You. GUYS. I have been dying to share Lydia and I am in awe of her advice for working moms/women. She was in the same broadcast journalism program I was and I've always been amazed by how classy and sassy she is! Just like all of us, Lydia's career path has surprised her, and she's handled it with such grace.
Read on to learn from this amazing woman and be sure to check out her amazing photography business!
Tell us a little about yourself and your career
I am a French-American dual citizen (French dad, American mom) and grew up mostly in France (with a few years in Virginia) before going to college in the US. I was lucky to get the best of both cultures and be raised bilingual, and now that I have two kids, my husband and I are passing on the languages and cultures of both our countries. I earned a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism at Brigham Young University (which is where I met my husband) and went on to work for four years as a news anchor at the NBC affiliate in Casper, Wyoming. I also became executive producer and wore many other hats, as you often do in smaller TV markets!
When I was pregnant with my second child, my husband got a new job across the state which was more demanding (and also could have presented some conflicts of interest – I did a lot of investigative reporting on local government and now my husband was going to be a city manager!) and I wanted to be with our kids, so I quit my job and became a stay-at-home mom. The timing was perfect because our son ended up being born with clubfoot, which required a lot of travel to a hospital in another state.
Recently it was time to jump back in, in a different way: I did all my own shooting when I worked in news and loved the creative aspect of the job, so this year I took the plunge and opened my own photography/videography business. I have bigger goals for this year and am thrilled for the challenge, and I’m also grateful that I can tailor this work to fit our family life.
How does your community of women you surround yourself with support you?
I was lucky to make some great connections in Wyoming: I had one friend who was a bit further along in motherhood than I am and had similar interests, so she would ask questions and show genuine interest in my work. After my daughter, my first child, was born, I was very seriously considering quitting my job. I was on maternity leave and this was no joke: I was exhausted and overwhelmed by a very demanding newborn who NEVER SLEPT. When I told this friend I probably wasn’t going back, she expressed (gentle) disappointment but also some encouragement – along the lines of “you can do it, it doesn’t hurt to try.” Obviously, that one interaction didn’t change my mind entirely, but it was part of what helped me to squeeze into my big girl working pants, pack up my breast pump, go in to my boss, and negotiate a part-time schedule so I could go back to work!
What advice do you have for women in intense careers who also want to start a family?
I read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In when I was fresh out of college and wished I had read it years sooner! What stuck the most with me was this advice:
“when it comes to integrating career and family, planning too far in advance can close doors rather than open them. … Of all the ways women hold themselves back, perhaps the most pervasive is that they leave before they leave.” —Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In
Just go for it! It doesn’t hurt to shoot as high as you can, and then adjust expectations along the way as needed. Here’s a very literal example: I know there’s some debate about taking maternity leave when you intend to leave your job – that’s it’s dishonest toward your employer to take the money. But here’s the thing: if I had followed that line of thinking, I would’ve closed a door on myself because at the time my first was born, I was pretty convinced I wouldn’t go back! I needed the time to be OK with going back, and if employers give moms the space they need and support them, they’ll actually want to come back.
And the thing is, being really good at my job – not just going through the motions but digging in, working hard, asking for promotions, training other employees, and making myself indispensable – those things made it so my employer would work with me to come back part-time after my first child, on terms that worked for me and my family. I couldn’t have had that sort of leverage if I had just been a bare minimum employee that was more easily replaceable. I’m grateful for bosses who valued me and gave me those chances.
The other thing, which is a little paradoxical, is that you have to get used to disappointing people to do what is right for you. This one is hard. I quit a promising career to stay home once we had two kids. It was absolutely the right thing for our family at that moment in time, and I’m grateful because it’s also given me opportunities to develop other personal talents and goals, like taking on a speaking engagement or going into business for myself with photography. But there are always people who ask “why would you do that?” That’s OK. This time with my young children is fleeting and I’d rather disappoint people who aren’t privy to our family decisions rather than the ones to whom it matters most.
Finally: find a supportive spouse who's willing to be a true partner. We joke that my husband is my agent because he loves to update my resume, he’s always the one pushing me to try again, aim higher, etc. He recently took a new job that is an exciting career for him but also allows him flexibility with his hours, working from home, which means we’re able to really balance the load. He is looking forward to being a more active father, and I’m excited to continue working toward a happy home/work life for the entire family, not just me.
What do you wish you could go back and tell your younger self re: your career aspirations?
When I was just starting out the broadcast journalism program, I was also a newlywed (yes, I got married young!) and I remember feeling so overwhelmed because we also wanted a family and I just couldn’t see how the two would be compatible. It was nuts – I was causing myself present grief over future “maybes” that were years out! This sounds simplistic, but I would tell myself to STOP worrying about it.
Just take one step at a time, move forward, and you will cross those bridges when you get to them. Of course, this is the world we live in and it’s not fair to girls to tell them “reach for the stars and that’s all it will take” – however, it’s also useless to sit and worry about it especially if that means we start to close doors. Go, do, and then solutions can be worked out as you go. And you can even be part of the solution.
What is your career-related mantra?
I love Teddy Roosevelt’s man in the arena quote. I want to be the woman "who at the worst, if [s]he fails, at least fails while daring greatly." I’m definitely still working on living that one out to the fullest!