Meet a Mom Monday! Thinking we may just rename the day because we get to share a mom and all the amazing behind her story!
This week we are excited to share Amy Wisner. Amy is mom to two toddlers (just days from 4 and 2) and a Business Communication professor and researcher at the Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State University. And get this – she is doing this all solo! And solo by choice!
Learn more about Amy and how she navigates through life empowered by the idea that she can have what she wants, when she wants and how she wants and her perfect little family is proof this momma is all in!
You will find a link to Amy’s TEDx Talk below. The talk shared her desire to ask more questions and reject societal rules (and norms).. This way of thinking led her to the life – and family – she was destined to lead!
Welcome to Greater Lansing Area Moms, Amy!
Please introduce yourself!
My name is Amy Wisner, I am originally from Swartz Creek, Michigan. I attended MSU for undergrad. Then I spent 13 years in sales, account management, and entrepreneurship before going back to graduate school for a Master’s in Communication (from the University of Hawaii at Manoa) and returning to MSU for my Ph.D. in Communication.
I’ve lived in North Carolina, Colorado, California, and Hawaii. I currently reside in East Lansing with my two toddlers (Olivia and Caleb), two rescue dogs (Theo and Navy), and a rescue cat (Paprikash).
How old are your children?
My daughter, Olivia, is nearly 4 years old and my son, Caleb, just turned 2 years old.
What do you think is one of the best parts about being a mom?
Witnessing the ways my children’s curiosity and creativity lead to discovery, learning, and growth. (If only we could all remain so curious throughout our lives!)
What is a piece of advice for new moms you wish you would have known when you were a new mom?
Postpartum anxiety is real and MANY healthcare professionals will minimize your concerns. DO NOT STOP SEEKING SUPPORT!
Please tell us more about being a single mom by choice?
Becoming a single mom by choice is – undoubtedly – the most incredible decision I’ve ever made in my life. It is VERY hard to be the sole provider, caregiver, nurturer, question-answerer, argument-settler, cleaner-upper, diaper-changer, bedtime-negotiator, night-time waker, and household manager (among other things). But, it’s also incredibly rewarding!
How excited were your parents when you shared you were going to be a mom?
When I told my parents I decided to have kids on my own – and was no longer interested in finding Mr. Right – they were stunned. Everything changed once they learned I was pregnant with Olivia. It suddenly became real for them – she had life and it was like a magical Disney moment, they were in love. And now, they are adorningly in love with their grandchildren.
Did you work during COVID?
YES! COVID took single motherhood to the next level. I cannot put into words how exhausting it was to navigate work while raising a toddler and a baby at home… all day… everyday… 7 days a week… 24 hours a day… Not only was I stressed out and exhausted, I also felt incredibly isolated.
What did childcare/preschool look like last year for you children?
My daughter was in daycare during all of 2021 and my son started in September 2021. We had seven 10-day quarantines due to positive COVID exposures, four upper respiratory infections per kid, four ear infections per kid, pink eye, and a stomach virus. IT WAS BRUTAL!!
How has your work been affected since March 2020?
I still teach at MSU, but I’ve shifted the curriculum dramatically because of the ways students were affected by COVID.
How do you get anything done as a single mom with two kids?
I don’t. 🙂 The biggest thing is repeated prioritization until I die. I am constantly battling that there is not enough day to do all of the things. It is a constant juggling act. I am fortunate to have them in a really great day care where they are learning and thriving.
Being a single mom, do you feel like you are missing out on other things?
When you have your kids at 44 and 46 you’ve lived a lot of life before having them. I did a lot of super cool things before and now this is 1000% where I want my energy to be. For me the most important thing is recentering myself to align with what I value and not concerning myself what the **** anyone else thinks.
How do you balance being a mom, being a MSU professor and The Rebellion @cancelthepatriarchy.org?
I have no idea! Sheer desire, passion, and a bit of insanity? LOL
I love being a mom – it’s been a desire of mine since I was old enough to understand that I could be a mom! It’s insanely hard and rewarding every step of the way. I practice respectful parenting, so the hardest work I do everyday is unlearning my conditioned responses in the tough parenting moments. I feel like my kids teach me something new about myself everyday.
