Mrs. Iquo Ukoh is the founder of IQ Food Platter Blog. Did you know that she is first female Marketing Manager and first woman to sit on the board of directors of Nestlé Nigeria? During our chat with this fab mum-of-three, it was easy to tell that she has done a great job of balancing her career, personal life and family. Loved by many, she has an amazing wealth of knowledge, which she willingly shares with young mums of today. We hope that her interview inspires you in more ways than one.
Most working mums are saddled with the dilemma of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Did you experience the same issue as a working mum?
As a working mum, I missed one or two, end of the year parties at school; but did I crucify myself for that? No. All that mattered to me, as a working mum, was to build a close relationship with my kids such that, I’d know exactly when my daughters begins their menstrual cycle. I wanted to know about my son and his challenges (sexual challenges by the way) if he feels free to discuss it with me. I also want to get back home to a husband who I can laugh with. As a working mum, before you leave the workforce at 60 or 65, ensure that you build a life outside of your work because it is very important. Yes, you might not have kids whilst you building your career, and you might even decide not to marry, but for goodness sake, just get something else you like to do besides your 9 to 5. You should also ensure that you add value to other people’s lives beyond your job.
But some mothers find it difficult to build a network aside from work, home, and perhaps the church.
You should make that deliberate effort and you should ask yourself, ‘What do I need the network for anyway’? Let me give you an example. When it was time for my daughter to observe the mandatory NYSC, I needed somebody to help me with her posting. I reached out to my project supervisor (during my undergraduate days) and because I had a maintained a cordial relationship with him, it was easier for me to reach out to him. I reached out to him, because I knew that he would be of help. That’s what I’m talking about. The question you need to ask yourself is, ‘Are you keeping tabs with people you meet along the way’? So it’s basically all about being good to people regardless of their status and social class.
Do you think it is possible for a mum to be successful in all spheres of life?
To answer your question, we need to define success. To a mum in the Marketing world, it may mean becoming the Brand Manager. If such a mum desires to attain the position of a “Marketing manager, she may realise that the role may cost her time for family, disrupt her marriage etc. By so doing, such a mum has defined her own ‘success’. So, depending on what that ‘success’ is; you can then have it all. But, when the success is not aligning with certain things that are important to you, you may just have to knock it off. Alternatively, you must be prepared to miss certain landmark events in your children’s development for a certain period.
You hinted earlier that parenting has changed a lot compared to your time. So, have you found yourself trying hard to catch up with the dynamics of modern-day parenting?
I have a couple of young friends who are just starting their families and so many of them are dependent on taking their children to crèches. This was not the case in my time. Yes, people enrolled their children in crèches back in the day but it wasn’t as rampant as it is today. But, now, once you live in a big city, you don’t have a choice. Yes, people still have house helps but many parents do not trust them for obvious reasons. We are also in an age where many grand mums are actually still working. Many grand mums are gainfully employed, so most young mums cant drop their kids at their mum’s house.
When your career success is not aligning with certain things that are important to you, you may just have to knock it off.
What are some of the challenges confronting young mums of today?
The major challenge confronting young mums of today is peer pressure. The Internet is not also helping matters because they are constantly worried about how their child looks or should look. Then, before you can even begin to talk to your kids about sex education, they’re rolling their eyes because they’ve heard and seen their classmates talk about it in school. So, it’s a lot more challenging for mums of today in that sense.
Seeing that your children are adults now, how do you maintain that mummy role and still remain their friend?
Honestly I don’t know how I do it but when I need to be assertive, I’m assertive. I guess we’ve established that from day one. They know I’m a very goofy mom and sometimes they’re like “Mama do these people in the corporate world know that this is who you are at home?” I’ve always wanted to be friends with my kids because I also want them to open up to me. I want to know when a new boyfriend has come on the scene, I want to know if they’re having any challenges in the office I can help with. I want to know what’s happening with my son and his girlfriend; I want to know of his struggles with sex. If he’s dealing with pornography, I want him to be able to say “Mama pray for me, I’m having this challenge”. So, they open up to me (I hope they’ve been opening up fully). My daughter phoned me recently to inform me that she was going to see her boyfriend’s mum and didn’t know what discussion to have with her. So, I gave her two areas she should talk about that’d possibly open up conversations..
The major challenge confronting young mums of today is peer pressure. The Internet is not also helping matters because they are constantly worried about how their child looks or should look.
I know your children all schooled abroad. How did you manage to play the mummy role while they were away in school?
Skype! Skype! Skype! We kept tabs on each other via Skype and even then, I could tell if any of them was hiding something from me. Although I might not ask them at that moment, I could sense when something was wrong. I also asked to gain access to their school website so I could know how they are faring academically.
What makes you fulfilled as a mum?
For me, it’s that all my kids have told me they’ve accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. That, to me, is success. I’m supposed to be a custodian of their lives, and if their lives have been handed back to their creator, I’m done! It’s not all about education. I find it so fulfilling that my children are not ashamed to profess their belief in God.
I find it so fulfilling that my children are not ashamed to profess their belief in God.
How do you describe your style of parenting?
Ah! Mine is Kick-Kiss-Kick (laughs).
How do you create time for yourself as a mum?
It’s also deliberate. Right from time, I’d read a lot of magazines, books, and the likes. Back when the kids were younger, after I’m done tending to them, I just grab a magazine and read myself to sleep. But now, that they’re older, I’m deliberate about my vacation period. I go on regular vacations. They’re older now so I don’t need them with me all the time. I’m also a fairly independent woman. I read books, I belong to women groups, and I also network and attend functions. So for me, there’s no dull moment now that I have more or less an empty nest.
Do you find time for fashion?
I like to look good and dress appropriately for my age. I like to dress comfortable but trendy.
What are some of the things nobody tells you about motherhood?
It’s that your kids have a mind of their own and that you have to be very patient. You have to learn and remain abreast of current trends. If no one had told me that there would be something called “LOL” I might not have known what it meant. I belong to a generation where “LOL” meant “Lots of Love” but it means something else today. So there are so many things to catch up with. The way boys chase after girls these days is way different from how it was done in our days. I mean, you are at your dining table and your daughter is sending a text to her boyfriend, the boy does not even have to come to the house. So as a mum, if you don’t know what is happening on the Internet, you’ve missed it.
If no one had told me that there would be something called “LOL” I might not have known what it meant. I belong to a generation where “LOL” meant “Lots of Love” but it means something else today.
What values do you live by?
For me, if it’ll please God, I’ll do it. That’s all. Nothing else.
On a personal note, what business ventures are you currently involved?
I am the CEO of Entod Marketing. It is a marketing consultancy company with rich experience / practical expertise in helping brands and businesses drive sustainable growth within the African context. Entod, leverages deep local consumer and trade insights, to develop, optimize and execute differentiated marketing strategies for our clients. As you already know, I am also the founder of 1qfoodplatter.com a Nigerian food blog that has made notable impact in the Nigerian food space.
On a final note, can you define who a fabulous mum is in your words?
A fabulous mum is one who dresses her age and is not trying too hard.
Editor’s note: Mrs Ukoh is a distinguished fellow of Nigerian Institute of Marketing of Nigeria, a highly respected veteran within the West African Marketing Communications space and a 1st Vice President of Advertisers Association of Nigeria and other committees in the Advertising / Communication subsector like Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria. To mention a few. This simply drives home the point that you can achieve more and still hold it together at the family level. But, choices have to be made.
Please click here to read our interview with Mrs. Ukoh’s daughter, Atim
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