Meet the Latina wonder woman who is breaking down the stigmas associated with women and age
Lorraine Ladish talks about starting over past your 20's, embracing change later in life, and running towards the limitless wisdom that aging provides
In the spirit of defying the odds, let us remember that "too old" mothers receive just as much criticism as "too young" mothers. How many times have we heard... "OMG, she's how old?" "She'll be too old to play with her kids", etc... etc... I myself used to try to knock down older mothers to make myself feel better about being a young mother. "Oh, well at least I'll still look beautiful when my kids are grown" **** slaps the younger, ignorant me upside the head. Anyways, this little rant leads up to this. to HER. Meet Lorraine C. Ladish the founder of VivaFifty, a journalist, writer, blogger, and above all else mother and wife. Lorraine was forced to start her entire life over when she took the giant leap to another country. Culture shock, the necessary survival instinct of revising herself, and the tightening grips of poverty forced Lorraine to make some changes to her life. At an older age she had to recreate herself, become a single mother, survive a divorce, and blend with the American culture and dream. Check out her exclusive interview with us below where she talks everything from welfare to journalism.
- During a recent BlogHER event you mentioned when you moved to America you had to start all over in your career. Why did you make the switch? I moved to Florida from Spain because my husband was offered a job here. It was his only choice and I’ve always been self-employed so I thought it was best for the family to move here. In Spain I made a great living as a language interpreter, translator and writer. I also taught creative writing. I had just published a book on pregnancy with one of the largest publishing houses in Spain. When I got to Florida, I had zero contacts here. I didn’t know where to start. As soon as my husband lost that job, I found myself in high-alert mode. I did some language interpreting but it was hard with a baby and 3-year old. Once I had to take my baby to the gig. I carried her in a baby back-pack and acted like it was a normal thing to do. I contacted all the Hispanic publications in the area and in the U.S. because writing is what I love most. I was interviewed by the now defunct La Palma of the Palm Beach Post as an author. Then I asked to write for them and they gave me a chance… I did that for nearly four years. A lot of the contacts I made back then really helped me later on.
- What advice would you give to mothers who want to move to another country but are scared of failure. Any resources? Moving to a new country, even if you are a citizen of that country, even if you speak the language, can be daunting. It’s like starting over because what you did where you lived before is often not taken into account, like it never happened. Being scared of failure doesn’t mean you have to pay attention to the fear. I would start by researching opportunities before the move. Especially now, with the Internet and social media, it’s so much easier than when I arrived in the U.S. in 2004. If I could do it in my 40’s with limited digital resources, anyone can do it today!
- Not only did you move to another country but unfortunately you went thru a divorce. How did you overcome and what effect did this have on you as a woman? Well, I gave that marriage all the chances I could give it. One thing I would tell a mom contemplating divorce is to try everything in her hand to try and salvage the relationship. If it works out, it’s a win, and if it doesn’t it’s still a win. You will have no regrets. You will know for sure that you gave it your best shot and you will be able to one day tell your kids you did that. I tried marriage counseling, trial separations, couple self-improvement seminars. But after a few years I realized that I had no power over the other person. If I wanted my life to improve, my kids’ futures to be bright, I had to leave. It was a heart-breaking decision, but in the long run it was the best one. My ex and I have a good relationship as exes and parents of our children. That was number one for me. We have both rebuilt our personal lives and our children, now teens, are happy and noble kids. I feel stronger for having made a difficult decision that was for the best.
- You mentioned that you were on welfare, struggling as a new single parent. What advice would you give to mothers who are in a similar situation and what helped you thru? It was a tough spot to be in. I was 45, with two young girls, 4 and 7. It was the recession. My gigs with newspapers disappeared (in a couple of cases the newspapers themselves did), my ex husband was once again out of a job, we had no savings, no money, just a pile of debt. I sold all my family’s heirlooms that had been given to me and my girls over the years. That paid rent once. A friend suggested I apply for food stamps. At first I balked. I thought that was for poor people. But when my eldest told the neighbor we had no food in the fridge, and I realized I was poor! So I applied, and that small relief gave me some peace of mind. I couldn’t get a job because I had no prior experience (that’s the downside of always having been self-employed). I wrote a gratitude journal every day, and I also treated myself to salsa dance lessons. It may seem like a frivolity, but it kept me sane. Sometimes I would go when the girls were with their dad and other times they came along. They remember it fondly. The first thing I would tell other women is that there is no shame in being in a tough spot. To ask for help while they try to move forward. I received help and assistance from unlikely sources. I will always be grateful for that.
- Is journalism a career of the past? What advice would you give to mothers who are looking into this career? It depends who you ask. If you ask old-school journalists, they will say journalism as they knew it --impartial reporting-- is dead. I believe it’s just like everything else: it’s a career that is in constant evolution. I believe that practicing journalism made me a better writer. The editor that first hired me said authors make crappy reporters, but she still gave me the opportunity to prove her wrong. I would tell young mothers to study and work in whatever they want to, no matter what others say about it. In the end, you are the one who has to live with YOU and the consequences of your decisions. I still love writing articles for news outlets. It’s very very different from blogging, where you put yourself in the story. And very different from writing books. Follow your heart.
