Sunday, October 29, 2006

More on The Motherlode conference

The Association for Research in Mothering conference continues to blow my mind. Most of us who are thinking, researching, and writing about motherhood work largely in isolation, or connected by the internet. To have four days of face-to-face meetings, from 9 am to 10 pm every day, is quite an experience.

I think we've all felt overwhelmed at some point and snuck off for a break when our brains just couldn't hold and process any more information. We have our final day of sessions starting in a few minutes, so I'll just say that the conference merited a front page cover story yesterday's National Post, Doting or hip, mothers face tough expectations.

Andi Buchanan of Literary Mama and Mothers Talk fame will be speaking this morning on "The Escalation of Cool" and what the emergence of a "sharp edge" in motherhood literature means. I have never fallen into the hip mom or too cool to mother category and I'll be interested in what she has to say.

There are many highlights to the conference but I'll say that my favorite panel was about "Mothering, Religion, and Spritiuality" drawing on Buddhist history, Jewish-Buddhist conversion, Judiasm, and Christianity. The question of how mothering is represented and served by religion is a fascinating one.

Dinner last night was another highlight. Gathering for sprited discussion with Judy Stadtman Tucker, Faulkner Fox, Alana Ruben Free and Beth Osnes was amazing.

I am late for our next session--so I have to run but I have linked to their work!

More to come once I get home Monday.....

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Motherlode conference has already been amazing!

I am sitting here, torn between wanting to blog about how wonderful the Motherlode conference has already been, and needing to polish the two talks I am giving this afternoon. I think the talks need to win for now. I am inspired by the presentations I saw yesterday. It is powerful to have these motherhood researchers and advocates actually gather in one place. We so often work on our own, connected only by the bonds we can form over the internet. I feel like we'll get a year's worth of work (not to mention blogging and podcasting ideas) done in four days.

Yesterday I met many cool women whom I have admired for a long time, including Ann Douglas, who gave me a nice shout-out on The Mother of All Blogs. I had dinner with art therapist Amy Campell-McGee, and psychologist/filmmaker Elena Taurke-Joseph. I'll tell you more about Elena's provocative film Martyred Moms -- The Price of Sacrifice when I get to blog more extensively after my talks are over.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Mojo Mom at the Motherlode Conference

I am leaving for Toronto this morning for the Motherlode Conference. I am excited! I'll be presenting two talks at this academic conference, my first in a long time. I'll blog from the road but this morning I am running around getting ready, so I thought I'd post the news release describing the conference. My talks are called, Motherhood as a journey to explore, not a ladder to climb and The Fall of the "Unencumbered Worker" and the Future of the Mothers' Movement.

In addition to providing a chance to meet many authors and scholars I've admired for a long time, this conference is exciting because it feels like the first intersecting loop with the academic road I was once on as a neuroscientist. I am grooving on being back in academia, for 4 days at least.

Motherhood issues the focus of major York U conference
Academics and activists discussing everything from babies to blogging

TORONTO, October 20, 2006 - The largest conference ever organized on the subject of motherhood will begin on Thursday in Toronto, with a name that reflects the size and scope of the project: “The Motherlode: A Complete Celebration of Motherhood.”

It is the 10th anniversary of the first international conference on motherhood organized in 1997 by professors Andrea O’Reilly and Nancy Mandell of York University’s Centre for Feminist Research. The response to that first conference led to the establishment of the Association for Research on Mothering (ARM), which now has more than 600 members in two dozen countries.

While previous ARM conferences focused on a particular motherhood theme or issue, the Motherlode conference will consider every imaginable motherhood issue, says O’Reilly, director of the association.

“This conference is very much interdisciplinary, with scholars from fields as varied as women’s studies, business and the visual arts. “We will have academics and activists discussing how best to meet the needs of mothers – particularly those who are disadvantaged. We will also be addressing topics that have not been researched enough – for example, mothers and HIV, mothering children with disabilities, reproductive health, teen mothers, and raising bi-racial children.”

ARM, which was founded in 1998, has since established both a journal and, more recently, the first feminist scholarly press on motherhood, and it has hosted annual conferences focused on topics such as mothering and work, and motherhood and sexuality.

