This is the podcast adaptation of the fourteenth episode of The Break Room! This one’s focused on the absolute fact that parenting as a professional ain’t easy. Special thanks to our hosts, Drs. Nikki Coleman & Jide Bamishigbin! Part of the Living Corporate network, The Break Room is focused on mental health, wellness and healing for Black folks at work. You can expect real talk from real experts about the real ways Black folks can protect and heal themselves from racialized trauma at work.
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Dr. Nikki Coleman (00:10): Hello everybody. And welcome back to The Break Room. I am Dr. Nikki Coleman and I am very pleased to co-host today with the doctor.
Dr. Olajide Bamishigbin (00:27): My name is Dr. Olajide Bamishigbin, I’m so excited to be with Dr. Nikki and we rarely get our chance to be one-on-one. So I’m [over talk 00:00:33].
Dr. Nikki (00:37): Yes, I think this is our first time. I think so. And so we want to talk about parenting as a professional. Whoo. And it ain’t easy, isn’t it? So among the four co-hosts, Jide and I are the two parents. And as you know, we’re trying to navigate the professional world as Black people, to begin with. And then get our parenting on, that’s a little extra whipped cream and sprinkle on the sundae. And we wanted to make sure we took some time out to really give voice to that. Talk about the challenges that come along with parenting. But I also think, particularly, parenting while Black and also, just parenting while Black as a professional, it’s multilayered [over talk 00:01:22].
Dr. Jide (01:20): And in a pandemic.
Dr. Nikki (01:23): And a pandemic. Let’s never forget the panini.
Dr. Jide (01:28): And doing it while a Black professional, you know, it–[inaudible 00:01:29]. Oh, wow.
Dr. Nikki (01:32): It’s layers to it, for real, for reals. And so, we will jump in a little bit just for those of you all who may be new to The Break Room. First of all, welcome, we’re happy to have you here. As an overview, what we try to do is sip a little tea. So we’ll try to talk a little bit about what’s going on in the world. I’m excited that the tea this week is sort of frivolous and joyful. We’ve had a couple of weeks where it ain’t been that joyful. So I’m happy that we have a little bit of a light tea to sip.
Dr. Jide (02:05): Same.
Dr. Nikki (02:05): Maybe a little white tea, we could say. And then, we get into the topic of the show. If there are questions we’d love for you to post them here, if you’re with us live. You can always email questions to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Jide (02:24): It’s in the chat.
Dr. Nikki (02:24): You can see that that Jide put it in the chat. And then, we always end and wrap up with The Last Nerve. And I have again, asked to sort of take the mic and talk about The Last Nerve this evening. So that’ll be how we use our time together.
Dr. Jide (02:41): Great.
Dr. Nikki (02:41): So, Jide I bet you have no idea about what I want to talk about in terms of the tea. I told you what I was going to talk about, but I bet you didn’t know.
Dr. Jide (02:49): Listen, I might not watch it myself, but through Twitter, I think I’ve gathered enough clues. So go ahead and tell everybody I’m excited.
Dr. Nikki (02:57): So, we want to talk a little bit about ratchetry foolish that is the latest going on with the real Housewives of Atlanta. And honestly, I don’t watch it regularly either. I’m on again, off again with it. But I know enough about the major players that I was, hmm, interesting. So it came out–what is today? Thursday. Either, I think Tuesday of this week, maybe even Monday, where one of the stars of the show. I’m so condescending, they are reality tv stars let me not put it in air quotes.
Dr. Jide (03:33): They are stars.
Dr. Nikki (03:33): That is so condescending. Let me pull back my judgment. One of the stars, Porsha Williams. Whom, she’s been on the show for several seasons now. She wasn’t part of the original cast, but she’s been on the show for several seasons, so she has some notoriety for sure. And she’s had her ups and downs in her love life. But this latest turn it’s a bit much.
Dr. Nikki (03:53): So she announced in a selfie on Instagram with one of the previous cast members estranged husband, that now Porsha, and this man, Simon, are now engaged after one month. And we had questions, the internet had questions. One, she used the term Simon’s divorce is settled. However, it is not finalized. This is not a legally dissolved marriage. So technically, he’s still married to a whole other person.
Dr. Nikki (04:32): Secondarily he only announced his divorce in January, but y’all fell in love with a month. And I’m doing that quick math.
Dr. Jide (04:47): Get on your [inaudible 00:04:46].
Dr. Nikki (04:47): I’m trying to make it make sense.
Dr. Jide (04:50): It’s just messy. It’s messy.
Dr. Nikki (04:51): It’s so messy. And so here’s the thing. I don’t judge. Who you catch feelings for is who you catch feelings for. There is not a person, a grown person that don’t got somebody in their closet that they’re like, “Dang, I can’t even believe I was with that person. Oooh, I hope nobody ever finds that out.”
Dr. Nikki (05:09): So we all have had our moments. However, she even says in her posts, the optics don’t look good. And so, let’s lean into that a little bit. If the optics don’t look good, could we have maybe managed it a little bit differently? And so, this is where I get in and I don’t want to be moralistic about it, but I also think there’s a way to engage in difficult conflicts or uncomfortable situations with more grace and compassion. And I just feel she could’ve kept that woman’s name and her ex-husband’s picture off of her Instagram.
