When I was thinking about going back to school one of the people that encouraged me was Dr. Elima Jedy-Agba. This beautiful mother of 3 is the classic description of beauty and brains. She manages to juggle running a home and a business with her doctoral studies and makes it look very easy. For all the ladies looking to make a career in research I hope she inspires you.
Elima tell us about yourself.
I am a 35 year old married mother of three wonderful kids, Jedy is 8 years old, Timmy is 5 years old and Zoe is 1. I was born and raised in the beautiful city of Calabar, Nigeria. I studied Medicine and Surgery at the College of Medicine, University of Calabar. I have a Master’s degree in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), and I am currently rounding up a Ph.D in Epidemiology and Population Health from the same Institution. I found my niche in cancer research and I have had an amazing career so far working in the areas of breast and cervical cancer. I am a World Cancer Research Fund International Fellow, a member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, The American Association of Cancer Research, the Society of Oncology and Cancer Research of Nigeria and most recently one of the 50 early career cancer researchers selected by the International Agency for Research on Cancer/World Health Organization as one of the ‘Future Leaders in Cancer Research’from low and middle income countries. This Fellowship was awarded at a recent Global Cancer Conference that held in Lyon, France. I have spoken at several international conferences on a wide range of cancer related topics and projects, and co-authored 2 book chapters in the 2012 World Breast Cancer Report by the International Prevention Research Institute.I am currently a research fellow at the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria.
Being married to an entrepreneur, I have developed a flair for business and serve as a director on the board of the family business. I really do enjoy working with my husband on conceptualizing, developing ideas and seeing them actualised.
How do you juggle work, home, school, business and so much more with being a mum?
Balancing Motherhood and a demanding career in science is challenging, but I believe that nothing good ever came easy. Whilst my career is important; my family comes first. Importantly, it has only been possible to maintain this balance because I have been blessed with an amazing support system. It does take a village to raise kids these days! My husband Tim,..bless him, is the most supportive and selfless person you can ever imagine. He fills the gaps perfectly. My 8 year old is very understanding, and my parents are amazing. My mum though busy with her non-governmental organization/health consultancy service always makes out time to be with my kids if I have to travel for work or school and I am unable to take them. She just gets on the next flight out and takes over things till I return. This is a woman who got a PhD degree at over 60, tells you the kind of person she is! I would say I am really lucky to have the support system that I have of family and lifelong friends.
How do you make time for your children especially when things are hectic?
When things get hectic as they very easily do – I prioritize. If I have deadlines to meet, I stay up and work at night so I can spend time during the day playing with the kids, taking my boys for soccer practise on Saturday mornings or going to the movies. I have also taught my 8 and 5 year olds that sometimes mummy needs space to work and for every 2 hoursof quiet time they give me at the weekend, they get 1 hour afterwards when we can do whatever they want…. We compromise and it works! I can almost hear my second son Timmy saying, ‘Mummy, you have 15 more minutes of ‘you time’, it’s almost time to play hide and seek’. My daughter who is only 15 months old is already developing a sweet personality and is growing into a self-reliant and confident little girl who loves to join in the fun with her brothers.
What advice do you have for working mums?
I would say being a working mum is great for your kids! It comes with economic, social and educational advantages for you and your kids. I want my daughter to know that she should have a family and a career or business. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.However, ‘Mommy Guilt’ remains a huge factor. We mums often berate ourselves and get judged by everyone else on how we raise our kids. Everyone has an opinion on bringing up kids these days; what they should eat, bedtimes, what TV programs they should watch, what is ‘best’ for the kids etc… But the truth is, as hard as we try, we can only be human, not perfect. Sometimes, we want to spend more time with the kids, go to the movies more often, pick them up from school every single day…but sometimes it just is not possible. The thing about guilt is that it helps you achieve nothing! I remind my kids every single chance I get about how much I love them and smother them with ‘annoying little kisses and pecks’ and ensure that I know everything about how they spent their days, who their friends are and learn about the things they love, like football which my 8 year old is crazy about.. Every day, I strive to be a better mum, wife and person. I look at the bigger picture and encourage myself to keep on when I have difficult days. I would encourage other mums to figure out what works best for them and make their own decisions and choices; the popular opinion isn’t always the best one.
How do you look good in your line of work?
Maintaining the balance of looking good in my line of work is easy because I love fashion, I think your style says a lot about who you are before you even speak. I would say my style is Classic, I love quality pieces that are timeless and comfortable. I also love accessories and handbags.
What lessons do you hope your children will learn from you?
I want my children to learn that family, love, happiness and good health are much more important than money or a career any day. I want them to learn to be passionate and kind to those around them and do their bit to give back to the society in whatever way they can. Finally, they should be prayerful, have big dreams and know that ‘dreams don’t work unless we do.’