In Conversation With... Cee Olaleye
After a short hiatus we are back and absolutely thrilled that our first feature of 2018 is Cee Olaleye the humourous brain behind the awesome blog, Hey Is That Me. We connected with Cee via instagram and enjoyed her fast wit, humour and intelligence, when she decided to take a leap of faith and purchase a ticket to our first event in September 2016 we were thrilled and nervous in equal measure. Cee was so awesome online we wondered if she was legit dope or if that was limited to her online persona. GIRL! Cee is even better in real life than she is online and we are blessed enough to call her a friend (cheeseville or...).
Cee is a clever clogs business psychologist, wife, mother of two, beautiful human with a side splitting sense of humour who needs to hurry up and write a book because her talent needs to be in long form and printed! Without further ado we present, In Conversation With... Cee Olaleye!
Please could you tell our readers a bit about yourself and what you do?
I’m a 39 year old, first-generation Nigerian-British wife to The Photographer (my cute Instagram pseudonym for my first-generation Nigerian-British husband) and mother of two girls, aged 6 (that would be Kid 1+1) and 9 (aka Kid 1). We live in North London. I earn my crust as a freelance business psychologist.
You left the world of employment for freelance life, please could you tell us why and if it is as you hoped it would be?
Just under 2 years ago, I was made redundant. At the time, I thought that this could be the best thing ever as my previous role was getting way too political, the redundancy coincided with the school Summer holidays and holiday clubs as childcare is probably one of the top five best ways to drain a bank account. So, my intention was to spend the Summer looking for another job while enjoying the time with my girls. However, I enjoyed the time I spent with them so much so that I decided to bite the bullet and do the thing that I had been threatening myself to do for years: become a freelancer! It wasn’t an easy decision at all, as my previous roles have been fairly well paid and we have enjoyed a decent lifestyle. The fact that my husband is also a self-employed photographer added further uncertainty. But, something (ahem, Instagram) convinced me that if others can do it, well damn! Then so can we!
The first few months were truly scary and we had a few “WTF have we done?!” moments, but being able to drop the kids to school and collect them in the afternoon, taking them to impromptu play dates after school, hosting play dates, spending time with them in the park, doing their homework or just listening to them read while I prepare dinner made up for it. I just believed that we would get through it and we did. The work started coming in and I got a fixed-term contract for 3 days a week, which allowed me the time to do other things too (blog, Instagram, kids, friends – not necessarily in that order!)
I’m not naïve enough not to know that this is a luxury that not everyone can afford, and we have used my parents, who live very close by, extensively throughout this period too. I also understand that living like this is not everyone’s cup of tea. It would be nice to have some more security and to be able to do the things that we used to do without even thinking about it (mainly all-inclusive holidays), but cancelling Ocado and camping holidays in Dorset suit us just fine for now.
When and why did you decide to start a parenting blog? Please could you sum up your blog in 3 sentences.
While I was living my best life, soon after being made redundant, I discovered Instagram and the world of bloggers. Up until that point, I knew that people blogged, but didn’t really understand why or how. I started clicking on the links in the Instagram bios and reading the fashion and the parenting stories and was both shocked and pleasantly surprised at the rawness and realness that folks were sharing. Lots of bloggers were writing about their experiences in a way that resonated with me, kinda, but not really. I mean, there was something missing for me from the majority of the stories that were being shared – where were the women who looked like me telling their stories? So, I thought “I can do that”, and I did. I had a lot of spare time on my hands, usually between the hours of 11pm and 2am *sigh*
Sum up my blog in 3 sentences? My blog is a mash-up of the things that represent me. It features my sense of humour, my love of pink and lots of my musings on parenting and my life in general. However, it also highlights other black women who I admire, which I love doing because “why not?” I’m one of those people who stop women in the street to tell them that I love their outfit/hair/etc. The blog is an extension of that. I’m aware that wasn’t 3 sentences. Sorry.
Cee you are a wordsmith, your dry wit and comedic timing is everything! When are you writing a book?
Oh bless you! Thank you. It’s funny, but I didn’t realise that I was a comedy writer until I started writing again for the blog more recently. People seem to think that I am funny, so I will go with it. Although I do have to be careful, because I can be very sarcastic which can go over some heads and generate awkward squirm/side eye moments. Erm, I have been writing a book for about 20 years *insert straight mouth emoji* I have notebooks filled with ideas that require fuller formulation into something. That thing will materialise in 2018, IJN (in Jesus’ name). In fact if there are any publishers out there who are interested in the Issa Rae/Michaela Coel for Generation X, holler at ya girl.
There has been a lot of chatter about diversity and inclusion in the #mumblog space, (dare I mention #instamum and the #solidaritea saga’s which we like @Candicebrathwate noticed the absence of mothers of colour). How do you think this space can become genuinely inclusive?
