Four Habits of Successful Student Mamas

Black-College-Students

by Amber Styles

Being a mom and being a college student are two of the most intensive efforts you may ever undertake. If you happen to be doing both at the same time, I promise you it *is* possible to feel some balance. The tips I’m sharing today were learned through my  own mistakes and missteps—hopefully reading them now will simplify your own path to graduation!

Research and reflect on your options.

If you are not currently enrolled in a school, take the time to learn about the tuition rates, financial aid
programs, and the atmosphere of different institutions near you (CollegeBoard search and President Obama’s College Scorecard are two great places to start).

You may prefer being on a campus with more non-traditional students where professors and peers relate more strongly with your day-to-day experiences. If you are thinking of studying online instead, make sure the school you enroll in is regionally accredited, and look into the distance learning options offered by your state’s public universities.

Be honest about your needs.

Your professors are educators because they care about helping students! Don’t be afraid to let them know when you are
facing personal circumstances that might prevent you from turning in work on time.

In my experience, most professors have generously granted extensions if a project coincided with an anticipated event (childbirth) or the unexpected (death in the family, sick baby, work conflict, etc.). Be sure to communicate the issue as early as possible so that you and your professor can agree on a solution before it is due.

Get organized.

Carry a planner or religiously record everything in a tool like Google Calendar. I found it helpful to sit down at the beginning of the semester and copy down every assigned reading, project, and exam listed on the syllabus. Doing so ensured that I wouldn’t lose track of homework amongst other work and family obligations. You will also be able to visualize the time remaining for large assignments and plan accordingly.

Take it easy.

You are not only providing for your child, you are showing them early in life that their goals are worth working hard for! Whenever you have a day off (or an evening, or just an hour), relax and remember why your education is important to you and your family.

I would wish you my best of luck, but you don’t need it. You are one badass, determined, multitasking mama!

Amber Styles was a student mama who worked full-time while completing her bachelor’s degree. She has been professionally involved in efforts to engage adult learners, K-12 students, and higher education professionals in
online learning platforms. Please feel free to reach out to her on Twitter (@ambertronnn) for any tips or support
related to this article!

Learning To Fall In Love With My Selfie

A friend of mine recently told me I had lips like Kerry Washington, which I immediately dismissed as insane because hello, Kerry Washington’s lips are full and beautiful and everything I’ve ever hoped for when applying lipstick.

But I realized that somewhere along the way, avoiding mirrors became a hidden skill of mine. I so rarely spend time looking at myself that it’s not uncommon for someone to tap me on the shoulder at 5 p.m. and point out a sticker that my kids stuck to my forehead before school. (This is a real life story.)

When I get up in the morning, my focus tends to be on my kids, their breakfast, backpacks being packed, and making it to their school on time. I don’t think about my clothes or what statement I’m trying to make. I just get up, throw on some decent, clean clothes and go about my day.

Whenever a photo needs to be taken, I’m more likely the one to offer to take the photo, rather than stick my arm out for a group selfie.

When I look at photos I have of my twenties, I’m only in a few. As I stare down the last few months of my 20s, I’ve decided that must change.

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Uploaded this to Instagram last night *deep breath* Baby steps!

Recently I’ve given myself a challenge to be in at least 33% of the photos I upload to Instagram. For most people, it’s not so much a challenge as it is “how you’re supposed to use Instagram.”

But forcing myself to be IN the picture accomplishes two things. One, I have to give a damn about how I look. Putting a little more effort into my daily appearance can’t be a bad thing. And two, I have some record that I was here and here’s what I looked like and this is what I did. I want my kids to be able to look at my photos and see a woman who is at the beginning of finding herself, of understanding her purpose in life, of trusting herself and her gifts, of learning to love and be loved in return. I want that photo proof.

So if you see me on Instagram and it’s been a week or more since I’ve uploaded a selfie, give me a nudge and say, “You said you would.”

Counting on you to hold me to it!

 

My New Book, “The Good Life,” Is Now Available!

