Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Good Life/Good article on laws protecting breastfeeding

I really enjoyed my interview with Jesse Dylan on The Good Life Show. They called at noon and asked me to go on early, so I am sorry if anyone tuned in at 12:30 and wondered what happened to the interview.

I am looking for the show online and I'll post a link when I find it. I am listed under "upcoming shows" but the segment hasn't migrated to "tune in now" yet.

In preparation for the interview, I looked for articles summarizing breastfeeding protections laws (and the lack thereof) across the country. I found a good summary article from Mothering, Jan-Feb 2005. The piece is about 7 pages long which shows how much laws vary across states:

Are your breasts bound by law? Believe it or not, some states do not protect public breastfeeding. Here's a look at the legal complexities of a baby's right to nurse. also has ongoing coverage of the case of Emily Gillette, the breastfeeding Mom who was kicked off her Delta Airlines flight.

Recent incidents only point out the absolute need for legal protection for public breastfeeding, as well as reasonable workplace accommodations if we are going to empower mothers to feed their children. I still can't believe we haven't accomplished this already!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Thursday: Mojo Mom broadcasting coast-to-coast with "The Good Life" on Sirius Radio

I hope you'll tune in for a great radio opportunity I have coming up tomorrow. I am scheduled for a half-hour interview on Sirius Radio, to be broadcast nationally. I'll be talking with Jesse Dylan on his show The Good Life. What's really exciting is that we'll be talking about how women can successfully navigate the identity challenges that come along with motherhood--the core of my work with Mojo Mom!

The Good Life Show is broadcast live on Sirius Satellite Radio channel 114, LIME talk radio about "healthy living with a twist." My segment is scheduled for 12:30 to 1 pm Eastern Time on November 30th. You can call in to ask a question at 1-866-LIME-114. You can email questions to:

I'll be hoping to hear from you! The Good Life Show website archives segments as MP3s, and I'll post a link when it become available. So even if you don't have Sirius radio you should be able to listen to it.

Wish me luck--this is an exciting interview for me. Radio is my favorite and most natural venue and my goal is to do more of it!

Do you know the leading cause of death among pregnant women?

I try not to overuse terms like "shocking" but today's News & Oberver brought truly disturbing news. Homicide is a leading cause of death among pregnant women. With all I have studied about motherhood, I had no idea that pregnant women and mothers of newborns faced an increased risk of homicide as compared to the general population of American women.

Reporter Mandy Locke presented news from many studies that document this risk. A Washington Post analysis of homicides from 2002 found that in about two-thirds of the cases, the motive for the slaying had to do with the pregnancy.

I recommend Locke's entire article to you, Pregnancy, violent death linked. There is obviously no good explanation for this situation, but experts propose theories that could lead to understanding, which is necessary to devise preventative strategeis.

"During a pregnancy, the woman tends to care of herself and starts doing her own thinking, said Jill Duszyski, a counselor who treats admitted batterers for the state Department of Correction. "For a batterer, he's bound to feel less powerful. He'll strike."

Locke reports that on the flip side, the woman could be in danger, too, if she appears fragile and weak. She may also feel less empowered to leave when she is pregnant and wants a father for the baby or needs financial help.

There's no good news here, but an important risk factor to be aware of. The article concludes with Professor Phyllis Sharps of Johns Hopkins pointing out, "We have a myth and a fairy tale that this is a time when everyone's joyous. For some families, it's a vulnerable, scary time."

The Purple Ribbon Campaign to end domestic violence was not mentioned in this particular N&O article, but I am including the image in this post to remind us that all women need our support to end violence.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Monet and Moms, yes! Monet and strollers....?

The previous post captures my initial reactions to the Monet in Normandy exhibit. Then, in today's newspaper, G. D. Gearino's column brought unexpected news about this exhibit, which prompted my blog posting. His column, unsympathetically titled "Working up to a Good Snit," criticizes a group of parents who are upset that this special exhibit does not allow strollers. A woman started an online petition to ask the museum to permit strollers, and has collected about 110 signatures so far. The sentiments in favor of allowing strollers tend to either argue that the ban is discriminating against parents with young kids, or that the babies/toddlers themselves should be allowed to enjoy the exhibit.

To my surprise, I find myself disagreeing with this Pro-Stroller Group. I think there are some events that really can't accomodate strollers, and this exhibit is one of them, in my opinion. I am wondering what other parents think. The online petition only represents he comments from one side of the argument, since it's a petition, not a blog.

The Monet exhibit was very crowded when we visited, even on a weekday afternoon. It was a real schlep just to navigate myself through the narrow aisles, and to jockey for position to see the paintings. This was the one real downside of the experience. I find it hard to imagine that I would be able to enjoy the exhibit if I had a child in a stroller to mind. Even if my child were sound asleep, the stroller maneuvering alone would be onerous. The paintings were hung at adult eye level, so I don't buy the arugment that babies and toddlers need to be there to see the art. Many of the paintings were simply hung on the wall, not behind any protective barrier other than a narrow strip of wood on the floor that we were instructed not to cross, which allowed full view of the work but left them quite unprotected.

The Museum has made an effort to include older children in the experience, as there are questions and suggestions posted to help gradeschool-age kids enjoy and understand the paintings. I would recommend to my child's first through third grade class that this could be a meaningful outing, though one that would require a high level of supervision. One thing the Museum should do is make the no-stroller policy clear, and I don't know whether they have done so. Having been there I don't remember seeing this policy posted, though I also wasn't looking for it. I would be very upset if I bought advance tickets, showed up in person, and was denied entry without knowing of the policy in advance.

So where do we draw the line between family-friendly and adult events? I know there has been discussion about kids in bars (see the infamous Brooklyn Stroller Manifesto). Don't we all deserve to have adult experiences sometimes without our kids, rather than falling back on the reasoning that it is "impossible" to go out without them?

Disallowing strollers can't possibly be discrimination on the same level of disallowing wheelchairs, can it (even morally--as wheelchairs are legally protected)? Some stroller supporters are floating that argument.

I see both sides and I imagine that when my daughter was a baby I might have even supported the Stroller Petitioners. I remember going out with my New Moms' Class for lunch when our babies were a few months old. We went to a casual restaurant for lunch but it was busy. We were a group of about 10 women and 10 babies in "bucket carriers" that took up a heck of a lot of floor space. We created a bit of an obstacle for the servers and they were quite rude to us. (It was a "Country Cooking"-type restaurant, very casual and generally family-friendly.)

Back then I was outraged that they couldn't accommodate us with a smile. I still think the restaurant made a mistake, and I never forgave them for it, but now I admit I can at least see the situation from their point of view. It was a hassle for them. But for us it was an important, significant taste of freedom, going out with friends and our babies, maybe for the first time at a social event since our chidren were born. We wanted to be in the world.

