Shez Aden on Motherhood
You have a career and a business; please tell us what inspired you to choose your career path and why you decided to start a business alongside your career?
It sounds cliché now looking back on it but I always wanted a career helping people (well after my pop star obsession, and wanting to be a writer in my earlier years dwindled).
Social Work chose me; I found myself working with young people who offend (at a Youth Offending Team) in my mid-twenties, after university. I found fulfilment in assisting, and enabling young people during difficult, transitional periods in their lives. At this point, I was not a Social Worker, my role was that of a young persons Personal Adviser and it covered a myriad of roles including securing education, employment, sexual health and housing services etc.
Aged 30, I wanted more and was encouraged by a Manager who invested in me to return to university (this was not part of my plan…). Thankfully, I listened to her and returned to studies whilst working full time as a single mother of a 4-year-old girl. It paid off. With determination (little sleep), and an awesome support network both at work and from family and friends I qualified in June 2010 with a First Class Social Work Hons degree. The course was gruelling but it felt right and it made sense, so many pieces in my career started coming together. As if I wasn’t busy enough during the 3 and a half-year period of my course. I bought a house, took on a Freelance Advocacy post with a National Charity, oh and I got myself a boyfriend who subsequently went on to be my fiancé then husband in August 2010.
Fast forward to the end of 2011, I recalled a conversation with my fiancé in early 2010 during wedding planning. Upon finding out how much wedding cakes cost I said casually “Babes, one day I’m gonna make wedding cakes watch……..”. This was a rather odd statement as up until early 2011, I used packet mixes (yes I was that mother determined to bake with her child!!!) Funny, looking back at the birth of Angelcakes4u in Jan 2012 it seems like a lifetime ago.
I’m rather chuffed, (albeit ALWAYS busy), that I took a creative leap as up until this time it did not come naturally to me. Four years in, I’m juggling a Senior Social Work/teaching post which I’m passionate about, and a hobby which now competes in the form of a cake business.
Aged 30, I wanted more and was encouraged by a Manager who invested in me to return to university (this was not part of my plan…). Thankfully, I listened to her and returned to studies whilst working full time as a single mother of a 4-year-old girl. It paid off. With determination (little sleep), and an awesome support network both at work and from family and friends I qualified in June 2010 with a First Class Social Work Hons degree.
How do you manage/ balance your career and business?
It’s not easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is. I look at it like this; I’m driven to make positive changes in the lives of the adults and children I work with. There is much to be gained in being involved in effective social work practice despite the challenges inherent in the profession. With my business, I accept that it is a slow process but I am committed to seeing it grow and am thankful that it has over the past four years. One day I look forward to there being an equal fifty- fifty split of Social Work and cakes.
In a nutshell for now, I wish I had more hours in the day. Meanwhile, I prioritise and utilise TOIL and annual leave when I’m inundated with cake orders.
You are a mother, wife, have a career and business. How do you manage these roles and make time for yourself?
I have constant reminders in the form of my daughter and husband who come first and remind me to take time out. I do push myself (it’s in my DNA), but I also appreciate that I am ONE person who cannot be everywhere at every time. Thankfully, I have good employers and a supportive husband/friend who believes in taking breaks (holidays) time to recoup.
You became a mother at a relatively young age in comparison to your peers. How did this feel? (For example was there a time that you felt judged or disconnected from your peers?)
I chuckled reading this question because at 25 I did not think I was young!!!! Back then; I had my first degree, my boyfriend, my flat and my car lol! I thought I had it all. I never felt judged by my peers, in fact I formed an enduring relationship with another Mum of a similar age who remains one of my besties til today (our children are 4 months apart and are like siblings). Reflecting back on when the realities of motherhood hit me, I feel that some friends fell along the wayside as they did not understand my priorities or my “hustle” for want of a better term. However, I was blessed too with friends who became readily available aunties to my daughter, so even during the most difficult times (and there were) I never felt alone.
You are of a Yoruba, Nigerian, Christian background. Marriage and ‘doing things properly’ i.e. marriage before children is a cultural ideal that remains deeply valued. How did this impact your feelings about yourself as a mother out of wedlock and being a single mother for a period of time?
This poignant question is one of my greatest life lessons. Unfortunately whilst I was from a Nigerian, Christian background, I was not surrounded with positive images of marriage and family life. On the contrary, I was left with ideas of relationships from television and the odd relative here and there whose marriage appeared to be working.
Despite my mother’s initial shock and disappointment at being told her unwed 24 year old was expecting, she’s been my greatest inspiration. Her tenacity, dedication and faith are aspects I strive for in motherhood (don’t get it twisted she was a disciplinarian). “Flyrene” as she’s fondly known made the best lemonades with the lemons that life threw at her being single mother of four girls in her late thirties after the demise of her marriage to my Dad. As a Mum now, I smile because Mum’s disappointment was borne out of her love for me, she simply wanted more…….and could see in wisdom that the relationship I was in at the time was perhaps not the best for me.
As a people, we Nigerians are a forgiving bunch, truth be told the same people (elders) who may have whispered behind my back, either have children who’ve done similarly to me. Moreover they are likely to be the ones who ate the most jollof rice at my no expense spared wedding in Kensington!!!!!
How has your cultural and religious background influenced your parenting?
I identify as a British born Nigerian- bred in South London. I’m a Christian and whilst life made me stray at times, I’m humbled that God never left me.
