"Mommy Talk" is series of interviews between ESSENCE's own ChicBusyMom and everyday mothers doing extaordinary things. Meet Deborah Charles, a single mother who juggles raising her daughter, a high-energy career and studying for her Masters degree.
CHIC BUSY MOM: What do you do for a living?
DEBORAH CHARLES: I am a Senior Marketing Manager for a broadcasting company.
CHIC BUSY MOM: How many children do you have? Ages?
CHARLES: I have one daughter, who is 6 years old.
CHIC BUSY MOM: I know you are raising your daughter alone, was that something you set out to do?
CHARLES: Not at all. But it inspires me to be the best mom that I can be.
CHIC BUSY MOM: What myth would you like to break down about single moms?
CHARLES: That single mom households are a negative thing. I think it’s important for a child to be surrounded by a nurturing and positive people and influences. You have to do what works best for your household.
CHIC BUSY MOM: How is your story different?
CHARLES: My daughter was born two months early via an emergency C-section. I did not have any complications during my pregnancy, so I did not expect to have a premature child. I had just started a new job, I was in the process of purchasing my first home and figuring out the best way for her dad and I to move forward. It felt like everything was hitting me at once. The doctors did not attribute her premature birth to one particular thing, but I kept convincing myself that it was probably my fault. Perhaps if I was happier about the pregnancy this would not have happened. As I watched her every day in the incubator, I started to get depressed. I exercised, I ate right, I didn’t smoke or drink, so why wasn’t my baby “perfect?” I started to drift in to a world of pity, my doctor pulled me aside and told me to “snap out of it, and that my daughter would be fine.” I started to look around the NICU and realized that I was actually blessed, because she was actually progressing a lot faster than the other babies in the unit. Within the two weeks that she stayed in the hospital, she had grown so much. I believe that God gave me that experience, so that I could appreciate her life more. I realized how blessed I was to be able to conceive a child and I was so inspired by her strength and progress.
CHIC BUSY MOM: What’s the one thing you wish you knew about motherhood before becoming a mother?
CHARLES: My mom always said to me, “wait until you have your own child, you will see…” And she was so right. Words of wisdom help, but parenting is one of those things that humbles you so much.
CHIC BUSY MOM: Would you like to have more children some day?
CHARLES: I would love to have one more child. But my clock is ticking really quickly, and I am not dating. So, I don’t think that it will happen.
CHIC BUSY MOM: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a single working mom?
CHARLES: I had to slow down the pace of my career. I had to decline opportunities because I need the flexibility of not having to travel or work late. Also, dating. My dating life is non-existent. Between work, school and parenting I really don’t get to go out much and meet new people. Finally, time management. There doesn’t seem to be enough hours during the day to get things done—especially on the weekends!
CHIC BUSY MOM: What are the 3 biggest rewards?
CHARLES: All of the money in the world cannot buy happiness. My daughter and I value each other’s time and the time that we spend together, even if it’s just hanging out on the couch watching her favorite shows over and over! Second, watching my sacrifices pay off. When my daughter was skipped from kindergarten to the second grade, I felt like I proved something to her and showed her how hard work pays off. Learning that at an early age is important. She knows that she can’t watch TV all day. We have to hit the books. I am also really looking forward to getting my degree next May. Finally, learning. I have learned so much since having a child. I’ve learned how to love more, I’ve learned to appreciate life and my family more, and I’ve learned a lot about myself and the women that I have become.
CHIC BUSY MOM: I know you are back in school, how are you managing it all? Do you have help?
CHARLES: I’ve always wanted to go back to school for my Master’s Degree. I believe that I can do anything if I put my mind to it, so I was determined to figure out a way to make this work. When I first started school it was really hard to manage parenting, a full-time job, and school work. I also felt very guilty that I had to leave my daughter with my mom two nights a week or to go the library. My family and friends are very supportive of me and I am blessed to have them always cheering me on. I explain to my daughter,why I am going back to school and I always thank her for being understanding during the times that we can’t be together.
CHIC BUSY MOM: What do you and your daughter like to do together?
CHARLES: I love to provide my daughter with various learning experiences. She has gymnastics, swimming and tennis lessons on the weekends. I also like to take road trips with her to visit different museums, aquariums, etc. I find myself learning a lot through these experiences too! I also wash, blow dry and cornrow her hair every week. It takes about three hours, because she has a lot of hair. I’ve turned that into a fun activity where we play hair salon. Every week, we get into “character,” and pretend to be a different stylist and customer. She loves it!
CHIC BUSY MOM: Give us two mommy secrets/tips you can share?
CHARLES: I make written lists of everything that I need to do. I also sacrifice a little time at night to prepare as much as I can (clothes, lunch/snacks, etc.), so that the mornings can run as smooth as possible. Second, I need all the help I can get around the house, so I stared using the “reward system” with my daughter. She gets stars for following our routines without me giving her a reminder (make up your bed, putting away clothes, helping with the dishes, etc.) When she accumulates enough stars, she can go to her favorite store, download a new app, etc. It encourages integrity and responsibility.
CHIC BUSY MOM: What do you do for ‘me time’?
CHARLES: I have one vacation without my daughter, once a year. I’ve been going to Carnival in Trinidad before she was born. It’s something that I continue to do with my girlfriends every year. Other than that, she’s usually always with me.
CHIC BUSY MOM: What is your guilty pleasure?
CHARLES: Eating Haagen-Dazs ice cream at night. I wait until my daughter goes to sleep, so I don’t have to share it.
CHIC BUSY MOM: What are the top 5 things on your bucket list?
CHARLES: 1.Learn to swim
2. Visit Africa
3. Take my daughter to Europe (England/Paris)
4.Purchase another house
5. Start my own business
CHIC BUSY MOM: What is the last beauty product/tool you bought?
CHARLES: I recently bought a couple of facial products by Sunday Riley, that I am really loving right now.
CHIC BUSY MOM: What is your favoritewebsite?
CHARLES: I am transitioning right now, so I am constantly perusing the web for hairstyles and hair care tips.
CHIC BUSY MOM: What was the last song you played on your iPod?
CHARLES: I love to listen to Soca. The fast tempo helps me get my day started.
CHIC BUSY MOM: When you get home from work what is the first thing you do?
CHARLES: As soon as my daughter and I walk in the door, we get started on our evening routine which includes cooking, homework, and sharing stories about our day.
CHIC BUSY MOM: What is the one piece of advice you would impart on a mother sharing a similar journey?
CHARLES: It’s up to you to see the glass as half-empty or half-full. I truly believe that positive energy, breeds positive results.