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.”
Classic Mojo Mom: Work-Life Balance, Our Ladder is up the Wrong Tree. This post was adapted for inclusion in the new book PunditMom’s Mothers of Intention: How Women & Social Media Are Revolutionizing Politics in America, and, it remains my favorite Mojo Mom blog post of all time as well as the one that has generated the most passionate responses. So I wanted to share these thoughts again with you today in full. (Originally posted on December 18, 2006)
Work-life balance: Our ladder is up the wrong tree
by Dr. Amy Tiemann, author of Mojo Mom: Nurturing Your Self While Raising a Family and creator of MojoMom.com
All the research I have done as Mojo Mom has led me to a conclusion that I really need to share with you. As mothers trying to have an integrated life with many facets, have set our sights set on the wrong goal. Our ladder is up the wrong tree in a major way.
I am talking about “work-life balance.” This idea is everywhere, and has become a watchword for my generation, Gen X, which has put “work-life balance” on the map as our highest ideal as we negotiate with our hard-charging Boomer bosses. Although it is usually presented as a positive ideal, “balance” is a trap. I argue that rather than being our highest goal, “balance” accurately describes our current situation that asks families to do it all…on our own. Until we change our thinking on this issue, we are going to be stuck with the same set of unappetizing work-life “choices” that we are faced with now.
Think about it. Who needs balance? Jugglers, tightrope walkers….and Moms. Picture the iconic cover of a chick-lit novel, showing a woman struggling to “balance” a briefcase, cellphone. and pacifier. In real life there would most likely be a dog and stroller involved too, in addition to an actual baby. When we tell women to strive for balance, we’re really telling them to keep dancing as fast as they can. We are telling them that they are failing to keep it all together without asking for help.
“Balance” is in fact a telling metaphor for motherhood. Balance is the underappreciated sixth sense in our brains. Our sense of balance is active, dynamic, and takes a constant hum of processing and adjustment to achieve—yet this vital work barely registers in our conscious mind. We only notice it when our system fails and we are thrown into disequilibrium, left dizzy and unable to function. We couldn’t get out of bed to stand up straight and walk, much less work and lead productive lives, without our sense of balance. But when is the last time you thought of your vestibular system, not to mention stopping to thank heavens for the vital job it does?
This is just like the work that mothers provide: unpaid, uncounted, and invisible labor that forms the foundation of family life. If it were counted, women’s unpaid household labor would add an estimated one-third to the world’s annual economic product, more than $4 trillion.
So if our balancing act is a farce rather than a lofty goal, what should we be aiming for?
This needs to become our new ideal, our North Star, our guiding metaphor. The motherhood movement should aim for creating a real support network that involves everyone–employers, communities, men and women. We need a team approach to holding up the world, one that recognizes the contributions that all family caregivers make, a system that does not just expect us to make the pieces fit all by ourselves on an individual level. My Mojo Mom Mantra is to “make the invisible work visible and then divide it fairly.” We are still at the beginning of that first step, increasing awareness about what mothers and fathers contribute to society, through the sacrificial giving that is required to raise the next generation of children. Support and teamwork need to trickle up from the grassroots to a policy level. We can use this context to explain the motherhood movement to our supporters and skeptics alike.
I learned a lesson about support recently. I had ordered a giant beanbag chair called a Foof Cube for our home. My 7 year old knew a good thing when she saw it. Within a day of its arrival she had commandeered it for her bed, and she’s been sleeping in it every night since then. Kids are great at taking what they need.
I am also ordering another one for myself. In the meantime, I sneak into her room during the school day and sink down into the foam cube to remind myself what support feels like. I am cradled in a snug nest. I let go, and nothing falls.
I could get used to this.
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
This week on The Mojo Mom Podcast I get to talk with PunditMom herself, Joanne Bamberger. Joanne raises a political voice for mothers through several platforms across the blogosphere, on outlets including her own PunditMom blog, with her Mothers of Intention feature, MOMocrats, blog talk radio, and BlogHer. Joanne was also selected to be a member of the inaugural class of the Progressive Women’s Voices program offered by the Women’s Media Center.
And, I am very proud that Joanne has joined my latest project, as one of our team of Courageous Parents, Confident Kids anthology contributors.
So I hope you’ll listen in to this week’s Mojo Mom Podcast, which is part book discussion; and then gets into our personal opinions and a bit of group therapy for (currently) discouraged Democrats trying to get our mojo back.
Listen to the podcast now:
Amy Tiemann continues her series of interviews with “Courageous Parents, Confident Kids” anthology contributors, this week by talking politics with Joanne Bamberger, creator of PunditMom blog.
In Joanne’s book chapter, she talks about what it means for parents to connect with their political voices, and proclaim their opinions, often using blogs as an outlet. Here Joanne and Amy get right into it, sharing their own opinions about their frustrations with the Democratic Party, politics, and the seeming inability to get anything done, even when one party has the Presidency and majorities in the House and Senate.
Hear what’s on Amy and Joanne’s minds, and then feel free post a comment here to let us know what is on yours!