With my Little Miss, she gets her fair share of our Yoruba culture (my Mum tries to speak to her in it), she eats jollof, pounded yam and suya regularly and she understands some of our traditions. My belief that parents are first and foremost guardians, nurturers and boundary setters is fixed, at times this collides with my social work values but it still unapologetically comes out on top. She is 14 now, going on 20 and I strive to do the unconventional Nigerian thing by trying to see the world from her eyes, I think about her feelings much more than my mother’s generation might have. I’m still of the view however, that care does actually mean control (much to her dislike, as she’s discovered make up of late…….Lord help us)!!! I’m an over-comer, like I said it’s in my DNA. I’m by no means perfect, but it’s only when you actually care about someone/thing that you seek to control and intervene. Sadly, I see the stark opposite of this in the realities of my day-to-day job.
Your daughter is now a teenager. Describe how it feels watching your baby blossoming into a woman?
Words and phrases like- Blessed, in awe, privileged, never too old for hugs and where is the pause button?
14 years have whizzed by, I’ve learned heaps from her. She mirrors me too so it does make me check myself more than I ordinarily would have done. I miss the days she used to think I knew everything, that sitting and talking with me was the best thing in the world. But now I enjoy her sense of humour, seeing her try to navigate the world and demonstrating to her that I will always be her greatest supporter.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced as a mother so far? How did you or how do you try to overcome this?
Like I said I had a robust support network (sorry Social Work jargon) of family and friends, so I was fortunate being a single mother NEVER held me back with regards to opportunities. Financially it was tough, but the grafter in me coupled with the Nigerian hustle gene simply made me work two jobs to make ends meet.
Hand on heart; the hardest thing I ever had to do for my daughter was to move out of the way in order for her to have a meaningful relationship with her biological father. Despite our differences back then after our relationship ended, he has always been a constant figure in her life and she loves him dearly.
In answer to your question, about how I overcame this? I used wisdom from my own life, having a “Daddy shaped hole” since the age of 11 was not something I wanted for my child. For a twenty something, hurt and struggling young lady, I think it was the best decision I made for her, thankfully it paid dividends.
At that time, I had no idea that God was working behind the scenes to bring another significant male into her life. She is one blessed young lady (we tell her this), she has two dads, and my husband is an outstanding stepdad. He is committed to our family and teaches her things I didn’t even know existed; he does science and maths with her, prays with her and doesn’t miss any school meetings. He thinks I’m joking when I tell him he’s the dad I wished I had…
You have been married for six years now. How did you and your daughter adjust to your new family?
Time has flown, and it does seem like a lifetime ago since I met my husband 9 years ago now. I knew he was the one early into our relationship, as he would ask about my daughter. One example that comes to mind was when he asked something basic during our early days of dating, “What are you ladies having for dinner?” Or “What are you and Angel up to this weekend?” I observed early on that he did not have to ask about her, but he chose to.
For my daughter, she adjusted pretty easily as she was gradually introduced to him. I laugh and think it might have been more difficult had she lost that cuteness factor and was a stroppy 13yr old when we met!
For me, being the sole decision maker in the house I had to learn to share and enjoy this new situation I was faced with. With time, this has become second nature, I value his male input which is most refreshing coming from a matriarchal family.
Did or do you feel validated by marriage bearing in mind the cultural importance of marriage? Why?
In all honesty, I don’t feel validated being married because it is not a destination; it is a journey of peaks and valleys. I certainly feel secure to a certain extent, but I’ve always been a pretty confident person and wearing a ring and changing my name did not validate me. I find my validation in my faith, and in all my roles in life. I feel blessed and fortunate to have met my husband when I did, but my culture did not orchestrate or dictate this.
You have three sisters, each of them are a credit to your parents, your mother in particular. Not only are you all formidable your relationship is #sisterhoodgoals. When did you realise how wonderful your sisterhood is?
Gosh, this is a tricky one as my sisters have been my friends for life. A year ago I read a statement that said, “the sibling relationship is the most enduring one that one may have in life.” It blew me away because I never saw it that way. It predates my relationship with my child, my husband, and will outlive (God willing) my relationship with my parents.
We are each other’s greatest cheerleaders, greatest critics and we have the most jokes together there are no pretences. We strive to be there for one another in life’s ups and downs; they are what keep me grounded. Their love and support gives me life, hope and without sounding soppy, I’m forever indebted to them, as they know where I’m from; they “get me”. Along the way, our female cousin has joined our foursome and now as a “fivesome” I must admit we’re formidable bunch!
How has your mother shaped your view on womanhood and motherhood?
My work ethic comes from my mother; my capacity to care comes from her too. Growing up she demonstrated a strength that I admired and a passion for her girls.
Re womanhood, from an early age she always scrubbed up well and instilled that in us girls to put our best foot forward, she would be the first to remind me to fix up if I looked/look a mess. She was not self-absorbed about this either; she wanted us to believe in ourselves and for others to take us seriously. Now in her late sixties, she’s as characteristic as ever and our relationship has deepened over the years. For her generation of women, she was unconventional and did not believe in women being subordinate to men; this has rubbed off on us girls.
To conclude, my mother is very active in her Church. The woman never stops praying! I thank God for her and I am learning from this.
Cake pop or a slice of cake? Cake pop (albeit they takes yonks to make), close second is a slice of carrot cake *drools*
Toddler or teenage? Mate the toddler years please!!!
Romantic getaway or mother and daughter road trip? Romantic getaway (sorry Angie, one day you’ll choose the same besides we’re always shopping and I know you prefer that :)
Maggi or Knorr? Maggi
Blogs or books? Both
Total or SWV? Chune wise SWV as I’ve seen them live too. But I admit I did want to look like Keisha in Total circa 1999 * I admit it*
Maggie may or mark one? :) This question made me LOL. I’m from Junction (Clapham Junction/ Battersea) it’s Maggie May all the way. I think I had every colour in their shiny leggings range and studded caps *sighs good old 90’s
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