This year’s conference will not only consolidate motherhood studies as a vibrant academic discipline, but will take it up a notch, says O’Reilly. There are 200 academics and activists from more than 10 countries scheduled to speak at the conference, on topics ranging from concepts of motherhood in rural Brazil to blogs about motherhood. More than 20 visual and performance artists, poets, writers and storytellers will present their work during a gala literary night, and there are a number of interesting plenary sessions planned, including “Motherhood, Representation and Public Policy” for example, and “Motherwork: Challenging the Status Quo.”

Some of the leading presenters at the conference include:
• Andrea Doucet (Carleton University, author of Do Men Mother?)
• Ann Douglas (author of The Mother of All Pregnancy Books)
• Andrea O’Reilly (York University, author of Rocking the Cradle: Thoughts on
Feminism, Motherhood and the Possibility of Empowered Mothering)
• Ann Crittenden (author of The Price of Motherhood)

Academics, social workers, activists, midwives, policymakers and others will take part in the conference, discussing experiences of motherhood in countries as varied as China, Uganda, India, France and Australia. A few of the many
topics at the conference are: post-partum depression, new reproductive technologies, raising transgendered children, fetal alcohol disorder, sex trade workers, mothering and globalization, and adoption.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Women don't live a simple 24-hour day

"Man may work from sun to sun, but woman's work is never done."

I've always hated that old saying, which I feel like I first encountered in one of the Little House on the Prairie books. Now that I am a Mom, I hate the saying even more because now I really know it is true. I think this annoying truth accounts for part of how we as Moms drive ourselves crazy--in our professional lives, there are markers to say "this project is done." Work projects don't undo themselves and have to be repeated over and over, unlike washing the laundry. In our home lives, we need to draw definite boundaries if we are ever going to create space for anything other than the endless cycle of housework.

If I can sidestep discussions about how to share work with the men in our lives, I wanted to tell you why I scratch my head whenever I read time-use surveys that chop up the 24-hour day into neat little segments. The recent Univeristy of Maryland study reported in The New York Times expresses its data as three neat blocks: child care, housework, and paid work. The take-home messages are that

1.) Dads do more childcare and housework than they did in 1975. Still a lot less than Moms, but more than they used to.
and 2.) Women work more hours than they used to, but they also spend more time on child care than they did in years gone by.

What gives me pause is looking at the acutal hours of child care they count up. The 2000 data chalks up 13 hours of child care per week for Moms. Wha???? Who spends less than 13 hours a week (including the 48 hour weekend) caring for her child? How are they defining the category of child care? This number seems so out of whack it makes me question the whole study.

This week the October 30 issue of Time Magazine reports a new study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that creates lanes of dazzling, rainbow-colored stripes detailing how women, men, married, and single people spent their time on one day in 2005. The study dissected time up into many categories: phone calls, mail, email; caring for non-household members; religious, civic activities; caring for family; educational activities; buying goods and services; eating, drinking; household activities; work-related; free time; and personal care and sleep.

All of these are supposed to add up to 24 hours for everybody, but how do they account for a Mom's best friend, multitasking? I know the risks and downfalls of multitasking, but let's be honest, don't we all do it every day? Today I threw in 3 loads of laundry during breaks between writing projects. I walked the dog while listening to an audiobook. This afternoon I will write a presentation while peeking in on my daughter's after-school activity.

If I am cooking dinner with my family, is that "household activities" or "caring for family"? When we eat a meal together, isn't that also "caring for family" time? If we have to separate out "caring for family" or "child care" time into its own exclusive category, what does that look like--just the time we spend changing diapers or playing Monopoly?

The survey in Time also illustrates the hazard of averaging together different kinds of people. "Work related time" clocks in for no more than 4.5 hours for any group. So this data blends working and non-employed people, including students and retirees. What does it really tell us about any one of those groups?

So what to make of all this? One of my main tasks today is to finish polishing a talk I am giving on Friday at The Association for Research in Mothering conference hosted by York University in Toronto. My talk is called Motherhood is a Journey to Explore, Not a Ladder to Climb. These time-survey studies don't fit my personal life any better than a corporate-ladder model fits my career. My day is too big, complicated, hairy and interesting to be captured by a simple chart, no matter how many rainbow colors dress it up.

