Moms of Reinvention


From Growing Pains Star to Mom

traceygold.jpgSelf Made Mom features an exclusive interview with former "Growing Pains" child star Tracey Gold!

I remember Tracey Gold most from her days as Carol Seaver on the ’80s hit “Growing Pains.” But Tracey, with her long career in acting, is much more than just a teenage superstar. Mother of three (with one on the way in 3 1/2 weeks!), Tracey has been through more ups and downs as a woman than anyone I know. Tonight, she’s starting a new chapter of her career as host of TLC’s new show, “The Secret Life of Soccer Moms.” (The show airs Mondays at 10/9 Central on TLC.) I got the amazing opportunity to talk to Tracey today from my “home office” (who says I’m not working!). As a mom who just quit her job, I’m selfishly curious about this topic. Read on for my interview and tune back tomorrow for my commentary about the show.

SMM: How did you get involved in “The Secret Life of Soccer Moms”?
TG: I met the head executive of TLC back in June on another project and when he took over TLC he brought me in for this show, and pitched it. He didn’t know I was pregnant, though, so it threw him for a curveball, but I assured him that I could do it being pregnant and that I really relate to all the conflict and guilt of working moms. Even though it’s a hosting job, I’m a woman and a mom too and I can share in these experiences. I really thought the show was a great idea, and I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been done before.

SMM: Have you always been a working mom? Or did you take time off yourself?
TG: I have always worked. My job is such that I can work some and then take time to be a stay at home mom. I absolutely love to work and for me it’s a good balance. I’ve never felt like it’s been too much. The good thing about my job is that it’s conducive to being a mom. I know how lucky I am.

SMM: How was it starting a new job while pregnant?
TG: I was ok with it. If it was my first I would have thought differently, I think. But it’s my fourth child and I have had great pregnancies. At the end of the day, people were generally really accepting of it and I think in my industry it’s more acceptable to be pregnant. It’s become the hot new thing! We finished eight episodes, now I’m working to promote it and hopefully it will et picked up.

SMM: Was it hard to find the stay-at-home mom jobs? Were the jobs typically in the same field from ones they had left?
TG: It wasn’t hard to find the jobs, and in terms of the kind of jobs they worked in, it was mixed. It’s not hard to find moms who wonder ‘what could have been if I took a different path?’ People were receptive and threw themselves into it. All the families were so different in terms of whether or not the moms took the job - some did and some didn’t. Some moms were crying because they would have liked to have gone back, but there were logistical issues of day care, etc. This was real life, not just a reality show. Unfortunately, I don’t think there are a ton of opportunities for moms who’ve been out of the workforce for 10 years.

SMM: Can you tell me a little bit about how the show works?
TG: In the beginning, the moms really don’t know what they’re getting into. The moms go back, they leave and then they are sequestered for three nights doing their jobs. The dads think they are out doing the spa thing! Then on the last day, we bring the dad in and tell him what’s really going on. You get a mixed kind of reaction from the dads and the families. Some are good and some aren’t. Having the husband there adds a different dimension. And having the dad there changed the wife’s perspective too. The mom could be loving the job, but the dad isn’t loving the idea of the mom working so much and then the mom decides she wants to stay home. No matter what, though, working brought the moms a new-found confidence to stay at home. Being a stay-at-home mom is one of the most under-appreciated jobs around, but it’s the most important one. Once the moms saw themselves being successful at something else it gave them extra confidence once they went home.

SMM: How did the employers treat the moms who went back to work? Did they need to be re-trained?
TG: The employers were hugely supportive and very receptive to helping them. Some moms fit right in and others needed to be caught up. They’d go into the job really excited but realize how hard it was and want to go home where they were loved and appreciated. They liked the safety of being at home.

SMM: What advice did you give to moms on the show? What kind of advice can you give to stay-at-home moms who want to go back to work when their kids are older?
TG: I always feel like I’m going through the same situation other moms are going through. I’m trying to figure it out too as I go and I’m not going to tell anyone what to do. I think having a good support team is really important. I’m really lucky, as I have my mom and don’t need to have a nanny - it’s a real blessing. What I learned is that these women don’t necessarily ask what’s good for them all the time. They need to start asking what’s good for them and not fall into a trap of being a marytr at home.

