Springtime is the perfect time to focus on renewal, rejuvenation and reinvention. Particularly, this year as we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel on this long period of pandemic lockdown. It’s time for a fresh start, whether that’s in our career, our relationships, or even just our own mindset. It’s up to each of us to decide what we want to get back to as soon as possible, what we want to leave in the past, and what we want to change up – to reinvent. In this episode, Liz talks with Meagan Francis, host of the Mother of Reinvention podcast and co-host of The Mom Hour podcast about how we can take advantage of this unique moment in time when we all have the opportunity to introduce some element of reinvention into our lives.
The Mom Hour: https://themomhour.com/
Mother of Reinvention: http://meaganfrancis.com/
The Art of Blooming Late: https://hbr.org/2019/05/the-art-of-blooming-late
I’ve definitely been spending a lot of time lately thinking about the ideas of resilience, renewal and reinvention. One dictionary definition I found online for reinvention is, “An action or process through which something is changed so much that it appears to be entirely new.” I like that definition because it implies that everything doesn’t actually have to be entirely new… just that it’s somehow refreshed. I also like that it says reinvention can be a process, not the flip of a switch, which feels much more realistic and less overwhelming.
I initially reached out to podcast Meagan Francis to talk about her show The Mom Hour, which she co-hosts with Sarah Powers. But I was excited to learn that Meagan launched a new show in March called Mother of Reinvention. Perfectly timed, Meagan! I think all of us should follow Meagan’s lead and connect with our inner “mother of reinvention” this spring.
What follows are some highlights from our conversation. You can listen to my full conversation with Meagan on the Seven Plates Spinning podcast here.
Liz Serotte (LS): Your new podcast is called Mother of Reinvention. I assume that’s you? You are the mother of reinvention?
Meagan Francis (MF): Yes, I am. But it’s also sort of like you could be too. We all are, really.
LS: We all are sure, but you are kind of a re-invention poster child. On your website, your describe yourself as “a 40-something nature loving, divorced mom of kids, ages 11 to 23, who is many career pivots in.” How do you evaluate each new move or pivot in her career?
MF: It is very true that I’ve never met a reinvention I didn’t love. I always keep my eyes open for new opportunities. I’ve gotten better at not just going off intuition, because sometimes something that feels like intuition is actually something else talking. Sometimes it’s fear of missing out. Sometimes it’s fear that if I don’t take this opportunity, another one won’t come along. I’ve definitely honed my ability over the years to jump on the right opportunities and to give things percolating time. I wish I could tell you that there’s a simple formula I apply, but there’s no method. It’s like, “Is this the thing I want to be doing? Is this the right time for it? If this is the right time, how much of my effort and energy can and should I give to it?” Mix all those things together and apply a little gut feeling and there you have it.
LS: Do you feel like you’ve made mistakes along the way? Or, all of your pivots worked out the way you hoped?
MF: I started as a magazine writer. I shifted into doing professional blogging, content marketing, podcasting. I wrote several books along the way. I don’t look back at any of those big ones and think, “Ugh, that was the wrong detour to take.” But there were definitely lots of little false starts that I just don’t talk about. I think we all have them and we really think that doesn’t ever happen to people who seem successful or seem like they have a lot of projects that worked out. There’s probably a dozen false starts or things they changed their minds about for every one that made it.
LS: I did another episode recently where we talked about how failure is a actually good thing and it’s an opportunity to learn. I’m sure even with those things that didn’t work out how you planned, you still took something valuable from them.
MF: Absolutely. I also think that there’s something great about aggressively chasing a goal, but you have to put some realistic timeframes around that goal. Otherwise, something that just hasn’t been given a chance could look like a failure. It’s not necessarily a failure, it just hasn’t had time. Sometimes we put overly aggressive goals around things and that just make them feel like bigger flops than they actually were.
LS: Your show The Mom Hour, which is geared towards moms of younger kids, has been hugely successful. What do you think has made it resonate so strongly with your audience?
MF: The Mom Hour is an encouraging, and supportive, and optimistic look at parenting without it being syrupy sweet or what people are calling “toxic positivity” these days. But we don’t gloss over the hard parts. We will always say, this is hard, but you can do it and here are some ideas that might make you feel a little bit better right now. We really just try to keep our eye on that big picture. New motherhood can be so lonely and moms want a voice in their ears. They want someone telling them, you’re doing okay, you’ve got this, you’re going to be fine. Especially now in the last year with the pandemic. But loneliness and motherhood are not pandemic new. Those two things have always gone together.
LS: Loneliness is not unique to just parents of young kids, either. In fact, I think it may even be more of an issue as kids grow older and more complicated issues arise that moms may feel less inclined to share with those around them.
MF: Yeah, everybody can commiserate about potty training and babies not sleeping through the night. That is wide open for complaining and commiserating, but nobody wants to talk about the fact that their high schooler is flunking out of school or their middle schooler is depressed. Bigger kids, bigger problems. And they’re problems that are usually more personal to that child who now is their own fully formed human in their own right. Then there’s shame around it, because we think we can control things we can’t control and that it somehow reflects on us when we don’t. When we’re not able to make everything fine for our kids we feel shame. So I agree that moms of older kids are even more lonely in some ways. Maybe not as socially isolated, but in the stuff they feel free to talk about they can feel isolated.
