Today’s Mom Talk is one many readers will surely relate to. Nigeria-born, England-based mum of two Vese Aghoghovbia-Aladewolu ruminates on the emotional and physical rollercoaster that is motherhood. Within the hoops she was thrown through, she says she lost herself…but eventually came back stronger, and more self-aware in her new identity. She also describes how her two children—and the lack of representation she saw in kids’ books, toys, and media—led to her to writing a book of her own (Who Do I See in the Mirror?) and creating the lifestyle brand Philly & Friends. Read on to see how she came out on the other side.
Motherhood is peculiar. One moment you are responsible for just yourself and the next you are holding life in your hands. Life so delicate, yet so strong. Life so tiny, yet so demanding. They need you, consume your every thought, every hour, and every penny in the bank. Your whole world changes, in an instant your needs become secondary and then before you know it, you lose yourself.
The whole process is something that no one can ever prepare you for. All of a sudden, there’s a new addition to the family, one that never existed. No matter how long you’ve prepared for this, it hits you in ways you never imagined. Watching other mothers, you see the joy, the excitement, the cuteness, even the tiredness, but it still never hits home—especially the part where you lose yourself. You are filled with so much love, yet so tired. Some days you feel like hiding, and yet when they fall asleep, you miss them—so many different conflicting emotions running through your veins mixed with a cocktail of hormones. You get to a point where you can’t recognize yourself anymore, not physically in the mirror nor internally in your mind.
All that said, having my daughter in 2017 was the best thing that happened to me. Because in losing myself, I found myself. I had always been a pretty focused person, always working on one thing or the other. I set a goal, have an idea, come up with a plan, and go for it. At the age of 11, in my native Nigeria, I decided I was going to study electrical engineering at Imperial College London. Fast forward to 6 years later, and I did just that. Think, visualize, plan, and pounce.
Then my daughter’s arrival made me STOP. I put everything on hold. I needed to, because, for some reason, I wasn’t sure who I was anymore. Some of the things I held onto didn’t matter anymore. Some of my values and opinions changed. I spent so much of my time being a mother, I didn’t know how to be anything else. Was it that? Or do we underestimate the impact having a child has on a woman? Whatever it was, I had to rediscover myself. Who was I? I dropped everything and began to search for myself. I focused on my daughter, and the more I watched her, my desire to find myself grew stronger. I began to evaluate all my activities and question my passions. I started digging deep to understand myself. Why did I respond in certain ways? Why was I so passionate about some things? Who was I really at the core?
And then I focused on who I wanted her to be. The more I thought about that, the more I had a burning desire to become a better person. I felt the need to work on myself, become whole, get a grip on my emotions, build more confidence, deal with my insecurities, accept my weaknesses, and love myself. I was responsible for shaping a new life and making sure she grows up into as whole a human being as she can be.
I realized she didn’t stand a chance if I didn’t give her a chance. And to give her a chance, I needed to give myself a chance. I needed to start living, be kinder to myself, let go of the emotional junk, love myself wholeheartedly, and practice self-acceptance. I lost myself to find myself, and I owe it all to her. Because of her, I am becoming a better person. Because of her, I launched Philly & Friends. Because of her, I wrote the book Who Do I See in the Mirror?. When I had her, I went in search of books with characters who looked like her and was alarmed by the lack of diversity in kids’ books and toys.
Therefore, it became my mission to ensure that my daughter, who is the muse for the main character, Philly, has books that feature children that look like her. I started Philly & Friends, a diverse children’s brand that creates picture books, wall art, and toys that instill confidence and self-love in our little ones. I believe you have to be the change you want to see. If you can’t find it, create it.
Four days after releasing my book, Who Do I See in the Mirror?, I had my son. I remember sitting on the hospital bed, sending emails, scheduling posts, and communicating with partners. Reflecting on it all, I wonder how I was able to launch a new business with an 18-month-old and a newborn. However, I’m beginning to believe that motherhood births a fire in you that cannot be quenched. In me, it ignited a desire to make the world better for them. A world where every child feels loved, valued, and important.
I am passionate about raising confident children, and a lot of that confidence is influenced by what they consume. If they don’t see themselves represented in the books they read, toys they play with, and media they consume, how will they know they are important? Books, toys, and media play a big role in shaping the minds of our children. They expose their minds to other worlds and possibilities, and they can immerse themselves in a world different from theirs. Representation feeds into a child’s sense of self-worth. Philly & Friends is my gift to my kids and children all around the world. Representation matters and that’s why our aim is to add the much-needed drop of color in the sea of children’s books, toys, and products.
When I started this journey, I had no idea where it was going to lead me. I wrote a book, and all I wanted was to help our little ones love themselves. I never imagined the impact it would have. In a year, we achieved more than I ever dreamed. This little book idea has grown into a brand that’s impacting lives by building confidence in children, and helping them grow in self-love and acceptance.
I have loved every bit of being a mother. I’m definitely not the type of mother I expected to be—I thought I’d be more relaxed about parenting, but I’ve found that I’m so intentional. I’m fiercely dedicated to them and every detail of their lives. I’m passionate about parenting them right and parenting them individually. Our day-to-day life has been like being on a rollercoaster ride. There are amazing days, where I feel like I’m unstoppable. And there are what I call “cereal” days, where we are just trying to make it through the day doing the bare minimum.
Going from being a mum of 1 to a mum of 2 was the biggest change for me. It felt like going from 1 to 50. If I’m honest, it broke me. I didn’t expect the amount of juggling I would have to do. I eventually found my rhythm, but it involved a lot of support from my husband, parents, siblings, friends, and my mum tribe. It really does take a village to raise a child. The birth of my daughter made me find myself, but the birth of my son strengthened my backbone.
All in all, my kids have made me a better person. Thank you my little ones, for I found myself because of you, I am who I am because of you.
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