So I have lived this and I genuinely respect that feeling. We deserve to be in the world. It's okay to be seen, to be heard, and to take up space. But aren't there truly adult activities that are best enjoyed with our hands free and minds wide open, without the kids in tow? I bet that many all of us have been on a date night to a nice event, where we arranged for a sitter for our kids, and were dismayed to have to hear someone else's kid making a fuss all evening. It happens, and sometimes it's inevitable. I've been the one walking onto an airplane with a squirmy toddler, and having everyone avert their eyes, thinking "Please....don't sit next to me." But I feel that parents are doing ourselves and others a disservice on many levels when we insist that we can never do anything without our kids.

If I were a really ambitious blogger I'd take a firm stance and flog my opinion until the cows come home, but the truth is, I am conflicted. I am having a hard time knowing where to draw the line, and rather than pretending to know all the answers, I am throwing this one wide open for discussion. Let's keep it civil as we explore this area where we won't all agree.

Monet in Normandy, part 1

Before Thanksgiving, I had a chance to view the Monet in Normandy exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Art. It was a fantastic experience. I had planned on blogging about it right after I went, but I got distracted and didn't get around to it at the time. Here were my reactions to the exhibit:

Monet's career spanned from the 1860's to the 1920's--an incredible time span in history. Imagine working from the time of the U. S. Civil War, through the Industrial Revolution, the turn of the 20th Century, and World War I. His persistence and longevity inspired me as I contemplate a lifelong career path.

Monet worked on as many as 14 canvases at once. That takes multitasking to the next level!

Visting the works was an ideal Artist's Date (a la The Artist's Way). I happened to be there with my Mom, Aunt, Uncle, and Grandmother, but I would like to go back again two more times, once with my husband and once by myself.

If you are anywhere near Raleigh, now through January 14, or Cleveland (February 18-May 20, 2007), I urge you to make an effort to see this amazing exhibit, which brings together 50 Monet paintings from museums and private collections around the world. No reproducion or print can capture the experience of seeing these works with your own eyes. That's part of the the magic of Impressionism. By focusing on Normandy and arranging the works chronologically, this exhibit provides an excellent visual progression that shows Monet's style evolve over the decades.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Milestones, blogging on

I've been blogging for three years now, but in the last six months or so I've really "caught the fever." This week I reached two milestones--200 blog postings and 1500 downloads of The Mojo Mom Party Kit. These feel like real accomplishments!

To top it all off, I have been invited to contribute to the group blog at so I hope you'll check out what we have to say over there. I am excited about the run-up to 2008, and I am exploring ways that I can act to help Moms find their political voice in the next national election. is the group who has the most momentum in this area--for example, they collected 20,000 signatures on their breastfeeding rights petition last week--and they're just getting started.

I am also looking forward to staying in touch with other activists including Miriam Peskowitz, Cooper Munroe and Emily McKhann, Pundit Mom Joanne Bamberger, as well as new bloggers I am finding out about every day such as Muckraking Mom.

Thanks to Miriam P. and her Everyday Mom blog for the discussion about what Moms are being called in the political world and for the link to for the link to Muckraking Mom. While I hated the terms "soccer Mom" and "security Mom," I am a bit disappointed that we're now just boring old "married mothers with children."

What would you like us to be called? You know I'd vote for "Mojo Moms!"

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Rest and Recuperation....from Vacation!

We're back from a wonderful Thanksgiving trip to my old hometown and my 20th high school reunion. We had a great time but I caught a terrible cold and I am really exhausted. We came home yesterday afternoon and last night I slept for 13 hours--I can't remember the last time that happened! So I am just going to do a quick post today and catch up on details tomorrow.

Accomplishment of the week:

My in-between time is paying off, as my 7 year-old and I finally painted the accent wall in my office, after having 2 years of a very lonely paint sample splotched on the wall:

The print is David Hockney's photocollage, "Pearblossom Hwy." This image has always served me well as inspiration and a reminder of California. During my in-between time, the Stop Ahead sign speaks to me the most. This was one of the first framed prints I ever bought, back in grad school when it was a big splurge.

I feel so unprepared for Christmas. I really want to sit out the public celebration this year. A real live Santa wished me "Merry Christmas, young lady" at the grocery store and I could barely muster the energy to say hello. Rather than working up my ennui into a humorous commentary I will direct you to Crank Mama's post, "Failure to Flourish: Don't Suffer Alone."

Best wishes to all of my Mojo sisters who also feel like it's impossible to get your Mojo flowing during the holidays!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Shout-out to SA Moms Blog

I love the internet. How else would I have ever known about the cool women who write the South African Moms Blog? SA Moms linked to my blog in response to my breastfeeding piece, so I surfed over to discover their beautiful site. (I think it is truly amazing that I was able to meet the minds behind the one African dot on my ClustrMap!)

The SAM Moms Blog covers every motherhood topic under the sun including lots of good information about and lovely photos of breastfeeding.

Through SA Moms, I learned about the Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog as well as's Breastfeeding Symbol Contest. Heres' the winning entry by Matt Daigle:

One wish I have for the SA Moms blog is that the main author would introduce herself in more detail. I would love to know more about the woman who is the "I" behind the writing.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Sacagawea stays?

Follow-up on the Sacagawea coin story: The New York Times says that by law, the U. S. Mint has to continue to make the Sacagawea dollars, which will circulate along with the new presidential dollars and the Susan B. Anthony dollar.

We'll see how that plays out in real life!

A truly radical statement would be to mint the cost of the Iraq war in dollar coins and put them into circulation. That would give us a striking picture of how much the war has cost, in monetary terms. We could make an exception to the dead Presidents rule and put George W. Bush's picture on those.

Now nursing moms lose their coin, too!

I never know what I am going to end up blogging on during a given day. I was feeling burned out on the topic of breastfeeding, since I literally thought about it all day Friday after an intense meeting on Thursday as well. So I was sitting down to blog on a different topic, when I came across the news that the Sacagawea dollar coin is going to be replaced by coins featuring a revolutionary new image--dead Presidents!

This saddened me, especially given the lame explanation provided on that:

"Limited Sacagawea quantities led to too many being stashed away by collectors, reducing circulation and thus familiarity, said Rod Gillis, head of education at the American Numismatic Association in Colorado Springs, Colo."

I guess the U. S. Treasury believes that the solution not just to issue more coins, but to make them boring as well! I have always loved the Sacagawea dollar. What a resilient woman. As a teenager, she gave birth to her son during the famous expedition in which Sacagawea and her French husband accompanied Lewis & Clark on their travels. I love that a woman is on a coin, I love that a Native American is on a coin, and I love that her nursling son is depicted with her, contentedly sleeping while strapped to his mama's back.

Talk about an emblem for active traveling, nursing Moms! I am very sad that our government has decided to drop the only coin that has ever inspired me. Even Richard Nixon will now be getting a $1 coin, in 2016. Now that's a terrible trade!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Freedom Airline takes some responsibility; doesn't apologize

More news as the story is evolving. Note that no one has accused nursing Mom Emily Gillette of unruly conduct in this situation. MISSING so far is an actual apology to Emily Gillette and her family.

