Author, marketing guru, wife and mom – Jamilah Creekmur is proving that a modern day woman really can have it all! In January 2010, the 34-year-old go-getter ventured out from the 9-to-5 world to start the Harbor Digital Group consulting firm, and just released her first book Raised by the Mistress in August. Balancing a career and family life is never easy, but Creekmur makes it look like a breeze as she travels endlessly for book signings and corporate meetings, while still making time for invaluable family getaways.
Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Jamilah’s childhood experience with an alcoholic mother in love with a married man affected her deeply. Despite some emotional confusion, she managed to become a brilliant over-achiever. She graduated from the University of Delaware, was (and still is) an active member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, and held down jobs at the likes of Saks Fifth Avenue and Hugo Boss.
By 2003, Jamilah became the marketing power behind AllHipHop.com, which quickly rose to become one of the most reputable online brands of our time. She and her college sweetheart-turned-husband Chuck Creekmur balanced career and parenthood as the company grew, and by 2009, Jamilah knew it was time to finally tell her story.
Raised by the Mistress sold out on Amazon in a matter of days after its official release in August, and the statuesque visionary has been working tirelessly to take Harbor Digital to the next level. UrbLife.com took a few moments with Jamilah to find out how she does it all, and the ways her childhood experiences have played in to her relationship with her own daughter.
When you were younger, did you always envision having a daughter? Did you have any pre-conceived notions about what your relationship would/should be like with your daughter?
Jamilah Creekmur: I always wanted a son and a daughter, so it didn’t matter to me. I was thrilled when I learned that I’d have my little dollbaby babygirl. I had a really close relationship with my mother growing up, even though it was layered with a lot of turbulence. I never gave up on my relationship with my mother.
Naturally, I wanted my daughter and I to have a close relationship. We work on our relationship, on being close, on sharing, on open communication, on being friends, and on being a great mom and a great daughter to each other.
In your book Raised By the Mistress, you have written about real life events pertaining to your parents, their problems, and how it affected you growing up. Was there every anything that you consciously said you would or would not do with your child based upon you own experiences?
JC: Yes. My parents divorced when I was 4-years-old, and I still remember the day my mother left the house. I can see the whole scene in my mind. I never wanted my daughter to experience her parents having such an intense confrontation. My mother also struggled with alcoholism, and I saw a lot of that. So, I made it a point to not abuse alcohol and to never allow my daughter to see me in a compromised state either.
My parents and family never had a lot of money when I was growing up, so I aspired for wealth and financial freedom in my life. I never let any of my challenging circumstances keep me from believing I could not have my dreams come true. I work very hard now to create generational wealth that I can pass to my daughter, and aid her in reaching her dreams.
So yes, I have been shaped by a lot of the hard times, but I have also been shaped by my own faith and my own dreams. And I work hard to instill that in my daughter as well.
What are the most important values you want to instill in your daughter about relationships and family?
JC: That no matter what happens in her life, that she is in control of how she lets these things, good or bad, affect her. That her own happiness is for her to create in her life, and that there is absolutely nothing that will keep me from helping her to reach her own goals in life. It’s important for my daughter to know that her parents love her deeply, and that she matters in this world. Chuck and I work on that every single day. teaching her that her life is relevant. These attributes will hopefully all play out as it relates to relationships and family.
She has an amazing father, and he sets the standard for the type of man that she should look for. One that loves her mother unconditionally, and a man that loves her to no end. That is her father’s standard for her. He cherishes his daddy-daughter time with her, and I am proud that she is a ‘daddy’s girl’. It’s the best thing a little girl can have. I was, and still am, a daddy’s girl. So I am grateful for the role that he plays in her life.
Are you having any early worries about the day she wants to start dating? Do you know how you will approach the situation when that day comes?
JC: Can you rephrase the question please? Not sure I understand. [smiles]
What are your favorite things to do for mommy-daughter time?
JC: People are going to laugh, but my favorite thing to do with her at this moment in our lives is to have open ended conversations with her. Maia has an amazing imagination. So, we just start by snuggling on the couch or in the bed, and she will ask, “So what do you want to talk about today?” And we talk, and talk, annnnnnd talk. It can last over an hour, if I let her. [laughs]
But the conversations are so beautiful. We talk about school, which leads to college, which leads to buildings, which leads to how bricks are made, which leads to bricks sounding like sticks, and sticks are in the forest, and then we talk about the trees, and birds, and the sky, and clouds… it’s all so random, but all very very beautiful.
