This has probably been one of the strangest months of my life, but I’m trying to remain grateful that I’m still here and all my family is ok, especially my parents who live in one of the COVID epicenters. After last month’s Q&A, I was actually looking forward to the end of the month knowing I’d be getting some really good questions from you guys. Here they are!
Marriage & Relationships
Is it important to be with a man that can provide for you, in our day and age despite the fact that you can work for your own and get your own?
Is it important to me? No. But might it be important to you? Maybe. For me, ambition and effort was a more attractive and necessary quality in a partner than established financial success or job security.
How did you teach yourself to let go of past heartbreak in order to love Jonathan?
Whew chile! I didn’t teach myself, God taught me. I had to re-immerse myself in the word of God to fully understand how I was supposed to be loved, and when I truly understood that, it was easy to move past people in the past who had not loved me the right way, and be ready to accept the right kind of love.
What would you never forgive your partner for?
This is such an interesting question and I really gave it a lot of thought, but probably nothing. My favorite cheesy movie line is from Tyler Perry’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman, and it goes: “When somebody hurts you they take power over you, if you don’t forgive them then they keeps the power.” So I’d forgive him for anything because if not, I’m only hurting myself.
Now you probably meant is there anything that would make me end our marriage – and yeah sure, if he killed our child on purpose then obviously I wouldn’t continue to be with him, but I don’t see any utility in spending time coming up with potential scenarios that would cause me to break our marriage vows.
What has changed after becoming a mother?
Um, what hasn’t changed?! Literally everything changed. My daily routine. My marriage. My body. My sense of the future. My “why”. Its only been four months but it feels like this was always my life.
Are you waiting for 6 months to introduce TKB to solids?
Is there any relationship between excessive sleep during your 1st trimester and still birth?
Not that I know of or have heard of, but I’m also not a medical doctor, so I’d ask Dr. Google or your ob-gyn.
Please share TKB’s sleep routine and how you managed to sleep train him.
He’s not sleeping through the night yet but he can fall asleep on his own and wakes up max twice from when he goes down at 7pm until 6am so here’s his routine. Bath time is around 6:15/6:30 (Jonathan does bath time) while listening to a lullaby, then TKB gets a baby massage, skin to skin with J, dressed in pjs, and then I feed him. If he falls asleep while eating I’ll wake him up a bit then put him down in his bassinet, zip him up in his sleep swaddle, say goodnight, turn off the lights, and leave. He’s usually asleep between 7 and 7:30 – we use this sound machine to program the lullaby to cue everyone that it’s bath time and it switches to white noise at 7 to signal bedtime.
We decided to start lightly sleep training at 3 months, once we noticed that he could sleep for longer stretches. We first stopped giving him a feeding every time he cried in the middle the night, and settled him without a feed if it was less than three hours since he ate (Jonathan would do this because if I held him he’d know there was milk nearby lol). After about two weeks of that, we started to implement cry it out. We’d let him cry for about 15 minutes and if he was still crying, we would pick him up and settle him or feed him if necessary. We only do this if he’s eaten well and had a normal day – if the day was a bit off or he didn’t eat as well, I’ll feed him more often at night because I assume he’s actually hungry. The swaddle we use allows him to have access to his hands which I think has been instrumental in teaching him how to settle himself. Next step is moving him to his own room!
Give a list of useful and non-useful baby products and must haves.
Baby must-haves for the first three months can be found here. Since that post, the other things we’ve added that are helpful are play/activity gyms – we have this one (Montessori designed) and this one (made in Kenya brand), and they both help keep him occupied for a bit so we can get some work done. One thing we feel like we don’t have enough of are bibs – between drool and spit up the kid goes through 3 or 4 a day! Things that haven’t gotten much use so far are all the bottles we have, especially these glass ones that have never been used. Since I work from home, we only use max 1 bottle a day, so two is enough. I also never used diaper rash cream, which I credit to the amazing diapers we used for the first few months (we now use these cloth ones).
Do you ever think about what it means to be raising a Black man?
Definitely. Between thinking about how to instill in him a respect and appreciation for women (#wokebabies), and thinking about how the world is setup in a way that makes life harder for him just because of the color of his skin, there’s a lot that goes on in my mind.