What do you think about these time surveys? Can we trust and fairly interpret the data? Are these studies telling us something important that I am missing?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Listen to the Manic Mommies Podcast: "Can we get the X back in sex?"

Here's some good synchronicity with my effort to encourage you to give podcast listening a try. The Manic Mommies recently produced a really fantastic show interviewing author Esther Perel, who wrote the provocative new book Mating in Captivity.

Esther Perel's work is all about how to keep erotic love alive in the midst of marriage and parenthood. Hearing her speak, I felt a real Mojo connection. We are actually talking about the same thing in many ways, that what is lacking in the lives of parents is a creative spark, erotic love and focus on all kinds of pleasure: pleasing and enjoying being ourselves as well as part of a couple.

It boils down to the idea that is at the core of my work as well: Moms need to be able to save some of our energy and time to invest back into our own lives. We deserve to be well cared for and to have fun, both with and separate from our families.

The Manic Mommies interview was very well-done and informative. Erin and Kristen's show is a great example of a podcast that has a grassroots-Mom feel and is also very professionally made. Follow the episode link Can we get the X back in sex? to access their show and links to more of Esther Perel's work and media coverage.

My Podcast FAQ with expanded links has been permanently added to my podcast page for your quick reference. It will tell you how to get started listening to podcasts.

As a trend-spotter, I will say that I am just now feeling the tide roll slightly back from the incredibly child-centered nature of our culture, enough to let adults give themselves permission to have a life separate from their roles as Mom and Dad. I think we are reaching a tipping point on this one.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Quick movie review: "The Prestige"

I had a rare night on my own last night and I went to see The Prestige. I woke up this morning still thinking about it. It's one of those movies that feels like a twisty laybryinth while you are watching it, but afterward all sorts of a-ha moments keep coming together.

This is one of those films that you really don't want to know too much about before you see it. I suggest skipping over lengthy reviews and feature articles until you've seen it. Here's all you need to know to make sure you are in the right theater: it is one of the two "rival magicians in the turn of the 20th century" movies out right now, and this is the one starring Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale. It is directed by Christopher Nolan, who created the atmospheric Batman Begins and the mind-bending, truly revolutionary Memento .

So go see The Prestige and then for extra enjoyment go watch Memento on DVD. In many ways, The Presitge is a hybrid of Nolan's two best-known previous films. It has Batman Begins' gorgeous atmospheric brooding, not to mention star Christian Bale, and takes you on a journey almost as mind-bending as Memento. Once again, Christopher Nolan has teamed up as director to bring to life a screenplay written by his brother Jonathan, adapting Christopher Priest's 1997 novel.

The Prestige has its faults, including the fact that Scarlett Johanssen's character just sort of leaves the story and is never heard from again, but I think in the long run this will be seen as one of the most creatively successful movies of 2006.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Podcasting Info and your chance to win an iPod Nano

I am a podcasting evangelist, largely because I am a public radio nut, and podcasts are my preferred way to listen to radio programs. With a podcast, you can listen on your own schedule and turn off a show and come back to it if necessary.

I think iPods are great gadgets for Moms, definitely not just for teens. I know it's always a hassle to deal with new technology, so to spread the word about podcasting to Moms, I am putting my money where my mouth is in two ways. is giving away an iPod Nano! Listen to any new episode of The Mojo Mom Podcast produced between now and Novmber 30, starting with today's brand new show. In the podcast, I will tell you how to enter the drawing we'll do on December 1 to give away a 4 GB iPod Nano.

Come for the giveaway instructions but stay for the vital information shared by this week's guest, Linda Criddle, author of Look Both Ways: Help Protect Your Family on the Internet. Linda is a software industry veteran who shares her advice about avoiding the most common mistakes adults and kids make that put themselves--and their family members--at risk for exploitation. You can learn more about Linda's work and email her your safety questions at

Back to the ins and outs of becoming a podcast listener....

But I don't have an iPod you say. It is possible to listen to a podcast without an iPod. I've written up basic information that will help you get started listening to podcasts.

Mojo Mom's Podcast FAQ

What is a podcast?

You can think of a podcast as a radio broadcast that is transmitted over the Internet. Podcast files are stored on websites and one great advantage is that you can listen to the shows whenever you want. It’s “my time” media, so in that sense you can also think of podcasting as TiVO for radio.

Why should I care?

