What Is Mommy Mojo?
Mommy Mojo is the feeling you get when you are at the top ofyour game, juggling the many facets of your life and keepingyour own needs in balance with family needs. It is the joyous feelingof 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 beinga force to be reckoned with. It is knowing that even if the rest ofthe world doesn’t always realize how amazing you are, you can movethrough it like a secret agent, armed with the confidence that yourplans 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 whogrew up assured that opportunity and equality were our birthright.We have grown into accomplished women, armed with the skillsto reach almost any professional goal. However, there is one major lifetransition 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 thanoverjoyed, leaving them to secretly wonder, Who am I now that I ama Mom?
The exciting news about becoming a mother is that it can feellike you are getting a brand-new life. And, like a Zen paradox, thebad news is . . . that it feels like you are getting a brand-new life. Tomake sense of this paradox, women often try to apply a career-laddermentality to their evolving family relationships. This mind-set oftenleads to overinvolved parenting and sets women up to feel guilty anddisappointed, 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 youare an artist, no experience is ever wasted. Exploration and play arepart of the process. Any connection or experience could stimulate anew insight that may prove valuable months or years from now. Theartist metaphor can provide a useful alternative framework that freesus from the rigid roles that the world assigns us as mothers.Mojo Mom will lead you on a path that starts with self-care, movesthrough creativity, and culminates in women’s leadership. Motherhoodis 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 byremoving barriers to college entry and professional opportunities, butonce women become mothers they may find that rigid gender rolessnap 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 andwhat 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 motivatedme to write Mojo Mom. My goal was to write the book I wished I hadhad when I was a new mother. When I was pregnant, I learned aboutthe changes my body was going through as I grew a baby, and I learnedhow to care for a newborn. I didn’t find much information about whatwas going to happen to me as a person. The advice I did find wasalways along the lines of “Take care of yourself because it will makeyou 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 haveto 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 fromhere on is not meant to take away from that blessing. But I think manypeople would agree that the preparation most professional womenreceive 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 wholetruth about motherhood. We have to be willing to look honestly at thechallenges that we experience as mothers, as well as the gifts, in orderto understand the full impact of this transformation on our lives.
What if there were another rite of passage in our society that ofteninvolved losing your job and professional status, even if it was temporary, changing your first name to “Mom,” catapulting into a new socialcircle 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 thissound like something that you would celebrate with a party featuring giant diaper-pin decorations and a ducky cake? It sounds more likean entry into the Witness Protection Program to me. It is certainly achallenge that requires new skills and survival strategies.
Even if we do physically return to the scenes of our old life, wecan feel like alien visitors to a strange planet. For six years, as a graduate student at Stanford University, I strode across campus balancinga mocha latte in one hand and lab notebook in the other. I blendedeffortlessly into the crowd of students and professors that swarmedacross White Plaza between classes. My work as a neuroscience graduate student had consumed me in an unhealthy way, and I knew thatI was not going to stay on the research path that had been laid out forme, but for the moment at least, I felt like I belonged. Returning tocampus a few years later, pushing my baby daughter in her stroller, Ifelt I no longer had any place in the campus community I had beenpart of for so long. I had finished my Ph.D. and had a successfulteaching career under my belt, but my visit wasn’t the triumphantreturn of Dr. Tiemann to Stanford—I was just an anonymous Momlooking 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 wonderfuland challenging baby. The transition from being a full-time teacherwho 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’tsleep well completely threw me off my center.
To get to where I am today, I underwent a major phase of self-explorationand reinvention. In the beginning, I felt that my identity was stripped down to bare essentials. I was concerned only withgetting through the day with enough food and sleep to do what Iabsolutely needed to do. This phase was not all bad. It gave me anopportunity to slow down and decide what was really important tome. When I had no more than a few minutes of time to myself, mypriorities came into sharp focus.
As my brainpower and physical strength returned, I added newand old components into the mix: playing tennis to keep my bodystrong, making friends through a neighborhood Moms’ group to establish roots in a new hometown. I reconnected with my dream ofbecoming a writer, and I found enough time and energy to finish anovel that had fallen by the wayside during my teaching years. I keptbranching out, adding new skills, and taking advantage of opportunities that worked for my family and me. After my daughter startedpreschool, 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 periodof exploration and reflection, I focused on my love of writing and theideas that became Mojo Mom. I knew that I was one of the best-supportedwomen on the planet. I had a caring, supportive husband,a healthy child, financial security, and my own mother living nearbyto help out. Even so, becoming a Mom was still the hardest thing I’dever done. Once the reality of motherhood had sunk in, I realizedthere must be legions of other women out there who feel stressed outand 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 acrucial part of the equation, and on MojoMom.com I also offer a freeMojo Mom Party Kit to help you create your own gathering. Whetheryou are getting together a new group or meeting with old friends, aMojo Mom’s Night Out will help you get to know one another betteras you are prompted to share stories about yourselves.
The Mojo Mom Party Kit contains several sessions so that youcan meet once or form an ongoing group. You can try it out by hostinga party and seeing whether your group has chemistry. A group can be purely social—the book club without the book that many wish theyhad—or you can gather a group with a theme and goal. I formed anongoing Mojo Advisory Circle two years ago, which has been one ofthe 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 workon our own or are in business partnerships, and our Mojo AdvisoryCircle serves as our collaborative sounding board.
Here’s my Mojo Mantra: Getting your mojo back is not just anotheritem for your to-do list, but your right. All women need to continue togrow as individuals, not just as Moms. I will be the first to admit thathaving mojo is a recurring goal, not a permanent destination. I can feelcompetent, independent, and free one moment, then a few hours laterfeel I’m at the lowest point of mommyhood—when nothing is goingright and everyone needs something from me. But the fact that I knowI 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 youthat as mothers we’re all in this together. Whether we talk about itopenly 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 thanfeeling guilty when you are less than perfect, frustrated, overwhelmed,or just plain tired. This book is meant to help you find the time andspace to continue developing your own identity, whether you’re a newMom for the first time, your kids are going to school and you have alittle bit of time for yourself after many years, or you’re reevaluatingwhat you want to do with the rest of your life. Becoming comfortablewith reinvention is a vital skill that will serve you well in many situations. Mothers whose kids have grown up and left home tell me thatMojo Mom takes on new meaning for them once they become emptynesters. Once you step over the threshold of motherhood, you’ll findthat you draw on your mojo reinvention skills at many milestones andtransitions throughout life.