I love talking, and I especially love talking to my daughter. I call her “my own personal human being”, so i get to have her all to myself. She will remind me that ‘one day’ she will have her own house, and I tickle her to pieces when she says that. I tell her that she is not allowed to leave me. Then she tells me that she is going to tell my mother on me… I mean, the conversations are the best. I truly love that little girl. I am very lucky to be her mother.
We enjoy painting our nails, and shopping and other girlie things that mommies do with their mini-me’s, but we both really enjoy our talk time together.
Does she get on the computer much yet? Do you censor tv viewing and music listening? If so, what are some ways you monitor the things she’s exposed to in the media or through music?
JC: Computer, yes. She works on her typing skills, and of course, she goes to the normal kid sites. Yes, she is censored heavily. She has never seen a rap video, or any other visual content that is not intended for a 6-year-old. We monitor by being 100% present. We watch TV with her, or do computer surfing with her there.
She is not allowed to watch TV in a room where we are not there. She does not have a TV or computer in her room, and I doubt that she ever will while she lives with us. We keep lots of kid-friendly CD’s in the car when we travel. There are so many ways to let your kids be kids, so we work hard to keep her as a cute little girlie-girl as long as we can.
Considering you are a graduate of University of Delaware and an alumni of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, do you want your daughter to follow in your footsteps all the way? How would you feel if she wanted to pledge a different sorority than yours?
JC: It is not my goal to have my daughter do as I have done. She can go to any school that her heart desires. I will support her, and likewise with the sorority. I love my sorority, but my daughters choice will be her own. I only hope that I will have inspired her and motivated her enough to ‘want’ to be a Delta like mommy. She should be so moved by what she sees me and my sorors do in the community, in business, in economic endeavors, that she is compelled to want to become a Delta herself.
But if not, at least she would have seen her mother do amazing service as a Delta, and more importantly, as an active member to society, that is all I care about. My best friends are not in any sorority, and some of my dear friends are in other organizations. I am such a huge fan of girl power, that truly, as long as Maia is sisterly to other women, I will have done my duty.
You also attended the Fashion Institute and spent some time in fashion buying and marketing. Given your classy sense of style, do you try to direct your daughter’s fashion sense, or has she started to create her own style? What will you do if she decides to go through any trend stages you can’t stand (because ‘everyone is doing it’, of course)?
JC: Oh, she has her own sense of style totally! It’s all about leggings with skirts and tutus, cute shirts, long dresses, etc… I have no say so. My only task is to make sure her clothes are clean. Other than that, it’s “I can dress myself mommy!” and I love that. When I wear heels, she likes to wear her shoes “that make noise”. If I have on a dress, she wants to wear a dress… its really adorable. I love it.
Kids always reach a point where think they are a little smarter than their parents, but we all discover one day that “momma knows.” Has there been a distinct moment yet that made you appreciate challenges your mom went through with you? And what is the most creative way you’ve found to discipline your child so far?
JC: Yes, she is very opinionated, umm… like me. And she’s very vocal about her opinion, like me… so the first time I saw that, all I could do was laugh and run to call my mother. I asked her, “Was I like this?!” and my mother just cracked up laughing and said, “Yes babygirl, you were and still are.” Ultimately, with challenges, you just reinforce the boundaries and what you will and will not accept from her. You say it with enough authority, and she is straight.
Given your very intense schedule, how do you balance running a company, writing and marketing a book, making appearances and setting aside the right kind of time for your family?
JC: Well, we all support each other, and we all involve each other in our lives. So she gets to participate in some things and she finds that extremely fun and she loves “working” with us. She tells me the days that she has to “go to work” if she is going to the office with her dad, and now she loves working with me. I just got a credit card machine for my book, and she loves it! So she’s very eager to help me with my book sales efforts.
But truthfully, you can only do what is in front of you, one day at a time, so that is all I focus on. I take big-picture goals, and chop them down into smaller more manageable goals, and work hard.
I am lucky to be an entrepreneur like my husband, so I have a little more flexibility with my schedule, which helps. But prior to that, it was all about having a system – a ‘family system’. Knowing what your ‘hard cut off’ times are so that you can end your calls or meetings and be home in time for the school bus or aftercare program.
Communicate what the family schedule is, and everybody respecting that… and lastly, making sure that you carve time out for your family. Trips, vacations, movies, library, etcetera and being fully present during those times. It is not easy, but it is not impossible either.
What is the best advice you can give to a new mother?
JC: Just realize how much responsibility God has given you by choosing you to bring life. Appreciate the moments because they go so very quickly. Teach your kids to be good people and contribute to their community. Smile often. Spread hugs and appreciate life. Don’t get caught up in your child having everything they want, because all they really need is your time, attention and love – and each of those are 100% free.