Christine Michel Carter wears a lot of hats—most of them geared toward helping working moms and Black professionals.
She challenges the status quo at the legislative level with her involvement in Mom Congress and the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls, her advocacy for maternal and child care-related issues through the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and her work with Vice President Kamala Harris on behalf of moms.
She hosts a free professional development networking event for “Mompreneurs” that tours nationally and writes for Forbes Women about parents balancing work and life.
She’s also the author of books. Her children’s book “Can Mommy Go to Work?” shares the story of a single mom preparing for a big day. Her latest book, “Mom AF,” is about “me rediscovering what it means to have to be really great professional and to be a mom boss but to also be present as a mother and also reconnect with myself.”
Carter, who grew up in Guilford and now lives in Cockeysville, shares her expertise as a marketing strategist; single mom of Maya, 10, and West 7; and her best recommendations for celebrating Black History Month with your children.
Your career focus is on sharing stories that empower women and mothers. What inspired you to be a resource for other women?
I truly wasn’t prepared, nor did the company prepare me, for what returning to work as a mother was going to be. I worked in a startup; it was predominantly white and it was predominantly male. I had to navigate on my own all of my federal rights as well as my rights as an employee.
I’ve always been an advocate, so I felt like I didn’t want another woman to have to go through what I went through. I started designing mother’s rooms for companies. I did McCormick’s mother’s room and continued to be an advocate. As I hope the country can see right now, being a mom is pretty hard.
How do you balance being a single mom with your career?
I think it’s about transparency and autonomy. My kids are very aware that my career is important to me—certainly not as important as them, but it is a part of my identity. There are times when I have to put that first, and Mommy has to work late or has to work weekends. There are times where I have to put the career on the back burner, take my kids on vacation and thank them for their support.
I don’t believe in balance because I don’t think that exists. It’s about prioritization, and it’s also about letting my kids handle things on their own sometimes. As the generations continue, we feel like if you’re not helicoptering your kids or hands on with everything, then you’re a bad mother. That’s not necessarily true. I think what motherhood is about is showing your kids that you can care for someone but also have a life outside of them that strengthens you and empowers you.
What do you love about being a parent?
I love watching my children think critically and seeing how my personality—be it Type A—manifests itself in them. My daughter is emotional and anxious, but she’s also a perfectionist and she’s a strong leader. I like to see how she is coming into her own and navigating what she has inherited but also what’s going to make her “her.”
My son is so much. He’s so rambunctious and he’s challenging, but what I love about him is he is steadfast and determined, and he’s unwavering. To be a Black boy, especially in Baltimore, and to be all of those things—I couldn’t be more proud of him for that.
This month is Black History Month. As a Black, millennial working mom, what are your best recommendations for parents to celebrate with their children?
We are so lucky to have the Reginald (F.) Lewis Museum in downtown Baltimore. I think that there’s a great opportunity to teach children not only about the different styles of art but immerse (them) in African history and culture. The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture has put together and curated a number of different events that can be attended virtually, which I think is amazing. We have wonderful restaurants with cuisines that highlight African American culture, so you could go to Miss Shirley’s. There are a number of different vegan restaurants that you can go to that are Black-owned.
What is one thing you hope your children learn from your career?
I hope that my children learn that at the end of the day what’s most important is family, how you’re showing up for family and how you’re showing up for yourself. My father taught me that they print money every day, and if your name isn’t on the side of the building, then don’t stress yourself out about work and (have it) affect your physical and mental health. I hope that I pass those lessons on to my kids and that they stay rooted and grounded in family.
Book to read together: Probably the one we wrote together, which is “Can Mommy Go to Work?”
Way to spend the weekend with your family: We love watching superhero movies in our family room, and my Peloton bike is here, so I can work out while we’re watching a movie. It’s just very comfortable. I call it the mom-asis because it’s just so comfortable. It has great blankets, and we have the aromatherapy going and good lighting. It’s a good snuggly place.
Family outing in Baltimore: We’re all foodies, so we love going to restaurants. I couldn’t tell you a favorite, but obviously since we live in Cockeysville, Barrett’s is one of them. I spoil my kids ridiculously to that point where if they go to a Red Robin they’re like “what are the specials?” and that embarrasses me. But it probably would be just going out to all the local restaurants.
Way to practice self-care as a mom: Oh, I wish. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, and I’m a single mom. I don’t really have the opportunity to get away from my kids and practice self-care that much (especially without them), but I would say my Peloton bike. I don’t know what I would do without that.
Vacation spot: We love Rehoboth. Nationally, we love New Orleans, and we do have a trip coming up in Sedona because I’m a hippie mom and we want to meditate. We’re going to spend spring break meditating in Sedona.
Black History Month activity to do with your kids: I’m so blessed that my children are willing to not accept what is presented at face value. Sometimes what we’ll do is watch movies or read books that basically have undertones of symbolism or racism. Marketers and the media are what create history, or they are the tellers of history—not necessarily what happened. What we like to do is look at things that came out a long time ago and talk about—at that point in time—how were we (African Americans) represented? What was the climate at that time, and how did that manifest itself into this piece, into this movie? How did it manifest itself into this book? That’s our favorite thing to do during Black History Month—just to really think critically.
For more ideas and activities to do with your children, visit Carter’s blog at christinemichelcarter.com.