Confessions of a Career Loving Mum

I am a wife and mum to three amazing children, a girl who just turned six and a set of twins who are 3 years 6 months. Beyond that, I am also a marketer for a multinational company. My job involves a lot of travel that takes me away from my family a lot of times.

About two years ago, I accepted a work assignment that moved us to another country, away from our extended family and support structure. While I love my family and I am fully cognizant of the fact that I am the only mother my children have, the truth is, I also love my career!

Many women in my position struggle trying to balance their love for these two things. In this article, you’ll find some of the lessons I’ve learned over the years as a working mum.

 

Be kind to yourself

As mothers, we often have the tendency to judge ourselves based on what our children can or cannot do. I remember, when my twins were younger, I once overheard a mother speaking of how her 10-month-old baby was already potty trained and slept throughout the night.

At the time, my twins who were near twice that age were not potty trained and barely slept throughout a whole night. For a moment, I felt that I was not doing something right – maybe if I spent more time with them it would be different.

Then it occurred to me that I am not in competition with anyone and neither are my children. With patience and at their own pace, my kids would soon figure out how to use the potty and sleep through the night. Most importantly, I needed to be kind to myself.

 

Use the right words

Having often heard words such as “full-time mom” being, I have always wondered what it really meant. Did it make me a “part-time mom” because I was away working for eight hours?

The truth is, despite being a mum who goes to work, I am also still a full-time mother to my children. Yes, I don’t spend the majority of my days with them, however, I still fully embrace my full-time motherhood responsibilities just as I do in my career.

 

Block the naysayers

My first business trip was when my twins were four months old. Luckily enough for me, my mother came and looked after my twins for the four nights I was away. However, when I got back, one not so gentle colleague cornered me and asked me what kind of mother I was to go away and leave such young kids.

This experience and many others taught me early on to learn to block such people. I had a conscious choice to be both a mother and to continue work. Therefore, I knew what I was doing and wouldn’t let others judge me for my choices.

 

It’s okay to ask for help

People and society, in general, will always have opinions of what you “should” do and should not do when it comes to your children. You should do X by yourself when it comes to your children you should do Y and not the nanny.

There was a time when I would do everything that needed to be done for my children by myself. Not only was this not sustainable, but I soon realized that I was no superwoman and had to learn to ask for help and accept it when it was offered.

Don’t give in to pressures that say you have to do everything – it’s okay to ask for help.

 

Build a network with other working moms

Sometimes, it’s easy to think that you are the only going through what you are going through. Personally, talking with other working moms helped me realize that I was not the only one going through stuff.

Getting together and sharing what we were going through as working mothers truly helped. We were able to share notes on how we were handling certain situations.

Inspired by this, I created the Mum’s in Stilettos community where through social media and the blog, working mum’s come together to share their lessons. Such platforms encourage you that you are not alone and that you can manage being a working mother successfully.


If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.

The struggles of being a stay-at-home mom

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A reluctant stay-at-home mom shares her experience and why she came up with an exit plan Click To Tweet

Any time you see a woman who tells you that her main job is to take care of her children 24/7, know that you just met a stay-at-home mom. The definition for this term is someone who stays at home all day to raise her children and manage her household, while her spouse gracefully assumes the position of a provider.

This term has become a cliché in some countries —thousands of women proudly wear this badge in a show of their sacrificial parenthood. In many societies outside Nigeria, stay-at-home moms are often seen as good models of motherhood because it is not everyday you meet a woman so selfless and willing to let go of her financial independence. But the question remains; what does a stay-at-home mom do all day? Is cleaning and doing laundry a daily routine or is she watching ‘Zee World’ or ‘Telemundo’?

dont-judge-meIn this part of the world, there is something so ordinary and basic about being a stay-at-home mom. Out of personal experience and data check, most stay-at-home moms in Nigeria take on this role out of frustration of not getting a job after childbirth or lack of zeal to further pursue career goals. It is, sometimes, very easy to give up trying but the consequence of this decision is a grave one.

Most stay-at-home moms in Nigeria take this role because they can't find a job Click To Tweet

If by staying at home all day and writing occasionally qualify for being a stay-at-home mom then, I label myself a reluctant one. The state of not being able to be financially independent is one of the lowest that I found myself in. Nigeria happens to be a peculiar country where the depth of one’s pocket determines who the boss is.

These days, it is not safe to solely depend on one’s spouse for everything —financial independence is a must for every woman regardless of marital status. Nigeria is a patriarchal space, where being a woman is enough trouble, talk less being a jobless mum.

Loss of who I am

There are three things that I lost in the period of being a stay-at-home mom. I lost myself, my voice and my bravado. As someone who has previously worked in several highly structured organizations, full time motherhood threw me off balance. Day after day, tiny pieces of my self-confidence began to ebb away as I helplessly watched other women excel in their careers be it as entrepreneurs or career women. Nothing robs us of our joy like the helplessness of not being able to determine one’s fate.

