Hey Smart Mommy,
Happy new month! Sorry I have been MIA for the last two weeks. My time has been so stretched lately. I can best describe it as my 5yr old daughter describes sour candy; in the middle of yummy and yucky. There are a lot of good things going on but lots of other less fun but important things zapping my time. Anyway, I’m finding my balance again and excited to continue with our weekly conversations.
There are lots of goodies in this week’s roundup including a discussion about having a more robust talk with your daughters about sex and some suggestions for keeping your kids from learning loss over the summer (hint: focus on non-traditional learning and reinforcing key subjects in fun ways). In my home, one of our non-traditional learning highlights this summer is my daughter’s lemonade stand. She has been planning it for a few weeks and is super excited about hopefully making her first sale this weekend. I have enjoyed helping her understand the basics of running a business and seeing her face light up about all the possibilities. I will report back next week on how it goes.
Lastly, I have enjoyed getting letters from several of you sharing experiences and challenges in your parenting journey. I hope to share some, with permission, with the rest of the community shortly because sometimes, knowing you are not alone is enough to inspire all the courage you need to push through whatever you current situation or try something new.
So please do keep sending in your letters and notes!
I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, NPRs How I Built This, on my way to work recently and Barbara Corcoran (think Shark Tank) was being interviewed. She has been open about how bad she was at school when she was younger and how she struggled with self-doubt. However, the part of her story that I didn’t know was how big of a part her mom played in that. When she failed a test and the nuns at her school would tell her that she was stupid, her mom would tell her “oh don’t worry about it, with your imagination, you will fill in the blanks”. That affirmation from the very person who mattered most, gave her a strength to hang on to and basically became a self-fulfilling prophesy.
It made me think, have I done that? I know my child’s strengths but have I used it to encourage her when she is down. We are quick to come to the rescue when your child is hurt or down but how often do we actually point them to their own strength so lovingly that it reinvigorates them. Think about those annoying traits; does your child talk your head off like mine? Does your child feel bad about it because she gets shushed a lot or does she feel great about it because she knows she has a gift, even if it needs to be developed.
Don’t miss the opportunity to introduce your child to her own self. Every time you do, you place a rock solid block in her foundation where healthy self esteem and resiliency can develop from.
In short, I need to learn to replace “You talk too much, T!” with “you are such a great storyteller, T!” more often. 🙂
Happy Mother’s Day Weekend Smart Mommies! Rock on! Continue to be fierce in your love for your children!
Of all the parenting modes our society has defined so far, my favorite is the Tiger Mom.
I remember reading Amy Chua’s book The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother long before I had kids of my own and loving every bit of it; She stirred up a lot of controversy with it but I could completely relate to that style of parenting. While it originated from the Chinese, it is typically used to refer to a style that uses a mix of strict rules, tough love and discipline to raise successful children. Growing up in Nigeria, I had Tiger people everywhere; my mom, aunts, teachers, and random observers offering their opinion while I was being reprimanded for something. The entire society takes the quote “it takes a village to raise a child” quite literarily.
Some of the other popular parenting styles you may know of are free range parenting, elephant parenting, authoritarian parenting and helicopter parenting. Most conversations tend to focus on critiquing the different parenting styles and promoting one over the other. It can be both confusing and exhausting. I am learning that it is more productive to consider all these modes important tools in my parenting toolbox with the objective of figuring out when and how best to use each one.
Research has shown that the extremes of any of these parenting modes have detrimental effects on the child. A child whose mom is always in Tiger mode, might end up becoming alienated from that parent. On the other hand, a child who only gets the helicopter treatment, might end of growing up dependent and unleashed.
However, when each these modes are employed appropriately, you can create a healthy equilibrium that really allows your child to thrive.
So while you need to put important rules in place, reconsider guarding everything by a rule; learning is very important and we should consistently push our kids to go further but know when its time to lay off and let them relax; give your child trust to form and maintain relationships but make sure you are vigilant about who and what the nature of those relationships are. The scenarios go on and on.
In the end, the goal is balance. It doesn’t have to be a perfect science but the more you inform yourself and practice, the more natural it will feel to be exactly the kind of mom your daughter needs when she needs it.
What parenting mode is your most dominant one?