From the Burlington Free Press:

Freedom Airline responds to breastfeeding incident, passenger disputes airline statement

What are we afraid of when we are offended by nursing mothers?

The Breasts on a Plane incident has me thinking on so many levels. I'm going to keep writing about it throughout the day. It feels like this is what blogs were invented for!

The backlash comments I've come across that tell Emily Gillette and her supporters that they are overreacting sound something like this (excerpted from public discussion boards on Critics represented a minority opinion but there were a handful of them):

Good grief, stop "victim stancing"! If you were considerate enough of others to choose a discrete [sic] aisle and a discrete seat at the back of the plane, why not also be considerate enough to cover your breast discretely with a blanket? Big deal, just do it. Just because you're sitting at the back of the plane next to a window doesn't mean there aren't still people sitting around you who feel uncomfortable at the sight of your breast flopped out. I'm all for breastfeeding, but there's a dignified way to do it, and flopping it out like Ma Kettle is NOT the way to win converts to The Cause.


Half the world is at war, killing from greed or corruption. Let's not sweat the small stuff, like do you actually need to subject yourself to covering up your breast with a blanket while you breastfeed your still perfectly happy child.

First of all, I want everyone to imagine what it would feel like to be settled into an airplane seat with your child and husband, and to be actually kicked off that flight. Can you imagine the humiliation you would feel, not to mention the inconvenience? I don't believe anyone who says that this experience, if they it actually happened to them, would qualify as "small stuff." For those who still think Emily Gillette is making a big deal of nothing, it's important to remember that she was already protected by the law, which needs to be enforced. Interestingly, from what I've been able to find, this story did not come to the news media's attention until after Gillette had filed a complaint against the airline with the Vermont Human Rights commission.

Big Question: What are We Afraid Of when we are offended by nursing Moms?

The cultural question that comes to my mind when we think about our discomfort with breastfeeding is, What are we afraid of? I think we're dealing with at least three separate types of fear and revulsion that we may not even be aware of. This is worth thinking about because as linguist George Lakoff has shown through his work, our unconscious cognitive frameworks have a powerful influence on how we look at the world. Here are my thoughts on the topic of the breastfeeding controversy and what is really bothering us:

First, I sense a squeamishness about bodily functions. I think that for many of us, breastfeeding is mentally grouped into the same category as urination or defecation rather than nutrition. Nursing in public is seen as undignified or gross, like pissing in pubic. No one would suggest that we serve dinner in the bathroom but many nursing or pumping mothers are shunted into bathroom stalls.

This squeamishness is related to the fact that our culture as over-sexualized breasts to the point where they are thought of as "private parts" and therefore shouldn't be shown in public. Perhaps men are so used to being turned on by breasts that they are disturbed to see breasts being used in a non-sexual way. The catch-22 with all this is that the less breastfeeding is done in public, the less normal it seems.

At the root of this issue I believe there is a fear of women's power. This fear shows up as "Who does she think she is to whip out her boob in public?" Females of all ages are still contstrained to narrow path of safety in our culture. We are constantly at risk of being labeled as a bitch of dyke if we are "too frigid" or a slut if we are "too sexual." And the definition of what is "too much" or "too little" is out of women's hands. Straying off this path makes a woman fair game for criticism, even when she has done nothing wrong. When I taught high school my teenage students were publicly harassed on a daily basis as they moved through their city, being called bitches or sluts when they did not give thirty-year-old male passersby the attention they demanded.

A woman breastfeeding in public does not fit comfortably in our cultural script. She activates our discomfort and ambivalence by falling outside the boundaries of our defined categories. If she nurses her child in private, or maybe even "discreetly enough" in public, then she's a Madonna (Jesus' Mom, not the pop star). But if she "flashes her boob" too much for our comfort zone, even if it's our fault that we just can't help but stare, does that make her a whore?

I argue that breastfeeding in public is a radical act, one that we should all encourage and support mothers to take up proudly. Nursing in public proclaims our right to exist in the world as women and mothers, on our own terms. Nursing in public shows that we can courageously respond to the eternal challenge "Who does she think she is?" with our heads held high.

Breasts On A Plane

Reading the running commentary over at about the remove-the-breastfeeding-Mom-from-the-plane incident , I was surprised that many posters are not in support of Emily Gillette. There is back and forth in reponse to a post about whether Emily was "flopping it out like Ma Kettle" and whether other people's right not to be offended trumps a Mom's right to breastfeed as she chooses.

While you are at MomsRising be sure to also read Miriam Peskowitz's wisdom on this topic.

The law in Vermont seems completely clear, in favor of Moms's rights, but we clearly have a long way to go toward enforcing our legal rights.

I wish I were more artistic becuase I'd love to make up a poster for the next Samuel L. Jackson horror movie, Breasts on a Plane. Can someone out there please make up a poster and t-shirt???? Tell me if you do!

Sign MomsRising's Petition to Support Breastfeeding

MomsRising is doing a fantastic job of creating a powerful channel that gives Moms a political voice on timely issues. They have a new action step you can take in response to the incident I blogged aobut yesterday, in which a woman was kicked off a Delta Airlines flight for breastfeeding her child. By the way, I find it interesting and sad that in the linked MSNBC article, the focus is on the debate about how discreet the woman was being. Emily Gillette has to defend herself by assuring everyone that no part of her breast was showing. I just can't get over the fact that as a society we want to see as much exposed breast as possible except when a baby is nursing on the breast for its life-sustaining purpose.

Back to the MomsRising action:


Join me in telling Delta Airlines to get a clue and be supportive of breastfeeding mothers; and also in telling Congress it's time to pass the Breastfeeding Promotion Act, which amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect breastfeeding mothers. Clearly this law is needed now!

And, I hope you'll also join me and tens of thousands of others in one of the most exciting grassroots movement on the Internet:

SIGN ON WITH MOMSRISING is working to build a massive grassroots movement big enough to impact the outcome of the 2008 elections and beyond. The time has come to break the logjam that's been holding back family-friendly legislation for decades. It's going to take all of us--and then some--working together to get there.

Podcast: Mojo Mom with Political Moms Cooper Munroe & Emily McKhann

Okay, I've found my way through the maze of the new Skype technology I needed to keep the podcast going. I think in the long run it will work better than ever.

If I sound stressed out during the segment with Cooper & Emily, it's because there were a million things going on at once, including yesterday's news-making, violent, tornado-producing storm raging overhead.

I am glad we were able to get the episode completed. Cooper & Emily and co-host Sheryl all graciously came back to re-do their segments. Cooper and Emily are terrific guests and I know we'll be hearing more from them in the future. Here's the episode description--just check out all the amazing things these dynamic Moms are involved in:

Amy and Sheryl are back with their reflections on the Election Night results. They'll contine to follow politics on the road to the 2008 Presidential race. What do recent results mean for mothers? Amy is joined by our guest pundits Cooper Munroe and Emily McKhann. The dynamic women are actively invovled in advocating for mothers' rights. They have worked with to push for Pennsylvania state legislation that would finally outlaw job discrimination against mothers. This discrimination is currently legal in Pennsylvania and 27 other states.