Over the past four years, I have had the privilege of being my own boss—blogging, writing, editing and speaking for a living.

What’s more is that I’ve had the honor of hearing from women that they too have been inspired to take the leap and build their own business.

I’ve shared tips in posts here and there on the site, but I felt compelled to give more.

Which is why I’ve published my new book, “The Good Life: Pep Talks for Stressed Solopreneurs,” now available on Amazon! PURCHASE LINK: http://amzn.to/1KYPLGj

the good life kindle cover

If you have a side hustle you hope to make your main hustle, this book is for you.

If you have already launched your business but are struggling daily with self-doubt and fear, this book is for you.

If you need tips on managing your thriving business life with your thriving personal life, this book is for you.

All next week I’ll be sharing tips on entrepreneurship here and on Instagram, using the hashtag #thegoodlifebook! Join me for a conversation on long-lasting success!

GIVEAWAY: Handcrafted Jewelry From Authentically Made Jewelry

What I love most about this community is that I get to hear women tell me their personal success stories. Latonya Moore reached out to me a few weeks ago and told me about her business, Alexandria’s Authentically Made Jewelry.

We all need something that can serve as a source of strength for us and her pieces definitely hit the mark. She allowed me to choose one of her bracelets (which can be customized with any word you choose) and I chose “strength” as a quiet reminder of what I’m made of on the days when I don’t feel so strong.

And she has been so gracious as to host a giveaway! Check out her brief interview below and then scroll to the Rafflecopter below to win one of her pewter and leather cuffs, a $26 value!

Alexandria Authentically Made

YML: Have you always been into jewelry/accessories? What’s your favorite piece in the Authentically Made store?

LATONYA: Actually, I  was not a jewelry person as far as wearing it myself.  I am a more laidback, no fuss girl.  With that being said,  I do have a few favorite pieces that I wear almost daily.  My favorite earrings are the Believe copper ones and I rotate between the Whatever 4:8 and Diligence bracelets.

YML: What was the inspiration behind Authentically Made? How long have you been doing it?

LATONYA: Although I wasn’t into jewelry, my oldest daughter is very much.  The first earrings I made were for her in 2012.  My daughters are the inspiration for Alexandria’s Authentically Made Jewelry.  I know the name is long, but Alexandria is the middle name of both of my daughters.  I wouldn’t be creating jewelry if it was not for their inspiration.

YML: What are your goals for Authentically Made in the future?

LATONYA: My goals for my business is to continue glorifying God in my work.  This is extremely important to me.  I would also like for my pieces to be on as many ears, wrists, and necks as possible :) I am working to make the online site to be more visible on the web.  Over the next year or so, my goal is to be a part of some of the juried events in my area.

YML: Do you have any advice for women who’d like to start their own business?

LATONYA: This isn’t my first business so with that being said, I would tell women to keep pushing ahead to she finds the thing that truly fits her.  Creative entrepreneurs should always have at least one person in their circle that gets them.  It can get lonely, but building a network really does help.  I have found it useful to be in contact with other entrepreneurs whether they are artists, writers, etc.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

[Beauty Bits] Homemade Brown Sugar Body Scrub Recipe

brown sugar body scrub

This winter has been brutal on my skin. I’ve been slathering creams and butters on my skin like there’s no tomorrow. A few years ago, I won a Carol’s Daughter SweetHoneyDip ChocolateBrownSugah Scrub and it quickly became my favorite winter-time beauty product. But it was $36 for one jar and while I love, love, love Carol’s Daughter, I couldn’t justify paying that much for something that would literally cost me $3 if I made it myself.

So I made it myself. It’s so simple and only three ingredients. The cinnamon combined with the brown sugar (and the vanilla if you use it) will have you smelling like a cookie!

Ingredients:

1 large glass bowl

2 cups brown sugar

3 teaspoons cinnamon

1 cup sunflower oil (olive oil works well too)

1 teaspoon alcohol-free vanilla extract (optional)

1 glass jar (I buy mine at the Dollar Tree)

Directions:

Mix the brown sugar and the cinnamon together, then pour in the sunflower oil. Add the teaspoon of vanilla extract (if using). Spoon the mixture into a glass jar. If you have some sunflower oil left over, I like to add a little extra to the mixture to ensure it doesn’t dry out.

