Are children the enemies of progress?

How do you balance the priorities of having a child and building an empire? Click To Tweet

Being a woman is one of the greatest privileges I feel I have been given in this life. We are all aware of the history of oppression that women have suffered in the past and the many women who fought off the oppressors and paved the way for us.

Now we delight in the possibilities and opportunities presented to us, to carve out our own destinies. I once heard someone say, “Some of us (women) have become the men we dreamt of marrying”. That is certainly an ode to all you badass females kicking down doors and handling your business. That is not to say, we don’t need our wonderful men.

Should my time upon this earth be up very soon, I will forever be proud of starting Demur and hope to be counted amongst those badass women who have kicked down doors and shaped history. I know I have started something that will forever live on.

Along with that, one other thing that I know I want to leave on this earth when my time is up, are some little Noreen’s. Some beautiful children who I can help mould into pleasant human beings who will also go on to make a significant contribution to the world during their time here. I also want to be able to chase them around whilst I’m still young and fit.

Is it selfish to want to build something first and delay starting a family? Click To Tweet

Putting your empire building on pause

Whilst I am working hard to build an empire and ensure I have all my ducks in a row, the little Noreen’s project is not an urgent one, but it’s one that’s on the agenda. Never mind the fact that I’m fast approaching 30 and should I not reproduce soon, society will be looking at me with cause for concern as if I am some strange creature. The body clock theorists do not help much either.

I am surrounded by friends and family members who have given birth in the last 2 years. Not only have I had the joy of watching these beautiful children grow, I am also a godmother to three of these children. I can certainly tell being a mother is not an easy job at all from watching these mothers raise their kids.

Being a mother to a young child is very demanding. There are many sacrifices you have to make including for some women, putting their careers on hold. If you are in employment you get your maternity leave and various allowances but when you are going at it alone, can you afford to take a year or so out of your own business?

I have a friend who has a business that has just taken off and there are opportunities lined up that will only take her business higher. However, those opportunities require her full attention to go forward and now her partner is asking for kids. She asked me, “Can you choose between having kids and taking your business forward?”

You can’t chase two rabbits at the same time that’s for sure.

The choice to take a career break and have kids or try and juggle both is a personal one. No one can choose your destiny for you, not even your partner. For me personally, I feel, if I was to have a baby in the next year or two, one is going to have to suffer. It’s either I will not be able to give my child the full attention she deserves (I really really really want a girl first by the way) or I will not be able to fully commit myself to Demur. So, I am seated here asking myself the same question as my friend, what do I want more? To some people that is an absurd question to even ponder about.

You cannot compare a baby to a business. Although to a certain extent it often feels like I have a baby already. As much as I can delegate things to other people much like leaving your baby at the babysitters, you still must make sure that the baby is looked after. You must protect your baby, you must protect the integrity of your business. I cannot go on holiday yet without worrying or checking in on Demur, just like a Mother who has left her child at home.

You can't chase two rabbits at the same time that's for sure Click To Tweet

So, can my friend say to her partner, “Baby I want a child but you are going to have to wait until I finish building my business,” When will that be though? I can certainly understand why some women chose not to have children at all. Oprah once said she chose not to have children because she knew it would get in the way and well look at the incredible empire she has built. There is no telling whether she would have had the same level of success had she chosen to have kids.

You can have your cake and eat it too

On the other hand, there are women who show us that you can have it all. Beyoncé had her first child when she had already created a wonderful legacy and went back to business and there is no doubt she will get right back to business after the twins.

I once read a quote by Shonda Rhimes, where she said: “Motherhood is not about shrinking down, it’s about showing your kids how to be a powerful woman.” For Shonda Rhimes that means juggling being a mother and running her Shondaland empire. How do you balance the priorities of having a child and building an empire? Is it selfish to want to build something first and delay starting a family? Success is a long winding road, what if it takes you 10,20,30 years to get to the level of success you want, before having kids?

I’m often asked, “Why don’t you want to have children now?” and my honest answer is, “I am building privileges for my children so that when they are born they will want for nothing.” With what I am building, I hope when I have my kids I can devote all my time to them. I hope to have built Demur to a level where it can run without me and I can afford to take a maternity leave without any financial constraints. I hope to be able to attend as many sports days as possible, stay at home with my children for sick days, cook their favourite meals and sit there and listen to their long-winded storytelling. These are the joys of being a mother I want to fully commit myself to and enjoy fully.

On the other hand, I also get asked, “Why do you want to have children?” I want children because I want someone to carry on my legacy when I’m gone, although I must admit childbirth does not look like fun. The thing is I know I can have it all but perhaps not all at once. It’s more of a question of what do I want more and when do I want it? Can I afford to put my dreams on hold for a year or two to start a family? Is it wrong to think of children as a hindrance to my dreams?

Laying the foundations of your business while holding down your day job

This been the hardest undertaking of our lives thus far, but also the most rewarding Click To Tweet

In August 2016, my friend and I took the plunge and decided to launch our very own social enterprise. Born out of many long conversations and brainstorming sessions, we finally settled on creating an organization that could help address some of the challenges Nigerian girls are facing stress-induced their educational development. That was how Give Girls A Chance came about.