Cooper and Emily's work extends in many directions. You can read their Been There Blog, learn about the Been There Clearinghouse to help Hurricane Katrina survivors, and learn more about moms and politics at Next year these founding mothers will be kicking off a new project, a web portal called The Motherhood. Stop by The Motherhood now and you can sign up to receive email updates about the site launch.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Breastfeeding -- the start of a longer conversation

I had my mind blown today when I was invited to attend a lunch discussion on breastfeeding that was hosted by activist Ginger Sall. Over a dozen people from diverse areas met to learn about the blueprint to encourage breastfeeding by North Carolina mothers.

I will find time for a longer post later but I am posting now to say that it's ironic to attend this discussion on the same day that I read the news that a woman was ordered to leave a Delta-owned airline flight because she refused to cover her daughter with a blanket while breastfeedig her.

I was shocked by this news and equally dismayed by the unsympathetic, snarky comments posted by blog readers at BloggingBaby. (I appreciated J. D. Griffioen's post--but some of the respondent's comments were horrible.) I really don't get people who have a problem with breastfeeding in public. Our society is out of touch with nature, families, and reality! We mothers should absolutely not settle for the crumbs of being barely tolerated.

The Times' tricky tongue-twister

Lately I've come across many headlines I just can't parse. There's an art to writing them and I have a feeling a lot of the artists have been laid off in recent years. I just came across a headline that seemed innocuous at first, but my brain just couldn't pronounce it, even in my head! Am I crazy?

From The New York Times, November 16:

"Most Students in Big Cities Lag Badly in Basic Science"

Try saying it out loud five times fast and see if your tongue trips over it. For me it's the two "short i" sounds followed by the two "short a" sounds, with those "g"s thrown in, that bring me to a screeching halt.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Evolution of Mojo Mom

BlogHer contributing writer Mary Tsao has a thoughtful commentary that I recommend to you, When Bad is Hip: Thoughts from The Motherlode Conference

Mary mentions many aspects of the conference and discussions that have arisen since. I wanted to highlight Andi Buchanan's talk called "The Escalation of Cool," which Andi posted in its entirety on her blog The Mother Shock. It is definitely worth reading her essay and the extended comment conversation that resulted. I resonate strongly with Andi's point that there's nothing wrong with authentic cool, but it's co-opted, MARKETED cool that creates just another box to put Moms in.

I had been vaguely aware of this trend before hearing Andi speak, and since then, I see it popping up everywhere. If you lump the Cool Mom and the Hot Mom phenomena together, Gabrielle on Desperate Housewives tried to turn her "frumpy Mom" modeling assignment into a "Hot Mom" role last week. In more highbrow media coverage, The New York Times recently reported on Cosmopolitan Moms (in the Fashion & Style section, of course) as though they had discovered something new.

In my own work, I have never been Hip or Cool nor have I tried to be. I really have strived to encourage authenticity as defined by each woman. It's been a challenge to find a promotional hook and publicity strategy that I can stand by with my integrity intact. Media soundbites are not conducive to thoughtful exploration!

I'll tell you where I've arrived in my personal development. Surprisingly, I feel that I have almost arrived at a post-Mom identity. First I was Me, then I was Mom, now I am a New Me. I've been through the fire and come throught the other side to a new synthesis that contans Mom as one part of my identity, but I am now happy to be "Amy-who-is-a-Mom" rather than "Mom (is Amy still in there anywhere)?"

I'm not giving up Mojo Mom--my own creation--but I think you'll see the evolution when I tell you about my next new initivative. I am establishing the Mojo Center for Women's Leadership, and I hope to work with all women, whether or not they have children. You can see in the Center's mission and vision statements that I encompass mothers' interests without separating us from the larger fabric of society:

The mission of the Mojo Center for Women's Leadership is to promote the utilization of the full range of each woman’s talents across her entire lifespan.

We envision a society where women’s wisdom and leadership are truly valued, and families are supported through fair and sane public policies that recognize the “invisible” caregiving work that forms the fabric of community.

The first initiative of the Center is a Mojo Women's Advisory Circle. This group is made up of 10 dynamic women who happen to have kids, but when we meet, we are there as businesswomen and entrepreneurs. We had our first offical gathering last month and you could feel electricity running through the group. If this idea intrigues you I encourage you to start your own circle. Jean Shinoda Bolen has written an inspirational guide to help you get started, The Millionth Circle.

I am starting small with this Center and I am eager to see where it will grow. Possible activities include hosting a small follow-up conference for those of us who met at The Motherlode, and a push to get mothers' interests represented in the 2008 election cycle. I know I will be involved in 2008 but it is an interesting question to decide how to focus my energies. What is the unique contribution that I can make, given my place in my community in combination with my work on motherhood?

That's what I am thinking about during my in-between time. You can see why I have granted myself time for these plans to percolate!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

More on "In-Between Time"

(Photo of an unhappy loose end in my home office. I'm going to honor the "Stop Ahead" sign, in order to stop procrastinating and finish painting the wall! Bonus points if you can identify the photocollage.)

I started to reply to Pundit Mom'scomment and I felt that the conversation was juicy enough to put into a new post. So here we go.

Pundit Mom said:

Interesting that you should be writing about this topic now. I have spent this past year cranking out a variety of freelance projects that have made a nice little chunk of change, but have done virtually nothing to feed my spirit. I feel run down and empty these days and have not been taking on new assignments so I can try to listen and figure out what my next step should be. But I am always in conflict with the part of me that says if I'm not taking on some sort of paying project, I'm not being productive.

Thanks for letting us know it's OK to take the downtime to truly find a next phase that could be better suited to our lives.

What I have found is that I need a sense of closure, finishing, and transition. I can really appreciate the value of graduation ceremonies. Maybe I should throw one for myself. I've been moving full steam ahead on Mojo Mom (writing the book and developing my platform) for so long that I've almost forgotten how to do anything else. For a while I just felt like I should be starting a new project on top of what I am already doing, but that was not working. It was quite literally a non-starter.

I remember reading a wise book that spoke about tying off loose ends honorably, as a weaver would finish a piece that is ready to come off the loom. It's important to do this for creative or professional projects and even relationships that come to an end. Sometimes I feel like the Queen of Loose Ends and that's what I am trying to attend to right now--to give those loose ends some attention and even love, whether it's taking a long walk without looking at my watch, or finally painting the wall in my office that has sported a color sample blotch for 2 years. If I had thought the project out I would have painted the whole wall when I first opened the can!

I think the book that reflected on loose ends is The Tao of Womanhood by Diane Dreher. I've read enough inspirational books to know that they are not all made equal, and hers stood out of the crowd. I can't find the book because I "organized" my bookshelves a while back, which means that my personally-logical system has been distruped. The brain works in mysterious ways. I should learn to leave well enough alone even if it means I have to build new bookshelves. I am starting to jealously scan blank walls around the house, wondering where I can claim additional real estate for my books.