NOTE: If you use this while in the shower, PLEASE be careful. The oil will make your tub or shower slippery. Rinse the bottom of tub or shower thoroughly after use.

Don’t Wait Until You’re Drowning To Ask For Help

by Alexandra Moffett-Bateau

While I was in graduate school I started experiencing a lot of stress and needed help staying balanced and organized. That stress meant I needed assistance with household chores and healthy eating. Slowly but surely I started experimenting with things like grocery delivery, Groupons for house cleaning, and that kind of thing. This was tough for me because as a black woman I’d very much been socialized to do damn near everything myself.

Over time I learned how to relax into a feeling of peace around having people help me. It simply became a part of my self-care to make sure that I had systems of support that would prevent me from running my body into the ground.

But soon a funny thing started happening. I began to realize how many of my girlfriends were running themselves ragged trying to work 12-15 hour days, and support their partners and cook and clean, etc….

So I found myself gently nudging them like, “Girl, there is this grocery delivery service I love—you should try them.” Or “Would you consider using this ‘extra’ Groupon I have for apartment cleaning?” Or  “Why don’t you have somebody come pick up your laundry? Just for this week, let’s just experiment and see how it goes…”

Like me, they were so resistant to having somebody come in and help them at home because it felt like some kind of personal failure. However, slowly, but surely, more and more of my loved ones started figuring out the areas of their lives that were totally overwhelming them and started getting some help.

Part of me is even struggling to write this status because it feels super “bougie” to post about grocery and laundry delivery. But the truth of the matter is that this is bigger than that.

I guess what I want to say, is that it’s okay to have someone (or multiple someones) help you. You don’t have to be experiencing some kind of crisis, for it to be okay to receive (or pay for) support in your home and elsewhere. It’s so easy to buy into narratives that tell us we should be able to do everything ourselves, otherwise we’ve failed.

But in my mind, allowing your mind and body to rest enough so that you can create, develop and grow is true success.

So even if you can’t afford to pay somebody to come in and help you clean your bathroom or your laundry or whatever, I encourage you to think about where you can get support in your life. What do you need help with? Who can you ask for assistance? I assure you that after the first time you experience a day where you aren’t totally buried, you will ask yourself why you didn’t do it sooner…

All this to say, you don’t need a reason to do as many loving things as possible for yourself.

Alexandra Moffett-Bateau holds a Ph.D in Political Science from the University of Chicago, and BA in Political Science and African American Studies from the University of Michigan- Ann Arbor. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Political Science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice- City University of New York. Alexandra’s intellectual work focuses on race and politics, urban politics and political behavior, with broad specialties in American Politics and Political Theory.

[Ladies Lounge] Getting The Sex Life You Deserve + A Giveaway!

How long has it been since your last orgasm? Come on, don’t be shy. We’re family here.

If it takes you too long to remember, today’s post has been written just for you. I sat down with sexologist Kimani Fisher, blogger and creator of VforVadge.com, to discuss your most urgent sex questions.

ladies lounge

A few weeks ago, I asked you all to submit your questions to my Ask.fm account (so you could be anonymous if you so chose). Quite a few of you wrote in and I selected four questions for my time with Kimani. Read on to see if your question was selected, and scroll all the way to the end to enter the giveaway (a $50 value!)

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Kimani says:

The most important part is communication—letting him know what you are looking for, what you like and then implementing those changes in the bedroom. As far as the 5 minutes, sometimes men do take longer than women to get built up to lasting longer. Sometimes a bit of oral stimulation can help with that. Let him release first and then the second go ’round tends to last longer.

 

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Kimani says:

It often leads back to foreplay. If he’s not prepared to get you where you want to be, sometimes it takes you longer than expected. Adding foreplay, even starting with a massage, or even just manual stimulation can help you to kick-start your orgasm a little earlier. Also, you might want to try different types of stimulation. Giving him that extra level of direction can help you speed things up, so to speak.