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The Ultimate Mom of Reinvention...Meet Michelle Obama

No, we don't have an exclusive interview with Michelle Obama, but CNN spoke with her a few weeks back and if you want to know what this possible first lady is all about and how her platform will be about the work/life balance for moms, then watch this video and be inspired!



This week I had the chance to meet Jessica Benson, the author of the fabulous new mom lit read Carpool Confidential. Jessica shares the story of how she changed careers and left a job in PR in the publishing industry to become a full-time novelist. Plus, she also talks about her family's recent move from Brooklyn to London and gives readers the inside scoop on her favorite authors and mom blogs she visits on a regular basis.

Jessica Benson was bitten by the writing bug early on in her career when she was a publicity and rights director for David Godine. Realizing that she had more to do in the publishing world than simply promote someone else's books, Jessica enrolled in NYU where she received a Master's Degree in Journalism. While she initially thought she'd pursue a career as a magazine writer, Jessica quickly realized that juggling a newborn and writing about top 10 breast feeding tips were just not her cup of milk. "Every time I was about to do an interview, I'd have a diaper explosion on my hands," she recalls. Had she been 22 years old with no kids, Jessica says she may have been travelling to remote destinations to cover hard news pieces, instead, she found herself writing informative stories for new moms and says she pretty much became bored with these features and decided instead to venture into new territory as an aspiring novelist.

Jessica hired a babysitter so she could head to Starbucks and write her first book and she soon found herself finding success as a romance novelist. After three successful turns in the romance world, Jessica tried her hand at mom lit - writing about what she knew best - being a mom in Brooklyn who experiences a big change in her life when her husband decides to turn their family's life upside down when he leaves his stable finance job behind to produce a Barry Manilow retrospective. In Jessica's case, she's still happily married with two kids who are now 10 and 14, but her family recently experienced a major change in their lives when her husband got a new job overseas and they all made the move from Brooklyn to London.

Jessica says it took her at least a year and a half to write Carpool Confidential and says she did some of her research online - reading lots of mom bloggers who share their stories on a daily basis. Jessica says she checked out Dooce, Manic Mom and author Meg Cabot's blog plus dad blogs and hundreds of others. "I was transfixed by their stories," she says. "The fact that these people put out their personal stories for all the world to see."

For mom bloggers interested in becoming authors, Jessica says the work of a novelist takes discipline. "While it may feel indulgent, you need to carve out time to write every day," she advises. In fact, Jessica says that she's currently at work on three different ideas for books and is currently deciding which one she's going to write next.

As for what's on her own bookshelf, Jessica says some of her favorite authors include Nora Ephron, Ian McKwan, Meg Cabot, Nancy Mittford, Jilly Cooper, Nigel Slater, Marian Keyes and of course, Helen Fielding's "Bridget Jones Diary." Now that she's living in London, Jessica is surrounded by some of the best chick-lit and mom lit writers in the world - something tells me Jessica needs to start a mom group with that illustrious bunch - just imagine the fun they'd have!

To order Jessica Benson's new book, Carpool Confidential, Click Here or, to read our latest review of Jessica's book, then Click Here instead.


An Interview with Best-Selling Author Jane Green

I recently had the chance to interview one of my all-time favorite authors, Jane Green, whose new book Second Chance was just released in book stores and is already flying off the shelves! Jane shares her story of how she took a leap of faith and ditched her full-time job to become a novelist. So if you're toying with the idea of pursuing an individual passion, then get ready to be be inspired by this best-selling author and mom of four!

Q. You've been writing for over a decade - how were you able to make the transition from the workforce to full time author?
A. Sheer nerve. I left my job at the Daily Express in London and gave myself three months to write a book AND get myself a publishing deal. Absurd, in hindsight, and yet I did it. I wrote Straight Talking in six weeks, then signed a deal after a bidding war for far more money than I was earning, and I knew then that I wouldn't have to go back to an office job.