Dr. Jide (05:52): You’re right. That there are ways to handle things with grace and tact. Is that what the Real Housewives are known for?
Dr. Nikki (06:01): It’s not, you’re right. And that’s the other layer. This is very on brand. This is very, very on brand. No doubt about that. And somebody I know even was, “I don’t even think this is real, real. I think this is just helping facilitate a storyline.” And we know that reality TV is not based in reality and that they have to create drama and there’s ongoing drama. I also think though–this is where I put my psychologist hat on. I think the sort of people that are drawn to being stars, somebody who has the capacity to sustain multiple seasons of being in that sort of context, also probably really thrives in chaos, probably really naturally has some relational dysfunction. And so this is a way for them to sort of stay immersed in that, but it also gives them gratification annotoriety by being sort of a star. I just can’t imagine, I don’t know someone that is healthy and balanced that knows how to negotiate healthy relationships, functional relationships doing this show for 18 seasons. I can’t see that happening.
Dr. Jide (07:18): So, can I say something that me and my wife always talk about?
Dr. Nikki (07:21): Yeah.
Dr. Jide (07:22): My wife watches a lot of reality television, I can’t lie. I watch some too. I don’t have to work outside, but I’ve watched some reality television. And she’ll start to maybe feel bad for somebody, or have empathy or sympathy for somebody. I always comes back to this. Okay. Every single person on television wants to be on television. Okay. And that’s a certain personality type, a certain characteristic that they all share. And there are people who are made for television.
Dr. Nikki (07:50): Yes, yes, yes. And they found that this is a franchise. I would imagine, I don’t know the numbers. I think it is their most popular franchise of that whole brand.
Dr. Jide (08:03): Out of all the real Housewives, you mean like Atlanta?
Dr. Nikki (08:06): Yes.
Dr. Jide (08:07): I’ve got you.
Dr. Nikki (08:07): Yes, I really think so, somebody correct me. You can put it in the chat if I’m wrong because I know they have multiple ones, New Jersey, New York, Orange County, Beverly Hills, all the ones. I think this is really one of the top ones.
Dr. Jide (08:20): That’s true. That’s true.
Dr. Nikki (08:20): And they bring the drama like none other. So I can’t wait to see how this all plays out. Listen, if she is in love genuinely, if he is divorced, because the other thing is, you never know what’s behind the scenes. And that’s what I always say about celebrities of any sort. I love Beyoncé, all hail the queen, love her, but I don’t know what she’s like in real life. If I met her in real life, I might be, dang, come on now. It is all a marketed and crafted image, one way or the other. So I never take anything at face value. I never put somebody that’s a celebrity beyond something. On the other end, sometimes marriages dissolve before divorces are final. That can sort of emotionally dissolve, that we have decided we are not married in any sort of psychological connection or union and we just haven’t dissolved our finances, our interior world.
Dr. Jide (09:19): And divorces take time.
Dr. Nikki (09:19): And they do take time.
Dr. Nikki (09:22): So we could give some benefit of the doubt.
Dr. Jide (09:25): No, never, never. [over talk 09:26]
Dr. Nikki (09:32): This like, also, and, it could have been handled a little bit differently. That’s the tea I wanted to talk about, life is messy, folks are messy. I try not to contribute to the messiness this though. That’s how I try to live my life though, but to each their own. So that was a little tea I wanted to sip on. So the one last piece, and we’ll transition. So she did put in her statement something about, because she was in a short-term relationship with the father of her daughter, but she said that her new fiancé and the father of her daughter have decided they’re going to, I don’t know, have some sort of amicable respectful relationship. So she has two Black men working together, could we get an amen for that? So good luck to those children is what I say.
Dr. Jide (10:24): Yes.
Dr. Nikki (10:25): So let’s talk about parenting. I’ll share a little bit, I am a single mother by choice of a nine year old girl. I was getting on up there in years. And this may be TMI, but here we go. I had a candid conversation with my doctor at age 35. And I was like, “I really know this stuff about fertility and women and your likelihood of fertility decline as you age, is that true? Do I have to be worried?” And she was like, “Oh, if you want to have some babies, you better make it happen.” And I was like, “Oh, okay, we’re just going to have this real conversation,” and I really did. I always had a vision for myself for being a parent. And so I was like, “Okay, if I’m going to do this, I need to make it happen.” And so I had my daughter at age 37, which was considered a geriatric pregnancy. Just so respectful.
Dr. Jide (11:21): Geriatric.
Dr. Nikki (11:21): It was so disrespectful. I had to have a special orientation with the midwives and everything. I was like, “Come on, we gotta do better than this.” And a lot of Black women we now know, which I don’t know that we had as much public data at the time, but we now know that a lot of Black women experience additional challenges in pregnancy at (higher?) rates and are a lot more challenging.
Dr. Jide (11:48): Disrespect from the doctors, higher rates of infant immortality, higher rates of maternal mortality, high rates of pre-term births, low birth weight, the whole shebang.
