Double careers, commuting and parenting: it takes a village #CSMspiration

Juggling two careers in the household, commuting and parenting really brings home the message it takes a village.

Our CSMspiration is Dr. Grace Adeniyi Ogunyankin. I first met Dr. Grace in 2001 although we didn't yet know that our paths would cross again an again. Dr. Grace and I are both alumni to the United World Colleges and we both attended Pearson College out on Vancouver Island. I attended from 1998-2000 so we were technically not at the college at the same time. We met again in 2008 through Dr. Grace's younger sister when we attended church and realized that we knew each other.

When we got married in 2011, Dr. Grace and her husband Ife waited out in Toronto while my mom and sister arrived in Toronto and she brought the most precious person to me for the wedding: my mom literally at the 11th hour before the wedding. She also helped me finish my PhD by reviewing my papers when I was that painful push to finish before giving birth to my twins. Dr. Grace has an almost 7 year old son - we bonded through the journey of pregnancy and our son's are born 3 months apart.

Dr. Grace is remarkable! She got into her PhD at only 25, finished by 31 and has since been soaring in the academic field. She is currently an Assistant Professor at Queen's University in Kingston Ontario, Canada. Prior to that she was an Assistant Professor at Carleton. Dr. Grace is Black Girl Magic exemplified. She is wise beyond her years. Dr. Grace's sisters - the Adeniyi sisters have the most amazing bond and family is synonymous with them. If I were to describe Dr. Grace in one word it would be generosity. Dr. Grace has a generous heart and spirit and is always welcoming people into her home.

I asked Dr. Grace to share some words of wisdom with us:

How do you juggle career, motherhood and marriage? I’m still trying to figure out how to juggle career, motherhood and marriage! For my first four years as an Assistant Professor, I commuted. Four hours each way from home. I obviously didn’t do this everyday! I would spend a couple of nights in Ottawa, where I worked and then go back home. However, during my first semester because my son was still young – he had just turned two - I commuted twice a week. I spent one night for one of the commutes and the second commute, I would do it in one day. I remember it was on a Friday – I’d take the first train out in the morning and I’d come back around 11pm at night. It was exhausting and ruined my weekends. It also seemed to affect my relationship with my son. He didn’t understand why I was away so he would spend a whole day ignoring me because he seemed unhappy (?) and then the next day, he’d be on me like white on rice and I could barely get any work done. But this attitude changed as he grew older when we could have conversations about why I had to be away. We were also able to talk about specific dates - when I would be away and when I would return. What has been the greatest challenge you had to overcome - career or motherhood 

I survived my first year in my career because my sister helped out with my son. I’m not sure what I would have done without her help. Even though he was in daycare from 6:30am to 6:00pm, we still needed help on some days because my husband worked late sometimes. Marriage. Sigh* Yah, that was tough too. We just didn’t spend that much time together. When I was home, I was busy either preparing for class or trying to work on a publication. And when he was home, he was working. We both brought work home. I also remember that I would be annoyed at how much planning I had to do in advance (e.g., meals, pick up arrangements, activity scheduling) and coordinating our schedules at least two months in advance. Shifting priorities and finding balance

I’m finding a better balance now. But this balance also means that I’m not where I’d like to be with my career, marriage or motherhood (at least the perfectionist in me). Yet, it also means that I’m not overprioritizing my career. - Dr. Grace Adeniyi Ogunyankin

We make a conscious effort to spend time together as a family on weekends. And when I don’t have to commute in the summer for work, although I do travel for research, we try to go on vacation together. We once managed to do a one-month vacation! And once, hubby joined me when I went to Cape Town for a conference – he spent most of his time sightseeing alone – but we managed to get almost two weeks to ourselves (including a few days sightseeing together in Johannesburg after the conference was over)!

I have to admit that because of Covid19, I’ve spent more time with my son then I ever have! Even when he was born, I spent most of my time trying to finish my dissertation or worrying about finishing my dissertation. But now, we actually do things together. And we’re getting to know each other really well.

But in all honesty, as I think about it, it has been my family, friends, and some church members who have helped made things easier for me. Assisting with pick ups from daycare and then school, baby sitting and cooking some meals when I’m away for over a month!

If I didn’t have a supportive husband, everything would be a hot mess! He is an awesome co-parent who has done an amazing job of taking care of our son since day 1!

The new challenge that lies ahead is trying to juggle everything, with an expanding family, as I continue to commute – though my commute is now just a little under two hours each way. My prayer is that God’s grace will be sufficient. What advice do you have for working mamas?  Even though being a working mama hasn’t been easy, the one thing that I have learned is not to feel guilty! It’s so easy to feel guilty when you think that you’re not being a good enough mama. (especially those times, when you want to splurge on things to make up for being away…)

I’ve come to realize that it’s not about the QUANTITY of time I spent at home or with my child but rather about the QUALITY.

It also helps to have conversations with my child about the work that I do. He seems interested and asks a lot of questions. He can also tell that I (mostly) love my work. And he is proud of me. That pride matters to me! If you love the work you do, don’t feel guilty! At the same time, remember to practice self-care (it took me awhile to start doing this), and don’t freak out if everything is not perfect. It’s this strive for perfection in everything sometimes that can make it seem like you’re doing a horrible job of juggling things. The stress isn’t worth it. I’ve been there.

Read more about Dr. Grace's research here at Queen's University.