I'm not supposed to be here. At least that's what the statistics said. According to all the studies, and the declarations of negative people in my life, if I did survive my gang-riddled neighborhood, it would be unwed with several children by my side, a dead-end, low-paying job, and a future that lacked hope. That's what the statistics said.
But I had a different ending for my story.
I've always known I was destined for great things. Don't ask me how I knew. I just did…it couldn't have been my environment. After all, the mean streets of Sacramento can shatter anyone's dreams. In fact, my Meadowview neighborhood was dubbed “Danger Island" and although it was nestled between the affluent Pocket/Greenhaven area and lower middle class, Mack Road, it was not a place you wanted to be caught outside after dark.
I never have settled for the norm. Even as a little girl, from a broken home, I knew that my destiny was greater than my existence. After all, I'd survived abuse, both sexual and physical, and my life had been spared more times than I could count.
While my story may be deemed a rags to riches tale, it's bigger than that. So much bigger. It's about an ordinary girl who decided she was capable of extraordinary things. It's about a woman who took all the obstacles tossed in her path of life and used them as stepping stones to bigger and better things.
I worked my way up through the rigors of corporate America, the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur, the frustrations of trying to maintain a proper work-family balance, I've learned many valuable lessons.
Now, as my company – which started from my kitchen – is a top selling, iconic natural hair care brand, I have singlehandedly changed not only my destiny, but my children's legacy.
Of course, creating a successful business doesn't come without a cost and if you're not careful, that cost can be your family.
Any successful entrepreneur will tell you, having it all is a lot easier said than done. Building a business, a thriving business, requires long hours and lots of sweat equity. Even if you have a plethora of cash, the sweat equity alone can take a toll on your family.
A support system is crucial in building a business. Whether it's your parents, siblings, relatives, friends or neighbors, if you have a family, you simply can't go at it alone.
There isn't a one size fit all solution to having it all, but I have found a host of common threads among successful entrepreneurial mothers.
It's about a woman who took all the obstacles tossed in her path of life and used them as stepping stones to bigger and better things.
Organization is key!
Nothing adds stress to your life more than trying to find an important file that is buried under mounds of paperwork. Or trying to remember what time the baby's doctor appointment is because you didn't write it down. You have to get and stay organized. Your work time is precious and not as dependable as it would be if you worked in a traditional workplace. You can't afford to waste time looking for files, sorting through junk mail or even finding a piece of paper to write on. Keep everything clean and organized from the start.
Whether you use an old fashioned organizer or rely solely on your latest gadget, you'd be amazed at how a planner can help balance your work life with their family life, manage your daily tasks, and help prioritize your lie. (My personal favorite is my iPhone and all of the amazing applications for business owners). Of course, being flexible.
is key because at some point, your sitter will call in sick, your child will have a meltdown and your spouse may get called in to work.
Include the kids.
Sometimes, our children just want to be in the same room with us. When your children are little, child-proof your office and bring them in. Give them their own little space, and their own little tasks, and you'd be amazed, the kids will feel like they've gotten some mommy time while you've gotten some work done.
It's good enough.
Let's face it, we all weren't meant to be Barbara Billingsley, you know, the “Leave it to Beaver" mom who made lunches and homemade cookies for snacks? So what you had to go to the store to buy cookies for your daughter's class party? Your priorities are your family and then your work. Don't feel bad about being a store-bought cupcakes kind of mom. Find your 'good enough' and be happy with it.
Focus, focus, focus.
One of the challenges many entrepreneurial moms face is managing tasks while trying not to get sidetracked by children, laundry, dishes, etc. Make a list each month of what you intend to get done. Then break the list down week by week, then day by day. If you stay focused, you can stay committed to getting things done.
Ask for help.
It's very difficult to succeed without help, be it from your partner, family member or someone you hire. Communicate with your partner about how he can help you - you both need to remember you're juggling two full-time jobs. Figure out how to parent and chore-share so you're both on the same page. I have had to outsource things (things that used to make me feel guilty), but I've learned that asking for help is essential to getting it all done. We have a housekeeper. I used to feel guilty about that. I had to finally tell myself that the amount of time it would take me to clean the house, given my daily workload and mommy duties, just wasn't worth it.
Don't forget about you.
In the grand scheme of trying to have it all, we often put ourselves on the back burner. It is crucial that you take care of you. How can you work out when you don't have enough time with your kids? How can you take a bubble bath when you need to make a presentation? Realize now that there will never be enough time in the day to get everything done. Your in-box will still be full when you die, so learn to accept that fact now. It may seem like a cliché, but in this case, it's the truth: You have to take care of yourself in order to take care of your family, your business and your home. If mama isn't happy, nobody will be.
My story can be your story. And if you walk away with nothing else, I hope that you'll understand my motto: When you wake up in the morning you have two choices - go back to sleep and dream your dreams, or wake up and chase your dreams.
I choose the latter. What will your choice be?
Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.
Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.
That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.
Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.
Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.
Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.
With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.
The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.
Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.
As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.
Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.