Real Mom: Dr. Shanetta Robinson & Her Journey Through Motherhood, School, and Her Own Consulting Firm
I met Dr. Shanetta Robinson just four years ago on Capitol Hill, a few weeks after I got married. We happened to be in the same group of women lobbying for the renewal of VAWA, or Violence Against Woman Act. Our meetings were with local and regional representatives such as U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez. It is my honor to share this interview about my friend and inspiration, Dr. Robinson.
Dr. Robinson is an extraordinary mother for her service and unrelenting dedication to social change in the lives of individuals facing adversity. She is a leader outside and inside the home. She is a founding partner of the Southern California Diversity IN Leadership Conference, a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the NAACP, ABWA, NAPW and several honor societies. She has presented at various conferences and forums related to organizational development, black feminism, leadership, diversity, and youth/family empowerment. Shanetta is the proud mother of two wonderful children. She received her B.A. in Psychology (2005) and Masters in Public Policy and Administration (2009) from California State University, Long Beach. She completed her Doctoral (2013) studies in the Graduate School of Education & Psychology at Pepperdine University. She completed her education while raising two young children and is the first in her family to accomplish such distinguished degrees.
Dr. Robinson, where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Watts, California, home of the beautiful Watts Towers and to countless bright people. Unfortunately it is more commonly known for the Watts Riots of 1965 and the Gang Peace Treaty of 1992. The lack of public knowledge beyond such events often perpetuates discrimination and oppression. Assumptions regarding my hometown often cause others to see me through the lens of statistics and stereotypes. I live my life determined to fight out of this box that placed me in a pigeonhole.
As a young, black woman, I did not let such stereotypes dictate my future. I am more than my circumstances.
Please describe what your life was like when you became pregnant for the first time and how you felt about becoming a mother. Did you have any fears about becoming a mom?
Fears; none. For me, becoming pregnant was a wakeup call and a blessing. I had dropped out of school, and was caught up in an unhealthy relationship. When I found out I was pregnant, the first thing I did was contact California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) to figure out how I could petition back into school. I even took community college courses in order to demonstrate to the appeal committee that I was serious about my education. My petition was approved, and I was “the pregnant girl on campus.” I enjoyed that time and received the best grades of my undergraduate career the following semester.
Fears did not drive me when I became pregnant; my motivation to succeed came from knowing that I had something more important than myself to think of.
Subsequently, I named my daughter ‘Nailah’, which means ‘one who attains’ or ‘successful woman’. I learned that if I allow fear to control me, I am doomed to fail. Nailah gave me hope.
How did motherhood change you?
Motherhood made me more responsible. Before my pregnancy, I had fallen off track for the first time. God gave me the opportunity to mother. I knew I had to be dedicated and resilient.
What has your road been like through motherhood?
Well, I was once told, “for a 31 year old woman, you have lived the lives of 5 older women.”
Since becoming a mother, I have been both married and divorced. I had my son, Little Ray (my ‘ittles’) in 2005, just two years after my daughter. I was the first in my family to obtain an undergraduate degree, then went on to get a Master’s Degree (2009) from CSULB. I furthered my education and received a Doctorate in Education from Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education & Psychology (2013). Professionally, I climbed the ladder of success, was knocked down, picked myself up, and started my own business. I now teach at CSULB in the College of Business Administration and direct the Southern California Diversity IN Leadership Conference.
Describe a typical day with your kids. What does your schedule look like?
At one point, I worked full time, owned my own business, was a full-time mother, and full-time student. AND I MISS that level of hustle.
However, I feel like the primary function of motherhood is being a taxi, especially with a 9 and 11 year old. Nailah plays softball, and does gymnastics. Lil Ray plays both baseball, and football. Not to mention all of their academic activities. Therefore, I am always in the car. I have a little more flexibility with my teaching schedule and my business but any given day is hectic.
My children being well rounded is my primary goal in life, so the hustle is more than worth it. I must say though, I have a tremendous support system. My ex-husband, mother, aunts, grandmother, siblings, and my best friend Y and her family, are my backbone when it comes to the kids.
YOU HAVE TO HAVE A SOLID SUPPORT SYSTEM.
It doesn’t matter if the system is made up of immediate family members or family by love; a support system is the ONLY way you can be a successful career woman, and an awesome mother.
Please describe JPR Leadership Consulting and how you started working for the group.
My partners and I started JPR Leadership Consulting in 2012. We saw that we worked really well together and could provide needed training and development opportunities, so we began the development of our firm. Currently, JPR Leadership Consulting is the founder and producers of the Southern California Diversity IN Leadership Conference. Our passion for Diversity IN Leadership began more than 15 years ago as we navigated the workforce in our respective organizations and industries. The Diversity IN Leadership Conference is a two-day gathering of over 300 educators, executives, corporate representatives, graduate students and community leaders who represent businesses and communities across industries. Over 40 presenters share their perspectives and insights on a range of topics including leadership, business, change in the workplace, women at the forefront, inclusion as a practice, technological advancements for inclusion, all centered around diversity.
Do you have advice for other moms?
Stay true to you. I am not the “mothery” type. Meaning, my kids are extremely self-sufficient, and I purposely strive for that. My motto is “no one will take care of my children like me and tomorrow is not promised. Therefore my children have to be able to take care of themselves on the basic level in the event I am gone tomorrow”. My daughter can cook full course meals and my son is getting there; they dress themselves, clean the house, and are excellent in school. My expectation is 100% when it comes to output from my children and myself.
I cannot be a mother like anyone else. I can only be the best mother I can be, and if I hold on to that, my children are better off. So no, I do not knit costumes, and my children do not expect it. No, I do not cook every night, and my children probably prefer it that way. No, I am not in any way the traditional image of a mother. My household is run like an organization and I am the CEO.
I tell my daughter, I love her, she is beautiful, and to give 100% every morning before we part. I tell my son he is amazing, handsome, to give 100%, and to be good every morning. We pray together regularly. All of this is my way of being a great mother. I would not change it and I think my kids are pretty happy too.
Stay true to you. Do not attempt to be like the lady down the street or that perfect mom on Facebook. Be you, hold to your values, and pass those values down to your children, and have faith.
If a mom is inspired by your story and would like to contribute to your upcoming event, please explain a little about your upcoming event and how they can help.
Seeking support through mentorship and education has been important to my success as a mother, and career woman. I would love to see dynamic women who balance both motherhood and career at this year’s conference. In fact, women who are experts in the field of work life balance both theoretically and practically are Distinguished Panelist, Presenters, and/or Conference Participants. Register for the Diversity IN Leadership Conference today.
For more information about the conference and JPR Leadership Consulting go to www.DiversityINLeadership.org. Comment and questions for Dr. Robinson can be left below.
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