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After earning her doctorate in Neurosciences from Stanford University, Amy Tiemann combined her love of science with her love of teaching when she took a position at an independent high school in San Francisco. After three rewarding years of teaching, in 1999 she took on a new role as, what Tiemann calls an "applied developmental neuropsychologist"-in other words, Mom to a newborn daughter. This transition surprised her by becoming a full-blown identity crisis. While she loved her baby deeply, she found that she had no idea who she was now that she was a Mom. Since her daughter's birth, she has written a screenplay and published a middle-grade novel, High Water . She also found a great deal of purpose and meaning by becoming an active supporter of the global war-relief organization Women for Women International (founder Zainab Salbi is interviewed in Mojo Mom ). All of her life experiences helped her create her latest book, Mojo Mom . Through her book, seminars, and the MojoMom.com website, her goal remains to empower all mothers to reconnect with their essential selves, and to teach families to respect women's needs as important.
High Water (2004)
Mojo Mom: Nurturing Your Self While Raising a Family (2005)
from Mojo Mom: Nurturing Your Self While Raising a Family
by Amy Tiemann, Ph. D.
Spark Press, $22.95, ISBN 0-9764980-0-6
© Spark Productions, LLC, 2005
ntroduction: What is Mommy Mojo?
Mommy Mojo is the feeling you get when you are at the top of your game, juggling the many facets of your life and keeping your own needs in balance with family needs. It is the joyous feeling of becoming yourself and liking that person. It is the ability to speak, be heard, and make a difference in the world. It is power; it is being a force to be reckoned with. It is knowing that even if the rest of the world doesn't always realize how amazing you are, you can move through it like a secret agent, armed with the confidence that your plans will succeed on your own terms. Like many women, while I was pregnant I read tons of books about having a baby. Although I learned about the changes my body was going through as I grew a baby, and I learned how to care for a newborn, I didn't find much information about what it actually meant to become a mother. The advice I did find was always along the lines of "take care of yourself, because it will make you a better mother." This is certainly true, but it's not why I am writing this book. Make no mistake about it: Mothers deserve to have Mojo because they are worth it. Becoming a Mom does not mean that you have to sign away your rights to individual growth for the next 20 years. Each of us needs time, space, and support to allow us to explore the question, Who am I, now that I am a Mom? We all face the challenge of finding a way to honor and meet our personal needs, in a way that is fair to everyone in the family. It can be done.
We all know that when we become mothers we receive a tremendous gift. I feel very privileged to have a child, and anything I say from here on out is not meant to take away from that blessing. But I think many people would agree that the preparation most professional women receive for motherhood does not fit the true job description. We have to be willing to look honestly at the challenges that we experience as mothers, as well as the gifts, in order to understand the full impact of this transformation on our lives.
What if there were another rite of passage in our society that typically involved losing your job and professional status, changing your first name, catapulting you into a new social circle that required you to make many new friends, subjecting yourself to severe sleep deprivation, and suffering a loss of family income, in addition to becoming the primary caregiver of an infant? Does this sound like something that you would celebrate with a party featuring giant diaper pin decorations and a ducky cake? It sounds more like an entry into the Witness Protection program to me. It is certainly a challenge that requires new skills and survival strategies.
Even if we do physically return to the scenes of our old life, we can feel like alien visitors to a strange planet. For 6 years, as a graduate student at Stanford University, I strode across campus balancing a mocha latte in one hand and lab notebook in the other. I blended effortlessly into the crowd of students and professors that swarmed across White Plaza between classes. Graduate work totally consumed me in an unhealthy way, but at least I felt I belonged. Returning to campus a few years later, pushing my baby daughter in her stroller, I felt I no longer had any place in the campus community I had been part of for so long. I had finished my Ph.D. and had a successful teaching career under my belt, but my visit wasn't the triumphant return of Dr. Tiemann to Stanford-I was just an anonymous Mom looking for a pleasant stroller route.
No one consciously set out to make me feel invisible or inferior. But I no longer really knew who I was. My daughter was a challenging and awesome baby. The transition from being a full-time teacher who planned two classes, gave five lectures, and interacted with hundreds of people a day, to a stay-at-home Mom of a newborn who didn't sleep well, completely threw me off my center.
To get to where I am today, 5 years later, I underwent a complete remodel of self. 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. This phase was not all bad. It gave me an opportunity to slow down and decide what was really important to me. When I had no more than a few minutes of time to myself, my priorities came into sharp focus.
As my brain power and physical strength returned, I added new and old components back into the mix. Tennis. Moms' nights out. Yoga. A white-water rafting trip with a girlfriend. Finishing a novel I had worked on for years. I kept branching out, adding new skills and taking advantage of opportunities that worked for me and my family. After my daughter started preschool, I literally felt my Mojo rise up as a surge of energy and creativity seeking an outlet. I experimented with teaching opportunities, improvisational comedy classes, and starting my own business. After a period of exploration and reflection, I focused on my love of writing and the ideas that became Mojo Mom .I knew that I was one of the best-supported women on the planet. I had a wonderful husband, healthy child, financial security, and my own mother living nearby to help out. Even so, becoming a Mom was still the hardest thing I'd ever done. I knew that if I felt this way, there must be legions of other women out there who feel stressed out and overwhelmed as they face the challenges of motherhood.
Here's my Mojo Mantra: Getting your Mojo back is not just another item for your to-do list, but your right . All women need to continue to grow as individuals, not just as Moms. I will be the first to admit that having Mojo is a recurring goal, not a permanent destination. I can feel competent, independent, and free one moment, then a few hours later feel I'm at the lowest point of mommyhood-when nothing is going right, and everyone needs something from me. But the fact that I know I can get my Mojo back again tomorrow helps me stay sane.