- In order to survive your move and life changes you had to reinvent yourself. The idea sounds daunting... what made you decide it was necessary and what was the process like? I don’t think I made a decision. The decision was made by circumstances. It was a reality that print newspapers and magazines were just not going to be my source of income during the recession. The process of taking my writing to the digital space was serendipitous. I’d been writing a blog since 2006. I didn’t really know what I was doing with it, and in 2008 I renamed it Success Diaries (it just had my name before that). I blogged about the small everyday triumphs during one of the most unsuccessful times of my entire life. I also blogged in Spanish, in Diario del Exito. It was cathartic and it also was published as a book later on. In the meantime a young businessman who attended the same salsa classes I did connected with me on Facebook, he saw I was a writer and asked me whether I would be up to writing blog posts about coupon deals. I said yes! He told me the entries had to be SEO friendly. I had NO idea of what that meant. The short of it is that one year after I started blogging for money, I was already making a living with writing again. But this time it was online.
- Is there such a thing as a one career track in life? Why or why not? I think this depends on the person and so many other things. Life is unexpected, that’s for sure. I have always made a living with words. What has changed is where and how I write. I mean, the medium. I’ve learned -- and tell my teens -- that it’s ok to be confused about what you want to do in life when you’re younger. Heck, it’s ok to be confused at any age! Do know that what you aspire to in life when you are 20 may not be what you want later on. And that is ok.
- What is your advice to mothers who want to make writing a career? Any tips for monetizing yourself? Writing for publications, of course. And although word is that “nobody pays” anymore, that’s not true. Many publications pay and some pay very well. That said, when you’re starting out it’s hard to get well-paid gigs. My advice would be to put your work out there and share it. Sometimes you will have to do it for free. But if you love to write, you’d write for free, you’d write even if nobody wanted to publish you. You’d write because you have to. And of course after you’ve written a lot and honed your writing, and proved that you are consistent in your output, that you’re in it for the long-haul, you will be able to ask for pay --and get it. If you have a blog, use it as a platform for your writing. Never think your writing is perfect (even if it is). Be open to critique. Join writing groups, subscribe to Writer’s Market. Do everything in your power to get as much experience as you can.
- What was your inspiration for VivaFifty and is the magazine only for those 50 & up? I had turned 50 and I simply couldn’t believe it. I felt really good about it. At 50 I married the love of my life, I was feeling really good physically, emotionally and mentally. I battled an eating disorder when I was young, and I’ve suffered from clinical depression. This was the best time of my life. I did not feel over the hill, or defeated or like there was nothing left to look forward to. I asked myself, what would I love to do for the next ten years? And the answer was VivaFifty.com, a bilingual platform for women over 50. I didn’t see other Latina influencers celebrating their age in public. On the contrary, they were doing their best to conceal it. As I realized how many women really needed to hear this message that getting older is just not as bad as they make it out to be, I also noticed younger women were having age-related issues. As in, they were feeling “old” in their 30's. So I started to speak to them to. The site is still called Viva Fifty! But the tagline now reads “celebrating your best age.” That is also the title of my next book, which will be released first in Spanish, with Harper Collins later in 2017.
- You’re an advocate for the Hispanic culture. Why do you feel keeping your identity as a Latina is so important. Any advice for moms trying to incorporate the culture into their kids lives? I grew up bilingual and bicultural and although it may sound like an advantage -- and it is -- I didn’t feel that way when I was younger. I was confused. I was not “Spanish enough” but I was also not “American enough.” I’m a mix, and as a child and teen I wanted to be one thing. And that one thing was American, because it seemed to be considered “better.” Now I realize that is not true, that being of mixed cultures and nationalities, speaking more than one language, gives anyone an edge. I wanted my girls to grow up feeling proud of their roots and they are. They have Argentine, Spanish, British, Swedish blood. My husband has Haitian and New Zealand roots, was born in the DR and raised in Mexico and Miami. His son, my stepson is very proud of that too. If you walk into our house it’s really colorful and has a little bit of all of our cultures. I think that if mom shows her pride for her culture, the kids simply follow. Back when I was very young being Hispanic carried a stigma. I know we still have a long way to go, but now we can seek out others like us, and together, rise.
- Additional thoughts on being a young single mom? You did not ask for this, but after looking at your website and reading your story, I wanted to share something. I had my kids at 37 and 40. I feel that being an older mom has served both my kids and me well. But I also want to share that it was not a conscious choice. I did not wait to have my life in order to have kids. I was simply, I suppose, fortunate to not have gotten pregnant in my teens or even in my 20's. I made many many mistakes in my youth (and later on too!), and I could very well have been a teen mom. I did tell myself that if I didn’t have kids by 25, I wouldn’t have any, because I did not want to be an older mom. But see, life unfolds despite our best intentions. I had a hard time getting pregnant the first time when I was in my 30's. I sometimes wonder how my life would have gone, if I’d become pregnant earlier, and by a different person. I dislike the judgment people freely pass on young moms and on single moms. Life is uncertain at best. And it’s also a wonderful adventure. You can be a wonderful mom and a wonderful single mom, at any age!