LS: In your new project, Mother of Reinvention, you are more focused on moms of older children and I love that you talk to women who are reinventing themselves in one of many ways – it may be their careers or their relationships. Reinvention can mean a lot of things. What was your inspiration for starting the new podcast and what types of topics are you going to be covering?
MF: I was looking around and seeing that I was just one of many women going through some sort of transition period. I was 39 when my ex and I separated, 40 when the divorce was finalized. I was not the only one in that age range going through that or looking at my career and saying, “How do I revitalize this?” Or looking at the fact that my kids were getting older and thinking, “What are some things I just haven’t done that I want to do?” There was a whole decade plus of my life where I felt very chained to my home in a way. Getting out was such a hassle. My oldest and youngest are 11 years apart, so it was basically a full decade of breastfeeding, pregnancy and diapers. It’s just a blur. Now that they’re starting to get bigger I can actually dip my toes in new things that I want to do. When I was younger, I always had this feeling like everything was so urgent. We think, if we don’t do it now, there will never be another chance. But now I’m seeing this whole new set of opportunities open up. I feel so much better at 43 than I thought I would. When I was 33, I guess I had this idea that I’d be all creaky and rusty by now and I’m really not. I feel great. And there is still so many things for me to do.
LS: Totally! I feel like I’m just hitting my stride in my forties. I feel like this is my best decade yet.
MF: I absolutely agree. And I think that opens up the world of possibility and reinvention, which is what the new podcast is all about. It’s a lot of stuff about just tapping into that possibility, and embracing reinvention, and looking at it as a positive thing. This whole last year has been one long lesson in reinvention, right? But specifically to moms in our forties, that’s what we’re all kind of going through.
LS: I read a post on your blog where you talked about the power of telling your reinvention story. What do you mean by that?
MF: I have found that almost every time in my life when things feel out of control or negative, if I reframe it as something I’m intentionally doing, or as a challenge I overcame, that it suddenly feels more positive. It really has helped me look back at times of my life that were difficult, completely reframe them and then find more resilience going forward. Because now I realize the story that the negative side of my brain was trying to tell me, maybe it wasn’t the whole story. And so I love the idea of talking about reinvention in a really positive way. Instead of, I lost my job, now I have to do something different, maybe it’s, “I get to do something totally new, what’s that going to be?” Or instead of, “My kids are getting older and now I don’t know what to do with myself,” it’s like, “Wow, look at this time that I have.” I think shaping that narrative is really powerful. If you perceive the changes you’re going through a certain way, it’s like you rewire your brain to find positivity in them and then to see them as net positive for you.
LS: Most things are not entirely either good or bad. It’s really your choice then how you choose to process them. I’m saying this to my kids all the time. If they’re upset about something that happened, I’m like, “Okay, that happened, what maybe good came from that?” And usually you can find something positive to focus on. But we don’t do that for ourselves a lot of times. We have a hard time taking a step back to gain perspective on what feels negative in our own lives.
MF: And to give yourself a little pat on the back and look at what you have accomplished. I think that’s something hard for us to do sometimes, but really helpful.
LS: My friend Monica shared a Harvard Business Review article with me recently about late bloomers. It was about the benefits of taking a long, winding path to find your purpose and true fulfillment in life. I loved it because I think it’s so true that we shouldn’t all be in such a rush to find our one thing, to settle onto one path and just stay there. It gave lots of examples of people who are really well-known and didn’t even start whatever brought them their success until their forties, or fifties, or later.
MF: I think we’re all blooming all the time. Even this idea that there’s some place that we’re going to get to and then be like, “Look, I did it. I found my purpose.” I hope I’m still looking for my purpose at 80. I could have a completely different life then. For example, my yoga instructor who didn’t start until she was in her forties, going through a divorce, had a very different day job and said yoga saved her life. She found this path that helped her find control in a situation that felt very out of control. On my podcast I’m talking to a novelist who didn’t start writing until she was 44 and then sold a book in a seven-figure deal in her fifties. She had to have that perseverance to keep at it into her fifties to sell the thing. And I suspect there are more of those stories out there than we think because we look for the flashy stories. We look for the one where someone became famous at 70. I think I’ll just be late blooming my whole life and that’s great.
LS: Me too! Late bloomin’ for life! What do you think 2021 holds for all of us in terms of reinvention?
MF: Well, we’ve definitely been through the ringer and we’ve all learned that sometimes we can slow down and shrink our lives and focus on things that are a little smaller or not as flashy, and that puts us in a great position to be ready for the next thing. I do think that this coming back out, this emerging from our holes, like gophers blinking in the sunlight, it’s going to be a great time for renewed energy. Now that we know what’s really important, let’s go hard after that and maybe let’s let some of the other stuff go. It’s like the last year has been a preamble to the reinvention that I see coming. So I’m pretty excited about 2021 and looking forward to see what we all do with it. What we do with the resilience we’ve all managed to channel and how we can put that to good in the world.