Nurturing Your Self While Raising a Family
Read Amy Tiemann's posts on the Penguin Blog.
MOJO MOM helps you answer the question, "Who Am I Now that I'm A Mom?"
What is Mommy Mojo? It's the feeling you get when you're a parent at the top of your game, juggling the kids and the many facets of life, and keeping your own needs in balance. Motherhood is a tremendous gift, but it's also a huge identity shift. Becoming a Mojo Mom means bringing your self and your dreams back into focus, while still giving your family the loving attention it needs. It may sound like a fantasy, but it can be done.
Mojo Mom shows women practical ways to:
* Prepare to become a Mom without losing your identity
* Survive and enjoy the intense early years
* Save some of your best energy and creativity for your own ideas and dreams
* Reenter the workplace or take on a new path with confidence and ease
* Learn the key elements to the long-term success of your marriage
* Become a Naptime Activist-and change the world in just an hour a week
* Rise above the "Mommy Wars" between stay-at-home and working moms
* Use motherhood as an opportunity for reinvention
Getting your mojo back is not just another item for your to-do list-it's your right. Amy Tiemann, MomsRising.org executive team member and founder of MojoMom.com, will help every woman explore her true self.
What Is Mommy Mojo?
Mommy Mojo is the feeling you get when you are at the top of your game, juggling the many facets of your life and keeping your own needs in balance with family needs. It is the joyous feeling of becoming yourself and liking that person. It is the ability to speak, be heard, and make a difference in the world. It is power; it is being a force to be reckoned with. It is knowing that even if the rest of the world doesn’t always realize how amazing you are, you can move through it like a secret agent, armed with the confidence that your plans will succeed on your own terms.
Today’s new Moms were raised to believe that we could do anything. We are the daughters of Free to Be . . . You and Me, women who grew up assured that opportunity and equality were our birthright. We have grown into accomplished women, armed with the skills to reach almost any professional goal. However, there is one major life transition that we have not been prepared for—motherhood. While there are hundreds of books that teach us how to care for a baby, there are very few that teach us how to navigate the monumental changes in identity that we face when we become mothers. Even the women who appear to have it all together may feel overwhelmed rather than overjoyed, leaving them to secretly wonder, Who am I now that I am a Mom?
The exciting news about becoming a mother is that it can feel like you are getting a brand-new life. And, like a Zen paradox, the bad news is . . . that it feels like you are getting a brand-new life. To make sense of this paradox, women often try to apply a career-ladder mentality to their evolving family relationships. This mind-set often leads to overinvolved parenting and sets women up to feel guilty and disappointed, because mothering does not pay off with tangible accomplishments that you can see and measure on a daily basis. While your work life may still operate according to a career ladder, your family life and mental landscape will shift.
If a career-ladder framework doesn’t translate to motherhood, what does? I encourage you to view yourself as an artist. When you are an artist, no experience is ever wasted. Exploration and play are part of the process. Any connection or experience could stimulate a new insight that may prove valuable months or years from now. The artist metaphor can provide a useful alternative framework that frees us from the rigid roles that the world assigns us as mothers. Mojo Mom will lead you on a path that starts with self-care, moves through creativity, and culminates in women’s leadership. Motherhood is personal and political, and I firmly believe that addressing the un-answered questions about motherhood is our generational challenge.
Feminism has pushed back the frontiers of gender discrimination by removing barriers to college entry and professional opportunities, but once women become mothers they may find that rigid gender roles snap into place with a vengeance—in their families, in their marriages, and at work. We will examine the full range of these issues, including the tension between what individual women can do and what needs to change in society. Lifelong career development will be a guiding theme, recognizing that there is no one-size-fits-all solution that will apply to every woman.
My own experience with the transition to motherhood motivated me to write Mojo Mom. My goal was to write the book I wished I had had when I was a new mother. When I was pregnant, I learned about the changes my body was going through as I grew a baby, and I learned how to care for a newborn. I didn’t find much information about what was going to happen to me as a person. The advice I did find was always along the lines of “Take care of yourself because it will make you a better mother.” This is certainly true, but it’s not the whole story. Make no mistake about it: Mothers deserve to get their mojo back because they are worth it. Becoming a Mom does not mean that you have to sign away your rights to individual growth for the next twenty years. Each of us needs time, space, and support to meet our personal needs, in a way that is fair to everyone in the family. It can be done.
We all know that when we become mothers we receive a tremendous gift. I feel very privileged to have a child, and anything I say from here on is not meant to take away from that blessing. But I think many people would agree that the preparation most professional women receive for motherhood does not fit the true job description. This transition has always been hard to preview for a woman before she experiences it for herself, but we have to do a better job of telling the whole truth about motherhood. We have to be willing to look honestly at the challenges that we experience as mothers, as well as the gifts, in order to understand the full impact of this transformation on our lives.
What if there were another rite of passage in our society that often involved losing your job and professional status, even if it was temporary, changing your first name to “Mom,” catapulting into a new social circle that required you to make many new friends, subjecting your-self to severe sleep deprivation, and suffering a loss of family income, in addition to becoming the primary caregiver of an infant? Does this sound like something that you would celebrate with a party featuring giant diaper-pin decorations and a ducky cake? It sounds more like an entry into the Witness Protection Program to me. It is certainly a challenge that requires new skills and survival strategies.
