A woman of all trades, 28 year-old Africa Daley-Clarke is a full-time career woman, working the 9-5 as a Design and Showroom Manager. Plunging into the blogosphere, Africa also launched The Vitamin D Project early last year, with an aim to normalise and open up conversations surrounding postnatal depression. With a growing Instagram account, Africa’s feed exhibits matching outfits, Sundays at Hampstead Heath, summers abroad in Europe and breakfast on the sofa. And yet, the most challenging and rewarding job? Being a mother to 3 year-old Israel and 1 year-old Ezra.
“Progressive, open and consistent. That is how I would describe my relationship with my children.” Africa says with conviction. We’re both nestled into the director chairs of Hoxton’s photography studio, with a fifteen minute window of talking time. There’s a makeup artist prodding at Africa’s eyebrows, a teething Ezra wriggling in her mother’s arms and a curious Israel who is tapping my leg for validation on her abstract floral drawing. It’s chaotic and energetic, and yet by the look on Africa’s face, this is nothing far from the norm. “Tell me about the girls”, I ask. “What are they like?” There’s no hesitation, a proud mother indeed, Africa springboards into it. “Israel is a powerhouse; you immediately know when she enters the room. She sees no age, is a good judge of character and can make friends with even the oldest person at the table. Ezra is her own light. She’s the happiest and calmest baby I’ve known - very low maintenance. They are both very different to me, but the one thing we all have in common is confidence.”
When it comes to parenting, Africa gives me her take on motherhood, and how the traditional meaning of the term just simply doesn’t cut it for her. “It’s hard because I’m not privileged with time. Both my husband and I work full-time so the kids are at nursery during the day. I’m not there for the morning routines or the dinners, and I only just make it in time for bedtime. Sunday is the only day where I can be with them without outside distractions or commitments.”
A time of momentous change, surprises and constant learning curves, I ask Africa what the biggest shock of motherhood was. Is it the sleep-deprivation? The nappies? The work-life balance? Nope. It’s forgiveness. “If something didn’t work yesterday, we won’t try it again tomorrow. And if it did, great, let’s repeat it! Every single day you have a clean page, a new chance, a fresh start. We are constantly teaching and learning together, giving no judgement in between.”
When it comes to talking about her childhood, we exchange racial anecdotes like two kids swapping lunches. I confess to Africa that I played Jasmine from Aladdin for my musical play because she was the only black princess at the time. Africa nods her head and smiles knowingly. “Let me tell you something”, she says. “In my school production, I played the role of Snow White. Sure, we had to change the words and modify the story a bit, but it was still an ironically perfect fit.” Unapologetic and uncompromising from a young age, it’s this hunger for equality that has influenced Africa to take a stand against the lack of representation and diversity in children’s books and brands.
“I fight for this because it’s unavoidable, non-negotiable. For me this is a duty, not a choice. When I was younger, I never saw myself represented in the media. My mother is mixed race - Caribbean and English - and it was through her own innocent ignorance that she didn’t realise the importance of inclusivity. But I think a mother should be championing for you, and this is why I fight so hard for my girls. As a black woman there are already so many negative stereotypes tagged against me no matter what I do or say. And it’s funny because I’m a naturally calm person! So, the way I see it, is that if you’re going to think that of me, then I might as well go for it.”
And when it comes to gender stereotypes, you can be sure Africa is breaking those too. “I don’t dress my girls in pink, nor do I really dress them in blue - I stick to a neutral, middle ground. I like to buy into brands that are timeless and can be passed down from Israel to Ezra. I always find it hard when loved ones try to buy for the girls, so for baby showers and birthdays, all we ask for is books. The girls now have a library of over 200 books that feature black protagonists, women of colour, or both.” It’s a tiring fight, and despite the change we’ve made thus far, Africa insists there is still a long way to go. Refusing to back down, she knows that when the time comes her children must do the same. “I will teach my girls that because of their gender and race, they will need to work harder. But I don’t think this always has to be a bad thing. Regardless of who you are or what you have, I think everyone should work hard in life.”
On The Vitamin D Project
Speaking out on mental health issues from personal experience is never an easy one, so when I ask Africa about how she made the shift from private to public, she puts it quite plainly. “I knew to go public when I knew I was better. It’s hard to say you’re struggling when you’re still struggling. In retrospect, I wish I read more stuff and was aware of the condition but people with PND aren’t really looking for help. When I spoke out about PND, it was like this huge weight had lifted off me. I wasn’t just telling complete strangers, I was also telling my closest family and friends. It was a message that said ‘You know when I didn’t want to see you that time? Yeah, there was a reason for that, and this was it’.”
But beyond talking about PND, Africa’s blog has become a positive community where like-minded mothers can share travel hacks, book recommendations and self-care tips. “Sometimes people look at my profile and blog and ask me what I’m selling and I say nothing. In its simplest form all my page is, is a reflection of my life and home. It’s not beneficial to glorify pain so my pictures will always be beautiful and positive, but my stories - now that’s where I will be brutally honest and vocal. I think it’s important to have that balance of both.” Despite what you see on social media, Africa reassures that life is never perfect, and there is no special formula for making it work. “When it comes to managing children, sustaining a marriage and focusing on yourself and your career, you really just have to do what’s best for you. There is no such thing as ‘one size fits all’. For me, it all revolves around open communication, especially with my husband. If I’m having a really rough time, I’ll ask him not to expect too much of me this week and that I’m going to need more help and attention than usual”. It’s definitely something we can all learn from Africa; to be mindful, to be active and to use the faults of our past to create a brighter change for tomorrow.
Because after all, mothers do know best.