In a series we started on International Women’s Day 2020, Business Forward explores modern-day obstacles to women leading successful businesses and happy, functional families.
In part four of our series, we speak to Naomi Osemedua founder and CEO of Sparlke with Naomi – a Nigerian lifestyle company, author of the Amazon bestseller book ‘SOCIALLY SPEAKING -My Periscope Miracles’ and Tedx speaker.
Could you describe your own experience of balancing motherhood and running your own business?
The word for me here is not balance, but integration. I don’t even know if I can even balance it, but I have mastered the art of integrating being a mother and building a business brand. It’s possible to have the best of both worlds; a lot of women feel guilty to becoming mothers because they fail and feel that their lives is over and they have to only take care of the children. But I think it’s important that our children also see us as role models; as women chasing after their dreams so they can chase after theirs.
I have managed the art of integrating my life. Balance is important in the area of knowing when to put a hold on something and do something else instead. For instance; there are times that I shut down and say I’m not going to travel this month because I want to be there for my children, so I’m able to integrate my work and the lives of my children as well. And then of course, having a great support system really helps. Women are fond of trying to be superheroes, thinking superheroes don’t have backup; Batman had Robin. So we must understand that as women we need a support system; whether in other women; family, just find someone who can fill in some of those gaps because you can’t be everywhere at the same time.
Is it possible to be a fully available, supportive parent while being an entrepreneur running a successful business?
Yes it’s possible. I’m a mother who has four children, and I’m building two global businesses. So yes it is possible to have both. It’s possible to integrate; that’s the word.
To what extent privilege plays a part in providing opportunities for women to be both mothers and entrepreneurs at the same time?
Absolutely not! I have seen and heard stories of women who had no pedigree, no education… We just came out of the room of a girl, who was denied an education because she was a girl, but her mother, who also had no education, was determined to bring up her child and she did all sorts of menial jobs to make sure her daughter went to school. So it has nothing to do with class. I think some of the women who have access to the least resources are more resourceful, because they have to figure out a way to survive and take care of their children. I’ve seen women in my country, Nigeria, who put their babies on their backs and food on their heads, and they go out on the street and they’re selling. There is no privilege when it comes to motherhood and entrepreneurship – anyone regardless of their class, can achieve the best of both worlds.
You don’t think there are structural obstacles or challenges to choose living both lives?
The thing is that it’s a personal decision. There are women who would say I’m a mum and I want to be there for my children. That’s fine; no judgment – it’s a fulltime job anyways. But I also know mums that chose that path, but even while being at home, have built businesses. It’s a free world and people have the right to choose. But I chose the best of both worlds, and I believe it’s possible because I did it and I’ve seen so many women do it.
What advice would you give to women who, like you, want the best of both worlds?
First of all, give yourself permission to go after your dreams. Be courageous because it will take courage. And also, don’t allow anyone to define you by their own standards. Don’t allow them to put you in a box. I recently spoke at a TedX event in the U.S., and that talk was recently aired at my children’s school in a public speaking class, and my talk was used as a case study for my kids to be taught about public speaking. How amazing is that? That’s one of the beautiful advantages of choosing to chase after your dreams. You never know how you’re going to inspire your children when you choose to do that.
Most importantly, my advice to women is self-care. If you want to able to give of yourself, you have to come from a place of fullness. Take care of you; make sure you’re whole and full. When you operate from that place, you have so much to give, not just to your family but to the rest of the world as well.
Do you think that governments have a role to play to help women pursue both entrepreneurship and motherhood?
Absolutely! I think any nation that would invest in women as entrepreneurs; they have no idea what they’re doing for their community. Women are builders, innovative, and nurturers.
If more women are encouraged by governments to pursue entrepreneurship, the economy will not remain the same (meaning it will get much better).
What policies do you recommend to facilitate for women to pursue both roles?
I would want to insist policies when it comes to funding, because that’s a big issue for some women. They need access to less interest. At some banks, you could have a two-digit interest figure, that’s crazy for any women who is just starting out to build her business or to expand her business. I would say we should have policies that enable women access to business loans with less than 1% interest.
Also, we need more women in the decision-making. We want policies that allow the voices of women to be heard, not keeping them at the side. We need more policies that would allow women to step into offices, to be decision makers, lawmakers, so in turn, being women themselves, they will know exactly what other women need.
If we can have more flexibility in how children are taken care of, maybe government facilities so that while you’re working, your children are taken care of. Anything that can make the load a little lighter when it comes to policy is very much welcomed.
How much do you believe offices should be baby-friendly?
Every office that doesn’t have a baby-friendly environment really needs to rethink what they’ve set up. When a woman is settled, there’s so much she can do. They need to look at other businesses that have set up daycares, so mothers can know that somewhere in this building my child is being taken care of and is safe – they will function much more effectively than a mother who has to worry about her child that is at home. It’s so important that companies and organizations start setting up systems and structures to enable women to do that.