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Kimani says:

If you’re really tired at night, adding stimulation can help you get warmed up. If you’re sleepy, he might want to start by touching you in places you enjoy, to get you to self-lubricate and get you excited to have sex. Making sure you are in the mood is really important. Nobody wants to have dry sex. Also, using positions that take less work on your end might make it a little better for you and it also helps him use all his energy so he feels more satisfied as well.

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Kimani says:

 You’re an adult and you’re entitled to enjoy your sexuality, as long as you’re doing it responsibly. It starts with getting into that frame of mind. Your mom is not in the bedroom with you. Your grandma is not in the bedroom with you. Make sure you are covering all your bases. At the end of the day, no one else can tell you what’s going to work for you sexually. There’s nothing wrong with having sex.

Can somebody say amen? The fun doesn’t stop here because we also have a giveaway, that Kimani herself was so generous to provide us. One lucky reader will win a Prince Rechargeable G-Spot Vibrator (a $50 value). All you have to do is create some entries using the Rafflecopter below. Contest ends Thursday, March 5! Good luck!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Is Your Relationship Good For You? The Simple Question You Need To Ask Yourself

Relationship “gurus” like Steve Harvey have made millions “teaching” women how to attract and keep a successful man. But to me, the mark of a healthy relationship is simple and doesn’t involve a ton of books or webinars. If you want to know if your relationship can possibly go the distance, there’s only one question you need to ask.

“Do I feel safe?”

It’s the basis of all healthy relationships and if the answer is anything other than “YES!” your relationship will flounder. Until you can enthusiastically say, “Yes, I feel safe with him/her,” everything else you’re doing together is a waste of time. Now, this question is actually a few questions in one. Let’s break it down:

“Do I feel physically safe?” 

This is the basic one. If your partner is yelling at you, threatening you, or hitting you, this is an unhealthy relationship and one that needs to end ASAP.  Understand that physical safety—being able to relax and let your guard down around your partner without fear of physical harm—is the number one priority. Realize that without it, there can be no trust, no understanding, no respect and no benefit for you.

“Do I feel safe sharing my emotions?”

Have you ever dated someone who always dismissed your thoughts? No matter what you said, they thought they knew better or tried to convince you that what you’re feeling isn’t true or doesn’t make sense. But in a healthy relationship, you can share your feelings and you don’t get blamed for them. You can tell your partner, “You know, I was upset when you were late coming home and you didn’t text me first.” A partner who doesn’t respect your emotions will brush you off: “Oh, you’re always getting upset over nothing.”

You matter. Your emotions matter. Now, let me also say that if your partner is sometimes dismissive, it doesn’t mean you bolt. Sometimes they do not hear themselves or realize how their actions affect you. Let them know how you feel and give them time to internalize it. If, over time, you still feel minimized or not taken seriously, then it’s time to make some hard decisions.

“Do I feel safe planning a future with this person?”

Say your boo is kind but can’t hold down a job. Or maybe he’s into music but he’s 35 and no closer to a record deal than when he was 18. Or say she’s always telling little white lies that snowball. If you can’t be relatively certain that this person will make decisions that benefit you both, it’s hard to say the relationship is going where you’d like it to go.

“Do I feel safe letting my guard down, i.e. being myself?” 

In talking to my therapist, I spoke about the feeling of wearing Spanx and how good it feels to come home and slip into some sweatpants. That’s how your relationship should feel – comfortable and freeing. Of course, in the beginning, there is a lot of pressure to be your “best self.” The one who is never late, who wipes her hands with napkins instead of licking the BBQ sauce off, the one who wears heels everywhere. But over time, you should feel safe giving your partner access to your authentic self —you know the one who is occasionally running 15 minutes late, who will her fingers in public with the quickness and who will laugh if you suggest wearing heels to the zoo.

It’s that simple.