I know, you are a busy person and why should you take the time to deal with one more new technology! Podcasting is transformational for several reasons. One is that many highly respected, entertaining radio shows are now also released as podcasts. In my opinion, public radio in particular offers the most intelligent programming you can find in the media landscape. Podcasting also gives regular people a chance to create their own shows and share them with the world. You can find podcasts on any topic under the sun.

I don’t have an iPod. Can I still listen?

Yes. There are 3 ways to listen to a podcast. I will say that if you get into listening to them, investing in an iPod or another MP3 player is an excellent tool. But you can try out podcast listening without buying an MP3 player.

The 3 ways to listen are:

1. Sit at your computer and listen to streaming audio. When you access a podcast through the show’s archives or a podcast directory such as iTunes (which is available as a free download for Mac and Windows) you can generally click a button to play the file through your computer.

On The Mojo Mom Podcast’s archive page, you can just click on the “POD” button next to any episode title, and the show will start playing momentarily.

2. Download a podcast file and burn a CD. Through The Mojo Mom Podcast archive page, you can also download a file to your computer. You can then open it with a program such as iTunes or the Windows Media Player, and burn a CD to take with you to play in the car or a portable CD player.

To download a file, you can control-click (Mac) or right-click (PC) on the same “POD” button, and a menu will pop up that will give you choices about downloading files or opening them with applications such as iTunes. Those applications also allow you to search podcast directories and subscribe to shows, so that new episodes are delivered to your computer as they become available.

3. Download files to an iPod and take them with you. The iPod isn’t just for teens, it can be Mom’s best friend as well. Once you learn how to download files, transferring them onto an MP3 player is a simple step to take. If you get really into podcasts, being able to take them with you on an iPod is really convenient. You can load up an iPod with your music collection and other media for all occasions. Invest in a car adaptor and you’ll turn your daily round of commuting, kid pickups, and errand runs into a rolling entertainment center and classroom.

Give it a listen, and let me know what you think!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The NY Times shoots for the lowest common denominator--and scores!

The New York Times Style section has scored the #1 most emailed story of the day, for "Good Girls Go Bad, for a Day," about the prevalence of slutty Halloween costumes for women of all ages.

Is is popular for the trenchant social commentary, the in-depth investigation of this trend and its implications? Nah--it's gotta be the 4 photos of a gorgeous young woman wearing four different slutty costumes.

The photo captions say "Post-post-post feminism? Halloween is a day to flaunt your inner vixen," and "Tricks. Seemingly innocuous characters have a sexy edge in costumes, which evoke male fantasies and reinforce a larger cultural message: younger is hotter."

Gee, New York Times, thanks so much for showing us that even a referee costume can have a "sexy edge" when it's made with a cleavage-bearing top, crotch-high pleated miniskirt, and paired with stilletto-heeled basketball shoes. Your visual aid was really, really helpful. I especially like that you used a young, hot model to show us how "younger is hotter" plays out in our cultural landscape. That is some trenchant social commentary.

I feel bad for the actual sociologists who were interviewed. The article doesn't really bother to have a point or draw any conclusions. Don't get me wrong, I actually love dressing up for Halloween, but the stupididy and hypocrisy of "dressing up" this article and calling it social commentary is incredibly irritating.

My best Halloween story is the year that we went to the Castro district in San Francisco, which was a hugely crowded street fair and great people-watching event. I was dressed up in my vintage, Salvation-Army-salvaged disco pantsuit and a shoulder-length blonde wig. I was having a great time, but I started noticing irked looks from some of the men around me. It dawned on me that they thought I was a guy in drag and were annoyed to look closer and see I was an actual woman.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Don't be the sulky boyfriend on the road trip....

I bet that some readers saw yesterday's post and didn't know what to make of the idea that our family isn't responsible for our happiness. After all, what are families for? Weren't our marriage vows somehow about promising to make each other happy for the rest of our lives? After all we've done for our kids, shouldn't they care about our happiness?