Q. So many mothers these days write about their lives both online and in books - yet your novels truly speak to the generation of thirtysomething women trying to balance their hectic lives and still be good parents. Have you personally faced some of the experiences you touch upon in your books and how hard is it to keep your personal life truly personal?
A. I write about real life, and the experiences that I have, that my friends have. When I first started I was single and in my late twenties, and now, twelve years on, I've had four children, been married, divorced, found happiness again, dealt with loss, and run the full gamut of life, all of which has found its way into my novels. I never write about my own life specifically, but always draw upon my experiences for inspiration, and I've certainly lived through some of the things I've written about. I always aim for emotional honesty, and it's very difficult to portray that accurately unless you've either been through something yourself, or have the ability to truly empathise with others who have lived it. I suspect that I could keep my life very personal, and in some respects I do, but I have never minded using my life in my work, and my private life is still private. I think perhaps where I draw the line is in choosing to be very cautious about who I share my life with - I have a very small circle of friends who I trust implicitly and absolutely, and beyond that everyone else is a good acquaintance.

Q. How disciplined are you as a writer? Do you shut the computer down after a certain time of the evening - do the kids let you "write in peace?" or do you steal away times throughout your busy day to dive into your next book project?
A. I have to be enormously disciplined these days or my books would never get written - there are always numerous distractions: gardens to be weeded, bills to be paid, websites to be surfed. I now leave the house and go to the local library to write - I like the routine of going to the same place every day and hiding away, yet being 'in the world'. Writing can be so solitary, but to write about the real world you need to live in it, and be amongst people as much as possible.

Q. Out of all the books you have written, which has been your favorite and why?
A. It's always the last one I've written, so right now I would have to say Second Chance. It's also one of the most personal for me - I wrote it initially after I lost a friend in the Tsunami, and then as my marriage was unravelling, and the very process of writing enabled me to sort through my own feelings about my life and my marriage, so it was enormously cathartic.

Q. Have you ever worked on more than one book project in a year? How do you decide your next project or do you work with your editors on the concept first and then deliver a finished product?
A. It would be so easy for me to have more than one book at a time, but I honestly think I would end up with nothing. I write one at a time, and although the inspiration for the next usually comes towards the end of writing, I never start until I'm actually finished.

Q. Tell us about how you first broke into the publishing world - how were you able to find an agent and land a book deal and what is your advice for first time authors trying to break into the business?
A. I would say persistence and resilience. The first agent I wrote to wrote back saying my work was 'frankly unpublishable.' Nine bestsellers later I have to say I'm not sure she was right. I was very lucky. I wrote the right book at the right time, and feel enormously blessed to have had continued success, but the best advice I could give would be to write the book you want to write, not the book you think will sell, and don't let one person's opinion put you off.

Q. What is your advice to women who are currently stuck in one job but have a burning desire to do something else? How do you take that leap of faith without knowing if rejection awaits you on the other side of the exit door?
A. It is so very hard to advise others. I have always been frighteningly impulsive - I tend to leap long before I look, and have always had the ability to trust that it will all turn out okay. If I had to give advice I would say if it truly is a passion, you have to follow it, even if it means doing the due diligence and starting it slowly while you're still supporting yourself elsewhere. My experience with people who have followed their heart is that it always takes them in the right direction.

Q. Who are some of your favorite authors and aside from your own books of course, what are your suggestions for great summer reads?
A. I'm reading The Whole World Over by Julia Glass which I'm halfway through and LOVING. Also reading Michael Tolliver Lives by Armistead Maupin, although it's taken a backseat to the Julia Glass. If you haven't read The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, do. (seems to be a glass theme here...) Not only is it a stunning, funny, poignant book, I met her very briefly at an event recently, and think she is just the most beautiful person, both inside and out.

Q. Do you think your own children may one day follow in your footsteps? If so, what would be your advice to them?
A. Oh, I think probably not, although my five year old daughter does spend an inordinate amount of time 'writing' books. If they did become writers I'd be thrilled, and I would advise them to keep their computers safely locked away somewhere and not, like their mother, in the bedroom where children can pour pink lemonade all over it and cover it in black sharpie.

Q. Do you have any upcoming book projects in the works? If so, can you give us a sneak peek?
A. I have a yearning to write a mystery which I think will be my next project. Still very much my voice, but more of a storyline, and set again, I think, in my fictitious town of Highfield, CT. I may even revisit a couple of characters from previous books - I think Alice and Harry may pop up in this one.

To read our review of Jane Green's latest best-seller Second Chance, Click Here or to go straight to Amazon and purchase a copy, then Click Here!