“Do I feel safe?” covers a multitude of areas and reinforces what I want everybody reading this to understand: You matter. You are important. Everyone, should they choose to seek it out, deserves good, honest, enduring love.

Parenting Isn’t About What You Say. It’s About What You Do

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“Y’all drink too much juice,” I told my kids a few weeks ago.

I was on that it’s-the-New-Year-so-we-need-to-have-better-healthier-habits kick and we were going through a couple cartons of orange juice and lemonade a week. I wanted them to drink more water.

But you know it’s hard to change a habit simply using your words. You’ve got to act. If you don’t act, then nothing changes. So I made drinking water my personal goal. I filled up my water bottle at least four times a day and make sure the kids saw me sipping water all day long.

Now they pack their own lunches and instead of grabbing juice boxes, they pack water bottles. All on their own. I didn’t say anything about juice boxes versus water bottles. They simply made the switch and now I’m thrilled they’re getting better hydration.

This is one of those realities of parenting that you don’t really pick up on until you’ve got a few years in the game. Your children are always watching you. They may tune you out when you start fussing, but they are always watching you.

They watch how you handle an unexpected change of plans.

They watch how you handle bad news.

They watch how you handle good news.

They watch how you handle interactions with people you don’t like (you think they don’t know you have beef with your sister? Oh trust me, they know).

They watch how you handle insane traffic jams.

They watch how you handle yourself when you have something important to do.

Their eyes are on you until they leave your home and by then, they’re almost fully formed. Parenting is by example, not by lecture.

If you want your children to be respectful, be respectful. 

If you want your children to be kind and caring, be kind and caring.

If you want your children to be responsible, be responsible.

Actions, not speeches, are what separate the best parents from the worst. We not only talk the talk but we walk the walk. Your children will know the difference.

What Going To Therapy Is Really Like

black woman in therapy - what therapy is really like

So I’ve been going to therapy for about a month now.

I began this year with a pledge to myself: I wanted to stop talking about how I wanted to be happy and instead focus on actually being happy.

It was time to take the reins of my life and stop waiting on other people to help me feel happy, content and well-nourished. I had to do it for myself. It was possible, but I am the only one who can take that first step.

So I called my insurance company, double-checked my coverage, gritted my teeth and booked my appointment. And then resisted the urge to call and cancel because “Wait, I’m not crazy….am I?”

The stigma of therapy almost caused me to miss out on a wonderful blessing. If you admit to (the wrong) people that you’re struggling and you don’t think you can manage your mental health alone, they’ll come up with a million reasons why you don’t need help.

“But you have a great life! What could be wrong with you?” 

“But only crazy people go to therapy. Are you crazy?”  

“You just need to pray. Have you talked to a pastor?” 

“Everybody’s stressed. What makes you think you’re so special?”

“It will pass. You’re just in a busy season of life right now.” 

I’ve heard all of these things and more in discussing with people my desire to go to therapy. (I heard the first one the most frequently. Everyone assumes my life is perfect, but if I’m the one drowning….don’t tell me how well I can swim, you know?)

Here’s what going to therapy is really like: We sit in my therapist’s office and…we talk. We talk about my week, about the things I’m struggling with, about the areas in my life I’d like to see improvement. We talk about my strengths. We talk about my victories. We talk about the people who have shaped me and the woman I would like to be in the future.

What therapy has done for me is given myself permission to be me, unapologetically. As I dig deeper and discover my strength and learn to position my weakness in a way that doesn’t harm me, I’m learning to love ME. All of me. The flaws I carry, the scars etched into my memory, the quirks that make me different from anyone else on the planet. All of that is more precious to me now that it was a month ago.

After I wrote the post about making my first therapy appointment, so many women reached out to me. “Thank you for sharing this,” most of them said. A few even said they were going to make an appointment with a therapist and two actually followed up with me to share that they went!

Investing in yourself is priceless. This isn’t a plea for everyone to go to therapy – not in the least. But it is a plea for you to take care of yourself, emotionally and mentally. There is no reason for you to feel guilt about prioritizing your health – none. Take those first steps and thank yourself later.