I love helping people grow into the most authentic and vibrant versions of themselves. Teaching at MSU and starting The Rebellion @cancelthepatriarchy.org are really great outlets for doing that work.
Tell us more about The Rebellion @cancelthepatriarchy.org!
The Rebellion is a virtual gathering place away from other social media platforms where rebels can connect and dismantle systems of oppression. Within The Rebellion, I’ve designed an educational space called RebelED. The core course is RBL 101 during which people discover who they are at their core, what they truly value, and how they want to positively impact the world around them.
I’ve done a lot of this self-discovery work with my MSU students. Whether working with students or private clients, the natural next question is: “what’s next? Where do I start?”
That’s how 1BIG Coaching was born. I wanted to help people make value-aligned choices when deciding what to focus their energy on. One bold inspired goal – 1BIG.
One of the most important barriers that each of us must work through is wading through the societal demands and deciding what success looks like – for us.
We’ve been trained to seek external validation and it’s keeping us from living our best lives. The key is to find that which aligns with your soul.
What age did you discover such clarity?
The first 40 years of my life I was a card-carrying member of the good girl club. Hardcore straight-A student and rule follower. There were moments this fierce person that lived inside of me would show up but it was always constrained because of whatever the rules or societal expectations were in any given circumstance.
The first time I made a big decision to go against societal standards was when I decided to stop coloring my hair. Society makes it clear that you’re supposed to color your gray hair. If you are a man, it is very sexy but a woman – no way. Suddenly, at a busy time in life, I asked myself, why am I spending so much time coloring my hair? And all of a sudden I was super pissed.
Then all of a sudden, I questioned so many things we are “supposed to” do! We are constrained to our own set of rules – and boys and men have this set of rules that is equally as hard, but different. Like they have to continue to earn their man card every single day until they die.
Once I make a decision about a thing, it really doesn’t matter. At that point, I had broken some rules but that was the first time I looked at it globally and questioned, what are we all doing?
It took me about a year to grow my hair out and during that time frame I did a lot of self discovery and ongoing process over about ten years.
We understand you did something a little differently at the beginning of the school year, would you mind sharing?
This semester at Michigan State I made a very bold and dangerous decision because I believe it is the direction we need to take education. I feel we need to help kids understand who they are and what matters to them so they make value aligned decisions and choices in everything they do. Rather than the hustle of external validation. And external validation is getting so pronounced because of social media that it is virtually inescapable.
There is an established system in education. They need a place to thrive. And I decided to do something different. So I made a very bold decision for my class.
I decided to develop a course to coach students through the self-discovery process and to do it without grades (ungraded). There was no way these kids would do self discovery work in any meaningful way if they were trying to live up to some predetermined set of standards on which they’d be graded. When grades are involved they just perform. We all do.
How did the semester go?
In 14 years teaching at the college level I have never in all of that time gotten so much feedback from students about the transformation they have experienced during a single semester. They are becoming more mindful, making value-aligned choices about their majors and life, and many have even expressed the desire to help others be their best selves.
600 students went on this personal growth journey and the outcomes were remarkable.
Where do you see the direction of education as we move forward?
Little kids are motivated to learn, they learn an entire language, and how to walk and climb and run and jump, just because they want to. Then we take them to school and put them into militant little rows and give them information, test them on it, and give them a grade and continue to do this for 12 years. By the time that kid gets to me, we have sucked any interest in learning or curiosity of subject matter out of them. They have a sort of capitalistic exchange for grades – do the smallest amount for the greatest return. That is not learning that is grade getting.
Think about it, if you want to learn how to do something you will go to the ends of the earth to find out how. I recently put an epoxy floor in my basement and I wanted it to be an artistic piece. I had a contractor on hand, I researched it for weeks and had fun figuring it out. I will tell you right now, if someone signed me up for an epoxy flooring class with a syllabus and told me there would be an exam at the end – I would not have enjoyed it.
We have people who are really good at getting grades but have no idea how to learn things. We have definitely never taught them how to understand themselves at the core of their being and how to align their decisions accordingly.
When students come to me, struggling to choose a major, I ask them who they are and what they really care about. But, they don’t know because they never have thought about it. We create space for performance and how to perform to the standard. I think we need to be doing it all differently by creating space where they actually can grow into their true selves and continue learning because they’re genuinely curious.
We need to help kids see what matters to them, not just what matters to their parents or the system because that is when they thrive.
Speaking of MSU, where is your favorite place on campus to sit and people watch?
Human communication and behavior, social psychology is my favorite and could be a pastime. To sit and watch – honestly, anywhere but I actually do not enjoy people watching, because I don’t know the story behind the people. Rather than a bird’s eye view, I would much prefer to sit with a perfect stranger and ask them about everything.
I want to have deep meaningful conversations with everyone I possibly can – I love to hear people’s stories and love to hear about their lives and develop a true human connection. Maybe one day I’ll have a talk show!
Here are a couple questions to get to know you better 🙂
Last book you read?
Atomic Habits, James Clear
Atlas of the Heart, Brene Brown
If you watch television, what is your favorite show?
I don’t get much time to watch TV other than Disney programming. I can wholeheartedly say that Encanto is the BEST Disney movie of all-time. What an incredible storyline about overcoming generational trauma paired with the amazing songwriting of Lin-Manuel Miranda!
I’ve danced my whole life, so I also love any reality dance show. Preferably So You Think You Can Dance (but I’m pretty sure I’m a few seasons behind!)
I also enjoy documentaries about most anything. Oooh, and true crime.
Strangest item carry on, purse, glove box or trunk right now?
Dog treats! I often take my new puppy, Navy, with me to teach or run errands. I end up with training treats or kibble scattered in the bottom of every bag or purse I carry!
The children’s book you most enjoy reading?
Fearless, Kristin Ray (of course)
Anything by Sandra Boynton
The Day You Begin, Jacqueline Woodson
Little Feminist Series</span
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, Vashti Harrison
What is something you are looking forward to as your kids get a little older?
I am really looking forward to when my kids can visit the theater. Olivia probably could right now yet when they are older and can experience it. I have a house full of performers and we definitely will be into that!
Where are some of your favorite places locally to spend time with your family?
We love to eat. Jolly Pumpkin, Old Nation Brewing, and Hop Cat are three of our favorites.
We also frequent Starbucks for cake pops and pup cups.
Tailgating before MSU football games is also a family favorite.
Is there something you would like to see added to the Greater Lansing area landscape or what does Greater Lansing need more of?
What are some plans for summer!
Vacationing around Michigan for long weekends with my dad (Baba!) and kicking off my first round of 1BIG Coaching! Read more about below!
Mind sharing a mom trick another mom will be happy to learn?
Only buy pajamas with zippers. Save yourself the nightmare of snapping 52 snaps in the middle of the night.
Celebrate your wins everyday. It’s very easy to be disappointed in yourself for the stuff you didn’t do well. But being a mom is HARD! Give yourself credit for every little thing you do well each day. Even if it’s just getting everyone fed and loved.
What would you tell your 20-year-old self?
Stop hustling for external validation. Look inward and connect with your wisdom. It will guide you to a life of authenticity and true connectedness in ways you never thought possible.
What is next or any projects you are working on? What is coming up?
Creating coaching around ideas I have shared here – I am launching 1BIG Coaching – which means 1 Big Inspired Goal for people who are anything like me – the laundry list goals (lose some weight, deliver a TED Talk, become a minimalist, write a book…etc). The idea is picking one really value aligned goal and working in the direction of that.
That soul level work is what I am doing with people. Then helping them through the questions of how they are going to put systems in place to live this version moving forward.
I’m a co-author on a project called EmbodyKind – Kristin Ray mentioned this in her recent Meet a Mom, a book about encompassing kindness and In my chapter, I suggest that the kindest thing we can do is shed the need for external validation. Instead, let’s all live from our truest, most authentic center.
How do you prefer readers to connect with you if they would like more information?
Stop by my house with a Starbucks 🙂 JK
The Meet a Mom featuring Amy Wisner was brought to you by Kristin Ray.
Kristin Ray is a mother, a wife, a writer, a speaker, an author (children’s book FEARLESS), a saleswoman, a daughter, a podcaster, an activist, a sports lover and so much more. Learn more more about Kristin Ray and her Broken & Brave blog about Parenting Through Trauma HERE!