Can you believe one quarter of the year is complete already? This is a good time to take a brief time out to reflect on the year so far. Are you actively working towards those goals you set for yourself at the beginning of the year? If so, rock on Smartmommy! If not, the most important questions to ask yourself are –
1) Did you set the right goals?
It’s easy to get carried away by the glitz and promise of a brand new year that the goals we set for ourselves those first few days may not be realistic. Rather than put unnecessary pressure on yourself, now is a good time to evaluate and refine your goals.
2) What are the reasons you are not meeting those goals?
If you find that your goals were realistic but you are still off track then you should focus on figuring out what’s getting in the way of your progress. The key here is to focus on the reasons and not on your self. Beating yourself up mostly results in demotivation. Instead, take note of the “whys”. Then take the biggest why and address it, then the next and on and on.
3) Who are you accountable to?
The last and most important action is to make sure you have asked at least one person to hold you accountable to your goals. This person should be someone that will both encourage and challenge you.
One of the goals I asked you all to join me on this year is putting self-care first. I have struggled at times as I consistently try to juggle work, family and this beautiful passion project but being accountable to you all has helped me rethink decisions that might have otherwise left me even further behind on my self-care goals.
In that spirit, one of the articles we highlight in today’s newsletter is about balancing parenting and work stress. It is full of lots of practical advice to manage both work and home. Enjoy!
Ps: YEAH!! for the US Women’s Soccer Team who finally made a deal to get bigger pay, bonues and benefits. Keep crushing it on the field and off, Ladies!
T, my older daughter is in that exhausting curious phase of being a 5 year old. The “whys” are endless and her energy is boundless. As soon as she is done with dinner, she wants to know what we can do together for fun. And no, she is not satisfied with an answer that suggests alone time or relaxation or decompression; three things that I desperately need after a long day of work.
I was inspired at the end of last year by Shonda Rhime’s TED talk about her Year of Saying Yes. After finding herself in a sort of rut professionally, she decided to say yes to everything for a year including prompts from her kids for playtime. This very act of saying yes to play and new projects and time with friends all served to jolt her out of her dry place into a richer and even more productive life.
I totally get it; play is good for the soul. It is probably exactly what I need at the end of a day where what I have done at work does not even remotely resemble play. In fact, I start the day fully anticipating play time at the end of the day. Even still, somehow when that moment arrives when my littles start tugging on me for attention, I feel drained of any bit of energy I have left.
Last week, just as I was about to say No to another invitation to do something fun together, my mind imagined my daughter as a beautiful 15 year old that has become too busy for her mama and may be saying No to my invitations for bonding time.
So I said yes instead and we did something fun together. We colored a beautiful picture. I could tell it made her happy. I felt happy too.
I know this daily struggle of trying to balance work and family time is not unique to me. In fact, this guy took one for team #workingparents everywhere last week when his kids interrupted his live TV interview.
There are going to be several days where we simply have nothing to give at the end of the day and quality time for the day might be your children laying next to you and watching a show quietly. But for the other days, when you are tempted to say No and redirect, I am challenging you (and myself) to opt for child directed play. It might be as simple as coloring or playing a video game but it means so much to your child(ren)!
The pitch of the political discourse in our nation is at an all time high. In an attempt to contribute our voices to the conversation, we join matches, sign petitions, attend town halls, and engage in conversations both on and offline. While these are all elements of responsible citizenship, our homes and the discussions we have or not have with our children should be of the most concern to us. After all, that is where we can make the most impactful contribution.
Like you, as a parent, I cant help but worry about what our kids might face as they go out into the world everyday to live their own lives. However, no matter what they encounter outside the home, I am learning that we all have a chance in the time we spend together as a family to provide much needed context, perspective and leadership to them.
Provide context by having healthy age appropriate discussions about race, immigration, disability, gender identity and other sensitive topics. Be their sounding board; help them sort through all the noise and come to their own conclusions. Don’t assume your 2nd grader is too young for some of these topics. You might be surprised about how much content they pick up outside your home.
Provide perspective by creating clear values for your family that provide a useful lens to view these issues. However, be sure to help your child understand that there are many other valid perspectives and that it is not only ok for people to have different views, those views should be respected.