We were giddy with excitement as we embarked on the process of registering the organization and launching a fundraising campaign. In January 2017, we had raised enough money to sponsor the first group of girls in the program with full scholarships including tuition, fees, books, and uniforms. We also recruited five amazing volunteers to serve as mentors through our dedicated mentoring program. With all of this in place, we set to work running the organization like the bad-ass boss ladies we are.

Half a year later, we can honestly say that this been the hardest undertaking of our lives thus far, but also the most rewarding thing we have ever done. Mind you we both decided to do this right at the moment when our other professional careers were taking off. I had just joined the UN in August and was posted to Zambia. My partner Hauwa was wrapping up her youth service and about to start working as a full-time doctor.

But this idea was something that had been on both of our minds for a long time and we did not want to wait any longer. We are both deeply passionate about public service and believe that it is our duty to contribute to the development of Nigeria. What better way to do that than by training up the next generation of women and future leaders of our country? So, we took the plunge, and for better or worse, we have survived to talk about it.

For every success that we have had, we have had twice as many failures and faced countless roadblocks. When it comes to laying the foundations for your businesses while holding down your day job, here are some of the experiences we’ve had and advice we would like to share with the readers.

Say goodbye to sleep…at least for the time being

Before you take this flirtationship any further, imagining the idea of starting a side hustle, business or organization while keeping your day job and still managing to get 8 hours of sleep, stay fit and avoid stress-induced acne, let me stop you right there.

Unless you are Wonder Woman (and who knows some of you very well may be), you should know now that you’re going to have to make a choice between bringing your business to life or getting the daily recommended 8 hours of sleep. I can’t tell you how many sleepless nights we’ve had and how many things we’ve had to miss out on because we choose to invest our waking hours and our resources into growing our organization.

There is so much research, planning, and coordination required to grow a business and if you have to do this alongside a job that demands the 8 hours of the day when most people are typically productive, it simply means you’re going to have to cut into your sleep and leisure time to stay on top of everything.

The good news is that the joy of seeing your idea come to life is unparalleled. Nothing beats that feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment you will have when you start to hit your targets. And if all it takes is skimping on sleep every now and then, that’s a small price to pay, right? You can always make it up later when your name is up in flashing lights and you’re rolling deep in that moolah.

You’re going to have to make a choice between bringing your business to life or sleeping Click To Tweet

Budget, budget, budget

I grew up with a banker for a father and he tried his best to instill in me the spirit of budgeting and saving. But I like shiny things too much and I’m always ready to take on the challenge of seeing how much stuff I can get for all the money in my account.

I am so thankful that Hauwa is in charge of the finances for Give Girls A Chance. We managed to raise a significant amount of money when we first launched and true to form I wanted to go big and sponsor as many girls as we could but Hauwa talked sense into me. We decided to start with 11 girls, put some money into savings so we could pay for events and plan for the future.

We knew that it would not be cool if we sponsored 200 girls for one semester or two, but then had no money to keep on going. The girls would end up right back where they started, having to drop out of school because they could not afford to go. Instead, we decided to take things step by step, prudently accounting for every kobo and making sure we were getting the best return on our investments.

As the new school year approaches, we are thrilled as we can now comfortably take on more girls for an extended period of time. My advice is to use the resources you have wisely and always have some money left in the bank.

Use the resources you have wisely and always have some money left in the bank Click To Tweet

Be consistent

Because we both have full-time jobs, the only times we are able to work on Give Girls A Chance related activities are in the evenings and on weekends. In fact, that’s not true. We end up replying to emails, texts, and requests during our lunch breaks at work too!

Saturday mornings at 9 AM are set in stone for our weekly check-in meetings and Sundays at 8 PM we check in with our strategic support team. Without fail, every week. Yes, this means even when one of us is on vacation in Zimbabwe or busy with bridesmaid’s duties at a friend’s wedding, we still make time to check in and get work done.

From the beginning, we also agreed that even though we had to start small, with a limited budget and resources, we would always strive for consistency. This means that we have set the organization’s calendar to run a major event or campaign every month. It’s been hard, but we have followed through on that promise.

Slowly but surely, we are building our presence and making a name for ourselves in the NGO space in Nigeria and people are starting to take notice.

Check-in meetings over the weekend? That's the life when you're running your enterprise & work full-time Click To Tweet

Ask for help

If you plan to grow a business successfully from scratch, you’re going to have to get very comfortable saying the word, please. From the beginning, Hawua and I were clear about what our strengths were and what things needed to get done that we were not capable of doing ourselves.

We knew that if we were clear on what our vision was, along the way, we were bound to run into people who believed in our vision as well, or at the very least believed in us. These people would be willing to lend us their time or money to show their commitment.

We got my cousin to build our website for free (shout out to Urey Onuoha), we got help from our parents and friends as we drafted and refined our strategy, our friends and family were also the first to contribute substantially to funding the organization.

At the SheHive in Joburg last year, I met the amazing Yetunde Dada who heads her own social enterprise CRNCH. CRNCH has been instrumental in helping us get our strategy right, making our grant proposals look amazing and spending hours brainstorming and working with us on everything from how to fundraise to how to make our mentoring program more effective. All of this for free and in their spare time.

