Ijeoma Kola sitting barefoot on couch and smiling while scrolling through her phone - Ijeoma Kola monthly Q&A January 2021

January Q&A – Marrying Outside My Culture, Time Blocking, & More!

It’s the first Q&A of 2021 and I am so happy to kick off this year’s series with some great questions! Naturally, with the work that I do, I’m an open book. So, I love sharing the things you want to know about my life and experiences, and give tips and advice where I can. This month, we’re diving into why I decided to show my baby’s face on the Gram, my thoughts on intercultural marriages, the secret to my glowing skin, and more. January Q&A, here we go!

Motherhood & Marriage

Q&A

  • What made you decide to finally share TKB’s face on Instagram?

    We took our first family holiday photos and I wanted to share our entire family, lol, dassit. It didn’t feel right to wish people Merry Christmas from the family, without the whole family. I’m still not planning on posting photos of him regularly (slash at all).

  • How is TKB sleeping at 1 years old? Is he sleeping through the night?

    Most days he sleeps from around 7pm to around 6am. When my parents were here his sleep schedule was thrown off a bit, which I’ve read is normal. But we’re back to sleeping through the night.

  • How do you brush your baby’s teeth and what do you use?

    Yikes, thanks for the reminder! TKB didn’t get any teeth until a week or two before he turned 1, so I didn’t think about brushing at all. I have those silicone finger tooth brushes, but to be honest, I haven’t used them yet. I should get on it because he has a few more teeth coming in right now. One of my trusted mom friends sent me a few toothbrush & toothpaste recommendations so I’m planning on using this set once we get the hang of opening our mouth to brush with salt water.

  • What’s one thing you want to give your son, tangible or intangible, that you didn’t have?

    I LOVE this question! Looking back, I had a really fortunate childhood. My parents really did a fantastic job. The only thing that I didn’t have, which was cultural/generational, was the ability to freely talk to my parents about anything. They would say, “you can talk to us about anything,” but I didn’t actually feel that was a reality, because I thought we were so different culturally and in our ways of understanding and engaging with the world. So although I’m sure as he grows my son will still feel like I’m old school and don’t get it, I hope he never feels afraid to talk to me about anything.

  • Do you have a nanny for baby Kola?

    Yes! I’ve talked about our nanny situation in more detail here.

  • Do you have any siblings?

    Two brothers, one older and one younger! Here’s a picture of the whole squad plus my bestie!

  • Do you ever feel guilty for marrying outside your culture?

    Not in the least bit. I married the right person for me, and we share similar values despite coming from two different cultures. Also, as you can see from my family photo, I’m the only child who married someone who is even from the continent, so in terms of adhering to cultural norms of marrying within your people, hey I got the closest 🤣 The only feeling that comes up is slight regret that I didn’t perfect my Igbo when growing up, because now it’s up to me to pass that language to my son.

  • How does your husband support you in achieving your goals?

    He’s my #1 cheerleader and hype man! Whenever I feel like I can’t do something, he encourages me to press on. When I’m overworking myself or staying up too late, he tries to remind me that I said I wanted to prioritize self-care. I don’t always listen to him (ha!) but he’s a bedrock of encouragement. Every once in a while he has a cool creative or business idea too!

  • How easy or hard was it for you to set routines as a family when you got married? Any tips?

    We lived together for about a year before we got married, so I don’t know if we had any adjustments post-marriage. But I don’t remember it being hard to fall into a routine — he went to work and a certain time, I went to school at a certain time, we’d try to time our commute such that we’d come home together, and on the weekends we just flowed. We did have a conversation (or several) about household duties… and by conversation, I was like if I’m cooking all our meals then I’m never doing a dish lol. Premarital counseling was helpful in giving us strategies to talk about our individual desires and expectations for how our day to day lives would look, and then we just kind of went from there.

  • How do you maintain such a good relationship? Is it consistency?

    No relationship is perfect. But in my experience (this fall we’ll have been together for 10 years!), the difference between great relationships and not so great ones are the following:

    • mutual respect of one another’s beliefs, dreams, feelings, and autonomy
    • open, prompt, and constant communication
    • consistently choosing to work on yourself as an individual, and then yourselves as a couple

Read more family related content here.