Provide leadership by actively filtering your child’s environment for content or people that are unhealthy and unreasonable for their age and level of maturity. One of the best gifts you can give you child is to create an environment where they can be truly children without the overwhelming pressure to grow up too fast.
- What do you do?
I work as a Product Manager for a wonderful company. This means that I have strategic ownership for one of our product lines. It is my responsibility to stay ahead of customer needs, create and communicate a strategic vision for my product portfolio, and to lead the organization to develop innovative solutions that will help us gain market share and grow profitably.
- What was your childhood like?
My childhood was very warm and loving. My fondest childhood memories are of the times I spent with my family. My parents were very protective so outside of school, I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with kids that weren’t in my extended family. However, I truly remember feeling loved, safe, cared for, provided for and lucky. When I got to middle school age, I begged my parents, like many other kids my age, to go to boarding school and they accepted. I have lots of stories about my time in boarding school. When I look back now, I cannot believe I had those fun and crazy experiences when I was only 12 years old!
- What are some things your parents/guardians did that you consider critical to your success today?
My parents prioritized my education. In Nigeria, where I grew up, education equates to opportunity and therefore, is a top value of that society. My parents made sacrifices to send me to the very best schools they could afford and set high expectations for achievement. The best part was that they never hid their pride in me. They were quick to show off my latest accomplishments to their friends and provided any tutoring or extra helped I needed with my studies.
Because of the high value placed on education in Nigeria, there was also a clear understanding on what success looks like. So my parents like other typical Nigerian parents had a clear idea of what path I should be on. In their mind, I was going to be a doctor. However, what was great about my parents is that as soon as they saw that I showed some responsibility for my own life and decision making, they let me have the wheel and fully supported my decision to ultimately study computer science for my undergraduate degree. Now as an adult, I realize how truly lucky I am.
- If you could change anything about your upbringing, what would it be?
I would change the fact that I had limited exposure to different careers and paths outside of those that were considered tried and true. As a child growing up in Nigeria, you were encouraged to either be a lawyer, medical doctor, engineer or banker. There was no concept of working in an area of passion because the purpose of work was not to make you happy but to adequately provide for yourself and family.
I wish I was taught early that you can succeed on any path if you work hard. I had an early inclination towards the arts that was not encouraged beyond my primary school years. I wish I was instead encouraged to find ways to incorporate BOTH the arts and sciences in my career explorations.
- What has been your biggest challenge as a woman in finding/defining your path so far?
My biggest challenge has been to resist the urge to compare myself to my male colleagues. Maybe one day, we will have gender equality but we are not there yet. The reality is that in many cases, I have to be many times better than my male peers to get noticed. If you let it, this struggle with equal opportunity in the work place can really mess with your mind. So I have decided that being better is an asset. I only have everything to gain by being the most effective and most brilliant I can be.
- If you had a daughter, how would you raise her to thrive in a world that still presents many challenges for women?
I am raising two beautiful girls. Though the world can be tough to navigate, I have found that the key to thriving is to find your own way. So I am intentional about teaching my girls to discover their strengths, love themselves, find their place in the world and make impactful contributions.
- What does the Raising Smart Girls platform mean to you?
This platform is special to me and I hope it becomes a very special place for moms of girls. There is great power in connecting with each other to educate, uplift, empower each other so that we can in turn educate, uplift and empower our daughters to live fulfilled lives.
Many of you have asked that we share more about ourselves with you. We think it’s a great idea and would definitely love any opportunity to connect with you even more. So here we go! Co-founder Uto Ifudu is up first.
Although she hangs out mostly behind the scenes, she helps put this newsletter together every week. Most importantly, she is leading our efforts to bring girl friendly math curriculum to you and your smart girls! Enjoy this peek into who Uto is and how she was raised. If you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to reach out or leave a comment.
1. What do you do?
I’m an IT Risk Manager at the World Bank in DC. In this role, I am primarily responsible to assessing various technologies being adopted by the organization to identify potential risks and implement solutions to resolve these issues.
2. What was your childhood like?
My childhood was fun, fun, FUN! I have very fond memories of playing freely in the neighborhood, family meals filled with lots of laughter, sleepovers with the cousins, and growing up in a secure environment with people around that loved and cared for me.