So my advice is to network like crazy and don’t be afraid to go out on a limb and ask people for help even before you are able to afford them.

Plan for your growth so you’re not surprised when it happens

Having a plan from the beginning will help you avoid a lot of confusion further down the line. A good question to consider is, “Do I want this to remain a side hustle or do I eventually want to get this business to the point where I can quit my day job and focus all my attention on this?”.

Another question could be, “Do I want to keep my business local, take it nationwide or global?” For Give Girls A Chance our vision is to grow the organization to the point where it becomes a major player in terms of work being done at the intersection of educational development and women/girls issues in Nigeria.

We want to have a presence nationwide, basically, anywhere there are large groups of out-of-school children we want to be active there. So while we are currently focused on our activities in Abuja, and limited by bandwidth and resources, we are always on the lookout for new opportunities and partnerships.

We are exploring diverse fundraising streams and we are learning from best practices globally on how to structure and deliver educational development practices. We may be small but we are agile and easily adaptable. The question is not will we grow but rather how soon?

If you plan to grow a business from scratch, get very comfortable saying the word, please Click To Tweet

Never lose sight of your vision

There are going to be many days where you will look and think to yourself, but why am I killing myself softly with all this wahala. After all, I have a daytime job to fall back on so why not just focus on that?

You have to be ready for those days. At the beginning of the year, we compiled a list of the top 10 goals we wanted to achieve through Give Girls A Chance and I printed and stuck those to my dream board so I am reminded every morning of what we are doing and why I must remain committed.

The cause is also one that is dear to my heart, helping other girls succeed and make the most out of their lives. So at the end of the day even if GGAC were to only change one girl’s life, that would still have made all the difference for me.

What is that one thing fanning the flames of passion in your heart? What is it about this idea, business or organization that you know you must achieve and won’t stop until you do? Remind yourself of that as often as possible, especially when the going gets tough. It will help you keep you on track.

These are just a few of the things that we have learned along the way that we hope could serve as encouragement and motivation to other women who may be thinking of embarking on the same journey and establishing their own businesses or organizations.

Wherever you are in the process, we would love to hear from you and hear your thoughts. What have you learned from starting a business while keeping your daytime job that you would like to share with us and with the other readers?

It’s time to question the strict gender roles placed on women

shehive nyc gender roles

One of the major gender roles set apart for women is that of the nurturer. But nurturing takes time. It keeps women away from other activities. It drains us emotionally. It makes us places nurturing above other roles. It costs money. It reduces resources available to women.

I was born into a family of 7 children and I have 3 children myself. While I am a huge supporter of family life, I believe nurturing is a huge factor of inequality between the genders. Women are raised to believe that nurturing is an exclusively for women. This is deduced from the inter dependency required during the first year or so of a child’s life. But nature does not make mistakes, it was not intended for intense inter dependency to go on forever.

In fulfilling gender roles, some women believe that everything else takes a back seat to nurturing. In my opinion this is a box that women create to limit themselves. We have an inherent gift of multitasking and delegation. Yet, a good number of us spend an inordinate amount of time planning and thinking about our roles as mothers or wives. Consider too that other women will go against their instincts to perform these roles due to societal norms, even when they are honestly not interested in being nurturers.

The reality

Nurturing is an important role for both genders. The inter dependency between a mother and child should be balanced with a father’s participation. A father is just as valuable a parent as a mother and is key to the emotional growth of a child. It’s a partnership and not a sole proprietorship! So dads, bringing in the bacon is not enough. Children also need your socialization, encouragement, advise, direction and love.

Having a support system is important for any woman who has a child. We need time to do other things for our own mental stability. Yet, many women pour in too much time on their children and into their children’s life. You don’t need to take your child everywhere. You don’t need to be a drone mum using espionage-like tactics to constantly keep an eye on your child. My children surprise me everyday with their innovative thinking when I give them space to explore and make their own choices. So mums, child rearing is not a 24 hour business. Balance it out, live your life. Be the lioness who hunts and leads with the lion, even though she has cubs.

Technology equalises the imbalance

Society can balance gender roles with technology. Women can use technology to participate more to society and not feel stifled or limited to the nurturing role. With technology, we can contribute from anywhere and work faster. Women can handle domestic roles and still have time to pursue their aspirations and dreams. For example, parents can can supervise their homes in their absence through nanny cams.

Jobs that were previously time and energy consuming can be done quicker and easily with technological innovation. Women have the choice to participate be both mothers and professionals. Education, personal development and skill acquisition are available at a click of a button. E-learning platforms allow users to interact, access premier education without from the comfort of home. I personally favour listening to audiobooks so that I can multitask.

Furthermore, technological advances in the prevention and treatment in medicine mean parents don’t have to fret so much over children’s health. This allow parents time to pursue other pursuits. A number of the restrictions and barriers have been lifted by technology. We need to come up with more strategies to equalize gender roles so that men and women can live fulfilling and significant live while still being nurturers. Technology provides us that opportunity, why not capitalize on it?