Interview conducted by Ayanna Muhammad, Editor-in-chief
Dr. Kamilah Muhammad-Harris is a 37 year old mom of 2 adorable children – a 6 year old boy and 3 year old girl. She’s been married for 8 years to her college sweetheart and they live in South Orange, NJ. If she’s not in the operating room, you can catch Kamilah doting on her children or shopping at her favorite boutique.
AM: Wife.Mother of Two.Doctor. These are all significant titles that you hold. Please, tell us your secret to time management, and how you keep it all together. And what is your biggest challenge in terms of time management.
Dr. Muhammad-Harris: My secret weapon: Jamilah Muhammad LOL! My mother, is so integral to my day to day success, that I have to acknowledge the blessing she is in my life. I try to come up with a feasible and detailed schedule and stick to it. Not over-programming and keeping expectations realistic is key. No one can magically add hours to the day….not even Beyoncé. My biggest challenge is outsourcing tasks and delegating. I’m working on it.
AM: Thinking back to the day you found out you were going to be a mother, what were your thoughts? Did you ever feel like your career would take a backseat to this new journey you were embarking on? Was there a time that you thought you couldn’t do both?
Dr. Muhammad-Harris: When I first found out I was pregnant, I experienced a feeling of anticipation and excitement like never before! Motherhood’s impact on my career only came up much later in my initial thoughts, because I had already adopted a ‘make it work’ attitude and had already come to terms with the fact that ‘there is never a perfect time’ to be pregnant during a career in Medicine. But this timing was just perfect for me! There were some really difficult times, but it never crossed my mind that I’d have to choose.
AM: What has been the biggest surprise about motherhood that you weren’t necessarily expecting?
Dr. Muhammad-Harris: That I can’t control every single aspect of their lives! Gasp! Also, how much time and patience is required to be an advocate for your children’s education
AM: Often times while being a new mom there are certain moments with a new baby that are absolutely terrifying because of your uncertainty in this new journey. Looking back, what are some things that got progressively easier, or less scary when you had your second child.
Dr. Muhammad-Harris: Things that got progressively easier…balancing the calendar/schedule, managing minor illness, meal planning, bedtime routine, signing up for sports and activities on time, potty training, grocery and clothing shopping, tutoring, soothing minor cuts and/or bruised feelings….basically, everything.
AM: How much of an impact do you think your own childhood has on the way you raise your children? Are there any key values that you find yourself instilling in your own children that your parents made a priority in your upbringing?
Dr. Muhammad-Harris: I think my upbringing has had a major impact on how I raise my children. My parents instilled in us the importance of faith, education, family, charity, service and kindness. They stressed the knowledge of how to ‘Eat to Live’, and to do for self! They also really reinforced the responsibility of unity amongst our people and the power of community! These are all ideals I am pouring into my children.
AM: What advice would you give new moms that are trying to transition back into the work field? Please share with us a few key tips to balance work and home?
Dr. Muhammad-Harris: Relish in the blessing that is motherhood and don’t allow anyone at work to make you feel any guilt for being a great mommy! Know your rights (leave, breastfeeding breaks and facilities, childcare, etc.) and don’t make apologies for taking advantage of said rights and ‘allowances’. Also…a car charger for your breast pump is a game changer! Multitasking is a must! But we’re mothers, so we can handle it. Also, ask for help when you need it. Don’t be afraid to talk to a professional if you start to feel off balance by the weight of it all.
AM: We always hear that it takes a village to raise a child. How important do you think it is to have a support system when raising children? And for those moms who might now have a lot of family, or much support, what advice would you give in regards to finding other resources?
Dr. Muhammad-Harris: Having a strong support system is SO important, for many reasons. It doesn’t always have to be family. I have a group chat with some of closest mommy friends from undergrad, a judgment free space where we can discuss anything, get great advice and vent whenever necessary. Mom groups on social media, at your mosque or church, or in social groups such as sororities, can be very valuable. If you’re a working mom, you could build a community within your company.
AM: From single, to married, to babies can be a huge adjustment, and sometime self care can be an after thought. How do you ensure your “me time” and what are some things that you do to keep you feeling like you.
Dr. Muhammad-Harris: I’m still working on ensuring ‘me time’ . It’s hard for us moms to get pass the ‘mind over matter’ aspect of motherhood and accept the importance of self care, but we must. And after convincing ourselves, we have to ensure our partners and members of our village understand the importance as well. That way your village will be on board for scheduled appointments (workouts, beauty treatments, etc). I also really love the moments right after we get them in bed, where there’s some quiet and I can just wind down, enjoy some music, read or deep condition my hair.
AM: Playing off of the previous question, was it an adjustment for your marriage once children came in the picture? How you manage to keep the spark in your relationship with your spouse? What are some tips that you would give moms in regards to still having fun as a couple with your partner?
Dr. Muhammad-Harris: Having children was an adjustment for us…an awesomely sweet adjustment but at times a life changing chaotic whirlwind! We are dedicated to prioritizing our love as a married couple. I noticed that allocating a set amount of time, uninterrupted, to check in with my husband every night keeps us connected. We also try to have weekly dates, we take turns planning. Vacations without the children, at least once a year, near or far, are great…but this requires planning ahead, saving and some really reliable and kindhearted caregivers!
AM: I personally think you hit the jackpot with having both a girl and a boy, the best of both worlds. Did you notice any major differences or moments that were easier with a boy than a girl in their early development? And vice versa?
Dr. Muhammad-Harris: I did! Each child is different, and their personalities emerged sooner than I expected, I suppose. Some differences I attribute to gender and some I attribute to the unique personalities of these two individuals that keep me on my toes everyday. Potty training wasn’t horrible for either child, but a little faster with my daughter. My daughter also seems to crave independence, where my son has been content having things done for him, a little longer than his sister. My son is pretty mellow and enjoys playing or reading alone. My daughter is a social butterfly and loves to engage the family in her play. She also styles her own ‘looks’ on a daily basis.
AM: If you could look back and think of one memorable moment, which I’m sure there are plenty, that made you realize that all the sacrifices of motherhood are worth it, what would it be?
Dr. Muhammad-Harris: Yes, there have been so many, but I’ll share this story…recently, I wasn’t feeling well, physically, battling a cold, and work was stressing me out. After work, I walked in the door, both children ran up to me so excited and full of joy, that it became contagious. I perked up a bit! Eventually, I sat on the couch and my daughter curled up on my lap and sang a song for me that made me laugh. My son leaned quietly on my shoulder, continuing to play on his iPad. I felt like they’d have my back forever. They reminded me how they can make any worries nonexistent, and how much of an honor it is to know and love them. My life wouldn’t be nearly as full without them. Plus, we have really fun after dinner dance parties every night!
Thank you so much for allowing us a peak into your journey throughout motherhood!!!