Meet Smart Mama: Monifa Bandele

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Meet Monifa Bandele, a Smart Mama from Brooklyn, N.Y. who works from her home office for Momsrising.org, an organization dedicated to advocating for family-friendly policies in the U.S. Smart Mamas caught up with her to find out what advice she has for moms who may want to consider working from home.

What are your work days usually like?

Well, my day starts at 9am, which is good. I’m on tons of phone and video calls throughout the day. There are some days where I have to travel to congressional meetings or events in Washington, DC. But working from home gives me lots of flexibility and allows me to be available to my family.

Describe the work that you do at Momsrising.org?

At Momsrising.org, we work to protect the rights of women and mothers and help end discrimination against mothers. As Vice President, I work specifically on our Healthy Kids program, ensuring kids are healthy and have access to healthy food and medicine. We help raise the voices of mothers, and we launch petitions nationally. Through our social media campaigns, moms can share their stories, sign petitions that Momsrising then takes to policymakers. Just recently, we won family leave in Washington State. Last year we won in New York State. The U.S. has only 5 states that allow family leave time.

Tell us what it means to be a working mother?

My mother grew up with seven people living in a small home. She persevered with education and she fought to build a different reality for my brother and me that we would never have understood in the midst of Jim Crow South. I’m super proud of that generation of baby boomers. But the downside is they set up the “you can do it all” mentality, the idea that we are 100% wife, 100% mother, and 100% working mother. There are still unanswered questions about what all that really means.

Why was it important for you to work from home?

I made the decision to work from home in 2006.  I wanted to be at home and still have a full income. It was hit or miss initially and then I hit a stride. I’m really happy to be able to structure my life so that I can work from home still be able to be the kind of parent I need to be for my girls. One of my greatest accomplishments was being able to be present for my children, especially during their formative years.

What does Work/Life Balance mean to you?

I’ve found that you simply can not have it all. You can decide on a priority and a plan for the things that can work now and a separate empty nest plan for the things that are not realistic right now.

How has activism informed your parenting style?

I grew up in an activist household. Most people like me felt like they lost their parents to the movement. My job is to make sure there’s a balance so that my children to don’t feel that way. I have missed major conferences to attend weekend lacrosse tournaments. It’s way more important for my children to know I’m there to support them. It’s a top priority for me to be there.

What advice do you have for your younger “working mom” self?

There was a big push for us moms to get out there and work. I would have figured out a plan much sooner than I did to work from home.