A Letter to the Mothers of Diana Meehan, Author of Learning Like a Girl

Every year at this time, I always got my mother an FTD flower arrangement or, when I had money, a blue blouse (she had blue eyes) for Mother’s Day. I’m thinking she didn’t mind the endless blue blouses and almost ritual aspect of their gifting or the banal cards with rhymed greetings. Once she answered my greeting with a saying of her own Irish mother: Bless you and your dear ones with love, health and happiness.

Our own daughters are more imaginative than I was and this Mother’s Day I will likely be remembered with lavender or organic chocolate or James Perse cottons. I will be touched by their thoughtful planning, so superior to mine, but also by the very act of remembering, wherein we recognize and value our connection by a cultural celebration of acknowledgement.

It’s good, as we teach our kids, to say thank you and to honor those who mother us.
And what about the nonbiological mothers? The architects of a more just society? The compassionate ministers of the common good founding hospitals, libraries, charities? Are they not parents of a more compassionate world and shouldn’t we be thanking them?
Sometimes the creatrix of a new and improved world are also biological mothers, their children and grandchildren witness to their work, perhaps the most recent example in public memory being Nancy Pelosi’s convening of the House of Representatives earlier this year with scores of children sharing the Speaker’s dais with her.

What kind of person is it who does the social mothering that creates, for example, an institution? My particular interest, as a co-founder of the Archer School for Girls in L.A., is who is it that starts schools?

They’re probably not as bold nor as brave as those pioneers who were our foremothers, bringing compassion and light to a much darker world than exists today… the women who nurtured a fragile community in the raw wilderness, in the early efforts to create a country, in the battles to end slavery and lynching and child labor. Still, as an Archer girl might say, it is something.

It might be interesting to know who these founders are and - if they had as much opposition as we did – how they persevered. Visiting six of the thirty-something single sex schools which followed ours allowed me to see some piece of the pattern and consider who it is who does this.
Firstly we were all outsiders. Vicky Shorr, Megan Callaway and I of the Archer School were non-pros, amateurs in the school business. We are three mothers, three writers, non-natives to the Southland. As writers none of us had schools as a subject of our resumes.
Our outsider perspective was a characteristic shared with other recent founders from Atlanta to Seattle, six of whom I researched: all nine, counting us, have an average 2.1 children, a notable entry against the argument that life is all either-or. We are women of a certain age, avowed feminists, with highly helpful husbands and families and a camaraderie that sustains us when we want to do something dangerous. Like quit.

All the founders I interviewed mentioned the experience of being outside the main event: personally none were rooted in the tradition, custom and heritage of the school’s community but had originated somewhere else and moved to that town or neighborhood; professionally, none had started a school before or as one said, “I wasn’t a PTA mom. I’m not an education specialist. I had never written a business plan.” They were naïve and not native, just like us.
They talked about a sense of being outsiders in adolescence, of being excluded from the popular group, being on the fringe, yet wanting to create an adolescent society that would accept oddballs and outsiders. Moreover they expected to succeed.

They were optimistic. “I’m optimistic by nature,” one said. Despite the evident lack of expertise in education, fundraising and finding a site, they boldly announced they were opening a school and asked people for money. Sometimes their optimism was rewarded, literally, as was the case when the three future founders of Atlanta Girls’ School pitched their case before the Livingston Foundation’s board and got $20,000 in seed money.

They were visionary, promoting a future that seemed unlikely at best and to some others, strongly objectionable. Their obstacles were NIMBY organizations, political and legal opponents, financial instability. But they were animated by what one called “a strong sense of social justice.” And they were – all of them – feminists.

They came of age in the bloom of the Second Stage of American feminism and they identified as feminists and community activists. They weren’t starting schools, in this case, girls’ schools, because they were trying to duplicate some fond memory of their own schooling; of the nine, only four had personal experience of single sex schools. They were doing something new, as they saw it, for the girls of their community.

All were rooted in the tradition of women (and men, too, of course) who are idealists trying to make the world somehow safer, saner, sweeter. For that we owe them recognition. Happy Mother’s Day to the nurturers of an improved world: Bless you and your dear ones with love and health and happiness.

My mother died in 1999. In her last note to me, she encouraged me in writing a book about founding the Archer School. I did so, Mom. The pretext for researching founding women and some material mentioned above is found in Learning Like a Girl, (Public Affairs, May 2007). To return to Role Mommy, Click Here.