I was thrilled to come across this photo of Noam Chomsky at his desk at MIT. Research is all about massive parallel processing of information from many sources, close at hand, all at once. When I come out of my cocoon I'll be ready to plug back into this mode:

So let's hope I have the wisdom to know which loose ends to tie off and which apparent messes are better left undisturbed. I'll keep you posted about how it's going.

Monday, November 13, 2006

In-Between Times

I've felt stuck between projects lately. Mojo Mom has matured, and while I am still loving writing about motherhood, it's clear that it is time for me to move toward finding out "what's next?"

I am clear about the fact that I want to keep blogging and doing podcasts, the most productive and enjoyable extensions of my work. My next project will build further on Mojo Mom but I have come to realize that first, I have to honor a time of transition. I've been so busy this fall, with on-the-minute crisis management and a full calendar. I need to breathe. I have been sitting around feeling guilty that I haven't gotten started on my next project, but over the weekend I realized that I am not ready to start yet, and that's okay.

So I am granting myself some "in-between time." I'll still be busy and working, but I am granting myself time to gestate and prepare before I start. Yes, it feels a little like being pregnant, though it will probably only last 6 weeks. Recently I've read a bit of Jungian analyst Marion Woodman's book The Pregnant Virgin, and this feels like a good time to delve into her work.

What else might I do during "in-between time?" This is not a to-do list, but a list of possiblities:

Reread Julia Cameron's wonderful book The Artist's Way and see which aspects of her program I'd like to try.

Take my dog on long walk. He has to stay on a leash, but my mind can roam.

Take a nap during the school day. I've been longing to spend a day curled up in bed with a good book.

Clean out my attic and my office.

Turn down requests for my time.

Attend my 20th high school reunion.

Hang out with my daugher and husband for a weekend unplugged from all electronic devices.


All pretty mundane activities, I realize. But there is a certain category of activities on my to-do list that never rise to the top during hard-charging, deadline-driven work times. I need to create time and space for some of those things to get done.

Things will probably look pretty much the same on, since I plan to keep blogging. It feels great to give myself permission to try out a new mode of existence for a little while. It will be interesting to see which priorities rise to the top for action in 2007.

Have you ever granted yourself a sabbatical, a non-pregnant gestation time, or just a plain old break? What would your ideal in-between time activities be?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

I'm an Internet pioneer and I didn't even know it

Today I had a chance to be part of a discussion group that included citizen journalist experts Dan Gillmor and Paul Jones. When the group had shrunk down to just Dan, Paul, my husband Michael and myself, Dan and Paul offhandedly mentioned "Web 3.0" and "Firefly" in the context of our discussion about how to use the Web to make free speech count with credibility and authority. I asked them to back up out of jargonland and explain what they were talking about. (The had called it the "Holy Grail" of Internet evolution and that piqued my interest.)

It turns out there was a major article about this in The New York Times this morning, so you can refer to it for details, but the basic idea is that search engines like Google can currently point you to answers, but can't answer questions for you. This is the goal of what is provisionally called Web 3.0 is to "add a layer of meaning on top of the existing Web that would make it less of a catalog and more of a guide" as John Markoff said in the Times.

What's cool is that even thought hadn't followed this development, I have already built my career on this technology. In writing Mojo Mom, I found that is a researcher's best friend. I started buying books on Amazon because as a nonfiction researcher, I needed to buy specialized books that wouldn't be sold in my local bookstore, and in buying so many I had to take advantage of Amazon's discounted prices.

What I found over time as my knowlege base and exploration grew was that Amazon pointed me to the next logical reference for my work. I was determined to make Mojo Mom a very well-researched and referenced book. By browsing and buying works by the authors I knew--Andi Buchanan, Naomi Wolf, Ariel Gore--I found out more about authors who were new to me--Rhona Mahoney, Susan Maushart, Rachel Cusk. This process went on for several years and enjoyed following Amazon threads for hours. The intelligence behind these searches and recommendations is apparently much more sophisticated than the simple "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought..." headers would lead you to believe. Through Amazon's intelligence, the computer became more than just an extra "hard drive" for my brain, it actually opened up new avenues of learning.

I try to go beyond my preconceived ideas as I swim down my Amazon stream of consciousness. I like to look up books that I don't agree with as well to find out what their network of ideas looks like. I read many of these and reference them as appropriate.

Finally, I check up on the heath, well-being and connectivity of Mojo Mom by following my own book's Amazon page. There are connections I would expect, such as Mommy Guilt: Learn To Worry Less, Focus On What Matters Most, And Raise Happier Kids by Julie Bort, Aviva Pflock, and Devra Renner; and The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars: Who Decides What Makes a Good Mother? by Miriam Peskowitz, as well as other connections that are less obvious but equally welcome. Mojo Mom is connected to Elizabeth Edwards' excellent memoir Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers and Transforming the Difficult Child by Howard Glasser. Tranforming the Difficult Child is one of my favorite parenting books that I called upon in my own life recently. Now that I see that Mojo Mom readers are drawn to it, I may reach out to Howard Glasser to invite him as a podcast guest. I've already invited Elizabeth Edwards--she's a very busy woman but I am hoping to have her on as well.

My husband Michael has been a leader in Open Source software development for almost 20 years now, so it was especially gratifying to learn that I too am an Internet pioneer in my own way!

Karmic payback is a bitch

Even though I don't believe that "everything happens for a reason" this week I was hit by something that felt suspiciously like karmic payback. When Sheryl and I recorded the podcast segment that ended up having the messed-up audio, I was talking about how Newsweek magazine has been turned over completely to the Boomer point of view. They aren't exactly being subtle about it, with their frequent "Boomer Files" features that are narrowcasted to the 45-60 year old worldview.

As further evidence of the trend I pointed out that I'd noticed many ads in Newsweek aimed at rising seniors, including the Jitterbug Cell Phone. The Jitterbug is designed to appeal to people who don't want to learn how to use a regular cell phone. It looks useful, functioning as a simple phone and an emergency-call device, but I have to admit that I was looking down my nose at people who couldn't cope with a regular cell phone and needed features such as "familiar dial tone confirms service."

We tech-savvy Gen Xers were brought up on computers--okay, they were a Pong console and an Atari 400 computer with 8K of RAM and an "advanced child-proof design featuring pressure-sensitive, wipe-clean keyboard," but still, we are intuitive masters of technology, yes?

Then my podcast recording system went kaput and I received the advice to switch to a Skype-based recording system. Skype allows you to make calls directly through your compter via VOIP. Since the main challenge with podcasting is finding a way to get phone interviews into the computer, this seemed like a great solution.

So I went over to Skype and found myself lost in a new world. Where's my dial tone? How do I call a "regular phone?" I searched the Skype knowledge database and encountered some of the most poorly-written technical advice I've ever encountered.

Here's a sample:

"Q: I plugged in a USB headset while I am in a call. How do I choose to use it instead of my normal headset?

