As women, we often juggle so many roles, from our jobs to our households, and many of us count it all as a normal part of living our best lives. If we want to advance, upgrade, and reach our dreams, we take the steps, make the sacrifices, and enjoy the ride.
YouTube vlogger and lifestyle influencer Ijeoma Kola knows this all to well. In the past five years, sis has married the love of her life, finished out a PhD program, gotten pregnant and relocated to a whole 'nother country---all while running a thriving online lifestyle platform that has attracted more than 80,000 followers on IG alone. She's also launched a tourism platform to connect other women to African culture and experiences, and she has been slowly but surely transitioning a new normal as the mother of a newborn.
We caught up with Ijeoma in this xoNecole interview to talk how she juggles being a wife and new mom, her leap into global relocation while pregnant, and how faith pushes her boss moves:
Image by Ade Osinubi
You and your husband relocated to Kenya last year, and you totally moved your life while pregnant. How was that experience?
I visited Kenya four or five times before moving here, so I was familiar with Nairobi. The first time I came, I felt super-comfortable. The infrastructure and amenities are pretty similar to America, so I didn't feel out of place here versus moving to, say, a more rural part of Kenya or of Africa. In terms of being relatively newlywed, it's been fun doing this with my husband Jonathan because he's from here and while were dating, he actually went to Nigeria for a year and a half and that's where I'm from. He ended up being in my country for a little bit and I ended up being in his country, so I think it helps us understand one another.
Although our cultural experiences growing up were different, now we get to see both sides. I've met a lot of people he went to school with and get to learn more about him a little bit deeper. It's cool to experience that. It provides another interesting dimension to our marriage for sure.
Something we considered when moving is that it's not that unfamiliar to both of us. We have extended family and friends here so that's made the transition a lot easier. Being a new mom in a new country, I was really shocked because it seems like as soon as I landed I was able to connect with three other pregnant women at the time. I have been exposed to a community of new moms. I just really felt welcomed. I find it's so easy to find a common ground with people and easy to make friends simply being pregnant.
Image by Lyra Aoko
With all the change you've experienced in the past six months, has your perspective on balance changed?
There are days that I don't do any work or there are days that I do. I have grace with myself, and I get comfortable with the fact that I can't do everything and I can't please everybody. Just letting go of the weight of having to be perfect is key. If a day goes by and I haven't exactly gotten to everything I want to do, it's totally OK. Tomorrow's another day and [if] I can't get to, [I] can go for it tomorrow.
My husband is really down for the cause and he's super-helpful. His family is also very helpful, and they'll stop by and they've been my support system. I also have a team for the work that I do---an assistant and an agent for my blog who helps with negotiating contracts and collaborations. And we have house help. It's important to surround yourself with people who can help you and to outsource tasks.
What does self-care look like for you now that you're a mom?
Whenever he's napping or I'm able to get a break, I try to do something for me. I get out of the house, and I may get my hair or my nails done. I really like working out, and I make sure I go for a walk---alone or sometimes with my husband. I do yoga and I love facials and massages. The time I do these things can vary because my son has needs and he might wake up at different times or need things [at different times].
I'm hoping that in the next few months we can get a good routine going, but for the most part that's pretty much what it looks like.
As a vloggerpreneur, how has it been in terms of transitioning your business and shifting the way you present content?
My blogging business has definitely changed. It's really been about recognizing that my audience has changed. Once I moved, my Kenyan audience grew, and with that, they have different expectations. The Kenyan market operates differently from the American market and I had to decide how to position myself. You have to know how you want to shift your content--if at all--and I had to adapt. Also, when it comes to influencer marketing, I've had to approach brands differently. For example, a Kenyan brand might have a much smaller budget and might expect different deliverables. It might shift from a focus, in America, for blog post campaigns, to more Instagram-focused in Kenya.
The last change has more to do with becoming a mom. I now have to think more about how the content I post affects other people.
Before I got married, [my blog] just had to do with me and my life. Then, once I got married, it was about me and my husband. There were things I'd post that I'd include him in, but he's not a blogger for a living, so I had to be conscious of that. Now that I'm a mom, it's about being even more mindful of how I post and maybe being a bit more private about what I post or share.
What are your plans for the future in Kenya, particularly your newest venture, the Safe Journey Retreat?
I'm a spiritual person so I try to be guided by God's calling and what He wants for my life. I try to mold what I do around that. That helps me stay balanced and grounds me. Starting the Safe Journey Retreat made sense for me. It helps me in my position here. I blogged in America, I finished school and I have this audience.
I just moved here, I love it here, and I think that everyone should experience Kenya as a beautiful place to be. It felt very natural to combine all of those---my passion for traveling and Africa in general.
Also, because I'm taking a break from [what I studied in school], it's also a good way to pursue another project as I figure out things. In the early part of my 20s, I spent a lot of time trying to strictly plan out my life. I had this grand plan and I was going to accomplish things by a certain time. Something I've learned over the past decade is that when man plans, God laughs. As much as you have goals and plans, ultimately you don't really know. If you would've talked to me back then and told me that I'd be married and moving to Kenya, I'd say, "Girl, get out of my face!" (Laughs) I try to let go of the desire to overly plan my life. I kind of go with the flow right now. As long as I'm being true to myself, and continue to uplift and inspire---what I'm called to do---I'm at peace.
For more of Ijeoma, follow her on Instagram.
Featured Image by Marta Skovro