One of my favorite writers is Joanne Bamberger, aka PunditMom. Last year we collaborated on the book, Courageous Parents, Confident Kids: Letting Go So You Both Can Grow, in which Joanne authored the chapter, “Becoming a Political Parent: PunditMom on Mothers Raising Their Voices Online.”
Now, I am proud to be a contributor to Joanne’s brand new book, PunditMom’s Mothers of Intention: How Women & Social Media Are Revolutionizing Politics in America. This collection brings together voices from many political women in order to get your political mojo fired up for the 2012 elections, which suddenly seem to be just around the next corner. It’s time to open our eyes and see the effects that the 2010 elections are having on our families through our statewide and national leaders. I encourage you to particularly pay attention in to what is happening in your state government. Here in North Carolina we’re seeing how a sea change in the state government can have a startling effect on the kinds of bills coming out of our state legislature–and it’s not pretty, with attempts to slash the education budget and a dozen separate bills to curtail women’s rights. Fortunately we have a strong governor who is standing up tot these proposed changes but she can’t do it alone–her veto power is crucial but it may be over-ridden by the legislature in some cases.
My contribution to PunditMom’s new book is adapted from my favorite Mojo Mom blog post of all time, Work-life balance: Our ladder is up the wrong tree, which I will talk more about later in a separate update.
Check out Joanne Bamberger’s writing on her PunditMom site and pre-order PunditMom’s Mothers of Intention: How Women & Social Media Are Revolutionizing Politics in America on Amazon.com
I am renewing my Mojo Mom message that a mother’s self-care and TLC must be a top priority for every family–not just on Mother’s Day, but every day! This week I had the chance to share this message with the TODAY Moms blog, and the TODAY Show promoted it to a top story on the front page of their website. This is very validating because truly, if I could sound a 911 emergency call nationwide for mothers practicing self care, I would do so right now. We are running ourselves ragged and there is very little left for ourselves to enjoy, and little reserve for emergencies, either.
I wish I only had to give Moms one reason to take care of yourselves, namely that you are worth it. But I have found that most women need more convincing than that. So read the post and let me know what you think. If you like this, stay tuned for my Mojo Mom newsletter going out next Tuesday, because I am sending out my new Top 10 Courage Boosters to my whole list. This is designed to help get you to take new steps in caring for yourself as a wonderful, valuable Mojo Mom.
Earlier this week I was interviewed on Lifestyle Radio Cafe, and listening in to the first segment between host Dana Hilmer and financial guru Jean Chatsky got me thinking again about mothers’ lifelong career paths.
It is an issue I have thought about a lot with Mojo Mom and continue to explore in Courageous Parents, Confident Kids. The idea that keeps flashing in my mind like a neon sign is that we need to transform our thoughts about mothers’ employment from “if I am going to work” to “when and how am I going to work?”
I say this in a non-Mommy-Wars way! There is no “us” and “them” in this discussion–it’s ultimately all “us,” no matter how different our personal paths may look. Mothers are each unique individuals, but most of us will need to be employed throughout most of our lives. What I have learned in the past ten years as a mother is that the strong feelings I have about what work-life balance means to me at any moment really can evolve over time. When my daughter was six months old, my top priority was to be home with her, and I couldn’t imagine going back to work at that time. By the time she was a year old I was starting to explore my options for a part-time job. My initial plan to go back to work fell through when we decided to move from California to North Carolina, but by the time my daughter was two and a half, I was really eager to get her into a toddler program, and at age three she started full-day preschool. I ramped up my writing and teaching career back to a flexible but full-time schedule.
In the early years of motherhood a day can feel like an eternity. Coping with your new reality as a mother, just getting used to the “new normal” of the day to day demands can make it very difficult to imagine that life can change yet again. I went from being a “stay-at-home Mom” and embracing that as my identity, to a becoming a working parent and artist.
There are also mothers who continue their careers and couldn’t imagine it any other way…until life throws them a curveball and they, too, must adapt.
I respect a whole variety of life paths, but I have reached the point where I operate from a perspective that women should keep their lifelong career paths in mind and treat their employability as an important family priority. Whether you take off three weeks from paid employment, three years, or even longer, what steps can you take to stay positioned to reinvent yourself and return to work when you want to or need to? In this economy, the need to case is an important one to consider.
