Writing the next chapter as 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?

My Mojo…recharging and redirecting soon–I hope!

I think this is the longest I’ve ever gone between blog posts and that doesn’t feel good! But this month I have been gobsmacked by family responsibilities. And it’s not motherhood! It’s being a caregiving daughter for my parents. I am living out one of the things I have been saying to Moms for years now: you need to find a way to make caregiving sustainable, so that it does not burn you out until you are just an empty shell. Because eldercare can be even more challenging at times that having a baby. It comes out of the blue, it’s more of a crisis and less joyful, it can be very sad, it’s a complicated maze of health care, logistics, and finances.

Right now I am trying to remember to be THANKFUL for all that is going well, and to be honest, I feel overwhelmed by what’s not going well, and all the work ahead of me. I am spending the next two weeks downsizing my father’s house in preparation for his next move. This involves catching up on tasks and decisions that should have been taken care of three to forty years ago. So it’s daunting, and it’s on my plate. But at least we still have a chance to catch up now and help my Dad move forward in a better place.

I have to go into family mode but I have already found that even though I have less time to work right now, it is important to keep my writing and professional career going in any way I can. On the one hand I have to be realistic about the fact that until we get Dad moved and settled in, I will have little time and energy for anything else. But on the other hand I have realized that totally squelching the creative part of my life would just make things a lot more depressing. So let’s just say I am in the hive right now, so even if you don’t see me or hear from me as much this summer, I am working behind the scenes to recharge, redirect and relaunch my mojo as soon as I can. You should see the results by the time school starts, and I’ll keep writing as much as I can this summer.

Know that when I write about these issues, it is not an academic exercise, it’s my life, too.

Getting my head back on straight!

WavesThis past week has been a real head-spinner. I am so proud that we got the new and improved MojoMom.com website launched, but I have not had much time since then to blog or even think!

For the past two weeks I have been in the final, intense phases of book production for Courageous Parents, Confident Kids–nailing down every last detail on the contents and design elements. We’re going to press this week to meet our April 19th paperback and e-book release date. The schedule is coming down to the wire, which was part of the plan to create a timely book, but I really started to feel the effects of the stress this week when I hit a wall of insomnia. When I did sleep I would dream about the book, and when I was awake I would copyedit everything I saw. I walked by a movie poster for the new release “She’s Out of My League” with the tagline, “How can a 10 go for a 5?” I immediately thought, that’s the wrong tag line. It should be “Why does a 10 go for a 5?” (Because you know it would work for a hot girl to go after a not-so-hot guy.) You may agree or not with my edit but the point was that I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about it!

I came across a passage from Henri Nouwen that mirrored how roiled up I am feeling inside. Fortunately this feeling has begun to calm down for me:

As soon as we are alone…inner chaos opens up in us. This chaos can be so disturbing and so confusing that we can hardly wait to get busy again. Entering a private room and shuttering the door, therefore, does not mean we shutter out all our inner doubts, anxieties, fears, bad memories, unresolved conflicts, angry feelings and impulsive desires. On the contrary, when we have removed our outer distraction, we often find that our inner distractions manifest themselves to us in full force. We often use the outer distractions to shield ourselves from the interior noises. This make the discipline of solitude even more important. –Henri J. M. Nouwen, Making All Things New and Other Classics

Don’t get me wrong, I love finishing a new book! But it’s such a busy time that it stirs up the mind and challenges me to settle down again. I am hoping to get my wise friend Karen Maezen Miller to come on The Mojo Mom Podcast soon to talk about these issues, which she discusses so lyrically in her new book to be released April first, Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life.