I stand by my point that we, as women, Moms, and individuals, have a lot to gain by choosing to take responsibility for our own happiness. Doing so sets up a positive spiral of good will rather than a downward death-spiral of resentment. Here's an example from outside the realm of motherhood:

My college boyfriend was a sweet guy with a good heart, but he could get really sulky. (This was almost 20 years ago, so let's chalk it up to mutual immaturity.) On several occasions, we were out with a group, or on a trip, when he had a bad time for one reason or another her just had to let everyone else know it. Even if it was a circumstance that no one else could reasonably fix, he would sulk, pout, and bring everybody down. He was petulant in a way that broadcast his unhappiness. If you've ever been on a road trip with someone like this, you know how annoying it is. You just want to tell him to get a grip and take responsibility for himself. Everyone else is having a pretty good time, and if he is having a bad time, he needs to either tell us what we can do to make it better, or to deal with it himself.

Does any of this sound familiar in the context of our families? When we can't communicate honestly, when we bottle up our unhappiness and become a martyr, we end up like the sulky boyfriend on the road trip. You can see how taking responsibility for our own happiness tranforms the situation. Yes, our families are involved, but it is our responsibility to tell them what we need, to advocate for ourselves, and to get ourselves what we need if no one else will do it for us.

Judith Warner of Perfect Madness fame had a line in a interview that haunts me. I have always wondered whether it was an impulsive thought or if she really meant it. When the question was posed, "A lot of women wonder, how can they get fathers to do their share?" Warner said, "I don't know. I think at this point it's largely a lost cause for our generation. It's too late."

The reporter replied "Wow" and that was my response, too. Too late for our entire generation? Where the heck does that leave us for the rest of our lives? Maybe it's too late for our fantasies of what life was supposed to be like, but we are still in charge of crafting our reality. Warner's attitude on this topic highlights the differences between her basic approach and mine. I would rather move through life with an approach that is wildly optimisitic rather than realisitically pessimisitic. Optimism is the fuel, the hope that drives us forward to create something better. So is taking responsibility for our lives.

One of my favorite books lays this out in an elegant way. The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander explores the practice of living life beyond the narrow limitations we usually put on ourselves and others. In the lesson "Being the Board" the Zanders speak about living life as though you are the board on which the whole game is being played. It is about choosing to not place yourself in the victim role. "You move the problematic aspect of any circumstance from the outside world inside the boundaries of yourself." The are speaking of "a new kind of responsibility [that] is yours for the taking. You cannot assign it to someone else. It is purely an invention, and yet it strengthens you at no one's expense."

The Zanders acknowledge that our view of the world is a mental construct, which is true in a neurological sense. Knowing this can lead to a powerful practice: It's all invented. If our worldview is made up anyway, why not choose "a new universe to live in, a universe of possibility"?

I highly recommend this book and if you ever have a chance to see Ben Zander give his live seminar, drop what you are doing and GO. While much of the Zanders' work resonates with other inspirational writing, The Art of Possiblity is in a class by itself.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Motherhood is not a one-way street

I am so glad that allows my work to keep growing. When I turned in my manuscript for Mojo Mom, I could feel the weight of committing to a finished book. I am gratified that two years later, with all that I've experienced and learned since then, I still stand by my work with pride. Talking to hundreds of women has given me the confidence that I was on to something important when I came up with Mojo Mom.

As I blogged about recently, what's happened since then is that a few simple points have been reinforced and emphasized. Two ideas have spung to mind and stuck with me recently.

Motherhood is not a one-way street

As much as we like to put life into ordered boxes, and people into simple categories, I have learned that motherhood defies simple categorization. Thank goodness--beacause it's much more intersting that way. I have found that motherhood is not a one-way street to any destination other than needing to be comfortable with CHANGE.

Recently our culture spent so much time and energy on "The Mommy Wars" that were theoretically between "stay at home Moms versus working Moms." Not only is the "versus" largely an illusion, but I have come to believe that the "stay at home" and "working/employed" categories are oversimplified as well. Many of us will transition in and out of the work world in meaningful ways over the years, and there are women who have the same work desires, but fall into different categories only because of circumstances. One woman stays at home because can't find a flexible job or quality, affordable child care. Another woman wants to stay at home but can't afford to give up her salary. The underlying needs and interests of mothers transcend our differences, and the more we can come together to work on those issues, the better off we will all be.