A: Open the SSW by clicking the headset icon on the call tab. Select your preferred speaker and microphone devices from the dropdown list."

It would really help to define what SSW is--it's some kind of widget but I still haven't found it--and to tell me how to find the dropdown list. In the final analysis, I got it to work but I felt like a foreigner trying to find the right change and make a strange payphone work without being able to read the instructions. I am chastened, a Gen Xer on the verge of losing her cutting edge, but doing her best to keep up.

You can hear the results later this week when the new podcast with Cooper & Emily goes online!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Meet Cooper & Emily/Podcast will return

I was all set to bring you an election-week episode of the Mojo Mom Podcast this morning, when I learned that I had suffered the worst kind of equipment failure--partial, intermittent malfunction! I had thought my segments recorded just fine, but they guest interview audio kept fading in and out.

So I am figuring out whether it's possible to recover the interviews, but in the meantime I wanted to introduce you to this week's guests. You need to meet the dynamic duo of Cooper Munroe and Emily McKhann. They are involved in many projects, from legislative reform in conjunction with, to their new site under construction, The Motherhood, to Cooper's blogging on The Huffington Post. As if that's not enough, Cooper and Emily are the co-founders of The Been There Clearinghouse, a site that connects families recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina with donors offering help.

You can find the latest updates on Cooper & Emily's work is at the Been There blog.

I'll get them on on the podcast one way or another, soon! Instead of beating my head against the wall trying to get my current recording system to work, I am looking into changing to a Skype-based strategy. Phone over the Internet means more capability and more new technology to master.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

It feels good to be a Democrat!

I almost drove my car off the road after experincing a frisson of joy when I heard that Rumsfeld was resigning.

And dare I say this--after listening to the President's press conference, I felt a glimmer of hope about Congress working with a less arrogant, more conciliatory Bush. We'll see. It will take a long time for anyone to earn my trust, including the newly elected Congress.

Tomorrow I will be recording a special Election edition of The Mojo Mom Podcast with guest pundits Cooper Munroe and Emily McKhann, who have worked with Check my podcast archives or iTunes on Friday morning to hear the analysis you won't hear on CNN!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Author Talk: Laura Kipnis of "The Female Thing"

Tonight I heard author Laura Kipnis speak tonight about her book The Female Thing at The Regulator Bookshop, one of our wonderful local independent bookstores. I had just finished reading the book today, and though it was raining very hard, I made the trip up to Durham to get my burning questions answered.

According to Kipnis, her work is about the four quadrants of the female psyche--a survey of our conflicted mental landscape at the beginning of the 21st century. She divides the territory into dirt, sex, envy, and vulnerability and considers the contradictions and tensions within the female mind. These clashes accumulate at the meeting point between feminism and feminity in each woman's psyche.

Kipnis admits that her book paints a rather bleak picture and that the emanicpation occurs after the book ends, "a new form of optimism produced out of honesty about the situation." (Sounds like our hopes for honest discussions about motherhood, doesn't it?) I actually found her book to be almost compulsively readable and quite funny at times. Kipnis says that she is writing about and for mainstream culture, using the techniques of an essayist rather than a sociologist or journalist. This is how I approached her book since she makes many assertions that she doesn't back up with evidence. Many are reasonable but debatable statements such as "The opposite of desire isn't aversion, it's indifference...." I would have a hard time if she were presenting that as sociological fact, but I can accept such assertions as opinions that are shaping her framework.

What is depressing about Kipnis' work? She finds that as women's equality advances, steps of progress are followed by self-imposed limits, the "inner woman suspended between progress and tradition." The entire book is about contradiction and ambivalence--a juicy topic in my mind but one that is sure to make each reader squirm at some point. For me, I had a hard time with her final chapter on Vulnerability that concluded that a dark side of feminism's approach to rape awareness advocacy is women's fascination with violation and a propensity for female masochism--you could say an addiction to the role of victim. When Kipnis explained her point of view in person it was clearer, but when I read the book this section just made me angry. She was making a very serious assertion and in the book I didn't feel that she had supported her case very well, and when I did understand it I still didn't necessarily agree with her.

I was interested in the intersection between her book and my work, or should I say, my life. I found the chapter on Dirt to be hilarious and enlightening. I have a messy house and still feel a little bit guilty about it, but not guilty enough to really do anything about it. So I live with clutter and ambivalence. Kipnis covers this topic and the deep, unconscoius assocations between dirt and gender roles with insight and humor. I appreciated her coverage of the social purity movements of the 19th century and the connection with women's roles and appropriation of power in the domestic sphere. The entire discussion is too much to go into here, but I am intersted in pursuing the connections between Kipnis' work and linguist George Lakoff's theory of metaphors that define our mental world views--I think some interesting synergy could be found there. Namely, what is the link between purity and cleanliness and the conservative worldview in 21st century America?

I wish Kipnis addressed motherhood more directly in her book. She talks a lot about vaginas and sexuality but not so much about motherhood. For me, motherhood is the defining life event that brings feminism and femininity into focus and conflict for many upper-middle-class white American women. Second-wave feminism pushed back the frontier of apparent gender equality to....motherhood. Women can go to college, grad school, med school, etc. and compete on the corporate ladder/partner track, and we can have what seem to be egalitarian marriages, but once we become parents we can snap right into the June and Ward Cleaver roles and wonder what the hell has happened to our lives.

The illusion of equality and a level playing field is shattered once we take on the most feminine role of all, mother. This exposes the limits of equity feminism, the "plan A" most successful form of feminism, which Kipnis criticizes as being the most conservative form of feminism, because it leaves social structures in place and focuses on women's advancement as the ability to compete within a male framework without challenging it.

To get academic about it for a minute, during the discussion, Professor Robyn Wiegman, director of Women's Studies at Duke said that she felt that Kipnis was diagnosing a condition of privileged white women who feel undercut by femaleness. I would aruge that for many women, motherhood is the moment of truth that exposes the contradictions between these social axes. And, by being disempowered by female gender roles, women may for the first time become aware of the white and economic privilege they had always enjoyed without really thinking about it. (The unconscious nature of privilege an integral part of it, by the way, like a wind at your back during a bike race that you don't even realize is helping you.)

This is part of why I believe that motherhood can be a consciousness-raising experience that can get women to look beyond their privileged lives and become leaders for social change. That feels like a good note to end on for this Election Day. I may go to a lunch seminar tomorrow to hear another discussion with Kipnis and I'll blog about it if I do.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Pro or Against the War, you need to hear these stories

I keep coming back to the topic of podcasting, because this new technology allows you to hear stories you really need to know about--stories you won't hear anywhere else. Today I want to tell you about two recent public radio shows that have provided excellent coverage of the Iraq War. One thing I know for sure is that whether we as individuals support or oppose Bush's War Plan, all of us need to understand the consequences of war. Long-form radio is providing some of the most educational coverage and compelling stories. [Remember that you don't need an iPod to listen to a podcast, just access to a computer. FAQ]

I firmly opposed our country's plan to invade and occupy Iraq but I understand that this plan is being carried out in my name, and on my behalf. There is no way for a U. S. citizen to opt-out of this war. I feel deeply concerned for the men, women and children affected on all sides of this conflict--civilian, military, American, international, and Iraqi.