Do you have a nanny?
Sorta kinda, not really. Our househelp is supposed to come three days a week, and on those days, the baby is supposed to be her priority for the first half of the day. Pre-COVID I wasn’t ready to let him go during the day so I did a lot of hovering at times when she should have been interacting with him on her own. And since COVID she’s only come a handful of times, and focuses on cleaning while she’s at our house. But I’m able to get a bit of work done regardless!
PhD & Graduate School
How do you make money while getting a PhD?
Well first off you should try your hardest to go to a program that has a good funding structure so that you don’t need to seek outside sources of income. But if you need extra cash while in a PhD program, consider teaching (if your school has teaching hour limits you can look into teaching and TAing at neighboring schools), tutoring, consulting, or literally working any job. Throughout my PhD I worked as a TA, worked for an education non-profit as an after school nutrition instructor, AirBnBed my apartment, and blogged.
Tips on the process of going to grad school without loans?
I made a whole video on how I graduated with all my degrees without any student loans!
Are you a US citizen? Do you think doing a PhD in the US is worth it?
Yes, I’m a US citizen. If you’re sure you want to do a PhD (and not for the wrong reasons), then doing so in the US will likely help you access a network of American researchers in your field that you might otherwise have difficulty meeting, unless you’re intentional about attending international conferences. However, a lot of PhD funding is not available to non-US citizens, and I don’t for any reason recommend getting a PhD if it’s not paid for.
What did you study undergrad?
History of Science, with a minor in Global Health & Health Policy.
Tips for soaring through a PhD?
I don’t know if its possible to soar through but if you have a great mentor and a good support system outside of the program, you’ll be better off than most.
Tips for writing comprehensive exams?
Ask people who did them before you in your department what to expect, and if it’s an exam administered by a committee, just ask your examiners what they’re looking for, and involve them in your prep by asking them questions along the way.
How do you handle milestones/competition with other PhD students in your cohort?
I was fortunate to have a small and tight-knit cohort (we have a video call every week!) so I never felt any kind of competition with them. We encouraged one another through every stage, and continue to do so.
Style & Beauty
Do you have a technique for shaving coarse armpit hair?
I prefer to get my underarms waxed, but since we’re at home, I’ve been using my trusty razor – I’ve had it for years and just buy new cartridges, which have enough moisture to make shaving smooth in both directions.
What do you use on your hair? What oils do you use?What is your exact hair routine? What’s your secret to hair length?
I have and use a lot of different haircare products, and I wouldn’t say that any one product is the “secret” to healthy hair and growth. My hair routine for about the past year is detangle, wash, deep condition, blow dry, and protective style, about once a month. If you want to see the steps in action you can watch this video. In between washes I maybe moisturize my hair once a week, but seriously, I don’t do much to it. I’m convinced that a low maintenance approach to my hair has been the key to its growth, especially in the past since I cut it short into a bob a year and a half ago.
How are you managing your hair now that you can’t go to the salon?
I wore cornrows and wigs for the first few weeks of isolation, but I actually haven’t washed my hair yet because I’m scared! I haven’t shampooed my hair by myself in almost a year, so I’m definitely missing the salon. I recently used a dry shampoo to tide me over for another week or two, but I’m going to have to bite the bullet and wash it myself soon. I’ll likely just wear it in two strand twists and a twistout or updo after following the steps of my normal at home wash routine, but I’ll likely use these products because they smell and feel great in my hair.
What do you do to stop postpartum hair breakage?
I have no idea, I lost all my edges from postpartum breakage too! People say that you should continue taking your prenatals but I ran out and am not a fan of pills so I knew I wasn’t going to go out of my way to buy some more. I’m planning on just being gentle with my hair, doing low tension protective styles like loose twists and updos, and using this oil that I just got from the Sephora sale and this nourishing balm that I already have.
How can you determine your personal style?
