We are delighted to begin the Fab Career Mum interview series with this inspiring chat we had with the beautiful Oby Ohakim. A mum of two boys, Oby is an in-house counsel at a quasi-government agency in Nigeria and specializes in corporate litigation. Here, she shares her top work life balance tips for career mums
How are you able to balance your career and family life?
Honestly, I don’t have a balance! I just have a rhythm and I go with it. To make my rhythm work, I stick to routines, creating schedules, goals, lists and calendars: this kind of helps me stay sane. Working with a target gives me a sense of stability. I schedule my work, my business plans, my children’s activities, home meals, play time, dinner dates, meetings, family meet-up, functions, and church activities: everything is usually listed out ahead of the week.
I’m also a strong believer in outsourcing; it literally takes a village. I’m blessed to get a lot of support from my sister, my mother-in-law, my partner, my very understanding boss and of course our live-in nanny and other family support staff. They all make it work!
From my perspective as a young career mom, I feel the most important thing is choosing and maintaining a life style that works for you and your family, because no matter how hard we try, being a mother while simultaneously trying to achieve career / business success, could be extremely difficult.
How much of me-time do you have for yourself and how do you make it work?
I get two hours to myself every night at the gym, when the kids go to bed at 7:00pm. This is non-negotiable lol. A good 7km walk on the treadmill really relaxes me. I also enjoy going to the spa, and catching up with my friends over drinks on Saturday nights.
But “Me-Time” for me isn’t always fancy lol! Sometimes my “me-time” is a cup of tea and quiet time at 6:00am before everyone wakes up, and some days it’s a 3 hours solo spa date!
How involved is your spouse in your career growth?
I’m especially thankful for my husband. Without him I couldn’t possibly have come this far. It’s more than providing a roof over our heads and food on the table, it’s about the constant support emotionally and being willing, present and available to share the responsibility of raising our kids. He validates my goals, my personal development and my career growth. His faith in me is 101% and that is my driving force.
Without him I certainly wouldn’t have started my ProjectBaby Nigeria. He handled most of the ground work, and helped with establishing our manufacturing channels in Nigeria; while I focused on distribution and marketing. He continues to encourage me, if I want to go to the moon, he’ll pack a bag! He has helped build my self-esteem and even though sometimes he doesn’t like me so much, we love him so dearly lol.
How actively involved are you in your kids life and education?
On a scale of 1-10, I’ll say 12! lol
One popular misconception is that children of working moms are being “raised” by nannies / daycare providers. Whilst I’m beyond thankful for the love, support, and fun that my children’s nanny provides, she CANNOT replace my role as a parent.
I spend my afternoons after work with the boys; playing and learning. We are lucky to have a spacious playground at home so they spend a lot of time running around, cycling, scooting, climbing, and gardening. On the weekends we hang out at golf lessons, music classes and swimming lessons.
I’m very intentional about raising the boys by our family values to be kind, cultured and good Christians; I teach them every day, do homework, put them to bed at night, play with them, pray with them and read to them. My time may be limited BUT I’m IRREPLACEABLE.
Is it difficult achieving your professional goals or do you have to compromise for your family most times?
I’ve come to realise now that though a “work-mom life balance” may be attainable, it is FAR from easy. I think as a woman you can do whatever you want to do but you will constantly have to prioritize between family and work and if you don’t want to always make that choice then you may have to choose a career which is very flexible.
Occasionally, it is a struggle to manage raising young kids and a demanding job which involves daily long hours and travel; I usually end up prioritizing / compromising one or the other.
There are days I would drop everything to meet a work deadline; days when I wouldn’t mind missing a school event because I have a work engagement, and yet other times I excuse myself from meetings or work engagements to attend a school play or take them to a doctor’s appointment.
What’s the most wonderful experience of being a career mum?
Being able to order my secret online shopping using my office address and then sneak them home! That’s a joke lol
Personally, I believe motherhood should not stop me from doing what defines me, or what makes me who I am. I LOVE being a lawyer, I LOVE the fulfillment of “earning a living”, I love leaving the house every day, and I certainly LOVE my job. It keeps my brain sharp, utilizes the education and expertise I’ve built over the years, and makes me appreciate the time I spend with my family all the more! Plus that credit alert at the end of the month isn’t so bad lol!
Plus, I love being a role model for my boys; I want them to grow up knowing that a woman can also have a successful career outside the home. That they are to respect a woman’s decision to work and be a mom.
What are your top work-life-balance tips for career mums?
From personal experience, the most important aspect of being able to function as a “working mom” is having dependable childcare.
Secondly, ask for help! You are going to need help, no one expects you to do this on your own; don’t be afraid to ask. If you can afford it, hire some help.
Also, prioritization, scheduling and routines are absolutely important! These three things are essential for working mothers. Without priorities and guardrails for how and with whom we invest our time and energy, it becomes very difficult to create any sort of harmony between work and home.
Lastly, schedule some me-time to take care of yourself: you are no good to your family or employer when you’re exhausted and worn-out. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
In addition to being a career mum, you also run a thriving business: How do you marry both roles and you have any pointers for career mums looking to do same?
I started ProjectBaby in September, 2017, with the aim of resolving the obvious challenge faced by parents and Early Years Practitioners in Africa – in procuring innovative, beneficial (and yet affordable) Learning Resources within the continent. Basically, we design and create innovative and affordable Early Learning Resources which encourage multi sensorial learning through play!! We believe that by playing children learn – they learn by doing, by trial and error. I am also the sole content creator and lifestyle blogger at www.playsuitsandlawsuits.com .
What are some of the best decisions you have made since starting ProjectBaby Nigeria?
One of the best decisions since starting ProjectBaby Nigeria, is creating a structure early on; it may seem cumbersome and unnecessary at the beginning but creating a structure – even for a small business is very essential for smooth running and growth.
Also, you must be ready to sacrifice sleep, time, energy, effort, money, and other resources to invest in your business. It will be worth it, in the long-run. Results take time; it’s a reality I’ve accepted and aligned with in order to see my vision manifest. It’s easy to look at your effort and think you should be further ahead than you are right now, but if you really look closely most “overnight successes” actually took a long time.
Moreover, remember to take it easy on yourself, it’s a marathon not a sprint. Work hard but go at your own pace and enjoy the journey.
And most importantly, don’t be in a hurry to quit your day job because you’ve started a business. You’ll know when the time is right.