“Genuinely inclusive”? Unfortunately, I’m not sure that will ever happen. Which is why spaces like Motherhood Reconstructed are so important. But, there obviously needs to be more of a general acknowledgement of the diversity that exists within mumdom, both among other mums within this virtual world and from the brands that use us to sell, sell, sell! Yes, I am a mother and an instagrammer who sometimes posts mum stuff, so, theoretically, I am #instamum. But when I search that hashtag, I don’t see me…or anyone who looks like me! When I look at the sponsored mum-events that are splashed across social media, I perhaps see one or two ‘validated as acceptable’ black faces recycled again and again. When I see successful brands that are fronted by women of colour, it’s not necessarily obvious because the brand reps are usually big influencers, which in the UK mum market is synonymous with white mums with a massive following. Now, I’m not knocking these white mums. Some of them, wait for it, I’m even friends with! They are getting their hustle on and that is absolutely fair enough. But some of their pains are not my pains and likewise, mine are not theirs. I want to hear from other mothers with whom I have shared experiences. Without apology or dilution. So, I would encourage more women of colour here in the UK to start sharing your stories. And while guest posting is one option for sharing stories with a well-groomed audience, I think black mothers need to be bolder about putting their own voices out there too, whether that be through Instagram, Facebook, YouTube or even a blog, without necessarily having to dilute it for your audience. The more there are of us out here taking up space, the more collective noise we will make and the more people will have to listen to what we have to say. And it’s usually really interesting, btw.
You are proud of your Igbo heritage, your husband proud of his Yoruba heritage (YORIGBO STAND UP!). How does your ethnic background impact your parenting? (Have you felt yourself morphing into a Nigerian Mum (my mind wanders back to kid 1 & 1+1 doing what looked like Kumon on the train!)
Haha! You know how seriously us Africans take our books! The Photographer and I have also been very insistent with the kids that they are British, yes, but, first and foremost, they are Nigerian. We use the little language skills we have between us to familiarise them with certain words. We ask our families to speak to them in either Igbo or Yoruba when possible. We explore all of the things that they have to be proud of, coming from Africa, and Nigeria in particular, combatting the negative stereotypes that are thrown their way subconsciously every day. We have to be on it at all times.
As a child, and even as a teenager, I was forever begging to do this, that and the other thing that seemed to come so naturally for my (non-African) friends. So, I always thought I would be a chilled parent as my parents had absolutely no chill whatsoever. But, nah. I’m not strict as such, for example, I don’t smack my kids and, for the most part, I am very open with them, wanting to encourage them to feel free enough to ask or tell me or their daddy anything. However, there are some non-negotiables. So, when an adult asks them how they are, I cannot bear it when they answer with a short and snappy “good”. The answer is “I am fine, thank you”. And when I ask them to pass me something, they better not pass it with their left hand. KMT just thinking about it *rolls eyes excessively* I want the best for them and I know that the odds are stacked against them, so I will do my best to even them up as much as I can. Hence, they will aim high, because why the hell not. I tell them that nothing is impossible. I tell them that there is no such word as “can’t”. I don’t limit their potential by ruling out anything at all.
Erm, there’s also a lot of shouting in my house. I always swore I would have a quiet house, but you can’t argue with genetics.
You have written about your traumatic birth experiences here and here . Please could you tell us more about how the "Photographer" supported you at this difficult time?
Seriously, I do not know how I could have coped without him. The first couple of days after having Kid 1, I was a mess. I didn’t even know where I was between losing so much blood that I became anaemic and the recovery from my op and the pain relief drugs and my child being taken to a different hospital. Without his text and picture message updates (no WhatsApp in those days) and his fielding of family members so that I didn’t have to deal with them, I could have quite easily lost my mind. He told me, a long while after it all, that it took him months to get over the trauma of basically witnessing me split in half while our blue daughter was pulled out, but he had to hold it together because there was no one for him to pass the buck to. He was patient with me when my temper was frayed and I just needed to shout. He was patient with me when I cried about not being able to breastfeed initially, and encouraged me to stop trying as he could see the torture I was putting myself through, but he was also fully behind my decision to continue too when I was too stubborn to stop. I am not being glib when I say that he has been my rock on so many occasions, before and since. He is my hero. Bloody hell! I need to remind myself of this when, in the midst of an argument, I feel like drop kicking him in his face (which I would obviously never actually do).
What is the best parenting advice your parents have given you?
You are not your children’s friend. You are their parent. Even if they hate you while you are doing it, do not allow them to be useless. They will never thank you for that.
When it all gets too much and you just need to be Cee what do you do?
I encourage The Photographer to take the kids out to the park or somewhere equally outside of the house, put some 90’s Mariah on as loud as I can (bearing in mind I have neighbours) and I saang.
If you could give your 21-year-old self 3 pieces of advice what would they be?
- Choose your friends wisely because you may waste a lot of time and energy on people who you will no longer speak to ten years from now.
- Continue to write and to sing because these things bring you joy
- Travel more widely (i.e. not just to Aiya Napa and Cancun)
Quick fire questions:
Eba or Fufu? Neither. Pounded Yam.
Bel Biv Devoe or New edition? BBD baby!
Clubbing or restaurant and wine life? My heart says clubbing, but my knees and my long throat say restaurant and wine.
Michael McDonald or Michael Bolton? Yah Mo Be There! I Keep Forgettin'! Come on! It’s not even a competition. Michael McDonald. Although the song that Bolton sang on the Hercules soundtrack (Go The Distance) is also ridiculous and deserves major blue-eyed soul credit.
Sit n read or tap n scroll? Sit n read (on a kindle…)
Beyonce or Solange? Oooooh! That’s a hard one. I respect both of them. I love Solange, but I’ve seen Bey live and she is too incredible to put in second place.
Reiss or ASOS? Reiss
Sweet or savoury? Sweet
Favourite inspirational quote: