Leonardo was Never a Mother
Photo courtesy of sairenso.

Leonardo was Never a Mother

Written by Emilie

Topics: Guest Posts

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Patty Tanji.

As a woman of a certain age I am learning to embrace my many passions. I am rediscovering interests and personal gifts that were tucked away while raising children. This new freedom feels weird, selfish, and at times scary.

On the other hand, the upside of aging is a new sense of wonder at the endless possibilities of life. Technology, along with my evolving brain allow me to create a lifestyle that is in line with who I am. It’s not like this choice wasn’t always available to me. I was just so blinded by the overwhelming responsibility of motherhood, that I couldn’t see it.

The Way a Mom is “Supposed” to Act

What I did as a mom was often born out of a sense of how I thought I was suppose to act. I fooled myself into thinking I had to mother like all the other women in the neighborhood, take my kids to McDonalds, spend endless hours by the pool, and vacations at theme parks. An endless stream of obligations that I didn’t question and that slowly ate away at my soul as I left me to become someone else’s version of mom. No one forced me to be a booster club secretary, or announce the diving scores by the pool, or stay away from museums – it was just easier to fit in.

Today, I welcome zucchini noodles with currie sauce, archaeological exhibits, lunches with inspiring new friends at vegan restaurants, Paula Coelho, praying, Samuel Barber, WordPress, gmail, mortgage foreclosure protests. I have a plethora of grown up up interests. I am endless possibilities.

My Awakening

Self reflection tools like Authentic Happiness and Strengths Finder help me chip away at the person I thought I was and become the person I am. As a result I’ve discovered a Pandora’s box of interests and passions. The process is breathtaking and overwhelming. The downside of having too many passions is a life that feels chaotic and in need of a lot more structure than I’m accustom to.

One passion I uncovered lately is a deep appreciation for beauty and art. I followed my instincts to The En*theos Academy of Optimal Living where I came to learn more about the world’s most famous multipotentialite, Leonardo da Vinci.

Leonardo was a scientist, painter, sculptor, weapons designer, court jester, and I recently learned, a vegan. The online ‘lecturer’ Michael Gelb, author of How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day, posits that the world needs more left and right brain thinkers like Leonardo, in order to create solutions to the toughest challenges of our time. Challenges that require linear thinking as well as an ability to embrace chaos. Multipotentialites!

As serendipity would have it I just finished reading an article by Dee Hock. He coined the phrase chaordic organizations in his paper The Chaordic Organization: Out of Control and Into Order. So the universe is definitely conspiring to bring some order into my chaotic, unfolding, multipotentialite life. I welcome more left brain to my consciousness.

Calming the Chaos

One particular morning I felt the need to quiet my brain and heard or read that in as little as 15 minutes my monkey brain could become as cool as a cucumber. To that end I decided to place a pillow under my shins and one between my calf and my butt and breathe. 100 in, 100 out…99 in, 99 out, 98 in…98 out….and so on. And, after 15 minutes I was able to focus on what I needed to accomplish that day. I couldn’t believe that I was capable of meditation, medication yes, but not meditation.

Turns out the sense of calmness that arises as a result of focusing the brain is called ‘the relaxation response’ and it is described in detail in Herbert Benson’s book here. Oddly enough after the 15 minutes was over I wondered why anyone would want to leave a euphoric state of mind especially if it was invoked through perfectly legal and natural means.

Before invoking the ‘relaxation response’ my mind was racing. Still on a ‘high’ from my accomplishments the day before (I had the honor of convening a forum of brilliant minds on the subject of our economic challenges and what it would take to become a sustainable, aware and inclusive society) and I was unable to concentrate. Meditating seemed to help me get back on the path to accomplishing the many tasks on my beautiful multipotentialite to-do list.

So I’m rediscovering who I am and how I connect my many interests in order to become the person I am. I still spend time by the pool or volunteering to run a concession stand. It feels more like service now and not obligation. Additionally, I’m using many tools to help along the way. Tools that I wouldn’t accept as a young adult.

You can’t learn anything if you aren’t ready for the lesson. I’m ready.

Your Turn

How did you come to embrace your multipotentiality?

Patty Tanji is a change agent that advocates for a plethora of causes. Her inner activist is chronicled at Next Step Follies, where she blogs about open and democratic workplaces among other things. Her husband Todd and two teenage daughters Laura and Sondra live in Minnesota.


  1. Nancy says:

    Hi Patty and Emilie,

    I am only recently coming into the world of being accepting of my multipotentiality . So I am in the process of embracing it. I have always loved that I have so many talents and abilities, but as you two can imagine, spent far too much time in my years (52) struggling to find my “niche”. Niche sounds like a noose around my neck.
    This year I decided that I was going to learn to integrate all my parts into one business but had no idea how. I am an artist, nurse , entrepreneur and a major creative. Honestly the list is very long, but they all are part of me and I can not stand ignoring one passion for another.

    I know I am multi-talented and have made a substantial income in all the areas of my talent over the years but not ever longstanding income because I would always try to focus on one talent or passion only. And we can’t forget the demon of security which has a nasty way of driving me full force back to full time nursing every time. It seems like when ever I am on the verge of success that would be able to sustain me I always feel like I am leaving a part of myself behind and go through tremendous guilt and grief. This also drives me back to the other parts of me, thus leaving nearly completed projects just hanging in cyberspace so I can cuddle with the things that I have neglected once again.

    However, I am very excited to share with you that this was my past. I am moving towards the integration of all my talents and passions into one kick ass business.

    I didn’t know there was a word for us until last week, when I stumbled upon puttylike.com. I am so thrilled that I can not get enough of this community.

    Thank you Patty for a great article and the encouragement and excitement you offer our type!!

    Thank You Emilie for being brave and so cool to share your life with us. It means so much to me. I know most of your readers are young like you, but I wanted to let you know that there are a bunch of us middle years people who have lived with this for a real long time( who end up crazy or confirmed to the box) that need to have the opportunity to finally accept our multipotential and be at peace with ourselves, just being us.

    Warm Florida Sunny Regards, Nancy O

    • Patty Tanji says:


      Thank you so much for your thoughtful and insightful words. You have indeed found a community here thanks to Emilie’s vision. She has some great insight into how to make a business out of your many talents and interests. I’m just getting started (new website coming with overarching theme, income generating ideas, etc.). Ultimately Puttylike has taught me to embrace me….all of me. Never to dismiss or talk down my many interests and most of all never get nichy (is that a word?). We’ll see where this leads. I embrace the journey.
      Thanks for posting your comments. They mean a great deal to me.

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Nancy,

      Thanks so much for sharing with us. You know, when I launched Puttylike, I assumed that my main audience would be the 20s crowd. But I actually found that there’s a second prominent group in the community. There are a lot of young’uns, certainly, but there are also a surprising number of “middle years people” as you put it.

      I hear from many many women in their 40s and 50s who are now beginning to explore their multipotentiality. Appealing to such a diverse audience was a wonderful, unexpected surprise for me and I find it so humbling to be able to work with you guys. I actually find that I learn a lot more from interacting with multipotentialites of different generations. But all to say, that you are by no means alone! You may not even be the minority…

      I’m so glad Patty volunteered to write this post. My hope was that it would speak to your group– a piece that’s so important for people to hear, yet one that I could never write myself.

      Thanks to you both, and welcome to the Puttylike community!

  2. Holli says:

    As a mother, I fully appreciate this. Especially this last bit:
    “So I’m rediscovering who I am and how I connect my many interests in order to become the person I am.”

    Motherhood has the potential to side swipe you and reduce your interests into a hobby or the longings of one. Or, it has the potential to push your multiple talents into application:)

    Thanks, Patty!

    • Patty Tanji says:

      Hi Holli. Thanks for the comments. For me, motherhood became my interest. Which is cool until my kids became teenagers and morphed into something very unsettling….That’s when I realized they were never ‘mine’ to begin with but rather gifts for the universe. Sounds corny, even to me. Somewhere between diapers and high school graduation I lost touch, forgot, disconnected from my passions. Its been fun rediscovering them though. Tasting food, appreciating full moons, drum circles, etc all while suspending judgement and fear. The inner critic is fading with time.
      Thanks so much for your comments. I really appreciate them.

    • Denise says:

      Amen, Holli! For me, being a single mom has made me “lose my sense of self” on several occasions. I tend to feel like I have to choose between following my multiple interests and passions or being a “good mom”.

      Really enjoyed this post, Patty!

      • Patty Tanji says:

        Thanks Denise. I enjoyed writing it! Being a ‘good mom’ is an awesome passion! Best part is you get to define what that means. Looking back I wonder..what was I thinking? I have so many more tools now…we all do. Thanks again for your comments.

      • Emilie says:

        Barbara Sher has this great part in her book where she talks about how sometimes inviting your kids to join in on your passions can be the best thing you could do for them (for you both, really). She also talks about how important it is for kids to see their parents engaged in their passions. I like that idea, though I’m sure it must feel difficult/impossible to apply at times.

  3. How did I embrace my multipotentiality? Erm… I think what helped me is keeping a ‘Scanner Daybook’. I can now keep track of the things I am doing and rotate them all the time, and add new ones, or whatever. I can’t keep it all in my head any more, I need to write it down.
    And having learned about Scanners/ Multipotentialism, I now feel more normal and not immature or flaky.

  4. Emilie Smith says:

    Fabulous post Patty! I particularly liked how you felt like you had to be like the other mums and I felt that pressure too. I still fight against it now (my son is 13) and I see the real benefits MP parents can have on their children. I’m convinced we enable our children to see many possibilities for success :)

  5. Patty Tanji says:

    Thank you for your post Emilie. The pressure to conform is so strong in any pursuit…..and motherhood is no exception. That’s what is so cool about Puttylike….a kind of space for non-conformists. Our western culture has always found ways to marginalize those of us who see things differently. Leonardo is our most famous example. I found this community to be a great place to learn tools for claiming my multi-potentialite birthright.

  6. Erin OK says:

    I embraced my multipotentiality long before becoming a mom, when I was focusing hard on being a musician (and producer and promoter and writer and. . . . ). I put that on the back burner to pursue my intellectual passion (and a career), but put that on hold to pursue another passion, becoming a mom. Now, with no career and no money and a family to take care of I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve messed up, and should not have jumped around from one thing to the other. So I am working on re-embracing my multipotentiality, and figuring out how to blend all my passions into a productive member of society. Juggle juggle.
    The title of this post makes me feel a little better about the struggle. :)
    I’m looking forward to checking out all the links in this post!

    • Patty Tanji says:

      Thanks for your input Erin. I agree about the title of the post. In the Michael Gelb class on thinking like da Vinci he put us through a mind mapping exercise for setting goals. Relationships is one area of life along with service, travel, purpose, values, people, spirituality, learning, finance, career all of which play a role in a meaningful beautiful life. The idea is to set goals in all of these areas. I’m still working on it and realized the enormous role of family in my life. Tricky exercise but fun.

  7. Nicole Fende says:

    Patty great post. As a mom to a 3 year old I completely relate to the “shoulds” you describe. While I still have them, I try to remind myself that my daughter’s life will be fuller if my life if I’m fulfilled as a person not just a mom.

  8. Patty Tanji says:

    I agree. I’m a better mom now that I feel more comfortable in my own skin. Putting my many interests on hold for so many years was a recipe for disaster. Being a mom of a three year old has so many challenges…I applaud and support your journey.

  9. A wonderful post and one that feels as though it was written just for me!

    I’m beginning to see that sharing my many passions with my kids is a positive thing for them too – they’re learning about growing food, riding horses and bikes, the stars, reading, films, baking, and so on and so on. I feel, after trying for a few years to be a perfect mum and hide my scanner self, that actually I am better as a mother by being authentic to myself, embracing my many passions and sharing them where I can. After all, what if my kids grow up to be multipotentialites too? I want to show them that it’s a great way to be!

    • Patty Tanji says:

      Hi Elizabeth,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      • Patty Tanji says:

        Oops. Didn’t mean to leave so abruptly. Your comments resonated with me. Sounds like your kids will really benefit from you sharing your multipotentialite self. We definitely are better moms (mums!) when we are our authentic selves. For me, I denied that person or didn’t know that person for a very long time and am now reconnecting with her! Thanks so much for your insights.

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