The working world is on the brink of change, with more people wanting flexible employment for a number of reasons: Boomers who want to continue working part-time instead of retiring; Milennials who can’t imagine having to show up in one place for 40 hours a week when they know they can get their work done from a cafe. But working parents are the true pioneers advocating for flexible employment and results-only work environments, in which it doesn’t matter when and where you work, as long as you get it done.
It’s not always easy to secure such an arrangement, and it’s not always comfortable to be on the leading edge, but it is worth fighting for a work world that works for us. Women’s lives don’t necessarily follow the “ladders” laid out by traditionally male-dominated professions–think tenure track in academia, or the rigorous path of medical school and residency. But it’s always inspiring to see women carving out a path that works for them, whether it’s a mother of two starting law school after her kids are in elementary school, or a woman going out on her own to launch her own business or consulting company.
Sometimes the hardest part is getting started–knowing when you are ready to embark on a new job search or career switch. It can be hard to find guidance on those initial steps getting prepared and setting priorities even before you draft a new resume. So I am very happy to have teamed up with the career experts at Balancing Professionals to provide the practical guidance that so many parents need. Kella Hatcher and Maryanne Perrin are experts on flexible employment, working with both employers and job seekers. They have contributed a chapter to Courageous Parents, Confident Kids sharing “Tools for Career Reinvention.” They share provide an introduction to on-ramping and career reshaping, providing actionable advice in their chapter, which will provide insight for both mothers and fathers. If you are ready to dive more fully into the process, you can get a in-depth guidance for going back to work in Kella and Maryanne’s new resource, The On-Ramping Guide: Tips, Exercises and Important Job Search Steps for Returning to Work After Time Out Raising Kids, available now in the Mojo Store.
So no matter where you are on your career path, see what it feels like to ask yourself when and how you’d like to work, and if that requires making a change, begin investigating the steps you can take to get to create a career path that works for you and your family.
Sign up on the MojoMom.com home page to receive a free digital download on the brand-new book “Courageous Parents, Confident Kids” when it is released on April 19th. You can read the book on an ordinary computer or print it out–no Kindle or special e-book reader is required.
This week I continue my podcast conversations with Courageous Parents, Confident Kids book contributors, talking to Renee Trudeau about the absolutely essential need for mothers to practice self-care. Renee knows that it’s not always easy to practice self care–we each live that challenge every day, and Renee provides a warm and wise voice to help support and guide us. What I love most about Renee’s work is that she is committed to helping each woman unlock her own potential and talents, and showing us how to work together with other women to bring out the best in each of us.
Listen in to this week’s show:
Renee Trudeau has written extensively about self-care in her book “The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal,” and her training that teaches women how to form and facilitate their own Personal Renewal Groups. Podcast host Amy Tiemann has also written about self-care as a core principle in “Mojo Mom: Nurturing Your Self While Raising a Family.” So these two have a lot to talk about!
Listen in to find out why mothers in particular have a hard time claiming their own self care as a top priority, why it’s really important to learn how to do so, and how to get started. Then make sure you register on MojoMom.com to reserve a free digital download of the new book that is a collaboration between Amy, Renee, and 12 other experts, “Courageous Parents, Confident Kids–Letting Go So You Both Can Grow.”
Sign up now and we’ll send you a free digital download of the new book when it’s released on April 19, 2010.
Right now I am consumed by the whirlwind that always accompanies the final stages of editing of a new book. I can’t wait to share the new anthology Courageous Parenting with you, but the one temporary downside is that during this final push I don’t have a lot of time for blogging. But I did want to share a few end-of-decade thoughts about what I learned in the 2000s.
It’s interesting to see my personal journey as a mother develop together with my professional development. When I became a new Mom in late 1999 I looked at the world through a thoroughly individualistic perspective. I really thought that I needed to show how I could “do it all” myself. Even as I learned to embrace the participation of family and friends, I still thought that motherhood was mostly about me and my personal life choices as one woman. I felt that I chose to leave my teaching career, and without even realizing it, I was constructing a life story that put me firmly in the driver’s seat. This was actually a pretty functional way of thinking that worked for me in the short term, but as I lived through all of the challenges of motherhood, and thought about what other women faced, I realized that I was missing the big picture.