Dr. Nikki (11:56): All of those things. The whole shebang. And I had a lot of the shebang. I ended up having preeclampsia. I was pretty sick throughout most of my pregnancy. And so, when I think back about the care, wow, I don’t think that I got any. I don’t know that I got substandard care, I will say that. And I wasn’t ever in physiological pain or discomfort. It just was always something a little bit off. And it always felt like you’re off on this metric, but you’re doing fine in this area. And so, maybe I did get dismissed a little bit, but the long story shorter, she ended up being a late term premie, but she was extremely low birth weight. She was two pounds and one ounce when she was born.
Dr. Jide (12:45): Wow.
Dr. Nikki (12:45): Hands down the most traumatic experience. The whole thing, it was not at all what I envisioned for my pregnancy, for my birth plan, for any of that. She ended up spending the first month of her life in the NICU. And that substantially cut into my FMLA. So even as a faculty member, I was an academic and I thought “I’ve seen other people that they get semesters off and their department works really well with them.” No. I remember very vividly, I ended up having a cesarean, and so I was in the hospital for an extended period in recovery and, that whole thing. And so, because she was in the NICU, I would have to get driven back to the hospital every day to visit her, because you’re not allowed to drive for several weeks after major surgery, which a cesarean is.
Dr. Nikki (13:33): And so it was either the day, the first day I was driving back or day two, but it was very shortly, got a call from my department chair. That was, “How are you?” And I was, “It’s been really rough,” and then he sort of cuts me off and I realized, oh white man, you didn’t really, you don’t really care how I am. And then he says, “Well, I just want to let you know, we’re going to need to amend the plan that you have so your FMLA actually is going to start earlier, which would bring you back to start at the spring semester. So I just wanted to inform you we’re going to be sending you some of that paperwork, and where can we fax it?” It was like that.
Dr. Jide (14:09): That sounds illegal [inaudible 00:14:09].
Dr. Nikki (14:11): It did not feel good at all. And in the state of mind that I was in, literally it was about survival. It was about recovery for me and making sure my baby was going to be okay.
Dr. Jide (14:23): Of course.
Dr. Nikki (14:24): There was no fight in me at that time, at all. And I was, “Oh, okay. I guess.” So I got about I think 10 weeks off or something like that, but four of them, she was in the NICU and it was the middle of the semester. And so, the remaining part of it was really the semester break. So literally, January whatever, I went to work with a five pound infant and was right back at it, teaching three classes a semester, and writing papers, and advising, it was right back in it. And so, I know I had a lot of privilege in that I had a job that was well-paying. That I had health insurance, so things were covered. However, the bills from my surgery, the bills from my extended hospital stay prior to the surgery, the NICU bills, all of that stuff was substantial. But I share all of that in part to sort of juxtapose it.
Dr. Nikki (15:25): So if you’ve ever had the experience of having a kid in the NICU, if they are at a certain level of sort of vitality, they have them in a little pod. And one of the children in the pod was the daughter of a working mother. And this idea around privilege really hit me in a new way, when I could literally be there with my daughter for hours on end, because I had FMLA through this job, but this mother had to go to work because she was a wage earning employee and she would call in on her break. So she has two 15-minute breaks and a lunch break. And I could sort of hear the rhythm of her calling to check in and about her baby.
Dr. Nikki (16:07): And it was such a stark reminder for me. Of one, about there’s so much inequality in our overall system with regard to working parents and childcare and what that really means, but also how I’m experiencing this level of discrimination, even in this context, but I have privilege. It was this eye opening way for me to get more gratitude, but also get a little bit more fired up. But just about, I think how so much in our overall structure of society works against working parents. So I’ll be quiet. I don’t know what you want to share about your experience as being a father, your experience with, I know some of your research centers around Black fatherhood.
Dr. Jide (17:01): First I want to thank you for sharing, Dr. Nikki. I appreciate it, learning that. I also didn’t know any of this, so it was nice to learn this about you, super interesting and super valid experiences that I think, fit into a lot of people’s broader frameworks of what parenting is like. So my story is a bit different than yours. First I’m a dad. So our story’s diverging from the baby. I’m a father, so I’ve never been pregnant myself. I haven’t given birth to a child myself. Well, I was in grad school, doing my thing in grad school. I was living with my girlfriend at the time, and before, you know it things happened.
Dr. Jide (17:47): At the time I was 24 years old and I was terrified. No, I was 23 years old when I found out we were having a baby. And this is another one of these things to point out. Somebody, 30 years ago, you say you had a baby at 23, they don’t bat an eye.
Dr. Nikki (18:12): Right.
Dr. Jide (18:12): They don’t bat an eye. [over talk 18:16], but at this point in life, at 23, people aren’t having babies at 23 or at 24. So it was scary. It was a hard time. We decided to move forward with this baby. And it was all about trying to support my wife during this time, because I honestly do believe that nobody in the world needs more grace than pregnant women and women who’ve just given birth. Nobody in the entire world.
Dr. Nikki (18:47): Nobody.
Dr. Jide (18:47): Because none of us would be here if it wasn’t for those processes. So I’ve always believed nobody’s… And I won’t say I was always perfect. Pregnancies are hard times, stressful for moms, stressful for me, because she said she wanted Snickers, I get her Snickers and then she wants a KitKat. What am I supposed to do? It’s hard.
