My pregnancy opened the door to a host of hurtful comments disguised as “well-intentioned” opinions. There were comments on the fact that I was too young to raise a child, my “unfortunate” position as an unmarried woman and the “helpful” suggestion that I should drop out my master's program. When my daughter was born, I emailed a professor and asked for connections and opportunities in Michigan. She suggested that I focus on my child and stop worrying about jobs. She made it seem like I couldn’t focus on building my career and be a great mom at the same time.
I made it through a mentally taxing pregnancy, graduated on time, and now I’m the mother of an amazing little girl. If I took everyone’s advice or internalized their negative comments, I would be miserable and my life wouldn’t be my own. I would be stagnant. It didn’t help that I needed to learn how to cope with my depression and anxiety. Being a mother doesn’t hinder me from achieving everything I want in my life - it’s my motivation. I have goals to achieve, a life to build for my daughter, and a purpose to fulfill. Learning how to trust the process, embrace the journey, and grind as hard as possible keeps me going.
Society sets up impossible benchmarks for us to achieve. If you haven’t achieved X, Y, and Z by 30, then you’re a failure. If you’re unmarried with a child, you’re unworthy. If you haven’t “snapped back” after having a child, you’re unattractive. But … these things are not true. Life happens. Women are pressured to have it all together, while men are praised for doing the bare minimum. I am here to say - it is possible to have a child and do what you want in life! We just have to be more strategic and I see that as a positive. For me, having a child made me more focused, helped me tolerate less foolishness and gave me more motivation to achieve my goals.
Here are 5 lessons I learned on how to balance and achieve your goals with a toddler:
It’s imperative to have a support system
Without the support of my friends and family, I literally couldn’t tell you where I would be. If you feel like you don’t have the support you need, there are many ways to find it. Join mommy support groups, group therapy, or ask someone to introduce you to other mommy friends. It’s important to build your network.
Ignore the negativity
During my pregnancy, everyone came out the woodwork with their unsolicited opinions, advice, and inappropriate questions that didn’t help my mental state. I internalized many of the comments, which was a blow to my self-esteem. Ignore them. Often they’re projecting their own insecurity, respectability politics, and misogynoir onto you. Your life has a purpose and a plan.
Let your actions speak for itself
Most of the time you’re just going to have to show people. Do not waste your time explaining yourself or your situation with people. It’s none of their business and most of the time if they’re prying, they’re just being nosey anyway. During my graduate program, I went to Johannesburg, South Africa while pregnant. After I graduated, people were shocked I didn’t quit. Let your actions speak for itself.
Take your mental health seriously
Depression is real. Postpartum depression is real. Anxiety is real. Dealing with these mental health issues as a mom of color is a real challenge. Seek the help you need. Find ways to build a healthy lifestyle and include your child. Find a mommy and me fitness class or take them on a walk or jog in their stroller. Make time weekly to see a therapist. I’m on my own fitness journey and it’s become a way to intentionally make time for myself.
Stick to a routine
Children need a routine. It’s been challenging getting my daughter on a bed schedule, but once I get her to bed at a decent time, I now have time for myself. I can meditate, journal, get some tasks checked off my to-do list, and work on a project I’ve been putting off. Schedule a “power hour” daily. That’s your hour to grind and make progress on your goals.
Mamas, it’s okay not to be superwoman 24/7. It takes a village to raise a child. It’s okay to make yourself a priority. There are many resources to utilize if you still want to start that business, take a trip, or go back to school. Don’t let anyone tell you that now you’re a mother it’s not about you. Your child will thrive if you thrive.
Resources for working and self-care (Black-owned businesses local to metro-Detroit and online):
Femology Detroit - This is a space to work and network for women in metro-Detroit.
Skillshare - If you need to learn a new skill, this is a great site to start.
Travel Noire - This travel site for black adventurers help make traveling abroad a reality.
Layfield Resume Consulting - I used his services to build my resume and cover letter during my job search.
Bee’s Beauty Bar and Spa - I go to her for my beauty and self-care needs. Get a facial or a massage and relax.
Therapy for Black Girls - As an advocate for therapy, Dr. Joy built an amazing directory of therapists of color.
Empowerment Workbook - This workbook provides daily prompts for releasing negative self-talk, restoring self-worth, creating boundaries, and other self-empowerment tools.