Writer Christine Michel Carter On Balancing Work & Raising Black Kids In Today's America


xoNecole's Moms Who Inspire series highlights modern day moms mastering all the tasks on their plate, from day to day responsibilities to ensuring their children are kind, educated and well-rounded human beings. Each mother describes their inspiration, what motherhood means to them, and how they maintain their sense of selves while being the superwoman we all know and love.

There's a writer, marketing strategist and mother who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk and she goes by the name Christine Michel Carter.

The Forbes, TIME, and Entrepreneur contributor has made a career of helping companies understand women just like her, black women and working moms. She's been called "the exec inspiring millennial moms" and her passion for mothers, black women and their children is sincere. Becoming a mother herself was always something she had envisioned for herself, but not something that was easily attainable.

Where some women seem to get pregnant on the first try, her own journey to motherhood was quite difficult. It took "rigorous planning, ovulation tracking, and intercourse scheduling"- but because of the relationship she had with her grandmother, aunts and uncles, she persisted and was blessed with two babies: Maya, 6 and West, 3.

She's a Mom Who Inspires us because she's willing to be a guardian and a champion for mothers and black women. Christine walks us through how her children inspire her professional life and how she became a thought leader for marketing to millennial consumers.

On her happiest memory as a first-time parent:

My happiest memory was the moment I felt like my daughter and I began to bond.

She was born prematurely and spent a month in the NICU.

And I found it hard to initially connect with her because she was surrounded by a glass case, tubes, and monitors. It only took a few days to get comfortable with those things but in mom time, that's a lifetime. When we both became comfortable with one another, having skin to skin contact and spending hours cuddling… it was the greatest feeling in the world.

On how her upbringing influenced her approach to motherhood:

I respect my mother; she is one of the most determined women I know. She had a goal of graduating college before I did, after postponing it for years. She actually exceeded her goal, receiving a bachelor's and two master's degrees. She's been a huge influence on my professional career and I consider her a role model and mentor. But my grandparents (specifically my grandmother) influence how I raise my children. Unlike my mother, my grandmother didn't work and because of that, I was able to spend a lot of time with her. She taught me that work isn't everything and your profession has no bearing on the impact someone can have on your life.

On a career-defining moment that tested her determination:

I remember when I was 20 years old: I was the director of marketing for a regional retailer and felt like my salary didn't align with my roles and responsibilities. I left the company and started my retail marketing firm, all the while scared I couldn't demand a higher consulting fee. I often worried if I ever returned to the corporate world, I'd never earn the salary I deserved because I was so young. I was full of doubt. Still, I took on a dozen clients as a consultant, fine tuning my professional skills and leveraging development tools. I eventually did return to the corporate world and made three times the amount I made when I left. From that experience, I learned my age is just a number, and it should have no bearing on the salary an employer offers me or the worth I put on my own professional skills.

On balancing work and home life:

I'm blessed to have a flexible schedule professionally, and this allows me to put what truly matters to me first: my children. I have the opportunity to attend more class parties and recitals than other mothers, and that's a blessing I recognize and do not take for granted. Also, my aunt is a fantastic support system for both my personal and professional life. She's there at a moment's notice if I need to work a little late or travel for business.

On the hidden life lesson she shares with her children:

Who's opinion matters? (Then I make my children point to themselves.) I find my daughter often taking the opinion of her teachers, her grandparents, and her friends to heart. Once she said she changed her favorite color because a boy's favorite color was blue. Comments like that are disheartening to me, especially because she is a young black girl and may have a lifetime of situations where her voice is silenced.

I constantly remind her only her opinion of her matters, and she has to feel confident in the decisions she makes because she's the one ultimately responsible for them.

On her favorite activity to do with her children:

I love taking my kids to the gym. They have their own separate area at the gym where they play, but I like showing them the importance of committing to a fitness routine and taking care of your body. This isn't something I grew up with and wish I'd started working out and being active at a younger age.

On the times she's scared to be a parent:

Whenever another black man is killed senselessly for having Skittles in his pocket, or for reading in his own car, a chill goes down my spine and my eyes water.

I'm raising a black man, public enemy number one.

Black men as young as 12 years old have been killed for no reason, and that fact makes me feel my son is never truly safe. Honestly, and unfortunately, I'm somewhat comforted by knowing there are other women feeling these same emotions, fighting across the country to show our children's lives matter.

On the three words representing her approach to motherhood:

Imperfection - I want my kids to understand I don't have all the answers and have done things (like all mothers) that I'm not proud of. Relatability - I'm not a "cool mom" but I'm not a "because I said so" mom either. Communication - Above all else, my kids know nothing is more important in my life than them and I think about them every moment of every day.

On how she practices self-care:

I can't live without going to the gym and running. Runner's high is real. I feel so inspired and awake after a good run on the treadmill.

On who inspires her to be a better mother:

My cousin Lindsey inspires me to become a better mother. She has so many professional and personal responsibilities, and I admire her more than she understands. She's my older cousin so she's always been #goals, but I'm amazed and inspired by how she's overcome obstacles in recent years.

For more Christine, follow her on Instagram.

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