Thursday, April 09, 2009

Mojo Mom and the Oprah Mom bloggers

This week's Oprah episode about The Secret Lives of Moms made me think about where I fit in to the constellation of motherhood writers.

The Oprah discussion really caught my attention because Mojo Mom was originally inspired in part by two Oprah episodes in the fall of 2002, where Naomi Wolf talked to small groups of women about "What Mothers Honestly Think about Motherhood" and "What Your Mother Never Told You about Motherhood." I appreciated the catharsis and truth-telling that went on, and I was surprised to see a backlash develop in the audience from other women who thought Moms should never complain about motherhood. At the time I was craving an honest conversation about motherhood, because my daughter had just turned three years old, and I was just starting to recover from burnout and get my mojo back. I decided to write the guide book I had wished I had when my daughter was born.

Back then, when I started researching Mojo Mom, many of the other books about motherhood were quite serious and academic. With the exception of Vicki Iovine's lighthearted Girlfriends' Guides series, I was mostly reading books like Naomi Wolf's Misconceptions, Susan Maushart's The Mask of Motherhood, and Susan Douglas & Meredith Michael's book The Mommy Myth. All good books, rooted mainly in feminst writing and sociology.

I wanted Mojo Mom to be thoughtful and well-researched, but written in a more conversational Mom-to-Mom tone, a book you'd be happy to give your sister or best friend for her baby shower, or discuss with your neighborhood Moms' group.

So just as I've reached my book launch with the updated Gotham Books edition of Mojo Mom, Oprah comes out with another show that is in theory very similar to the 2002 discussions.

But you can see how much lighter the conversation has become. It's all about truth-telling ("hilarious and outrageous" True Mom Confessions!), the down and dirty details of a Mom who peed in a diaper because she couldn't get out of the car on a road trip with children in the back. Actress Cheryl Hines talked about motherhood as an identity crisis, which I could really relate to, then showed off her home, her nanny, and her 5-year-old daughter's birthday party, with the mandatory alcohol to keep the adults happy (the whole "Mommy needs a drink" angle could be its own literary subgenre). Dooce came on an was her irreverent self, accompanied by other writers and bloggers from Momversation.

The guests experts on stage were Amy Nobile and Trisha Ashworth, authors of several books including I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids and I'd Trade My Husband for a Housekeeper. These guides come across as sugary confections with the cupcakes and gingerbread men on the covers. I can understand why they are popular, because some days we all need a bit of commiserating. But in my view they only go so far--like the whole Oprah episode. The show never quite took that next step past the funny stories, to talk about how we might actually get beyond black humor to make our lives better.

That's the niche I see Mojo Mom filling. I write about a path that starts with self-care but keeps moving forward from there, to developing a partnership with your spouse, to thinking about your lifelong career path, and directing your mojo into a leadership and activism.

So dessert is fine, and you may even want to eat it first, but once you get your fill of cupcakes I hope you'll check out my book to think about your own life and how motherhood fits into the bigger picture.


Mojo Mom may be just right for you if:

You are a mother of reinvention, in your personal or professional life.

You are going through a life transition, such as kids going to kindergarten or leaving the nest for college.

You are willing to explore creativity as a way to jump-start your mojo, even if you haven't always thought of yourself as "artistic."

You'd like to develop a true partnership with your spouse and want to know where to start.

You want to end the Mommy Wars and debunk the myths of Opting Out.

You have an entrepreneurial spirit.

You are a social or political activist, and you want to work for causes that will help all families.

***
Who do I count as my writing peers now? Some of the women I read or interviewed for Mojo Mom include Karen Maezen Miller (Momma Zen); Cooper Munroe and Emily McKhann, founders of TheMotherhood.com; Joan Blades and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, founders of MomsRising.org; Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International, Amy and Marc Vachon of Equally Shared Parenting; and Dr. Pamela Stone, author of Opting Out? Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home. And I want to thank kindred spirit PunditMom for blogging about the Oprah show today, which inspired me to sit down and write out my thoughts, rather than go take a nap this afternoon!

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7 Comments:

Blogger PunditMom said...

Glad to be on this journey with you in terms of helping everyone understand that talking about motherhood isn't just about the confections.