Dr. Nikki (19:09): You was supposed to know in her mind, even though she says Snickers out loud, she was thinking about a KitKat. You’re supposed to know that.
Dr. Jide (19:16): Right. I just get both. I know better now. There’s a pregnancy. I’m very happy that my wife had a healthy pregnancy with our first child and our second child. So they’re six and three now, two boys and both very healthy pregnancies. C-sections though, which are, as you pointed out major surgeries. I’m watching it and I’m seeing them have a saw cutting into stomachs, doing the whole shebang. It is, whooo. It’s surgery. Lucky, I’ve had that and for both of my kids, and this is a privilege, I live in California, and I’m a state of California employee. Okay. Six weeks maternity leave automatically. Paid.
Dr. Jide (19:57): Wow that’s nice.
Dr. Nikki (20:00): In the wild, wild west of Texas, they don’t care anything about you.
Dr. Jide (20:03): That’s not happening. Right. That’s the sad thing. So I acknowledge that that’s something I have. And even lots of other states might have maternity leave, but they don’t give a crap about paternity leave. And even though six weeks, I did have to cut it short a bit, to go back to work as a grad student. But I had a lot of privilege in these experiences and then raising kids, I think that’s where most of my privilege came from. So I have these two kids and if you meet the kids, which you will, one day, everybody always says, they’re just like the best kids. They’re just so nice, they’re just so whatever. Well, the reality is, okay, at various time we had access to WIC (Women, Infants, Children). We had access to subsidized childcare for most of the time period at UCLA Daycare, which is a really good daycare.
Dr. Jide (20:55): And there’s some accountability there because it’s within a larger system, so we had WIC. Thank you to WIC, those types of programs are so important. We had subsidized childcare, we had a strong group of family and friends that lived close by to always be able to support us. We lived in UCLA housing, a community of other graduate students who are parents. So there’s playgrounds every 300 feet, something like that. And I can’t understate how all of these things made my experience not as hard as it is for other people, because no matter what parenting is hard.
Dr. Nikki (21:36): Hard. Let’s say that part again, parenting is hard.
Dr. Jide (21:43): Hard. Yes, yes, yes. But once again, I’ve had a lot of privilege being within these institutions, having access to affordable childcare or, subsidized childcare, which was affordable. And it allowed me to get through, I can’t say I would’ve got through my PhD without literally every single one of those things. Also, I had two advisors who were understanding of the fact that I had kids. Graduate school advisors, my bosses, essentially who I’d call and I was, listen, I can’t, I can’t do it, after five o’clock I’m done, because I gotta pick up my kids no matter what, every single day. I’m happy to have people who are understanding of that.
Dr. Nikki (22:20): So what I love about all of those pieces Jide is how a recognition that, there’s the rhetoric that mainstream white America has taken from a west African proverb, it takes a village to raise a child. But we don’t actually enact that and we don’t do it federally. And so for you to acknowledge, “Hey, as part of the state that I live in, and it’s associated with these state benefits,” and so that’s a recognition that when your child is cared for, or when you have goals, supplements to help offset the challenges of parenting, you can be present, you can do the things that you need to do. You can continue to evolve, and grow, and produce as a human being, but that’s not every state. And that’s not at every level of employment, even within that particular state.
Dr. Nikki (23:17): Because I have some family that are in the Bay Area of California, and 2019, so this was maybe 2018, pre-pandemic. We went out there and one of the neighbors, my cousins, their child is older. And so, my daughter was with me and they were, “Oh, there’s a neighbor down the street that’s the same age, they can go play together. And so, I ended up having conversations, like you do when you talk to other parents about work, and parents, and school and stuff like that. And a lot of conversation was in that household, of a two professional household, but is it actually cheaper for one of the parents to stay at home, than think about both parents going back out in the workforce and then having to pay for childcare? And if we pay for childcare, can we actually afford this house in this neighborhood? Because the housing is out of control in California.
Dr. Jide (24:10): Yes. Out of control. And the childcare is out of control.
Dr. Nikki (24:15): So, just to put some numbers out there. Some of the things that I have seen that we looked at was that the average American spends of about 25% of their monthly income in childcare. And if you’re in a single parent household, that’s probably upwards of 50%. So I remember my first three years of childcare because I had to put her in childcare. I was able to cobble through that first semester just because, one, she was so little. Two, I just wasn’t ready for her to go into that environment just yet. And my being an academic allowed me some flexibility. Again, another privilege, but I put her in childcare at nine months old. So between the ages of nine months and three years old on average, I spent about $10,000 a year just on childcare. Just to get her there, she didn’t take anything but a snack, with clothes and a [inaudible 00:25:15].
Dr. Jide (25:21): So I just want to get this right. So this is money you spent on for childcare for your child to be in a place while you go to work, so you can make money to spend at the childcare for your kid? So you can go to work for you to spend the money. I would like to also just add to that the daycare that my children went to, I always say I was subsidized. I was very lucky. The cost for an infant per month, $2,300 per month for an infant.
Dr. Nikki (25:54): That’s crazy.
Dr. Jide (25:57): $2,300 a month, $2,300 a month. Yes.