Below you'll find links to two stories I believe you need to hear. If I could make one wish through my blog today it would be that every elected offical in the United States would listen to these incredible pieces of journalism. This is not about being partisan. It is about willing to look at the consequences of our actions, taking responsiblity for the situation we have created. Listening to these stories is a first step toward understanding. The show descriptions below are taken from the episode descriptions from each show's website. Both The Story With Dick Gordon and This American Life are available as free podcasts and streaming audio.

The Story With Dick Gordon "Been There, Done That" November 6, 2006

When you think of dangerous jobs in Iraq you might not think of civilian contract truck drivers. Thousands of them have been driving all over the country, including to the most dangerous areas. Unofficial trackers are now calculating that of the sixty-two drivers killed, twenty-five are Americans. This is the story of one trucker who survived, David (Bud) Meredith. Bud is now home with his wife Abbi. He has a new job, but is dealing with post traumatic stress from his time in Iraq. He is also preparing to see his daughter Hannah off. She's headed to Iraq. She'll be there as a soldier, with a gun.

[Note from Amy: The Story with Dick Gordon is produced by my hometown public radio station, WUNC. I am thrilled to be a supporter of North Carolina Public Radio. WUNC is proudly launching this original new show hosted by Dick Gordon as its first nationally-broadcast program that is produced right here in Chapel Hill.]

This American Life "What's In a Number? 2006 Edition" November 3, 2006, episode 320

A new study in the British medical journal The Lancet estimates the number of Iraqi dead since the U.S. invasion at over 600,000. This week, we look at whether that number might be accurate, and return to a in-depth look at a similar study in The Lancet, with similar methodology. That study came out a year ago, and was largely ignored by the press. We also hear U.S. forces dealing with the aftermath of some of those Iraqi civilian deaths.

[Note from Amy: this show description sounds rather dry but the progam definitely tells one of the more compelling stories I've ever heard.]

Pictured: Marc Garlasco, former chief of high-value targeting at the Pentagon, talking with Iraqis in a village where civilians had been injured by U.S.-led attacks.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

What marketing genius came up with this book cover?

The Mom Factor is a book all about how Moms make their purchasing decisions.

I haven't read it, so I can't comment on the quality of the writing. My question is, what marketing genius decided to try to promote this topic by featuring a nearly-headless woman on the cover??? She's barely in the picture!

Are they trying to tell us that marketers see a mother as an anonymous body with a pair of breasts and a baby on her hip?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

"Mojo Mom" rave in berniE-zine

Mojo Mom has just been reviewed in the berniE-zine holiday issue. Bernadette Geyer found that my work resonated with the challenges she faces in her busy life. Here's an excerpt from her review. I am thrilled that she chose to review my book and I am particularly pleased that she resonated with the ideas that creativity and time to think are essential for Moms.

From the berniE-zine book review section:

"As a new mother myself, I thought Amy Tiemann’s book, Mojo Mom: Nurturing Your Self While Raising a Family, would be perfect for me to review. The media is filled with images and stories of women who seem to live to be mothers, who never get upset if their little one skips a nap, who never walks out of the house without her makeup done and her child smartly dressed, who never says she enjoys spending an hour at Starbucks with a cup of coffee all by herself just staring out the window.

Amy Tiemann is the kind of mom I wish I had talked to before I had my baby. She admits: IT’S DIFFICULT! You will sometimes feel like crawling under a rock and not responding to calls from anyone. As Tiemann admits:

In the beginning, I felt that my identity was stripped down to bare essentials. I was only concerned with getting through the day with enough food and sleep to do what I absolutely needed to do.

The tips and advice in Mojo Mom are things I came to crave and demand only after months of feeling frazzled. Months of feeling like I had given up all hope of having a sense of self that wasn’t affiliated with my baby. Slowly, I began to tell my husband I needed to get out of the house two nights a week when he was putting the baby to sleep.

I began to use my baby’s nap time not as a chance to do housework “every single day”, but to take a few days a week where nap times were devoted to me doing things for myself: reading, writing, drinking a glass of wine on the patio and just staring at the sunset not thinking of anything at all."

Loving North Carolina Fall

I have so many thoughts percolating right now I know it will be hard to get a chance to write about all of them. I wanted to take a quick break though to say how much I am loving the North Carolina fall. This morning my house was glowing orange on the inside, reflecting the sunrise off the fiery trees outside.

So here's a photo I took yesterday. The completely clear blue sky was an amazing background!

I've lived in North Carolina for six years, and while I have always liked it, I am really feeling smitten and connected. I haved lived in 8 states (plus Guam) and this is the first time I've ever really felt like I couldn't move away. We've finally put down roots, and to our daughter this is her home. I would miss North Carolina if we moved, and I actually think North Carolina would miss us as as well. When people ask me where I am from, ususally feel like I have to go into a long song and dance about the fact that I've lived lots of places, but maybe now I can just say I'm from here!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Podcast: Mojo Mom & "Martyred Moms" film maker Elena Taurke Joseph

This week's podcast is up, featuring an interview with a fabulous woman I met at The Motherlode conference in Toronto. Here's a photo from the conference--I was happy to have a night out with MMO Founder Judy Stadtman Tucker, and this week's podcast guest Elena Taurke Joseph. (That's me, Judy and Elena in the photo, L to R.)

Elena is a clinical psychologist, mother and film maker. She says of her work, "Martyred Moms uncovers the paradox of self-sacrifice. It challenges us to upend the guilt that leads to martyrdom. It encourages us to give mothers permission to hog center stage (at least occasionally). Audiences have found it both entertaining and thought-provoking. We hope you do, too."

You can view a trailer for Martyred Moms: The Price of Sacrifice at Elena's website,

You can access the podcast with Elena as well as my February 10, 2006 archive podcast with Judy here, and don't forget to read my new Podcast FAQ if you need help getting started. Listen in this week to find out how to enter the drawing to win the iPod Nano we'll be giving away on December 1!

Even Mojo Mom has a holiday sale--hardcover edition at paperback price

Whew. Made it through Halloween, that sucrose-filled holiday that has somehow expanded into a week-long extravaganza. Now that we're into November, you know what that means--the December holidays have arrived in our mailboxes. After extracting 20 pounds of catalogs from a week's accumulation of mail, I realized that I should tell you about's holiday sale.

I try to stay pretty non-commercial on my site (for someone who has a book to sell), but please indulge my rare book promotion blog posting. For the first time ever, I have put the hardcover edition of Mojo Mom on sale. When you order through, you can now get a hardcover book at the paperback price. I offer free standard shipping and optional gift-wrapping. All books are autographed by me, and I will enclose a personalized gift card at your request. The hardcover edition is really nice, designed to be a gift for a treasured friend or yourself!