I like to think that personal style is a combination of what you look good in + what you like to wear. One way of figuring out the former is by trial and error – go shopping (once we can go outside again) and just try on a bunch of different kinds of clothing to see what you feel best in. Do you feel better while wearing straight jeans or pegleg pants? V neck tops or oversized sweaters? What you like to wear is harder to figure out if you don’t already know what you like, so turn to others to see what outfits you tend to say YASSS to when they pop up on your screen. You can also try doing an online style quiz to give you a head start if you don’t know what search terms to use to look at outfits. Lastly, keep in mind that your style has to make sense for your everyday life. If you work in a school, and you gravitate towards edgier clothing like crop tops and combat boots, that might not be appropriate for work. That doesn’t mean you can’t buy clothes like that, but save them for the weekend and don’t let them take up too much space in your closet.
Where do you shop for your earrings?
I have earrings from tons of places – Zara, Amazon, ShopBop, random merchants on 125th street in Harlem. Since I’m focusing on buying black this year, some of the earring companies I’ve already shopped and am looking to support include: Jam & Rico, Kipato Unbranded, Sassy Jones, Beads by Aree, Third Crown, Candid Art, and If You Dare.
What are some things to consider for interior/décor designing?
This is such a broad question, but I usually think about function, aesthetics, and cost when thinking about interior design. How do I want a space to function? Is a living room for entertaining guests or for watching TV? Do I want a space to feel warm and inviting or modern and sleek? Is this decor item something that can be repurposed around the house and will I like it in 5 years to justify its cost?
How do you approach decorating a new space?
Once I decide on the space’s function and aesthetics, I measure out the space and choose a budget. Then I decide on a color scheme and make a collage of things I think I’ll want in the space to make sure they look nice together without buying anything. Once I’ve decided on the big furniture pieces, I’ll do another graphic representation, this time to scale, to make sure there’s space for everything in the room. This post is a good example of what goes in my mind as I think about decorating or redecorating a room!
Would you rather build your forever home or buy and renovate?
This is tough, because I actually like re-envisioning spaces and doing little DIY home projects, but now that we have a kid, I can’t imagine undergoing a full renovation. I think it also depends on where we end up settling eventually – if in the US, then buying and renovating makes more sense, but if on the African continent, then probably build our own.
How do I monetize my lifestyle blog (I’m not the typical fashion blogger)?
It’s hard to advise without knowing more details but even if you’re not a fashion blogger you can earn affiliate income by linking to any and everything if your life – books, cookware, website hosting services… I’ve linked to at least 10 things in this blog post already, and none of them were fashion related. You can also create branded products or sell services, there are more blog monetization ideas here.
Life & Personal
How have you handled adjusting to a new home and season of motherhood in the midst of COVID? How are you doing at this time?
Not much has changed with us since I answered this question in last month’s Q&A, except I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that this might be our new normal, so I’m adjusting my expectations accordingly
What has been the best/most fulfilling time of your 20s?
That’s tough, but I think the first few years post-college when I was in the early stages of my PhD program and living in New York City. I made lifelong friends during that time and really grew into the woman I am now because I was living in a city I’d always wanted to live in, and making it happen by myself.
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
Move to a new country while five months pregnant.
How do you ship products to Kenya?
If I need it quickly, I ship using either DHL or FedEx usually. If not, I ship things from the US using Savostore.
How many years of your life did you spend in Nigeria? Have you considered living in Nigeria, if yes, what opportunities would you look for?
I moved from Nigeria to the US when I was 18 months old, so I haven’t spent considerable time in Nigeria. I wouldn’t mind living in Lagos, but wherever we lived in the world I’d be doing the same thing I’m doing now – public health research and blogging and figuring out how to more seamlessly combine the two.
How does someone find themselves?
I don’t know if you ever truly find yourself, as in I don’t know if that process has an end date. I think you learn to accept who you are in a given season, and work towards becoming a better version of that person.
How do you integrate your faith into your work/day to day activities?
I don’t consciously – my faith shapes my beliefs and decisions about how I go through life but I don’t sit down each day and think about how the day’s work will elicit and reflect my faith. I try not to be an awful person and pray that God uses me as he sees fit through my works.
What is your favorite memory of the 1st quarter this year?
What’s your biggest fear?
Currently: that I’ll never be able to see my parents and siblings again. Sorry to end on a somber note!