest blog (amazing how 2006 feels like The Olden Days now). She had the last laugh with column quest as she blazed a trail that transcended “old media” and shaped the landscape of New Media. And she’s kept her motherhood angle but she has ramped up and reinforced the “Pundit” aspect of her writing as she has developed impressive media credentials.
So I feel my own evolution stirring as my life changes. My daughter is a lot more independent and I don’t define myself by motherhood the way I used to. My defining question in Mojo Mom was discovering “Who am I, now that I am a Mom?” and I know the answer to that now. I am a writer, an activist for social change, a media producer–someone who has many ideas and needs to channel and focus my energies to figure out how to best move forward on all the causes I care about.
I had lunch with my friend Melinda Abrams of the other day–she is a life coach and we were getting together to talk about possible future directions for her work. As we talked over possibilities and strategies, I realized that every word that was coming out of my mouth was advice I needed to act on myself as well. So interesting to see how much more clarity we can get when we look outside our own lives and into someone else’s work–I am glad that I realized that our discussion definitely reflected back onto my own life.
So two things to share out of what I learned that day: Melinda was thinking about the age-old question of “How do I chart my own work when there is so much to do in the world–and I can’t do everything?” My answer from the heart is that each of us has to figure out the work that only we can do, what won’t get done if we don’t contribute, and put our energies there and trust that the other work will be done by other people. I don’t mean outsourcing motherhood but realizing that if I make a dedicated contribution to ending violence, I can trust that other people will work on eradicating hunger, and I don’t have to feel all the weight of the world on my shoulders. I still manage to feel that way a lot of the time anyway, but that perspective helps direct me.
Second, an image came to my mind. (I feel like I am ramping up into a creative time because I have been thinking in visual metaphors lately.) I visualized life as a treasure chest that needs to be moved forward, and all my actions as horses tethered to that chest. If I align my interests close to the same direction, I will make progress forward. Distractions go out to the side as a waste of energy, and bad habits pull backward. But the main insight I needed right now is that even if my activities are all meaningful, if they pull too much in different directions, I won’t get anywhere.
That was one of those “things that make me go Hmmmm,” and the challenge I have been thinking about all summer.
What’s next? And how do I get there? With 24 hours in the day, many family responsibilities, an active and distractible mind (a blessing and a curse when you do internet research), and the work I want to get done, how do I align those priorities in a way that makes sense? The Polaroid image is starting to develop in my mind–and MojoMom.com will continue to be part of the big picture. That is my jumping off point that I will address in my next post, “The Evolution of Mojo Mom.”
My mind has been churning for about six months now, grappling with the question of “what’s next as Mojo Mom?” It has been such a big question that I have hardly been able to write about it yet. I tried to take the summer off but in the process, family caregiving duties became very intense and refused to let up. We don’t always get to choose. (This entire experience opens my eyes to the fact that the illusion of choice is magnified to a blinding glare in our society.) I will write more about that specific issue another time–while I could probably write a book about elder caregiving, honestly, I don’t want to.
The issue of what’s next has come to a head for me, and, I suspect, other writers who started out five years ago or more as “Mom bloggers.” Today I joined in a very interesting talk about The Future of the Mom Blogosphere on The Motherhood.com where I posed my defining question and first reaction:
What happens to Mom bloggers when the kids grow up? What does that feel like, and how do we write next chapters?
Since I have been blogging for about 7 years, life has really changed for me. I have always written about motherhood in the big picture more than my family stories. But even the 10,000 foot view of what it means to be a Mojo Mom looks very different as the mother of a Middle Schooler rather than a toddler. Interesting times–definitely lots to write about. Both of us are getting ready to head out in new directions.
So far there are almost 20 comments in reply, so I felt I had hit a nerve with the question. You can still read the archived chat and even add your perspective there, or here on my blog, of course.
A couple more thoughts for now: one of the first signs that this issue could be a global phenomenon among a certain “generation” of Moms came to me from talking to Karen Maezen Miller, whose fabulous first book was Momma Zen. She could have ridden that wave for a long time, but as a Zen priest her newest writing, her memoir Hand Wash Cold, shows her naturally gravitating more toward Zen and less specifically toward Momma.
Karen’s daughter and mine are almost exactly the same age, so Karen and are hitting similar stages of motherhood at the same time. If you have not hit “age 11” yet, it’s a trip. They are still kids, yet grown up in ways I could not imagine, and ready to learn so much, and be independent if we can just let them and teach them how to be safe in the world.
Last month, on her blog, Karen wrote more about her daughter Georgia and also reads out loud the Last Chapter from Momma Zen. Karen makes me smile because she reminds me that the Last Chapter is also the First Chapter, the Next Chapter.
So please know that I am incubating the Next Chapter of Mojo Mom. It may come in a form that is slightly surprising, but not unexpected for anyone who has been following my path as a writer. I will give you a hint that tells you a lot about me: I see myself as a writer who aspires to be not Dr. Benjamin Spock, who wrote a parenting column into his eighties (hat tip to Melissa Stanton in Courageous Parents, Confident Kids for that fact), but rather I would like to be more like Gail Sheehy, who wrote Passages in the 1970’s, and many more books on the seasons of life, up to this year’s Passages in Caregiving. (Both authors’ paths are valid. I can just feel it I my bones that I am more of a “write the book I need to read now” kind of writer. Both Spock and Sheehy reached the top level of writing success in their own ways. I should be as lucky!)
I have a good idea of what the next chapter will be, and it is developing in my mind like a Polaroid Picture. I hope to be ready to share more details with you soon.
I am interested for you to tell me, what are your major turning points as a mother right now? What makes you feel differently about life and writing?