Dr. Nikki (26:01): Even with the inflating housing prices here in Houston, I get that. That’s still a very lovely mortgage payment. That’s a lovely mortgage payment.
Dr. Jide (26:12): Right, for a great house. A beautiful house. Yes, yes, yes.
Dr. Nikki (26:18): Have some square footage here, it’s a lovely neighborhood. That’s so insane to me. I thought my 1170 or whatever I was paying out of pocket, I don’t know. And so, I knew a couple of other single moms and we talked about, once she finally got into kindergarten you’re like, “Whew, free school. Well, not quite because–and so this is one of those other things. The school day is 7:15 to two something. How many people work from 7:30 to two? Who’s work day is that?
Dr. Jide (26:56): The teachers. It’s the teachers. It’s the teachers at that school.
Dr. Nikki (26:59): Right. And so then you have to pay for aftercare, and you’re going to pay for it one way or the other. You’re either going to pay for aftercare embedded in the school, or you’re going to pay for aftercare that’s somewhere else. And you hope that there is a good place that has transportation that will come pick them up and take them.
Dr. Jide (27:16): That’s safe. That you feel like you can feel safe there because that’s a big part of it.Sometimes you go to a place and immediately you sense it. and you’re, this is a no.
Dr. Nikki (27:24): Not for my baby. I don’t know who these other kids are in here.
Dr. Jide (27:27): Right. That is a no. Yes, yes, yes.
Dr. Nikki (27:27): It’s a no. All of those things. And it’s never ending. And so we’re just talking right now about what I would call structural limitations. And then there is the piece that you were talking about, or we talked about a second ago is the hard part. This is the psychological impact. And particularly, raising Black and brown kids, part of your responsibility as a parent is to not just protect them from the world, but also protect them psychologically around what it’s like to navigate the world as a Black and brown child. So that requires a different level of facilitation around building up their esteem. Usually, at least, I’ll speak for my household.
Dr. Nikki (28:25): I would imagine the same for yours. And I know for lots of other folks, it’s also offsetting the education. Let me tell you about all the parts of our history that are not being talked about. Or what if we talked about Christopher Columbus from this other angle? Let me invest in you in these ways. If you have children that are in mixed race environments, if they’re experiencing racial bullying, or racial isolation.
Dr. Jide (28:52): Which happens very early.
Dr. Nikki (28:52): And helping them navigate that. Which happens super early.
Dr. Jide (28:57): Which happens very early, in preschool.
Dr. Nikki (28:58): Super early. I know so many young Black girls that go through this phase of not understanding why their hair is. And my daughter has a looser texture, curly hair, but I would put her hair in braids. And when she was in pre-K, at a mixed race school, and that child came home, she had cut one of her braids out. Ma’am, first of all, now you’ve got a bald spot right here, [?] it took me a minute, but everybody had straight hair. It just was down and straight. And hers was always in twists or [?] or something. She didn’t want it. First, she tried to figure out how to take them out. And then it just was like, “I’m just going to straight cut them out,” and I’ve had family members who were darker-skinned talk about, “What is that like?”, or “Why do I look like this?” All of that is an additional psychological space and really emotional labor, psychological labor that Black and brown parents have to navigate that is different than their white counterparts or peers.
Dr. Jide (30:09): Because it’s not a question of if they’re going to experience it, you’re just waiting. “Have I put them in the right preschool environment? Is it going to happen at their elementary school? Is going to happen in the aftercare? Is going to happen at the YMCAs?” It’s not if. It’s not if.
Dr. Nikki (30:27): It’s when. So we’re in the workplace day in and day out, navigating the bullshit that is white supremacy in the workplace. Dealing with our own micro-aggressions, trying to figure out how we’re going to navigate so we can have our own professional development. Are we going to stay in this place? Do we need to make a move? All of that sort of stuff that we talk about regularly on in The Break Room. And then now, if you’re a parent, you could have a child going through that. And then I would just add that even if you don’t, even if you somehow avoid all of those pitfalls, raising children is difficult.
Dr. Jide (31:01): [inaudible].
Dr. Nikki (31:01): Because it is a third shift, a second shift, a fourth shift. I remember a couple of years ago I posted just a status on my Facebook. I was like, “Does anybody else just pull into the garage and sit for a few minutes before they actually go in the house?” And some of the people were like, “Oh yes. Oh yes.” Because you need that moment to be like, “Ooh, let me put down the professional world. Let me see if I can get my mind right. Can I have just a few minutes to me before I go in and start this whole dinner and homework and “Put that down!” and “No, you can’t have that,” and “Is it dinner time?” [inaudible 00:31:39].
Dr. Jide (31:39): “Can you play with me please? Play with me please. Play with me pleeease. Can I listen to Bubble Guppies?” Just the whole thing. Yes.