Part of the challenge is that the tasks of motherhood require us to live life in the moment, and it can be easy to lose sight of the long run. One some days, babyhood feels like forever, but the truth is that children do grow up and go to school more quickly that you might imagine. I know what it is like to just want to get through the day--to see that it is 2 pm and to think, with exhaustion, "I've already worked a 9 hour day" thanks to an early-riser toddler. But I encourage every woman, including those who feel invested in being self-proclaimed stay at home Moms, to take the time to continue planning for the future. Not only do we need a Plan B to be able to support our families in an emegency, but we need to keep looking ahead to the next step when our children's needs and our opportunities change.

Who is responsible for making you happy?

Moms frequently tell me that they still feel guilty about taking time for themselves, and feel like they always have to be "on" and can never slack-off. One of my goals in my book is to convince women that they should take time for their creative lives, their own self-care and pleasure, because they are worth it.

How can we solidify that understanding? I recently attended a seminar by Dr. Robin Smith (one of Oprah's favorite life coaches) and she put in the simplest terms: she said that your husband and kids are not responsible for making you happy. Only you can make you happy. We need to take ownership and responsibility for our own lives.

This was truly a breath of fresh air. Ah! I have to take care of myself because that is MY JOB, as much as my job is to take care of others. Our families are part of our happiness but it is not their job to make us happy. It is our job to commuicate our needs, negotiate relationships and roles, and keep pursuing our dreams. I find it incredibly liberating (and a little scary too) to ditch the fantasy of Prince Charming and take responsibility for my own happiness.

What are some signs that we are not taking care of our own lives?

We've all experienced some version of these moments, so they are really pretty normal, but try to cultivate an awareness when these situations arise. Not all of these examples seem negative but they point to living through others. Resentment is a sign that you are not gettting what you need. Ask yourself how you can change your response to actually get what. *Please contribute other examples by posting comments.*

•Expecting my husband to read my mind and anticipate what I want, without me telling him.
•Wielding guilt as a weapon against my family: "You people don't appreciate what I do around here."
•Taking on any role that makes me a martyr.
•Being jealous of my husband's career.
•Feeling discouraged when my own work encounters an obstacle.
•Living through my child's accomplishments rather than my own.
•Feeling that my child is a reflection of my standards.
•Getting run down and depleted by doing too much at once.
•Taking care of everyone else but neglecting to take care of myself.
•Feeling resentful that I am doing all the housework myself but not asking for help.
•Downplaying my own interests and feeling that they are not worthy of my time and attention, or my family's commitment to supporting me.

Wow, just writing those negative thought down truly sucked the energy right out of me. I'd better turn that around to end on a higher note. If you explore your negative thoughts, make sure you also take a minute to write down a new version that reflects your commitment to take charge of your own happiness. I will keep working on my own goals. I am worthy of the finest self-care. I will ask my husband and child to be active participants in managing family life.

I think it's no coincidence that the old proverb says that "necessity is the mother of invention." Motherhood feels like the mother of invention, change, renewal, and continual growth. This is a challenging process, one that does not fit into neat boxes or conform to carefully-laid plans. Parenthood is truly a journey into the unknown--into possibility--that we take together.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

What's wrong with teaching kids to fight back?

I had a very mixed reaction today to the news that a Texas school district is training students how to fight back against an armed classroom invader. A British army reserve officer is tasked with heading the training for suburban Fort Worth kids, teaching them how to "rush [an invader] and hit him with everything they've got--books, pencils, arms and legs."

The article goes on to say that most of the district's high school freshmen underwent instruction during orientation, and eventually even elementary school children will receive some training.

While I am all for developmentally-appropriate self-defense training, including physical responses, this school district's extreme approach fails the sniff test for several reasons.

First, even with current "trends" the likelihood of ever encountering an armed invader at school is very minimal, yet the chance of scaring the heck out of little kids with this training is almost 100%. The number of people who die in school shootings in any given academic year is generally much less than 100. (reference) On the other hand over 3,000 children are killed by guns each year. And when it comes to being victimized, a million children per year are molested, most of them by a person they know and trust.

To me the "armed intruder" training is like teaching kids how to survive a plane crash rather than sensibe and USABLE safety measures such as wearing seatbelts and looking both ways before crossing the street.