3. What are some things your parents/guardians did that you consider critical to your success today?
From a very early age, my parents ensured that my siblings and I had a strong sense of self. They made sure we were confident in our own skin and in our ability to motivate ourselves to do whatever it is we set our mind to. My parents also thought us to be kind, to be content with what we had, to have a sense of respect for others and to be compassionate to others especially those less fortunate than us. We also travelled a lot as a family – taking local trips and some international trips as well which helped shape my worldview. My parents also made certain decisions and sacrifices so we could have the best education their money could buy, they believed that a sound education was one of the best gifts a parent could give a child.
4. If you could change anything about your upbringing, what would it be?
If I could change one thing about my upbringing, I would wish that I were closer to my mom during my childhood. My mom was ‘obsessed’ with raising me to be the perfect daughter that sometimes, she was particularly strict with me. Because she was so hard on me, I was so scared of disappointing her and feared her as such, we didn’t have that mother-daughter bond. Thankfully, her efforts paid off and I grew up to be a decent adult (I think). My mom and I have since repaired our relationship and are now very close especially since I became a mom myself and are making up for lost time!
5. What has been your biggest challenge as a woman in finding/defining your path so far?
My biggest challenge as an adult has been in balancing the different roles I have to play as wife, mother, daughter, employee etc. These roles sometimes are in conflict with each other and pursuing success in one area usually comes at a price of sacrifice in another area.
6. If you had a daughter, how would you raise her to thrive in a world that still presents many challenges for women?
I have been blessed with TWO beautiful daughters and everyday, I try to raise them to be confident, strong and kind hearted human-beings. I want them to have a strong sense of self, to understand the importance of a good education, to be confident in their abilities, and above all dare to dream!
7. What does the Raising Smart Girls platform mean to you?
Raising Smart Girls is the convergence of my passions about education, empowerment and strength of our daughters. I am especially passionate about the education of the female child. I’m a firm believer that a solid education opens us up to many opportunities, break boundaries and envision our dreams as achievable. Our girls also face a different set of challenges relating to the various roles that society has typecast-ed for them as such, its essential that we also equip our daughters with the right tools to sift through all the noise that society will throw at them. My goal with the platform is to support parents in raising girls of strong character, empower them to succeed in today’s world and provide them with the tools to create the world in which they want to live in tomorrow.
“Are you having fun?”
That is what my older daughter asked me over FaceTime two days ago.When I am traveling for work, our sweet conversations over video chat at the end of the day are usually small talk about the day and an exchange of silly faces. She has never asked me if I was having fun on my work trip. I don’t remember what my response was to her but i couldn’t stop thinking about that question. Was I supposed to be having fun? The truth is the 12 days of this month already feels like several weeks have passed. I have so much piled up on my plate at work, home and with my personal goals that all I can think of is getting things done.
How often do we start the year full speed ahead and burn out before the 1st quarter is over? If it is not fun, we end up hating it and if we hate it, we will eventually stop doing it.
I needed the reminder to do things the way I love and not just to check them off the list. I needed the reminder to protect my joy. So in order to still experience joy and strength at the thousandth step of our individual journeys this year, let’s remind ourselves of what we already know we need to do: fuel up, set a steady pace and plan for breaks.
It’s only Jan 12 and thanks to my wise little girl, I have hit the reset button already. Do you need a reset?
I have a love hate relationship with new year resolutions. I love the energy it brings to every new year as we all gear up to be better and do better. But I hate that feeling at about day 50 in the year when you realize you are way off track.
We start off pumped up about our big hairy goal; every year, we are going to start a business, lose the weight, leave the dead end job, exit abusive situations, make new friends, reconnect with old ones, spend quality time with our kids, date our spouses, love our selves. Every. Single. Year.
Well, I’ve had it with the false starts so this year I am trying something different. I have picked only one goal for this year. One thing that gets all my energy and focus. One thing that if it’s all I get to check off my list, it will give me the boost I need to take on other challenges.
And to support my one thing, I have also picked one word that would serve as my compass when I start to feel myself wander off the path. My word is consistency.
And should I start to wander, I also picked a quote to remind me of what I set out to do. This beautiful quote from Goethe gave me the courage to start exploring my passion for writing years ago.
So before we get back to talking about raising our smart girls. Let’s start with you first.
What’s your word for 2017? How will you stay on track to achieve your goal?