Dr. Nikki (31:47): I don’t want to play Barbies. It’s seven o’clock. Everybody, let’s just shut it down. I don’t know what to do at a tea party, and we don’t talk about that. It’s such commonplace and we don’t talk about it, but that is an emotional toll. Especially when you don’t have any of those other sort of offsets. And I think that is the piece about my experience as being a single parent. I have a lot of friends that are dual household parents, and they’re like, “Girl, how you do it? And like, “I don’t know. Don’t ask.” [laughs] I had a good friend one time tell me, she was like, “I don’t think you know everything you do in a day,” and I was like, “Oh, I know, because I’m exhausted,” and then she was like “No, no, I don’t really think you do. I think if you really thought about all that you did…
Dr. Jide (32:39): Yes. You will faint. You’ll pass out. Yeah, yeah.
Dr. Nikki (32:44): You’d just say, “I quit.””
Dr. Jide (32:45): Yeah, yeah. From beginning to end.
Dr. Nikki (32:47): Beginning to end. So I think we have a lot of work to do just in our overall structure of this country. And the pandemic exposed so much of that. And yet I wonder how much it’s going to actually change. The pandemic exposed how much structural inequities there are. It took away free childcare, public schools shut down, all the things shut down the sports, the ballet, the art, all the things. And parents and children are at the same table doing schoolwork, logging into Zoom.
Dr. Jide (33:26): And acounting at the table. Yeah.
Dr. Nikki (33:29): At the same table. But I just think now that we are moving out of the pandemic and it really is so weird to me because I live here in the state of Texas. We’ve been open for so long. I can’t even remember when he officially opened us back up. So it feels very much like back to normal, for whatever that is. And so it’s sort of, okay, let’s pretend the last 15 months didn’t happen. We’re not gonna learn any lessons from this. And we expect you to come back in full force. You’re vaccinated. What’s the problem?
Dr. Jide (34:06): Yes. Just like before. Why not?
Dr. Nikki (34:08): Why not?
Dr. Jide (34:09): You came in 9 to 5 before. But, you know, I think a lot of us realized how absolutely unnecessary a lot of stuff was, depending on your job. Actually, I didn’t need to go into work at all. [inaudible 00:34:21]
Dr. Nikki (34:24): I’m doing good right here.
Dr. Jide (34:26): Yep. Yep.
Dr. Nikki (34:30): But I think we need to have some more serious conversations in this country. One, about the financial burden, Because we could talk about just the structural challenges that comes along with that. But if anybody who is listening, watching has ever struggled financially, there’s a level of stress that comes along with that. And I honestly believe that most parents really are doing the best that they can with what they have.
Dr. Jide (35:01): Yes. And they love their kids. Yes.
Dr. Nikki (35:03): And they love their kids. And so, they’re going to always try to find a way to make that a priority. And what happens is, I’ll speak for me personally, there were some challenging years there financially. Listen $1,170 a month, plus a mortgage, plus school loans, plus a car note, you do the math. I was an assistant or I was associate professor, but I was in the college of education, in the social sciences. I was not making six figures as a professor. Let me just dispel that myth if that exists [inaudible 00:35:34]. So there’s only so much coming in. And what am I going to do, not have her in childcare?
Dr. Jide (35:44): [inaudible].
Dr. Nikki (35:44): What are we going to do, go live in the car? There’s only so much. And there’s a level of distress that comes along with that. That does create a psychological burden in addition. And so I know I wasn’t at my best career wise for a couple of years there, at the beginning. But I don’t know that we have a lot of professional or corporate frameworks that give grace to parents in that way. So this is where, for me, the conversation around equity really becomes so important. We’re not asking you to not produce or have expectations for your employees, but can you shift what those expectations are, given these very real boundaries and burdens of being a parent? Why can’t we even have a humane conversation about that?
Dr. Jide (36:40): This country? Capitalism and white supremacy. That’s the easy answer. That’s the easy answer. Capitalism and white supremacy.
Dr. Nikki (36:47): What’s also the true answers?
Dr. Jide (36:49): Yeah. What’s also the true answers? They want to wring you out for every single drop you have. Instead of understanding that when you do better, you work better too. You’re much better when you feel comfortable and you’re not financially stressed out, XYZ. You work better. There’s study after study that proves it. When you’re not burnt out, when you’re not feeling role strain, when you feel supported by your boss or your coworkers. And that makes your parenting better. Because what happens after a long day at work? You come home and you’re not 100%. It’s unfortunate.
Dr. Nikki (37:31): It is unfortunate, but it is also true. When I switched careers and started making more money–so the one thing too about academia, and you know this very well, Jide, it’s non-stop. There’s always somebody emailing you. You can wake up at five o’clock in the morning, and you’ve missed five emails from somebody between then and 1:00 am. It’s like, “Why do people never sleep?” It’s sort of relentless. And I held a couple departmental level leadership positions. And so that was you needed to be responsive to things, and I got to the point where I was stressed every time I opened email. “What am I going to need to do now?” So even though I was physically at home, oftentimes, I wasn’t mentally at home. I was disconnected from her.
Dr. Nikki (38:22): And so when I told her I was leaving that job and transitioning to something else, she was so happy. She was like, “Mommy, you’re not going to be as stressed anymore.” And I was like, “Dang, you were feeling this too? This is a real impact on you.” And our relationship has improved. Her ability to navigate difficult and stressful situations to communicate with me has also improved.
Dr. Jide (38:47): I love that.