Style, Beauty, and Body

Q&A

  • Where do you get your glasses from and are they prescription?

    I’ve been wearing prescription glasses since the 5th grade. Here’s an old post of my eyeglass collection, here is the info on my clear glasses, and here are my newest frames.

  • Where do you get your nail inspo?

    I’ve trained my IG to show me nail content in my explore feed, so usually from there! But I’ll also search Pinterest if I’m looking for something specific – like my holiday nails. I usually search abstract nail art, minimalist nail art, and just go from there.

  • What is your skincare routine?

    Working on an updated post now that I’m back to using acids (I’d cut them out mostly while I was pregnant and breastfeeding) but you can see my past skincare routines here!

  • Your face is looking healthy and it’s glowing. What’s the secret?

    Thank you! Idk if it was the lack of stress due to being in school, the hormonal changes from pregnancy and motherhood, or just being really intentional about skincare, but yes my skin has been poppington lately!

  • Has your hair bounced back from postpartum shedding?

    I thought it did, but when I took down my Christmas ponytail hairstyle I noticed that the entire front portion of my hair was broken. I honestly can’t remember if those strands were broken before due to shedding or it was a result of the ponytail, but I’m being gentle with my hair now and apply this castor oil a few times a week.

  • Can you share more about your weight loss? I really admire your work ethic.

    Thanks! I was pretty active while pregnant and began to go for walks with my son a few weeks after giving birth, a habit that I’ve continued now as a way to give us both some fresh air and exercise. In August I also joined WW and track my meals (most days) and activity. After a few months I was able to get into a groove in terms of what I eat and how often and what kind of movement I fit in during the week. I’m actually down to how much I weighed when we got married, but my body composition is very different. I actually try not to focus on weight, and think more about how I feel and how I look in the clothes I love.

Read more style & beauty content here.

School & Work

Q&A

  • What made you decide to do a PhD and what was the application process like for you?

    I’m sure I’ve answered this somewhere but can’t find it but I applied to a PhD program because I didn’t know what else to do after deciding not the go to medical school (which was a terrible reason). I do love teaching and mentorship, and feel like I have something valuable to contribute in the research space, which is why I stuck it out.

    I applied to 5 schools, got into 4, and went to the program that seemed like the best fit for me and was in a city that 21 year old me always wanted to live in. If you want tips on how to apply to PhD programs, check here.

  • What were you like in high school?

    Wow, I actually blocked out much of my high school years because it was very isolating to be one of 3 Black people in my entire class of 100+ students. I really struggled with my identity and feelings of belonging, which were amplified by tensions with my parents over my ability to socialize with my friends or go to parties. I was pretty nerdy — I took the highest offered math class in my junior year — but played a lot of sports, was on the student council, and was generally sociable in school (I wasn’t really allowed to hang out with people outside of school) so I was cool but definitely not popular.

  • I just moved to Cambridge. Any recommendations from your undergrad days?

    The last time I was in Cambridge (maybe 3 years ago) I felt like everything had changed, so I’m not sure! My go to places to eat were Yenching (which closed) and Spice Thai, but I was also on an undergrad budget so my lifestyle and what I thought was nice was completely different from how it is now.

  • Can you do a video on having multiple sources of income?

    Sis, just read the blog post! I don’t have anything else to add right now.

  • What is your best advice for someone who wants to blog without showing her face?

    If you want to blog just for yourself, then by all means go ahead, but if you want to blog to grow an audience, then you’re going to find it difficult. Unless you incorporate original art in all your blog posts, have a blog that a more editorial/lifestyle magazine vibe (like a PureWow or The Everygirl), or if you have the skills to create a CGI avatar to represent you.

  • What do you like most about your work?

    Depends on which work! For my blogger work, I most enjoy the storytelling aspect. I’ve always liked to write. For Cohort Sistas, I love seeing and hearing other people support and encourage one another. In my research work, I enjoy digging up historical artifacts and reading new meaning into them in a way that can hopefully inform our lives today and in the future.

Read more school & work content here.

Living in Kenya

Q&A

  • How are you liking Kenya?

