What could possibly be better than a mom? A “supa mama.” That’s a mom on steroids. A mom on full throttle; working, playing, developing, nurturing and having a brick of fun while at it. When Christine Khasinah-Odero came back from the UK with a spanking new MBA degree from Liverpool University almost a decade ago, she thought the corporate world would roll out the red carpet for her. Instead, she found herself rummaging at the bottom of the barrel in a dead-end job; taking calls and occasionally making tea for a big kahuna. A bewildering time. Seven years ago, she quit her day job and started SupaMamas, an events and marketing company that encourages mothers to go for their dreams and goals alongside raising children and taking care of their families. Christine — fun, funny, carefree — met JACKSON BIKO for tea at the newly refurbished Nairobi Serena.
So, what exactly makes a mom a super mama? Isn’t it that just the fact of being a mom already makes you super powerful?
(Chuckles) You know, when you told me that you were taking an afternoon nap before you came here I thought, “it's a good thing you were not made a woman.” (Laughter)
Of course, napping is beneath women.
(Laughter) No, it’s a good thing. But for mothers, it is a luxury. You come from work and figure out who will eat what, who has not showered, whose homework needs to be signed, whose uniform was lost, or why the Help was spending her whole day talking to the watchmen. We have no time to have afternoon naps.
What I'm trying to create is a mom who never forgets herself. That it's OK to take care of everybody else but also remember that it's OK to take care of yourself first. It's very hard for any mom to put themselves first. I love my children, but I put myself first. Sounds selfish, eh?
(Laughs loudly). It took awhile to get to this point where I prioritise myself. Women get to this point after they're worked up, tired and agitated. They think, “if somebody says mom one more time, someone will die!” (Chuckles)
Somebody calls you for a night out, there is a plan to go have dinner or whatever but you think, ‘I need to get the children to bed, I need to be there for them and for everybody.’
For me, it happened after first born. I have two boys. Myles is seven; he grew together with my business. He found me busy and fumbling with motherhood. Then I got Olly who is now a year and half. When I was getting him, I was beginning to form clarity around the idea that I would not be defined by motherhood. By the time Olly was under one year, I had escaped home to go and run the Kilimanjaro marathon. It’s through Olly that I was challenging myself as a woman, rearranging my life, saying that I was a mother, I enjoyed it, but that it was also very important for me to do my own things as a woman. I was giving myself permission to live a little. That’s the thrust of Supa Mamas.
So what defines you most now?
I know I’m a very good mother. I'm present for my children but when I'm present for myself, I am 150 per cent there for myself. I also think I'm a very good wife. You can interview him (husband) as well, he will tell you himself. (Laughs). But two things define me now; my independence and my grit. You can smell the drive when you're around me. I’m unstoppable. I might falter but I stay focused.
I’m not defined by SupaMamas, or any awards that I've won. I'm just defined by the fact that I'm happy, using the space that I was given, the gift I was given to make an impact on women, about 7,000 of them now and counting.
Are there supa babas? Is there any role that your husband played for you to become who you are or was this just your own unique super powers?
(Laughs). He played a huge one, actually. You know those silent strong partners? That’s him. He's good with the children. Extremely good. Do we give men credit? Maybe not, but some of them, like mine, are doing a very good job. The truth is we need that kind of partnership. (Pause)
One day, at an event, I took a census of how many single mothers were in the crowd? Many hands went up. The room lit up. I don't know. Maybe men are also struggling with strong women. You know before, you guys were defined by your ability to provide for your women in order for them to worship you? But what happens when she can provide for herself? For a woman to get to a point where they have clarity, that my role is this, and his role is this, and even if I have my Sh10 million in my account, there's a way we complement each other and it's important. For me that is growth. I think it will take a long time for some women to get there and recognise it.
When does a supa mama need a man? Do supa mamas even need men?
Of course. I think I need my partner all the time. (Chuckles) Because he gives me peace of mind. My husband is the traditional type, the one who will cover flowers with a newspaper if he has to buy them. (Laughs hard) But he’s also very comfortable in himself. I've come to appreciate that there are people who will just love you in a different and in their own way. They seem to say; I am there for you, I am strong for you, I will not voice it, oh babe!, the Alejandro way, but you can see I'm here. That took years to recognise.
What would you like to unlearn about yourself?
That's a deep question. (Long pause). Biko, I wasn’t ready for such difficult questions, I was hoping you would ask me normal questions like, do you have cats, what’s your favourite animal, what I would like to come back in the next life! (Laughs)
OK, what would you like to come back as?
A personal trainer. I love the gym, I have won some medals, here let me show you. (Shows a picture from her phone; tracksuits, flat stomach, tough pose) I think I’d be a good personal instructor because I would get you to your goals in a very fun way.
You mention that you, like most women, seek 100 percent personal freedom. What is that? What has to happen to know that you are 100 percent free?
I think it's a very intentional decision. By investing in yourself. By not being defined by what you do, the number of children you have, whether you are a mom or not, whether you are single or married. It’s the presence of being here at this moment and knowing it’s enough. That’s freedom.
What book was that you were reading when I walked in?
(Laughs) I won’t tell you. You will judge me. (Pause) OK, it was “What I Know For Sure” by Oprah Winfrey.
So what do you know for sure now?
My goodness. (Long pause) That it’s OK to want to be happy. That it’s OK not to be OK. That I will fail many times, as a mom, as a wife or as a sister. That it’s OK to take a break. That it’s OK to want to have a life of my own, as Christine, not as Christine mama Olly. I love music and I’m a great dancer. That I know for sure. (Laughs).