A second, related criticism is that child safety is primarily an adult responsibility. Elementary students should not feel that they are responsible in a situation involving a gunman. There is a steep cost of living in fear of a remote event. Adults need to work on creating sensible gun control policies and safe school policies that balance risk with our need to live our lives free of irrational fear. I advocate child safety training for parents and other concerned adults. Parents can then communicate strategies to their children in ongoing conversations. This is not something that can be taught in an hour or even a day, but an ongoing conversation that needs to take place.

If you want to keep your kids safe from realistic fears, focus on things like bike, car, and seatbelt safety. Water safety and learning how to swim. General gun safety--never play with a gun. Have ongoing conversations about what constitues appropriate touching. And as parents, educate yourself about abuse prevention and carefully monitor who is allowed to have access to your children.

My website,, provides more information on the topics of child safety. Parents need to take the responsibility of becoming a powerful advocate and watchdog of their children's safety. I highly recommend the book Protecting the Gift by Gavin de Becker and the informative website which has the mission of "confronting child sexual abuse with courage." If you are interested in a self-defense program for kids and parents, I recommend training by the established non-profit Kidpower.

Next week my podcast guest will be the author of Look Both Ways: Help Protect Your Family on the Internet. I hope you'll tune in to my conservation with author Linda Criddle for tips every parent needs to know to help our families safely navigate the information superhighway.

The Mojo Mom Podcast with Pundit Mom

This week's podcast guest is Joanne Bamberger, creator of the blogs Pundit Mom and Column Quest. We discuss the ways that motherhood has inspired our writing lives, and the challenges of creating a writing "platform" from scratch.

Links to Joanne's blogs and other web sites she recommends:

Pundit Mom "Musings on politics, culture, law and motherhood from a political mom."

Column Quest "Pundit Mom is out to land her own column. It's time for a political mother to add to the national conversation."

Playground Revolution "A Mom's life is political." You can access Amy's interview with author Miriam Peskowitz in The Mojo Mom Podcast archives, March 17, 2006.

Mom, Ma'am, Me "Don't bother Mom while she's blogging."

Escape from Cubicle Nation "How to go from corporate prisoner to thriving entrepreneur, by Pamela Slim."

Brazen Careerist "Career Advice from Penelope Trunk."

Monday, October 09, 2006

Cracking the Mom Code: 3 Mental Health Pitfalls to Avoid

My Mojo Mom philosophy has been developing for several years now, and what I find interesting is that the more I learn, the simpler things can become. I've had some recent A-HAs where the big picture has come into clearer focus. Last week I spoke to a Mothers & More group on the topic of "Cracking the Mom Code," which is really the simplest possible encapsulation of my work. I thought it was one of the best talks I've ever given. On this week's podcast (look for a new episode on Friday) Sheryl and I will pick up on this discussion, so I hope you'll listen in.

After all I have seen and studied I've found that there are 3 major pitfalls for Moms to avoid. The rest of my work with Mojo Mom is designed to give you the tools and inspiration to help come up with your own solutions and antidotes to these challenges.

Cracking the Mom Code...3 mental health pitfalls every woman must avoid.

1. Disappointment. The clash between expectation and reality.
Antidotes are: Realistic expectations and honesty.

2. Guilt. The clash between expectation and our own imperfection. Punishing ourselves for imagined crimes.
Antidotes are: Compassion toward yourself, accepting imperfection as okay. Realizing that guilt, worry, and anxiety are truly costly and not worth the damage they cause.

3. Depletion. Neglecting our own physical, mental, and emotional needs leads to exhaustion.
Antidotes are: Making yourself a priority, taking care of your basic needs, developing a sustainable parenting style for the long run. Embracing creativity as an undertapped resource for Moms.

Yes, this is a deliberate oversimplfication. I can talk for an hour on these topics, but I find that many causes of unhappiness can be traced back to these roots. There is so much built into the socialization of motherhood that leads us to disappointment, guilt, and depletion. It is liberating to peel off the mask of motherhood, and also to stop blaming ourselves for own unrealistic expectations and the shock of motherhood. I used to blame myself for having no clue about what motherhood was really going to be like. Once I became conscious of the entire industry and marketing juggernaut, not to mention social cues and roles, that had sold me a fantasy that didn't match reality, I realized that my individual naivete was actually a product of complicated social forces at work.

