By Ramunda Lark Young
With this article, we welcome columnist Ramunda Lark Young, who will be writing the Sisters Who SOAR, Surpass Obstacles and Rise column. This month, she talks with Prince William’s own Deborah Tillman, America’s Supernanny.
RLY: Congratulations on being named America’s Supernanny! I’m sure many in our community may not know you live right here in Virginia. What made you move to Prince William County?
DT: Schools were the impetus for us moving to Virginia. We moved to Prince William County so that our son Zebulin could grow up in an area where it was very diverse and was known nationally for its great schools.
RLY: How long have you been a resident of Prince William County?
DT: Since 2001
RLY: My column is called Sisters Who SOAR, Surpass Obstacles and Rise. The entire premise is to introduce phenomenal women of color who live in or are from Prince William County and have achieved great levels of success by overcoming uncertainty, fear and other obstacles that could have easily kept them from pursuing their life’s work. Tell us a little about your personal story.
DT: I am the product of a single mom. My father left a few days before my 12th birthday and I was truly a daddy’s girl. I was devastated when he left and believe it or not, it impacts me still almost 50 years later.
What I learned from that experience was knowing that when I married I realized I wanted someone with principles, and integrity. My husband and I have endured various ups and downs, but the promise is that we made a decision and commitment to stay together. The top priority was to keep our family together. We both agreed that ensuring our son remained at the forefront of all we did and surround him with vivid examples of two loving parents, would be crucial to who he’d become in this world.
RLY: How did you identify your purpose? So many women struggle to find out what theirs is.
DT: To be honest, I wasn’t very sure of my purpose initially, but found it when I was searching for quality childcare. I’d experienced seven different childcare providers where the experience was much less than positive! Can you believe it? I began to feel a true sense of guilt because I kept shuttling my son to these negative experiences with unfit childcare centers. Add on top of that being a full-time working mom, the throbbing reminder of me not being able to take care of him myself weighed heavy on my spirit. After several attempts at trying to identify the ideal place for him to be nurtured and educated, a small voice said, “you can do it better!” Yes, you can do this yourself!
At that moment, a lightbulb went off in my head and my heart! I never wanted any other parent to feel like I felt when we went through seven harrowing experiences with providers. I knew right then I had to become my child’s best advocate and take things into my own hands. During that time, I opened up my own childcare centers in Northern Virginia.
Fast forward to now, for more than 24 years, I’ve been blessed to have numerous parents thank me for taking a stand, for being vocal and bold enough to step out for our children. This is indeed my life’s calling.
RLY: What advice would you give parents when they run into some of these unsettling experiences?
DT: For me, it’s quite simple. When you enter a childcare facility and don’t get a sense of love, warmth, etc., run! Listen to your intuition! All women have a tremendous sense of intuition…if we listen to it.
RLY: What motivates you?
DT: My worst fear is when I know I’ve been given gifts to help change the world, and I don’t use them! Every day a child is being born. Every day, a mom needs help.
I never wanted any other parent to feel what I felt going through those horrific experiences trying to locate safe, appropriate childcare. I now have an opportunity to work with single moms and teen moms too, who simply need a hand. I offer them my techniques and strategies that I’ve developed and implemented in my own life. It takes all of us working together to help our little ones become the greatest they were destined to be. Supportive parents who sacrifice their time.
RLY: Let’s talk about where you are now as America’s Supernanny. How did this amazing opportunity come about?
DT: In 2001, my son was on our computer perusing emails, and I received a personal email and I actually thought it was a joke. It was not. I immediately was scheduled for a Skype interview, I was then flown to California, placed in an environment and told, “fix their problem.” It was a wonderful trial run for the network to determine if I was a great fit. There was no warning or anything, but I felt so comfortable as I’d been creating strategies for kids close to 24 years. I then interviewed with Lifetime network executives, I found out in a week, I was informed that I was America’s Supernanny. My only stipulation was that I had to remain true to who I was. I knew that reality television was huge back then, and I wanted to ensure I was my authentic self and that the network was ok with that. When God has placed in us a purpose and we have taken the time to understand and walk in it, it is our job to serve the world. More than 400 people tried out for the Supernanny and I was the one chosen. I take none of this experience for granted in anyway. What a life altering experience. One of my favorite quotes is “God wouldn’t have given it to you if he didn’t know you could handle it.”
After the shows, I still keep in touch with many of the families because of the relationships I built with them by going through some of their roughest moments and turning into something that I hope will remain positive for a lifetime. What I’ve come to know is that the day I don’t feel any anxiety or nervousness about what I do, is the day it’s time to discover what’s next!
Still yourself as the world is so distracting and you dismiss your voice. Do something that is consistent every single day.
RLY: What simple tips or strategies would you give women and moms on how to SOAR?
DT: I begin each day with intentional quiet time. I call it my “Daily High 5.” I try my best to maintain a morning routine which consists of only five steps, that when done consistently and properly, prepare me to face the day:
1) Wake up at 5:00 a. m. This affords you quiet time to hear God’s voice while everyone else is still sleep
2) Exercise for 30 minutes (even though exercising is far from my favorite thing)
3) Meditate for 20 minutes a day
4) Write three things down that you’re grateful for today.
5) I write down three things I MUST complete for the day. Instead of writing down 20 and never finishing my list, I whittled it down to three and have a sense of accomplishment each day.
RLY: My goal as a Connection Strategist is to teach women how to connect to leaders, influencers, community servants who are doing greatness. Oftentimes we are fearful. Why is it important for women to establish authentic connections with thought leaders and mentors?
DT: It is most crucial to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.
1) You grow when you connect with thought leaders and mentors who are where you aspire to be. If not, your dream will slowly die inside of you if you don’t surround yourself around people who nurture greatness within you. Those leaders help stretch you and move you out of your box of comfortability. You must have a millionaire mindset and hang around other millionaires. They serve, they give. Take every experience and turn them into teachable moments.
2) They challenge you to be your best self
3) Stay hungry and don’t become complacent. Every day, simply take one step toward your goal. There is a movie called, Queen of Katwe and a quote by one of the characters is: “sometimes the place you are used to, is not the place where you belong.”
RLY: What would you tell your 12-year old self about life?
1) Let go of guilt: when a parent leaves you as a child, please know it’s not about you.
2) Where you are now, know without a doubt that your current situation does not control you
3) Live to find your true purpose, everyday
4) Let your light shine! Never spend an extra day dimming your light.
RLY: What’s next on the horizon for you?
DT: Working on legislation that allows for assistance to needy families that must go without necessities like food. We must begin treating the student as a totality. As educators, we must come to school equipped and ready to learn and much of it begins in the home.
RLY: How can our readers reach you?
Parenting Movement up to two campaigns per year. theparentingmovement.org
Ramunda Lark Young is a Mom, SocialPreneur, wife, community leader, lover of people and God. She is the Chief Encouragement Officer and Connection Strategist of Ramunda Young, Inc.,a firm dedicated Encouraging Extraordinary Women to SOAR – Surpass Obstacles and Rise! Built on the premise that leaders can exceed beyond their expectations when given the proper tools and connections, Young has dedicated her life to equipping women for success. She and her husband co-founded MahoganyBooks, an online award winning bookstore whose books are by and about people of the African Diaspora.