I would feel inferior every time I heard the success stories of my colleagues. I began to look for excuses to stay indoors and revel in self-pity. Before I know it, I became a recluse instead of the strong, extrovert and go-getter I used to be.

I lost 3 things being a stay-at-home mom; myself, my voice and my bravado Click To Tweet

Being a full time mother opens a door of vulnerability; it reduces us to helpless creatures. I had a rude awakening of this in my second year of marriage when an in-law came around and subtly hinted at my ‘jobless condition’. He constantly tore at any suggestion I made during our family discussions. To him, I was just “an entity whose main job was to breastfeed a child”, as he put it then.

The mere fact that I wasn’t bringing in any income was enough reason to shut me up. To him, I didn’t exist, likewise my thoughts, in his mind, I was just a human with mammary glands and a womb to frequently push out babies.

One day, I decided that I had had enough, I began to outline ways to get out of this pathetic state.

Have a time line

It sure doesn’t matter what made me a stay-at-home mom, what is important is the time line for my exit.

A frustrated stay-at-home mom, like me, definitely needed a detailed plan on how to put an end to the cycle of helplessness. Questions like these should be included in your time line:

  • When do I pull the plug?
  • How do I integrate myself into the chosen career or business?
  • What are my new strengths?

These questions will best guide you on the next step to take when considering an exit.

Never stop learning

Don’t ever be deluded into thinking that motherhood takes all your time and energy. There are millions of women who are beautifully juggling child rearing with careers; so even while you are stuck being a stay-at-home mom, compel yourself to take lots and lots of self-development courses.

Nothing stops an online course or even a distance learning course. These courses will one day help to advance your career. I must confess that it is hard to get back into a career or a business after a hiatus, but it is doable. Since I decided to get back to the corporate world, I have constantly learnt how not to take NO for an answer —I don’t get fazed by the number of rejections, I just keep on pushing.

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Keep on dreaming

This is one thing that kept me sane in my five year stay-at-home mom experience. I never for once stopped dreaming about who I would be in my chosen career. This vision kept me awake at night and gave me a clear perspective on how to attain my career goal.

Children need to see their mothers in places of strength and independence Click To Tweet

Never allow anything or anyone to rob you the power of dreaming big. I once read online about how children of career women excel in life compared to children raised by stay-at-home moms. Children need to see their mothers in places of strength and independence and let’s be honest, being a stay-at-home mom will never create that reality.

4 business lessons I learned from my mother (and aunties)

No one works as hard as an African mother. I should know because I was raised by one. You see them everywhere, trying to build new businesses from the farm, to the market place, to distributing companies and high-rise malls, to boardrooms and to the top of multi-national companies. Mothers are the epitome of perseverance, the backbone of our society, really. Mom aside, I was also brought up by more than five aunties! I know there are some entrepreneurial tips that we all need to follow from these marvelous older women. These are age-old tips that work anywhere, and have seen our mothers and their mothers through tides of disasters and of plenty.

Reputation

In business, your reputation is everything. Without a good reputation, your future businesses are worthless really. This is greater than branding, dear ladies. A reputation speaks to your character, and is bound to outshine all however much you brand yourself or your company. It is the core of who you are.

Get a good reputation and guard it with everything you have. Be a woman of your word, conduct your affairs with dignity, have good products and services. You know…reputation.

Appeal to self-interest in business

This is where most aspiring #MotherlandMoguls go wrong. I get that we are emotional beings but when making a deal, never play to mercy or pity. A Motherland Mogul never grovels, not when you know you can bring something to the table. And it does not matter whether it is the centerpiece or the whole darn table.

If you always find a way to ensure the other party can benefit, the deal is yours. That is how barter trade worked for years. If it was good enough for our ancestors, it should serve the purpose well for us. Afterall, we are here due to them.

Keep people guessing

The easiest way to fall in a rut is being predictable in business. While there is some good in being consistent, predictability points more to actions than products or services. It encourages you to get out of your comfort zone and actually be out there. It means partnering up with people that are not like you and learning new things.

Why else do you think women form small funding groups that bring together people of various professions and backgrounds? If it works for your personal life, why can’t it do so in business? Always keep an air of unpredictability. That way, no one ever sees you coming and the traps are definitely fewer.

Never retreat, never surrender

Our mothers run the household. No matter how big it is, no matter how much work is, you are sure that your mother will leave everything at the door and be your mother. If there is punishment to be delivered, it will be delivered. And she never lets her children see her overwhelmed or tired. Why is it then, that when some of us go to work, we carry unnecessary baggage that distracts us the whole time?

Then we actually end up doing nothing at work. We end up frustrated and are grumpy to our families when we go back home. Some household issues like worrying when laundry will be done or planning the meal for the next day calls for some serious time management. And when you’re at work, let it be no retreat, no surrender for things that are worth it.

We often look for business strategies elsewhere while in truth, they are right in front of us. Staring right into our faces, like our mothers often do. And yes, the pun was very much intended.