With over two decades’ experience in Brand Marketing and Public Relations, the fabulous Nkiru Olumide- Ojo is a role model to most career mums. She recently authored a book, Pressure Cooker, wherein she tackled challenges women face balancing work, life and family and proffered solutions. It is, indeed, an honour to have her grace our October cover. In this interview, she shares timeless life lessons that every mum will learn a thing or two from. We hope her interview inspires you in more ways than one.
What would you describe as your most defining moment as a career mum?
Every time my children settled into a school was a defining moment. I suffer the most anxiety while settling in schools, despite all the prior work done including prayers. I was always deeply concerned about if they’d be okay or if it was indeed the right choice of school. Each moment when they settled in was a defining one for me- obviously an unsettled child equates; an unsettled mum!.
How important is it for a mum to have a support system?
Super important- I have never been a super Mum. I have always been the mum that advocates and requires support whether it is Grandmas, Big Sisters, friends; Support often starts with your spouse, both of you acknowledging that you need support. I think support is integral to your success as mum and its no wonder that many have given up once in some life time opportunities because they didn’t have the right support system.
I meet young ladies who don’t want domestic staff or their in-laws around them, this often times puts enormous pressure on them as the needs of children are so demanding. You need good infrastructure whether it is people or systems (daycares, after schools) or even a structure, a modern baby carrier!
How have you been able to rise to the top of your career ladder in a male-dominted field?
I think first because I was gender blind for so long I never thought a ‘pack of men’ was menacing. I just really saw people as colleagues first and then whatever genders they were, that’s not to say there isn’t a dominance of same sex in a sector, but it was never really a major issue for me. I think as always do the best you can at your work, so people only have to recognize your output and have complimentary things to say! Oh and please feel free to outmuscle any gender trying to stifle you!
I meet young ladies who don’t want domestic staff or their in-laws around them, this often times puts enormous pressure on them as the needs of children are so demanding.
Some mums don’t know how to spot or utilize their support systems. Can you expatiate on this using your personal experiences?
This is such a brilliant question- the word ‘spot’ is so essential.
Here’s a quick example- Girl getting married starts to have a preconceived notion about her mother in-law and starts to device means to keep her away her away from the house and marriage, whereas another wise girl is thinking ‘hmm, I’m gonna need my mother in-law’s help when I start having babies, I best keep the friendship going’.
Again, I find that many women rarely think of their spouses as a support system when they start raising a family, they actually joyously say ‘my husband can’t do any house work to save himself’,( hahahah?!)’…Now this may be a young man who whilst growing up looked after all his siblings and therefore has the skills, seeing as you haven’t reached out to him for support, you often times carry too much burden on yourself. Women need to stop romanticizing suffering!
Tell us about your return to work after your first child. Was it a seamless ‘bounce back’ for you?
I thought the return timeline was too short. I still think so; 3 months maternity feels like a short change! I suffered some anxiety while returning but was also careful to manage my emotions as I was aware it was in baby over drive mode. I panicked at every phone call from home even though I was aware the baby was in the capable hands of my mum. I hated the frequent changing of breast pads. I couldn’t keep up with the expressing at work. So I used the bottle as a substitute, eventually, I found a schedule that suited me and my baby.
How do you manage to stay true to office deadlines even as a mum?
I love working to be honest and I’d give up a lot of sleep time to get my work right- so this wasn’t at all a challenge for me.
Read Toyin Onigbanjo of August Secret’s interview here
Do you believe that it’s possible for mums to have work life balance?
This continues to be the million dollar question of all times.
Rather than a balance, I’d say, work life integration is a big possibility, I remember a Colleague of mine when I was at Virgin Atlantic who took her baby on a trip to the UK for work, and we each held the baby one time or the other.
She achieved two things on that trip- her defined work, which for her was also an expression of herself worth and then an unbroken emotional connection with her child, whom I think was breastfeeding at the time.
Again, I find that many women rarely think of their spouses as a support system when they start raising a family, they actually joyously say ‘my husband can’t do any house work to save himself’,( hahahah?!)’Women need to stop romanticizing suffering!
In what ways does your husband complement your parenting skills? Is he hands-on?
My husband is very hands-on and has always been of great support with bottle feeding the children at night, whilst keeping his own 9-5 job, he’s a big ‘home work checker’, disciplinarian and involved in every big and little detail of our children’s lives, he’s such a great Dad and I’m so appreciative of him.
Do you have those moments when you wish you were a mumpreneur?
I think so, some days when I really want to sleep in- and I’m too responsible to tell a story-at work (actually I hate telling those stories) I probably often think to myself that, I can sleep in if I had my own business…flip side though is that I know people who own their own businesses work as hard if not more! I tried entrepreneurship when I returned home from my masters and the nights preparing proposals were as sleepless as my study nights!
I think support is integral to your success as mum and its no wonder that many have given up once in some life time opportunities because they didn’t have the right support system.
There is this new craze for entrepreneurship. What are you thoughts on this?
I love the fact that 40% of female entrepreneurs in Africa are Nigerians. It shows how hardworking and focused Nigerian women are and makes me immensely proud!
Not everyone can be an entrepreneur in my view though and vice versa, it’s best to know your calling and do it well
What is the most profound advice you have ever received as a career mum?
From my Mum, she said you can be successful at both.
(Catch up with Iquo Ukoh’s sucess tips for career mums here)
What advice do you have for career mums?
You can be successful at both (with the right infrastructure).
What advice do you have for mothers that are struggling with perfection and who think they are falling short?
Perfection is a mirage in my view, who set the index for perfection? This chase puts mindless pressure on one, I think people should run their races and in their own lanes as we say in local parlance, just set reasonable goals you can stay focused on.
It’s mindless pressure that is taking you nowhere!
You recently authored The Pressure Cooker: Lessons from a Woman at Work. What informed this book?
I wrote the book because I was struggling to be a good wife, daughter, mummy, DIL, church worker good everything. The pressure was driving me nuts and I didn’t find answers as every mum seemed so intact. I started venting via a column which later morphed into a book, this book just shares lessons I learnt as a working mum and obviously someone with great ambitions for her career/self. It talks about managing your boss, office politics and more.
Do you think there is anything wrong with a woman seeing herself as a mother or wife before anything else?
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that!
Being a mum is actually a noble calling in my view and I personally define myself by the importance of my relationships. My social media handles describe myself in this order.
Style is an expression of who you are, you obviously can’t be every trending thing my personal style is dateless, classy and simple. The late Lady Diana is my style inspiration, who after 2 decades still looks relevant!
Michelle Obama too!
Who has had the greatest influence on your role as a mum and why?
I don’t think there’s a singular person, it’s a combination of persons obviously excluding God who illustrates unconditional love for us as his children.
My Dad and my Husband modeled extreme responsibility towards a child by paying bills, my Mum and big sister model friendship with your children.
It’s never easy being a mom trying to juggle a full-time job with a family life what are your top tips for achieving your work-life balance?
Find Quality time …I can only illustrate this by saying, there’s a mum whose home 24/7 but locked up in her room and the one who is out but had dedicated daily uninterrupted time for her children.
Your Spouse is priority; it is tough but battle to make it so.
There are only 24hours each day please make sure you prioritise with what is important to you
Who is a fabulous mum?
A fabulous Mum is one who is achieving her personal goals whilst fulfilling her mummy roles and also adds ‘choosing to show up in a beautiful way’! I think it’s such a beautiful thing to be a woman and you must live it up!
We hope you learnt valuable life lessons in this interview?
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