Akilah Richards helping women achieve balance between home, work

BY LUKE DOUGLAS Observer senior reporter douglasl@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

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IT takes great effort to be successful in today's competitive business environment and many young persons, especially women, are challenged to achieve a balance between their personal and professional lives.

One young "Jamerican" woman (she migrated to the United States from Jamaica at age 10), having experienced the challenge of growing her business while maintaining a relationship with her husband and raising their two daughters, has made it her business to help busy mothers achieve a sense of wellness in their lives.

"I really believe in helping WMEs (women, mothers and entrepreneurs) find a way to create harmony between what they need to do to stand on their own, financially, but not have that be something that drives they to illness or being emotional unwell because of work," Akilah S Richards told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview.

Richards is what some persons would call a life coach or a lifestyle expert, but prefers the term emotional wellness advocate, which involves designing the lives of women — primarily young mothers — to achieve wellness in their lives as businesswomen, mothers, and in their relationships with family and friends.

An ambitious 35-year-old wife and mother to daughters Marley and Jade, Richards earned a degree in speech communications and gained experience as a journalist and talkshow host. She had ambitions to become a lawyer, having qualified as a paralegal and completed the entrance test for law school.

But everything changed when she became pregnant in 2003.

"Crazy as it sounds, but I feel my child spoke to me, and asked, can I be myself for a living? Can I do what I love and have that be sustainable?" Richards said of that defining moment in her life.

Richards recalled that despite obtaining a number of employment opportunities, she remained unsatisfied. She felt an urge to provide a service to help busy mothers overwhelmed with the challenges in their lives.

"Writing, speaking was my passion but I shied away from it thinking I would do it later in life after I had made some money and established myself properly," Richards said. "It turns out for me that wasn't sustainable. I was constantly coming in and out of the perfect job. I never went on an interview and didn't get the job."

Richards is the featured speaker at Muminar 2012, an emotional wellness workshop for busy moms at the Devonshire tomorrow.

A typical customer for Richards is a busy executive, doing well financially but who is probably overweight or had a health scare.

"She may be a mother very busy making name for herself but doesn't get to see her kids as often, and her relationship at home may be affected because of how committed she is at work. She needs to find a harmony between those interests because as a mother I don't want to lose myself because I am a woman first and mother second," she said.

Richards will introduce several coping tools for young mothers at Muminar 2012, including a seven-step guide to harmony for working mothers.

Having been in Jamaica with her family since August, most of Richards clients are virtual in that they communicate with her online through tools such as Skype and Google Hangout. The author of five books, Richards distributes her materials and is compensated with the help of Amazon.com and PayPal.

Despite the economic differences between the US and Jamaica, Richards says Jamaicans are ready to embrace the concept of life design. She says some women may not be able to afford a life coach, they may able to invest in a book or companies could invest in a series of stress management seminars for its female staff.

"Many people think life coaching is a luxury but with the level of stress we are dealing with, we are ripe for illnesses that compromise our health that are totally preventable. One of my charges is to help companies know that if they address the wellness of their people they have more productivity and a lower rate of staff turnover," she told the Observer.




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