I like to say that the birth industry is to mothering like the wedding industry is to marriage--they build you up for the "big day" then drop you off at the doorstep of the rest of your life and wave goodbye. Unromantic concepts like disappointment, guilt and depletion are not voiced in most women's prenatal education, and that's why Mojo Mom is here--to give you the truth straight up, let you know that you are not alone and that you are strong enough to do survive and thrive throughout the journey of motherhood.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Mojo Mom Podcast is back! Guest interview: "Momma Zen"

I feel like I've really accomplished something today because I've finally produced and posted the first episode of the new fall season of The Mojo Mom Podcast. Life challenges kept intervening and delaying the first show, but it is now available. My guest interview is with Karen Maezen Miller, whom I referred to in my last blog posting as the author of Momma Zen. Her book is WONDERFUL and highly recommended for women in all stages of motherhood.

The chapter in her book that helped me so much the other day was "No Exit." ("The wisdom of no escape" concept is actually from Pema Chodron, Karen reminded me.)

Here are a few thoughts Karen invited me to share with you from her chapter called "No Exit":

"There are many, many things in life that you start and then stop. Nearly everything, in fact, but this. Motherhood is a club that you cannot quit, a job that you cannot shove, a prize that is non-transferable. I know that, you think. But then you come to know it, the inexhaustible dailiness, the every-nightliness. You're looking into the shadowy edges of the limitless span called "forever." You're in it, and you can't get out.

"You might call a place you can't leave a prison. Is it? It is if you let it imprison you. If you dwell on what isn't. If you yearn for the halcyon past or an imagined future. Otherise, this view right here--the droopy-eyed view from the cluttered kitchen table--is enlightenment, a glimpse at reality. This is your leaping-off point for living life as it is. Not yet ready to vault over the whys, the what-ifs, the how comes, the better offs, the remember whens? Take comfort: it is the farthest leap a human being can make."

As a reader you are in good hands with Momma Zen. I hope you will listen to my extended discussion with Karen Maezen Miller on my fall debut of The Mojo Mom Podcast.

You can access the podcast directly from, by pasting the podcast's RSS feed information, into your favorite poscasting applcation such as iTunes, or by searching for our show in the iTunes podcast directory.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Motherhood = Commitment

After 7 years of motherhood, I am still learning new lessons and revisiting old ones. My biggest lesson right now is realizing what a huge commitment motherhood is. Yes, I have been through the giving over my body to pregnancy and delivery phase, the breastfeeding phase, the 24-7 together phase, the terrible twos, the career adjusments....

But there is still more to learn.

Right now I am invested in the commitment to relationship and the commitment to community. My daughter and I have been through a stressful month and she has had some behavioral challenges like I have never encountered before. I want to spare the details to protect her privacy, so I'll just say she's had some difficult tantrums. I am the kind of person who does very well as a Mom when things between us are well--which they almost always have, even through the toddler years. But this new challenge has made me realize that motherhood is a unique commitment. There is NO opting out of this relationship, even in very trying times. Her behavior was something that I would never tolerate in a boyfriend, and would make me seriously re-evaluate a marriage. But she is a child who is learning how to be in the world; my child. It is my job to be with her through this, to teach her the skills she needs, and to keep loving her all the while.

That doesn't mean it is easy. Far from it, especially in the moments and days when things are not going well. The same goes for community. In the past if things crumbled in a group I was part of, I could leave, move, relocate, get a new job. I practically got a new life every four years between college, jobs, friends, roommates, and relationships changing in my teens and twenties. But now I have so much invested in not only my marriage and family, but my town and my school. When you have children you will have to deal with these issues no matter where you are, so you may as well put in the time to be invested, take risks, face challenges and rise to the occasion as a leader when necessary.

When I finished writing Mojo Mom my daughter was in kindergarten and I was just starting to feel like a seasoned Mom. As an author, I felt like I was taking a leap of faith to trace a path of motherhood that started with self-care and culminated in women's leadership, but now I am more convinced than ever that this is where motherhood will take each of us if we truly listen and follow. Motherhood gives us the gifts of commitment, investment, and passion, which are the qualities that every leader needs to pick up a cause, get involved, and keep moving forward no matter what.

I think that I remember Karen Maezen Miller, Momma Zen, talking about "the wisdom of no escape" and that feels like the right lesson for this experience. I'll see if I can get her to send a few thoughts our way on that topic.