Dr. Nikki (38:47): So your point is so well taken, that when you are not in a state of stress or distress, when you have all those needs met, when you’re not worried about the finances, when you’re not overburdened with unreasonable or unfair expectations, when you can really fully be present, it does make you happier, and when you’re happier, you’re more productive, and it makes you a better parent. And then we want people to be better parents to raise children that are not [inaudible 00:39:17].
Dr. Jide (39:16): The capitalistic white supremacist environment though.
Dr. Nikki (39:18): Shooting people up? I feel that should be a goal of ours.
Dr. Jide (39:25): A priority. A priority. Affordable childcare for everyone. I think the thing that is the wildest about this to me is that literally none of us would be here if it wasn’t for somebody who (gave birth) to us. Not even the most staunchest, conservative, conservative person who’s against all this stuff. You would not be here if it wasn’t for somebody who held you in their stomach for XYZ months and got you out somehow.
Dr. Nikki (39:55): I literally grew a human. Grew a human.
Dr. Jide (39:58): And you don’t want to support these people? You don’t want to make people’s lives easier?
Dr. Nikki (40:03): Ooh. But they’ll swear they’re pro-child. What is it?
Dr. Jide (40:07): Pro-life.
Dr. Nikki (40:07): Pro-life, I couldn’t remember. They’re not pro-child. They’re pro-life, that is the difference. So I wonder if you could talk a little bit about what are the things you know about, what are the joys of parenting? What are the strategies we can use to sort of offset those stressful moments? We always want to leave you all with some good nuggets, some positive information.
Dr. Jide (40:34): Yes, I think the best thing about kids is just watching them grow and just watching them grow into smart, funny, athletic, musically, talented, whatever kind of person they’re going to grow up to be. Nothing made me realize that you can never–you can never control another person like having children. Nothing. And I’ve been able to translate that to other stages of my life, ‘cause you have a zero month old infant, they run you, you don’t run them. You’re on their schedule. When they cry, you feed them, you change them, you put them to sleep. That’s what you do because that’s what they need. So it helps me realize that you can’t control another person. All you can do is support them to the best of their ability.
Dr. Jide: I feel as soon as they were born, I just knew I loved them for life. And it’s hard to explain that, but once you meet this person, you’re like, “Aw, man, this is my person. This is my person and my responsibility.” So while it’s challenging, the payoff is a long ways away. Between zero and 18, that’s when you’re putting in the work. Being present, being there, protecting them, supporting them. But 18 to the rest of their lives is hopefully the payoff, and you starting to see the payoff. And it’s allowed me to have such an appreciation for our own parents too. I have three older sisters, I have two kids, and we are done. We are not having any more children. But appreciating, wow, people have been doing this for generations and generations and have been trying their best. And I’m obviously not a perfect parent. It’s impossible. My parents obviously weren’t perfect, but I know they love me and tried their best. And having kids has like, I have a third eye, for them and appreciation. What about you?
Dr. Nikki (42:50): Oh, so many things. So somebody told me when you have the baby you come to realize you didn’t know your heart could be that big.
Dr. Jide (43:02): Yes [inaudible 00:43:02].
Dr. Nikki (43:02): That was the way it was described. And then, what I would tell people, as soon as I had her, what it felt like to me was auto-focus, literally the lens was like, “Oh no, this is what’s important.” And so I think that that has helped really given me a broader sense of what is the priority for me in life? What do I really value? And so even though I was having those stressful moments and tension between work, life, and career, and her, I always chose her.
Dr. Jide (43:39): Always.
Dr. Nikki (43:39): And so, related to that, one of the things I think children can teach all of us is the capacity to be in the moment. We talk about this, and many of us even sort of meditate to be more centered and grounded and be more present in the here and now and be mindful. But children can come into the world with that capacity. Baby, when they are focused on that thing. When she used to be like, “Let’s play,” we were in that world, and it was very real to her. [inaudible 44:07].
Dr. Nikki: And also, my kid is funny. My kid is funny. She’s extremely talented, she’s smart and she’s willful. And so, that thing that you were saying, you can’t make nobody do nothing. I love all the things that people who don’t have kids try to say about what they kids going to do and what they kids would be like. Baby, meet me on the other side. What’s your [inaudible 00:44:45]?
Dr. Jide (44:46): Right.
Dr. Nikki (44:47): Let’s have a conversation. And specifically, for me as a Black woman, raising a Black child, a Black girl, that she is willful. There are moments where I have to be like, “Okay, this is not functional right now in this moment. We still need to be respectful and navigate the power dynamics of this relationship,” but there’s always a part of my mind to be that’s like, “(That’s my) girl, she going to go out and kill it.” So they are wonderful and all the joy that they bring, all of the sort of life lessons that they bring, and what I’ve tried to do is really be intentional about being observant of those and learning how I can incorporate that more into my own life for my own psychological health and well-being. It is very easy to get caught up in thinking about the burdens and the responsibilities and the labor, but the benefit is really, really beautiful as well.
Dr. Jide (45:45): What’s one piece of advice you might have for one of our listeners who maybe is thinking about having a kid and is on the fence about the experience or what to expect?
Dr. Nikki (46:00): That you’ll never be ready. You’re never ready. I thought I was. I was in my career, I was on the verge of tenure. I was making the most money I’d ever made. I had a house, I was established. [?] I was not ready.