Former NBA PR Maven Becomes Custom Children's Book Publisher


A little birdie (our favorite Role Mommy, Tiffany Smith) told us about Sue Hiller, a terrific mom of reinvention who has created a series of personalized books for children.

Sue's company, Created4Me, publishes customized books that features your child's name with adorable illustrations on nearly every page. Tiffany says it's her favorite baby gift that she shares with all new moms. In fact, the books were recently featured on "The Rachel Ray Show" and since them, the orders have been poring in!

Sue's reinvention story started nearly a decade ago. After spending her entire career in sports communications, Sue decided to take a "temporary retirement" from the work force in 1998 to spend more time with her children, who were 9 and 6 at the time. Sue had worked for such notable organizations as the National Basketball Association in New York, The Metro Athletic Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, and the College Football Association in Boulder, Colorado. Over the course of 16 years she produced close to 500 publications. Sue's love for creating books and publications began in high school when she was entrusted as the editor of the yearbook her senior year.

Over the four and a half years away from work she kept busy carting my children to activities. During that time she kept kicking around ideas for a business that would allow her to set her own schedule while still playing an important role in her children's lives. During those years many friends and relatives had started families and Sue was never able to find just the right baby gift or holiday gift for pre-schoolers. She was always looking for a gift that was educational for the child but could also be treasured by the child and parents. The idea of a personalized children's book that she created from scratch became her goal. One night while watching "The Late Show with David Letterman" the marquee at the beginning of the show caught Sue's attention. She envisioned putting a child's name in the marquee and suddenly had the theme for the book and the title - My Name in Lights. She immediately started jotting down her thoughts, which led to dancing letters and a stage with animated performers representing those letters. One phone call to a printer who she had worked with years before set the ball rolling and My Name in Lights became official in May 2003 under the company name "Created 4 Me."

Sue was very fortunate to find Bob Fuller, a children's illustrator in Denver. When she communicated her brainchild to Bob he was able to put her ideas into a sketch in a matter of minutes. Sue says she knew immediately that she wanted him to create the illustrations for the book! Bob is a nationally known illustrator who has a line of products he has developed with Russ Berrie.

Sue has set out to create a fun book that captures a child's attention while helping them learn to spell their name and recognize the letters of the alphabet. Created4Me is dedicated to operating a business that will get the product to the customer as quickly as possible. She hopes her customers and their children enjoy the book as much as she has producing it.

Her entire family, including her teenage boys, have all joined in the effort to make Created4me a success. Both have helped her during the production process and her husband has also been a part of this venture every step of the way. For Sue, it's been great to involve her family in her business because it has given them a sense of purpose and a vision that if you have a great idea, with creativity, drive and determination, it is truly possible to achieve anything.

To visit Created4Me, Click Here. Or to return to Role Mommy, Click Here.

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Amy Keroes, Founder of Mommy Track'd

Did you ever meet someone you've never met before and you instantly click the minute you begin a conversation? Well that's how it felt the first time I ever spoke with Amy Keroes, mom of two and founder of Mommy Track'd, a website for working moms that offers the latest news, entertainment, reviews and interviews with high profile moms from all walks of life.

In response to the recent media attention focused on professional women opting out of the workforce, Amy decided to launch Mommy Track'd on behalf of the millions of women who by choice or necessity are staying in. Amy is a driven individual, having received her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and her law degree from UCLA. She was a fifth year associate at Latham & Watkins when she switched gears and took a position as Senior Corporate Counsel for Gap Inc. She then worked at Gap for six years managing the Company's intellectual property litigation and all marketing related partnerships and promotions. Amy also managed celebrity advertising deals, including the contract negotiations for Madonna, Missy Elliott, Sarah Jessica Parker and Lenny Kravitz. Amy continues to work for the Gap Legal Department on a freelance basis.

Amy partnered last year with Dawn Dobras, who was also a top level executive at Gap Inc. who, after deciding to take a summer off to spend more time with her family, chose to jump off the corporate ladder and join Amy in her pursuits to propel Mommy Track'd into a prime online destination for today's working mothers. Given their track record so far - Mommy Track'd attracts nearly 25,000 unique visitors per month - Amy Keroes is well on her way to proving that you can indeed pursue your passion while raising a family without missing a beat.

To find out more about Mommy Track'd Click Here. To return to the Role Mommy home page, Click Here.

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