In my opinion there is no straight answer.
It’s truly up to you to decide when or even if at all.
This post isn’t really about what to do when you decide it’s time.
I can only truly speak for myself because it’s a very personal decision and one that must be done carefully. I wish I had 3 clones of myself that I could send on errands. One to ensure I could fulfill all the expectations I put on myself, another for the ones put on me by others, for my core responsibilities I would dedicate my real self and use the last clone do just as I please (my eternal single self)!
Believe me, I’m well aware of how crazy that sounds!
For instance, I got an offer to go to the U.S. to shoot a movie last month that would mean I would have been gone for a whole month, but my kids were still in school! I have a nanny but I couldn’t leave my babies for that long with a stranger so I had to feign conflicting schedules. But I was sad to pass up the opportunity and I struggled with my decision even though it was for the best.
To put it into context I had been on a break for a little over 5 years because having a family is important to me but I didn’t realize early on that coming back to work from being a full-time caregiver wouldn’t be a walk in the park because as with all things, the industry changed and evolved in the time I had been away. I truly believe a woman can have it all but just not at the same time. There are so many sacrifices we have to make and we should reserve the right to decide what those sacrifices should be.
In the typical Nigerian or African setting, where the woman is automatically not viewed as the breadwinner for the family, she is also the one expected to make the major sacrifices for said family. But I find that even that is changing as women are getting more exposed to even more opportunities to be their own bosses and write their own scripts if you will. These days, the woman’s career is just as important as the man’s career – but sacrifice for family is still skewed disproportionately towards the woman. There were other instances where I had to give up on great work opportunities and at some point it even crossed my mind to enlist my mother to take charge of child care for me during these times. But alas!
I knew after my first child that I had to go back to work so I swiftly put it in motion but felt guilty about it months in advance. Maybe because my mother, whom I adore, was a stay at home mom and she was always there for my siblings and I. However, that was another era and the world has advanced significantly since then and has become even more competitive. This is especially the case in my field. So I struggled with when I would take that first step back out into the working world.
I took it slowly. I first put my daughter, Zoia, in daycare at 8 months and started working and resting while she was a few blocks away. I started remembering what it felt like to have time to myself again and visualizing where I saw myself and where I wanted to be. Little by little I started feeling better and stronger mentally.
Soon after, I had to take a critical look at myself in the mirror, and I truly didn’t like what I saw. Now, I’ve never really had weight issues thank goodness. At my “heaviest” I was a UK Size 12 but when I got pregnant with Zoia I gained weight as is normal but I didn’t realize that it would be so difficult to lose it. I had to be realistic with myself. If I truly wanted to come back to work I had to lose the weight to enable myself to compete and be in the roles that I saw for myself. So I enrolled in a gym around where I lived in Chicago at that time, started slowly with standing Pilates and walking then as I got stronger I upped the ante with the more intense reformer Pilates, Zumba, and walking. I also enrolled in acting school for 6 months. I was very determined to lose weight and regain my mental and physical strength through exercise. I brushed up on my skills and then the opportunity to work came about with my first film since my return, “Journey to self”, in 2012.
I had to fly back to Nigeria to shoot the movie with my daughter who was a little over a year old at the time and most parents can relate to the nightmare that can be traveling with a teething toddler! Yikes! Needless to say, it was a tough journey but my determination knew no bounds and as I committed the journey into God’s hands I had so many angels that helped me to and fro. Since then there’s been a lot of adjustments, mummy-guilt, encouragement and support that has helped me to continue being an artist as well as a Mom.
It’s not easy trying to balance and wear all these hats but that’s what we’ve been doing since forever as women and with the way the world is now it is a trend that’s here to stay.
I want to encourage the Moms out there who work while raising a family. ‘E no easy’, but I feel there’s nothing more powerful than children watching their mothers go to work. It teaches them the value of hard work, being focused and achieving results. Children learn more by what they see rather than just what you say in my opinion.
I also want to encourage the stay-at-home Moms because that is no easy feat either. As a first born and a product of one I can relate. The most important thing to being able to achieve your full potential as a Mother is your self-determination and support system. With these things in place we can run our homes and at the same time run the world. So help us God.