Dr. Jide (46:18): You can’t be. You can’t be.
Dr. Nikki (46:21): You cannot be. You honestly don’t know, for all the rough, hard, bad, and all of the wonderful, joyful, beautiful. You just can’t have a vision for it. And so, if you are thinking about it, do all the homework, do all the right things that you can, but it’s a risk. Because you also don’t know what that little person’s gonna come out to do. I was very fortunate that all of the things that could have gone wrong with my pregnancy didn’t, and I’m very clear on being grateful to God on a regular basis that I am here, that I survived that, and that she survived that.
Dr. Jide (47:02): There are are no guarantees.
Dr. Nikki (47:02): But, especially for Black mothers, there is a lot stacked against you.
Dr. Jide (47:08): Yes.
Dr. Nikki (47:09): But then also, even if you have the world’s best pregnancy, you don’t know who that little person is going to be. That little person could have a range of [?] psychological or physical health concerns. Their personality could just be one that does not mesh with your personality, but you still love them. You don’t want [inaudible 00:47:25].
Dr. Jide (47:28): You might want them to play basketball, but they want to be in theater.
Dr. Nikki (47:35): Right.
Dr. Jide (47:35): Or the high school musical, and you’ve to manage that.
Dr. Nikki (47:38): You’ve got to let them be what they going to be. So that’s what I always say too, is my job is to help her evolve into the best version of herself and for me to impose my idea for who she should be on her.
Dr. Jide (47:53): Yes, yes. Great.
Dr. Nikki (47:58): So, with that in mind, I think we’re gonna move on over to The Last Nerve.
Dr. Jide (48:04): It’s all you. It’s all you, Dr. Nikki. Can’t wait to hear what you have to say.
Dr. Nikki (48:04): And if there are other questions that you have for us around parenting, or you want to ask about anything else, you can always, again, email us at email@example.com. We’re happy to take those questions and answer those.
Dr. Nikki: So my last nerve, I’m just gonna take a minute. I’m just gonna take a minute. It’s about these people in this country called the United States of America. Jide. I am convinced America is the only country on the planet that could mess up vaccinations. How are we in this place where people who have never been systematically disenfranchised, oppressed, mistreated, or abused by the scientific or medical community in this nation’s history, how are y’all talking about y’all don’t want to take vaccines? But at the same time, you don’t want to wear a mask. You don’t want to social distance. How can we be the one country to be this stupid that we can’t put one and one together and we’re getting nowhere near to? You can’t have it both ways.
Dr. Jide (49:22): America is white supremacy all grown up. You know what I’m saying?
Dr. Nikki (49:30): Like baby Huey, all grown up.
Dr. Jide (49:36): All grown up.
Dr. Nikki (49:36): I am so annoyed by these people, and then we have to even talk about vaccine hesitancy. Listen, if Black people who have been systematically disenfranchised, abused, mistreated, experimented on by the scientific and medical community in this country for centuries, if we could put on our big girl and big boy panties and go get vaccinated, if brown people in this country, Latino folks in this country, Asian folks in this country that have been systematically disenfranchised by the scientific and medical communities in this country can go out and get vaccinated, what’s your excuse, white man in middle of Idaho? What?
Dr. Jide (50:20): Whiteness and white supremacy never care about the common good.
Dr. Nikki (50:26): And that’s the other part.
Dr. Jide (50:28): They never care about what’s good for everybody. And wearing a mask, social distancing, getting your vaccine, COVID-19 is a group project. It depends on all of us doing our part. But whiteness, why would they do their part? “Oh, it’s going to benefit the Negroes.” No, they are not [inaudible 00:50:47] for it.
Dr. Nikki (50:49): It does (benefit) anybody.
Dr. Jide (50:51): Even themselves.
Dr. Nikki (50:52): Even themselves.
Dr. Jide (50:55): Whiteness even cuts of his nose to spite his face. Yes.
Dr. Nikki (50:56): That’s the thing. That is the thing. So that was my last nerve for the week. Joe Biden’s America is looking pretty good on most days, but on this, I don’t really know if he has the answer. So we’re going to have to see what he does on that one.
Dr. Jide (51:13): Right.
Dr. Nikki (51:14): It’s been a pleasure. Thank you so very much. I love talking about parenting and it was a joy to get to know you better.
Dr. Jide (51:23): Same. Same.
Dr. Nikki (51:23): I hope that we imparted some nuggets of helpful information or wisdom for any of you all that are parents or parents to be, and we will be back next week with… ooh, I don’t know who’s here next week. Somebody will be here next week.
Dr. Jide (51:40): Might be me. We’ll see.
Dr. Nikki (51:42): That feels right. Maybe.
Dr. Jide (51:43): Yes, that feels right.
Dr. Nikki (51:44): I feel you’ve double-booked yourself. You know what I’m saying?
Dr. Jide (51:47): Yes, yes. We’ll see.
Dr. Nikki (51:50): We’ll see. One of us will be back next week.
Dr. Jide (51:56): Right, exactly. Someone’s going to be back.
Dr. Jide (51:58): For sure.
Dr. Nikki (51:59): Peace.