If you are like me, the sticking point of gift giving is often getting the present wrapped and mailed. When you order a book through I will take that off your to-do list and put it on mine!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Rewriting the so-called "Opt-Out" Narrative

From Broadsheet on "Here's some good news: I think we may be witnessing the official "opting out" backlash. Not that the droves of women who've left the workforce are rushing back to work -- the truth is that women aren't leaving the workforce in droves, and those who do leave the workforce are often responding to economic pressures...."

At the Motherlode Conference we talked a lot about unwrapping the oversimplified "Opt-Out revolution" story to more accurately reflect the forces that are shaping women's lives. Joan Williams' is widely regarded a leading expert on this topic. Her work is referenced in the Broadsheet article, and I second their suggestion that you read her new report, "Opt Out" or Pushed Out? How the Press Covers Work/Family Conflict. This though, well-researched report is coauthored by Williams and published through the UC Hastings College of the Law.

I also want to acknowledge Judy Stadman Tucker of the MMO for highighting Williams' work, and for providing ongoing coverage of these issues, including Heather Hewett's article, Telling it Like it is: Rewriting the "opting out" narrative.

In MojoMom blog news: I am experimenting with blogging using tools. Digg allows you to vote for stories you find most relevant. The site is unfortunately skewed toward technology stories but it has a lot of cool potential for social/informational networking.

Visionary upstarts Emily McKhann and Cooper Munroe are starting a social networking site for Moms called The Motherhood and I hope they will install a digg-type function. That would be create an amazing intellectual resource for the whole motherhood movement.

In the meantime, you can click on "read more" to access the Broadsheet article that I Dugg for this post, or click on "Digg story" to Digg this post itself.

read more | digg story

Boomers on my mind

You've heard about the Michael J. Fox-Rush Limbaugh dustup by now. Fox is speaking in favor of stem cell research; Limbaugh accused Fox of trading on his Parkinson's disease for political purposes. For a truly biting and hilarious analyis of the situation, here's Stephen Colbert's segment, "The Word: shameless."

Yesterday, the fact that Michael J. Fox is in the news led to a piece that is "Only on CNN" called "What would Alex P. Keaton do?" Hard to imagine that this important issue, the ongoing life of a fictional character from a 1980's sitcom, isn't getting wider coverage. Way to get the story, CNN!

Not surprisingly, Fox says that Alex P. Keaton would agree with him that stem cell research is the right thing to do.

I was going to just ignore this story, then I thought of blogging just about how bizarrely unnecessary it was, but something about the story got me thinking about the Boomers and what Family Ties was really about. I looked at the photo of the Keaton family and thought, wait, the parents aren't that old. And Michael J. Fox isn't that young. When the show began in 1982, the actors playing the parents were both 35 years old. (If is to be believed, Meredith Baxter and Michael Gross were actually born the same day, June 21, 1947). Michael J. Fox was 21, playing younger, but an "older younger" in the form of Reagan-loving-son Alex P. Keaton. Fox is only 14 years younger than the actors playing his parents, and they are all clearly in the Boomer demographic, bookending the older and younger ends of what is considered one generation. So while the show is usually thought of as liberal Boomer parents coming to terms with their kids, I think the Alex-parents dynamic was channeling the clash of values within the Boomers as the younger wave came of age and became yuppies in the 1980's.

The Boomers have been on my mind lately as I've worked for Yankelovich analyzing trends in parenting. The Boomers have been such a cultural focus and magnet their whole lives, what they care about is always important. I have the impression that now the Boomers are having a hard time realizing just how many people are coming up behind them in younger generations. We don't share their cultural memory, or we experience it as history. In talks, I've told a Boomer audience that I am coming up on 40 years old, and yet I was born after Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were shot. This tends to blow their minds, to realize how far the cultural touchstones of the 1960's have receded into the distance.

Why is this important to motherhood? At least two reasons: first, the Boomer wave has moved on beyond first time motherhood. Women making the transition to motherhood now are almost all Gen X or Y--the youngest Boomers are now in their mid-forties. Yet the marketers, politicians, bosses, decision makers of all kinds affecting our lives are largely Boomers.

Second, as I argued in my Motherlode conference talk, "The Fall of the Unencumbered Worker and the Future of the Motherhood Movement," the Boomers are about to get very interested in caregiving as their parents and then they face the challenges of the elder years. The Motherhood movement needs to become very aware of this fact and form alliances with groups such as the AARP to advocate for caregiving as a social benefit. I've written about this before, most notably in my Literary Mama essay, Linda Hirshman's Middle Finger Raised to Gen X Values. There can be discord between the generations but there are great opportunities for collaboration as well. What I find interesting about the emerging wave of elder care is that no one chooses to have elderly parents--with choice taken out of the equation, or at least minimized, how will that change how we view caregiving? Will it generate more empathy for parents of young kids as well?

Will kids finally become valued as a societal resource instead of a burden? My hope is that we will all finally learn to appreciate the youngsters we'll all rely on to take care of US when we get old.

Maybe Elsye and Steven Keaton will move back in with Alex one day and we can see how it all plays out.....

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

John Kerry is frustrating me.

It can be hard to be a Democrat sometimes. The party largely reprents my views and values, but the inability to communicate and get elected is very frustrating. John Kerry is the poster child for this phenomenon, Al Gore having redeemed his ability to reach out with An Inconvenient Truth. Here we are just a week away from the midterm elections, with our best chance to make gains in Congress, and Kerry is going out of bounds to make things difficult for Democrats.

As far as I know, John Kerry is a good Senator, and I voted for him in the last Presidential election. But why why why does it take him two years to get a backbone, just in time to misapply it to his current situation where he, according to his own accounts, botched an attempted joke that ended up offending U. S. troops in Iraq? I don't support Bush's war policy but even I was offended by Kerry's remarks, on behalf of those who are serving.

I don't know why Kerry even tried to tell a joke. It is clearly out of his zone of competence, and now he is compounding his mistake by refusing to apologize to the soldiers. In 2004 we were falling over ourselves waiting for Kerry to repond strongly to the Swift Boat smear campaign against him. That response--which was totally called for--never came. Now that Kerry has said something boneheaded, that he really can't blame anyone else for, he's coming out swinging against Bush and refusing to aplogize. Can't he understand that it's not Bush he owes an apology to, but he does owe one?

The worst part of it is that Kerry says he is thinking about running again for President in 2008. Kerry, your time has past. Keep serving in the Senate, but it's time to make it clear that you won't be taking up space in the Presidential field in 2008.

I had to get this off my chest. I hesitated at first because #1, it's a bit off-topic from my usual postings, and #2, I felt like it was disloyal to the Democrats to say so. But then I realized that if I find myself censoring my own writing that's even more reason to speak out. That's what we all need to be willing to do these days, to speak truth to power in all its forms.

As ususal, I will look forward to a modicum of redemption in the form of Jon Stewart's reporting on The Daily Show. Stewart is like a media Rumpelstiltskin, taking the political chaff of both parties' foibles and spinning it into comedic gold.