Image by Heather Compagner
There is no end to what is possible when believing in yourself is part of your self care ritual. That’s one of the keys to Kyle Smitley’s success in balancing the three worlds in which she lives - Executive Director of Detroit Achievement Academy, co-founder and Executive Director of Detroit Prep, and mother and wife.
Kyle is one of our original MOs. We learned about the solutions she’s created for her community, and had to share her passion. Read on to learn more about her and where Mother Oxford fits into her life.
You're a mother of two young girls and mother to two schools (plus a wife and dog-mom!) How do you approach prioritizing and managing your time and commitments? (How) have the last six months differed?
I'm a pretty relentless time manager. If I had a secret for me, it would be successfully segmenting my time (when I am at work, I'm at work and HUSTLING) and then I turn off at 4:00p most days and am a mom/wife! I usually don't even think about work from 4-8p. If I do, I pop it in my to do list on my phone and keep it movin'. Once the kids are in bed, I clean up my work stuff and plan my day the next day so I can really move through it efficiently. I love my job so working late at night while watching Housewives of Wherever is actually a treat. It's also when I plan out fun scavenger hunts, surprises, crafts, and projects for my kids, which is both a symptom of me growing up with a mom who made every day wild and wonderful and also my really special working mom guilt. It's hard to recommend working until 1a every night, but that segment of my day actually never feels like *work*. I also refuse to feel bad about any of my choices. On days I fail at everything listed above, I can be found laughing hysterically, rather than crying. The second kid will do that to you I think.
When you are committed to so many children - your schools' and your own - how do you ensure you maintain your sense of self? Where do you make the time, and do you practice any particular self care routines?
I actually get a ton of joy from, and my sense of self has grown from, the three main worlds in which I live -- Detroit Achievement Academy, Detroit Prep, and my home/personal life. The people in all three areas actually bring out my best self, push my growth and evolution, and give me a ton of freedom and support as I express myself and progress. I feel my biggest sense of self in those communities. When I am alone, I feel like not myself, if that makes sense? It might not. In the same vein, I feel like I care for myself best by believing in myself in all three arenas. I think I'm an awesome mom, so I GO FOR IT. I think I'm good at advocating and supporting my schools, so I take risks and put myself out there in bigger ways. For me, a massage or a spa day has never felt like self care. But positive self talk and believing in myself and in the people around me has. I do realize when reading this that I sound insane.
You've built two charter schools, working to create a solution for an acute need you witnessed in the community. Prior to that, you launched a kids' line because you saw something missing. Do you attribute this to how you were raised, and do you hope to instill this entrepreneurial, problem solving spirit in your daughters?
I hope my kids, biological and at the schools, do whatever brings them joy and a sense of purpose. For me, it’s building! It's seeing a gap and a way to serve or bring happiness or access to others and believing in myself enough to create it. I attribute it mostly to my inability to be really good at anything. Like, my husband is an emergency doctor. He has to really know things and have serious and legitimate skills. I don't have that mental capacity. But I CAN use google and wait in lines and make up for lots of shortcomings with hard work. I'm better suited to be an entrepreneur than, like, a chemical engineer.
We're also on a mission to serve a need - to support women in their demanding, multi-faceted lives. It's not precious and perfect. It gets messy. How does Mother Oxford help you embrace the mess of it all?
My Mother Oxford has served to remind me of like -- "It got dirty and messy. And so what?". Like with MO shirts, it all washes off so easily. But don’t other messes in life also wash off pretty easily? Don't gaps and shortcomings and frustrations and disappointments also just disappear over time? Maybe it's time to just relax about it all in the moment then too, like I do when my daughter wipes her soy sauce covered face on my Mother Oxford.