Even if we do physically return to the scenes of our old life, we can feel like alien visitors to a strange planet. For six years, as a graduate student at Stanford University, I strode across campus balancing a mocha latte in one hand and lab notebook in the other. I blended effortlessly into the crowd of students and professors that swarmed across White Plaza between classes. My work as a neuroscience graduate student had consumed me in an unhealthy way, and I knew that I was not going to stay on the research path that had been laid out for me, but for the moment at least, I felt like I belonged. Returning to campus a few years later, pushing my baby daughter in her stroller, I felt I no longer had any place in the campus community I had been part of for so long. I had finished my Ph.D. and had a successful teaching career under my belt, but my visit wasn’t the triumphant return of Dr. Tiemann to Stanford—I was just an anonymous Mom looking for a pleasant stroller route.
No one consciously set out to make me feel invisible or inferior. But I no longer really knew who I was. My daughter was a wonderful and challenging baby. The transition from being a full-time teacher who planned two classes, gave five lectures, and interacted with hundreds of people a day to a stay-at-home Mom of a newborn who didn’t sleep well completely threw me off my center.
To get to where I am today, I underwent a major phase of self-exploration and reinvention. In the beginning, I felt that my identity was stripped down to bare essentials. I was concerned only with getting through the day with enough food and sleep to do what I absolutely needed to do. This phase was not all bad. It gave me an opportunity to slow down and decide what was really important to me. When I had no more than a few minutes of time to myself, my priorities came into sharp focus.
As my brainpower and physical strength returned, I added new and old components into the mix: playing tennis to keep my body strong, making friends through a neighborhood Moms’ group to establish roots in a new hometown. I reconnected with my dream of becoming a writer, and I found enough time and energy to finish a novel that had fallen by the wayside during my teaching years. I kept branching out, adding new skills, and taking advantage of opportunities that worked for my family and me. After my daughter started preschool, I felt my mojo rise as a surge of energy and creativity seeking an outlet. I experimented with teaching opportunities, improvisational comedy classes, and starting my own business. After a period of exploration and reflection, I focused on my love of writing and the ideas that became Mojo Mom. I knew that I was one of the best- supported women on the planet. I had a caring, supportive husband, a healthy child, financial security, and my own mother living nearby to help out. Even so, becoming a Mom was still the hardest thing I’d ever done. Once the reality of motherhood had sunk in, I realized there must be legions of other women out there who feel stressed out and overwhelmed by the challenges they face.
Isolation is a real problem for mothers. The good news is that, thanks to the power of online connections, no one needs to stay isolated for long. I created my Web site MojoMom.com to make it possible to have an ongoing conversation with my readers through my blog and The Mojo Mom Podcast. Of course real-world friendships are a crucial part of the equation, and on MojoMom.com I also offer a free Mojo Mom Party Kit to help you create your own gathering. Whether you are getting together a new group or meeting with old friends, a Mojo Mom’s Night Out will help you get to know one another better as you are prompted to share stories about yourselves.
The Mojo Mom Party Kit contains several sessions so that you can meet once or form an ongoing group. You can try it out by hosting a party and seeing whether your group has chemistry. A group can be purely social—the book club without the book that many wish they had—or you can gather a group with a theme and goal. I formed an ongoing Mojo Advisory Circle two years ago, which has been one of the best things I have done for myself on both a personal and professional level. Our group of ten women meets monthly for networking, problem solving, and socializing. We are all mothers who either work on our own or are in business partnerships, and our Mojo Advisory Circle serves as our collaborative sounding board.
Here’s my Mojo Mantra: Getting your mojo back is not just another item for your to-do list, but your right. All women need to continue to grow as individuals, not just as Moms. I will be the first to admit that having mojo is a recurring goal, not a permanent destination. I can feel competent, independent, and free one moment, then a few hours later feel I’m at the lowest point of mommyhood—when nothing is going right and everyone needs something from me. But the fact that I know I can get my mojo back again tomorrow helps me stay sane.
I wrote this book to help you get your mojo back and to show you that as mothers we’re all in this together. Whether we talk about it openly or not, there are times when we all feel that we are at our wits’ end. Being a Mojo Mom means being kind to yourself rather than feeling guilty when you are less than perfect, frustrated, overwhelmed, or just plain tired. This book is meant to help you find the time and space to continue developing your own identity, whether you’re a new Mom for the first time, your kids are going to school and you have a little bit of time for yourself after many years, or you’re reevaluating what you want to do with the rest of your life. Becoming comfortable with reinvention is a vital skill that will serve you well in many situations. Mothers whose kids have grown up and left home tell me that Mojo Mom takes on new meaning for them once they become empty nesters. Once you step over the threshold of motherhood, you’ll find that you draw on your mojo reinvention skills at many milestones and transitions throughout life."Becoming a mother is a heart-changing event. Mojo Mom is the essential guide that gives each reader the tools and inspiration she needs to get her personal mojo back, and make a positive difference in the world."
--Joan Blades and Kristin Rowe- Finkbeiner, co-founders of MomsRising.org
"Amy Tiemann brings a scientist's mind, a seeker's eye and a mother's heart to her work as a writer and commentator on the issues that matter most to women."
--Karen Maezen Miller, author of Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood
"Mojo Mom is a much-needed catalyst for living the precious gift of personal power we each long for at every stage of life. Give this book to every Mom you know- but give it to yourself first!
--Zainab Salibi, Founder of Women for Women International
"Mojo Mom hits the spot, for any mom who needs a friend. It's honest, personal, political, caring, and inspirational, all at the same time. This is the mom-book to keep at your bedside."
-Miriam Peskowitz, author of The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars and coauthor of The Daring Book for Girls
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