3:33 PM  
Anonymous Formerly Gracie said...

I thought the episode was funny, because I think most of those bloggers are funny, but I agree that it was a platform that really could have done more for motherhood than promote another ABC show "In the Motherhood". (a show I happened to despise, by the way....)

I heard your interview on the Manic Mommies this week and it really got me thinking...

Opting-In? Affordable, quality daycare? Support systems? Ending the Mommy Wars?

8:38 PM  
Blogger MojoMom said...

Thanks PunditMom. I really appreciated your post and all the comments that your blog's readers left.

Oprah's show portrayed one slice of the mom-blog community cake.

6:43 AM  
Blogger MojoMom said...

It wasn't a bad show, but it was a limited one. I know that sometimes a dose of humor is what we need. But it feels like we can get stuck there in terms of media coverage.

One of the comments I liked on PunditMom's blog pointed out that the Momversation Moms Oprah had appearing by Skype were writers, too, but didn't get credit on the show. Does identifying them as writers make them less "Mom"? They did put their books and blogs up on Oprah.com.

6:55 AM  
Anonymous Forty Weeks said...

MM,
The conversation about the episode left me in the same "swirling" place...By way of background,my peers and I opened the space -- not the dialog. Think Liz Lange, Laurie McCartney, etc. We were early -- think late 1990s) and we were all about changing the relationship between brand (maternity fashion, gear, personal care, etc.) and parent. Our goal was to raise the standard of products and services available to new and expectant parents. Information was key! For Forty Weeks, our role was to help companies speak in intelligent, respectful, empowering and appropriate ways to their target market. Fear as a marketing tool was no longer OK. We wanted women to be marketed to as such (wonderful, vibrant, mature creatures), not as the babies they were carrying or raising. Down with pastels, ducks and bunnies and big old scary bows on maternity clothing! We wanted to see women approached as educated, achieving, individual, passionate beings (with style, intuition,spending power and so much more) we accomplished this and a whole lot more. The subsequent decade has seen the rise of Momprenreurus, mom-focused marketing (and how), Moms as tastemakers, opinion leaders, product developers and of course - the Mom voice. And to your point -- the voice that I am hearing is starting to resemble the juvenile sounds we were trying so hard to grow past. The substance seems to be giving way to whining and I am sorry for this. There is so much to be done – so many ways to use our voices, our power for good. I continue to stand my ground- focus on the collective power to take us to positive places. And yes, I know I am in the business of "stuff". Yet, it is the way that I have guided my clients along - with total integrity that distinguishes us.
Forty Weeks consults amazing companies such as Bravado to continue to listen to women and develop product around their specific needs, wants, lifestyle and budget. We help brands like teutonia offer a truly customizable stroller to give each of us a way to spend only as we see fit and for something that truly fits our priorities as a parents. We generously support philanthropic partnerships (www. Rbabyrunwalk.org) by committing ourselves bringing 10,000 bodies to Central Park to help cure the pediatric emergency medicine crisis in the US. There is so much good to do and be done…and so, like you – I am thinking...

11:19 AM  
Blogger MojoMom said...

Dear Forty Weeks, the business world is an important place to be, too. I checked out your website--maybe you'd like to come on as a guest on The Mojo Mom Podcast and talk about the evolution in Mom trends.

You can email me at amy@mojomom.com to get in touch.

It's interesting that many of the Mom-writers I am friends with had their first kids in 1999 or 2000. Makes sense, and I feel like having a 9 or 10-year old is an interesting phase of motherhood. They are still kids (tweens!) but I can begin to see ahead to the day my daughter will leave home. I want to make the most of our time together and also have a life of my own, now and in the future. Once your kids are in day care or school, all the possibilities that were not mentioned on last Monday's Oprah open up again.

12:23 PM  
Blogger Meredith@MerchantShips said...

Glad to find your book and blog! I was suprisingly repelled by the tone of this episode--and while I'm all about the cupcakes--I was disappointed in the negativity and hopelessness I saw there.

Sure, catharsis is a good thing, but so is encouraging one another in our mother journeys. THAT's the blogging world I love.

11:54 PM  

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