When the original “Opt-Out Revolution” narrative first came along, saying that educated mothers were choosing to leave the workforce, it made sense to me, if I looked at my life as a rugged individualist. My teaching career just “didn’t work” any more so I chose to leave. My personal situation was complicated by a cross-country move, that made it seem even more natural that I didn’t return to my job, and I was fortunate that my family could afford to live on my husband’s salary.
But even as I started to write Mojo Mom all on my own way back in 2003, not really knowing any other writers, and without the benefit of blogging, which had not exploded yet, I started to see that motherhood wasn’t just all about me as one person.
I started to think about what it meant that work “didn’t work” for me as a mother of a young child. How much of this was my individual choice, versus larger social structures that ranged from my family, to employers’ attitudes and policies, to public policy, most notably the fact that American women don’t even have paid maternity leave?
My husband’s job was all-encompassing at the time, which did not leave a lot of room for me to work any kind of traditional schedule. And the idea of truly-flexible, valuable part time jobs didn’t seem plausible. I craved a new professional, creative outlet, and I had a renewed interest in writing, so I reinvented myself as an author.
I was fortunate to be able to do so, but even though this worked for me, the dangers and fallacies of the Opt-Out storyline started to come to into focus for me. First of all, most women and mothers need to work for basic financial reasons. So the idea that motherhood = not employed is a worrisome one, because the workforce truly needs to figure out how to retain us and stop punishing us for being parents–specifically, mothers, because fathers are more respected in the workforce and are often assumed to have a wife who can do the majority of the caregiving. As Opting Out? author and sociologist Pamela Stone has pointed out, too often, parenthood means that fathers step on the accelerator of their careers and mothers step on the brakes. For women of Gen X and Y this can create a major fork in the road that has lifelong consequences.
Also, taking an off-ramp from paid work can leave women in career limbo and financial jeopardy. I hope that in the 2010s we’ll find better solutions for building more on-ramps. Life is long, and women in particular should expect to have several careers interwoven with seasons of caregiving.
So as these challenges accumulated it became incredibly clear to me that no one is truly a “rugged individualist,” and we are all in this together. As I was completing the first edition of Mojo Mom I started to think, “What we need is a social movement. Damn, am I going to have to try to start one?” Fortunately for all of us, MomsRising.org burst onto the scene. I could instantly see that founders Joan Blades and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner were well positioned to launch an activist revolution, and I’ve done my best to support their work because it is spot-on, working to end job discrimination against mothers, to get health care coverage for all children, and other key advocacy goals.
Joan and Kristin also started their work together by writing a book, The Motherhood Manifesto, which I highly recommend.
So from being one aspiring writer, working in near-secret on my own, to getting the updated 2009 edition of Mojo Mom published, working with other writers, and participating in MomsRising’s grassroots movement with a million members, I have come a long way in the 2000s.
And as my appreciation of cooperation of mothers has grown, my next book is, voila, an anthology, with chapters written by fourteen talented experts! I had spent years getting to know other writers, reading their books, appreciating their work, and doing Mojo Mom Podcast interviews–now the circle of experts who I have come to think of as a special group in my mind are really collaborating on the new book, Courageous Parenting, which will be a comprehensive guide exploring how to end overparenting, and carve out a new, healthier path to independence for our kids and ourselves.
The power of collaboration is truly amazing. I have spent several years cultivating these connections, but once I had the idea for the anthology and recruited my contributors, we decided to launch the book in a fast and timely matter. The anthology will be current as of January 2010 and will launch in early spring. To me this is the best combination that takes advantage of the immediacy of blogging while preserving the substance of book writing.
As my blog readers you’ve been an important part of my entire journey as well. Books take a long time to writer, and my life as a writer improved greatly after blogging enabled me to connect with my readers. So to say thanks to you, I will be offering a free digital download of the new anthology “Courageous Parenting” to anyone who signs up on MojoMom.com before the book is published.
I hope you will sign up now, so that I can send you a free complete electronic copy of the new book when it’s released this spring.