Afua Adom on Motherhood
Tell us what you do for a living and how you got into it?
I am a journalist working across print and broadcast, so I write for magazines, websites, as well as produce, write and present TV. I always wanted to be a writer so I applied to City University to study undergraduate journalism and graduated in 2004. It was a great course and really set me up for the world of work. I worked for ITV and ATIT Productions who used to make programmes for Channel 4 straight out of uni and then I worked in music publishing for a bit which was amazing. It was my first ‘proper’ job out of uni and I was totally spoiled. Great people, (I met my best friend there), a great location and working with some legends in music. I got bored however and went into styling and back into writing. I then ended up in magazines; I was the editor of Blackhair Magazine and the Features Editor of Pride Magazine, before I kinda fell in TV after having a year off to have my daughter. I’ve recently launched my own radio show too and I've realised that broadcast journalism is really where my heart is. I love it!
How has being a Black female impacted your career? For example have you felt responsible for representing your female Blackness in a particular way? Do you think that you have been limited or propelled because of your identity?
In some ways it has pigeon-holed me but it’s enabled me to carve out a unique position in my industry. There aren’t a lot of black dark-skinned female presenters on screens so that has made me stand out in a good way and that can only be a good thing. I used to edit a hair and beauty magazine so I guess there was always that pressure to look good. Sometimes that gets to me. I've been every weight and every size and I'm not the skinniest as I am now. I'm not very happy with the way I look but the show must go on so that's something I have to just get on with. I wear my hair natural and always have since having my daughter and to me it's so important to do that and to show her that her hair in it's God-given state is beautiful. I wear braids and have an undercut so I try and be fun with it. Being on TV my look is a massive part of my identity and I think that has propelled me in a good way.
“There aren’t a lot of black dark-skinned female presenters on screens so that has made me stand out in a good way and that can only be a good thing.”
You are a mother to a yummy little girl. How does being a mother feel (be all the way real)? How does being a 'single mother' feel... Is there a difference for you?
Being a mum and being a single mum are two completely different things. I feel so privileged to be the mum to this amazing little munchkin. I adore her. She really is the love of my life. But being single mum means you spend so much time worrying about money and everything else and there's never enough time to just 'be' with her. We are a great little team, so close but I miss having someone to share the burden with. Not just financially but emotionally, physically and spiritually too. My partner now (who's not her dad) is great, both with her and with 'getting' the whole single mum thing. My best friend who is her godmother is also a God-send. But boy it's tough. There are some dark moments. It's exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure. There is so much guilt; guilt that I had two parents growing up in the same house and she doesn't have that now, guilt when I work, guilt when I don't, guilt that you can't afford every toy on TV. I worry constantly I'm not doing a good job. It can also be quite lonely. There are times when she's gone to bed and it would be nice to talk about something funny she did and her routine with someone and they aren't there. It wasn't ever my plan so when it was just me and her it was a shock to the system but I'm proud we've come this far. But making it through all the tough times I feel invincible!
How has your race and ethnic / cultural background influenced your parenting?
I'm from Ghana originally so that is very much a part of my parenting style. I call Naima 'chale' when she's being cheeky and try and teach her about the old Ananse stories. We've also been to Ghana every year since she was born. I would say I'm as equally an African mother as I am a Scottish one (I was born and bred in Glasgow). I've always made a point of buying black dolls and books with black characters. Amazing Grace is a favourite of ours. I want her to see herself in her play as much as possible.
“...being single mum means you spend so much time worrying about money and everything else and there's never enough time to just 'be' with her. We are a great little team, so close but I miss having someone to share the burden with. Not just financially but emotionally, physically and spiritually too.”
Do you feel that you have added responsibility raising a Black child in the UK? If so how?
I feel that any parent has the task of helping her maintain her identity as a bit Ghanaian, a bit Scottish and a bit English. If she doesn't know her heritage she won't know who she is growing up and I don't want that for her.
What is your view on promoting your daughter’s ethnic background and why?
The promotion is in her skin colour – it’s already there! So I say embrace it and celebrate it. I want her to be proud of who she is and her skin tone. There’s been a couple of times she’s come home from nursery and asked why she’s brown and her friend Lua is white, why she doesn’t have long Rapunzel hair but I tell her that brown is beautiful and her hair is just so pretty. I reinforce it as much as I can that differences are good and should be embraced.
Your daughter is very young, do you think there will be a point in time where you have the ‘As a Black
person you have to work ten times as hard’ talk? Why?
Yes I’m sure I will. My mum had it with me. it would be nice not to but we live in a world where Trump could become President – all is not well. Instilling a hard work ethic in any child is a great thing if they can achieve their goals. I also want to be real with her about the world she is growing up in. She doesn’t need rose-tinted glasses when it comes to glass ceilings.
What are your thoughts on the representation of Black mothers online?
Black mums, especially black single mums come across as angry and bitter all the time – that’s not the case. I think we’re heartbroken and tired and it comes across badly. We need more positive images of black mothers out there, that aren’t all on welfare or surrounded by 6 kids with 6 different fathers. We are women, who life just got the better of. And to coin an old phrase we are survivors.
How do you manage your career as a TV producer/ presenter for ABN TV, being an editor of a website and magazine with being a mother?
I will admit, when I first became a single mum I went into work mode so I worked and worked to provide. I did 60 hours a week and Naima was constantly in childcare. It didn't work for either of us and fortunately the universe intervened and that job went away. Now I work from 10-2 in radio (abnradiouk.com), and only two long days a week, one of which Naima is picked up by her dad which means most evenings I can pick her up from nursery. It's a much better balance for us. We're closer and happier. I write when she's in bed at night, or at the weekend when she visits her dad. Like I said earlier it can be tiring and there are nights you can't even thinking about cooking or doing a bath but when she comes to snuggle in bed with me or picks me a flower from the garden or tells me I smell like lavender it resets you and you know you can do it.
“I will admit, when I first became a single mum I went into work mode so I worked and worked to provide. I did 60 hours a week and Naima was constantly in childcare. It didn't work for either of us and fortunately the universe intervened and that job went away.”
When you feel overwhelmed how do you overcome that?
I try and just take a moment - there aren't many of those. I try not to be too hard on myself but I'm guilty of a lot of negative self talk, a habit I am desperate not pass on to Naima. I try and do a little workout every morning for 15 minutes which is great me time to vent any frustrations. Mostly when things get too much I cry to my partner or best friend, let it all out and then just pick myself up. I ask for help where I have to. I've had to learn not to be too proud. That's hard for me.
What if anything would you differently as a parent?
I would have more time with her, to play and be silly and not worry about the washing or cooking or cleaning. That's what I crave the most - time to just be with her. On the long days I'm at work I miss her loads. It always feels like we're rushing from one place to another. I'm working on that, making time for us.
*Quick fire questions*
Beyonce or Rihanna?Rihanna
Clubbing or fine dining?Fine dining
Castor oil or coconut oil?Coconut oil
Jollof rice or plantain?Plantain
Trainers or heels? Trainers
90's or 00's?90's
Brandy or Monica?Brandy
Museum or park?Park
Play date or mum and daughter chill? Mum and daughter chill
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