    I think I answer this every month lol, check out the previous Q&As to see how my thoughts have evolved.

  • What was the process getting a dependency pass in Kenya? Did it require a bribe like most things do?

    No I (well Jonathan) just setup an appointment and then I went, answered the questions, took my photo, and was done.

  • Which parts of Kenya, other than the coastal regions, would you like to visit?

    Just last week I was looking at some tucked away stays near Mount Kenya and Maasai Mara is on my 2021 travel bucket list!

  • What spices are there in West Africa that you can’t find in East Africa?

    A lot of Nigerian/Igbo spices like egusi, uhuru, achi, and ogbono aren’t readily available in Kenya, but when I made that comment on IG stories, I was referring to the fact that food is flavored differently in Kenya vs West Africa. In general, food is cooked with very light spices, and people prefer to add salt and chili pepper to taste. Now if you serve food in Nigeria and someone has to add salt, chai you don finish!

  • Now that you live in Kenya, do you miss New York?

    There are definitely things that I miss about New York. I shared some in this video.

Balance

Q&A

  • How did you manage your parents’ arrival, while closing up the year and preparing your baby’s first birthday?

    It was a LOT to have that many people in the house. It wasn’t my parents’ first time though so it wasn’t like I had to entertain them, and they really only came to hang out with the baby. What also helped was taking the 25th-1st off completely from work. I didn’t even post on Instagram. That allowed me to be fully focused on my family and enjoy their presence while they were here.

  • How do you handle stress? Especially when you were in school and still doing other jobs.

    When I was in school and balancing work, it was really important to me to have a clear calendar and to-do list so I could prioritize what needed to be done and when. I also treated school like a job, which meant that unless I had a paper due, I was not doing work on a Saturday night. Ensuring that I still have time to relax or have a social life has been integral to me throughout my academic and professional career.

  • How is the time blocking going so far? Any tips or adjustments you’ve made so far?

    It’s going well — when I actually do it lol. I think one thing that really helped is that I built in miscellaneous/flexible time into my calendar. That was smart! But I feel like I get derailed when the next block comes up and I don’t have to do that work. For example, if I’m supposed to check blog emails but I’m all caught up, then I go on Instagram instead, it can lead to a slippery slope and all hell breaks loose. So I’d say maybe build in a bit more flexibility into your time blocks.

  • I noticed you scheduled academic writing in your calendar. What does that process look like?

    So that time is not necessarily writing, it can be research or professional development, as long as it’s related to my scholarly work. The first week I used this calendar I was working on my post-doc applications, so I finished those in that time block. The following week I looked at potential conferences I can present at and did some literature research on asthma in Africa. I’ll probably switch to a more active writing schedule in March, so I’ll update you then if I have any helpful tips on writing.

Read more about balance & productivity here.

Personal

Q&A

  • How are you doing holistically?

    I think I’m doing pretty well! Since I started journalling and reading my Bible more regularly, I’ve been more reflexive and at peace with my life. I started off the year sleeping better too but somehow got off track this week, so I’m planning on getting back to a good sleep schedule next week.

  • Do you have any insecurities? If so, how do you deal with them?

    Absolutely! Most of my insecurities are physical — I’m really insecure about the bump on my nose from all my nose piercing trauma and I also have tons of dark spots and scarring on my bikini line. My other big insecurity is that my scholarly work is unimportant and will never be published or useful. Acknowledging and owning your insecurities is always a good first step, but I also find that talking about them is helpful because other people can uplift you when you’re not able to uplift yourself.

  • I’ve become hooked on Nigerian films on Netflix. Any suggestions?

    Tbh I don’t watch that much Nollywood. The trope of village girl falls in love with rich prince who is cheating on her but then she prays to God or uses juju to win him back got old real quick. Or movies are just mad long with no real plot or substance. But if there’s anything I’m missing please let me know!

  • Any tips on money management and investing for a single woman?

    I’m not as knowledgeable about investing as I’d like to be, but I’ve got money advice in this post. #1 tip is to treat credit like cash honey and only spend what you got!

Thanks so much for sending in your questions! If you’d like to ask a question for next month, stay tuned to my Instagram stories!

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