What if one night you were bored and tweeted the biggest morning radio host in town to see if he had a job open for you? And what if he actually replied? Seven years ago when I heard that local news anchor Laura Diaz had made the switch from TV to radio I assumed there must be more to it than that. But as she tells the story there really wasn’t. After several years as a morning news anchor, she wanted out. She didn’t know Johnny personally, and tweeted him out of the blue. Turns out, he knew exactly who she was and the rest, as they say, is history. Laura got a job as a co-host on Johnny’s House and is now a staple of morning radio. Laura and her husband Mike are parents to Norah (4) and Nash (2) living a modern family life in Central Florida. Laura is more focused than ever on using her voice as a feminist, and making a difference for women in the community. We sat down last week to talk about how she balances all of it, and I can tell you without a doubt that she is a bad ass mom who rocks.
Laura Diaz studied journalism in college. After graduating, she spent two tough years in a small town on the morning news. She made the move back to her hometown, Orlando and quickly made her way to an anchor position. But it wasn’t quite what she had hoped.
On coming to her breaking point in television:
“The deadlines are very strenuous. It’s a very high stress job because you’re on multiple deadlines in a day. The subject matter you’re reporting on is extremely depressing. Occasionally you get your bear in a tree or something and that’s like a mental vacation for a journalist. I was drinking way too much, taking pills to go to sleep, pills to wake up. And I’d be drunk every day by noon it was becoming a real problem. There was a point where my [now] husband was like ‘You need to get this under control or else I can’t marry you.’”
And so she made a career switch to radio where there was a bit more lightheartedness and freedom. Away from a scripted life at the news station she found she could be herself on and off the clock.
The positives of being on the radio:
“By far the best part is it’s so carefree. There’s no script. I’m silly and carefree on the radio. I’m me. We talked on the show recently about who are you at work versus who are you at home? I was like for once in my life I’m the same person at work and at home.”
This past year Laura launched Face of a Feminist, a nonprofit to empower women and girls. I was eager to learn more on what pushed her to start it. She explained the desire to build her brand and voice outside of Johnny’s House. Laura has launched the nonprofit using all of her media and storytelling skills the best she knows how.
“Feminism to me is so important. It’s been an underlying theme of my life since I was a child. It was almost not even appropriate to try and bring that on-air because it would never have gotten the time it deserves- or even the response it deserves. I can’t just throw out two lines and expect it to make a difference.”
On raising kids as a feminist:
“It’s such a big thing and it’s a daily struggle. I was raised in a way that feminism wasn’t supported or nurtured. My dad was extremely conservative, very religious, and very traditional. And so it’s hard being a mom to not just do what I saw. I’m having to everyday check myself for micro things I do whether it’s ‘Norah that’s not what a lady does’ if she burps but yet I’m not saying the same thing to my son.”
On being a feminist parenting team:
“My husband is a big feminist too. He certainly wasn’t when I met him. But he also has always been very open minded. Now he’s quite possibly a bigger feminist than I am. He’s always teaching Norah how to throw a baseball or has her out in the dirt playing and I’m the one going ‘Oh my gosh you’re getting her dirty!’ If my son is playing in the dirt it doesn’t bother me the way it does when my beautiful little girl is covered in dirt head to toe. My husband and I are good at checking ourselves all the time on what we’re saying or doing.”
As Laura talks about her family it’s extremely clear how important they are to her and how much she values her husband. She and Mike are an amazing team and she very much respects and praises him as an individual and a positive force in her life.
On finding balance as co-parents:
“Mike will be like ‘Okay, Laura everything doesn’t have to be a cause.’ He’ll tell me when maybe I’m going overboard. And maybe it’s not overboard but of course you have to make compromises for a marriage. I’ll also tell him if maybe he’s saying or doing something that could be construed differently and he’s always receptive to it. He’s just an amazing husband. We also have a completely different dynamic. I’m the breadwinner. I work full time. I pay the bills. I make the money. I’m in charge of the household per se. He is the child caretaker. He’s on top of their immunization schedules. He takes them to the dentist, takes them to and from school. He takes them to extracurriculars, ice skating and piano. The man is very much in the traditional female role and that sort of automatically keeps things where I would love them to be. I’m showing my daughter what a woman can be.”
On chatter regarding their traditional role reversals:
“Mike is probably the only guy at school dropping and picking up. All the moms want to know what happened. He’ll hear whisperings ‘Oh is he a single dad?’ We just make all these assumptions in society. ‘What’s wrong with the mom?’ I’ve even heard ‘Is she a drug addict? Is she part of the opioid crisis and now he’s left with these two kids?’ We immediately sympathize with a man who is alone with their children we never sympathize with a woman. We expect the woman to be doing all the caretaking of the children and when they’re not, something’s wrong.”
On her favorite part of being a mom:
“I think the greatest thing of being a mom is that kids just check you so hard. They’re like our mirror. There’s something where if there’s a character flaw in you, you’re going to see it because they’re going to project it onto you. I love seeing their innocence. I love seeing them learn new things. I love seeing them be so loyal to me and Mike it’s the craziest thing. I’ve so enjoyed having children even in those very dark times. It’s all just life and I don’t see what’s the point without them.”
On the most surprising thing of being a mom:
“Probably the most surprising thing is how non-stop it is. I mean you know a little bit but you truly have no idea just how much work it is until you’re in it. You see movies and you talk to your friends but you see just these snippets of what it’s like. You cannot talk to me unless you have a kid about kids. I won’t even listen to you. You have no idea what you’re talking about. You’re not allowed to have an opinion about raising kids unless you’ve raised a kid.”
On the hardest thing of raising kids:
“What worked with my first doesn’t work with my second. All of the tricks i learned about potty training, bedtime, mealtime…all down the tubes with my second.They’re such different kids with different likes and dislikes so that’s the hardest part for me. Starting all over again and having to learn a totally different way to parent and having to switch styles between kids. Even something as simple as my son liking characters in costume at a theme park and my daughter being mortified of them. It’s a constant balancing act with these two rugrats.”
On mom guilt:
“There’s a theory called the good enough mom from the book Freakanomics. The theory is there’s like x amount of minutes that you spend with your child, they found over the years that they turn out just as well as the kid that has the stay at home mom. I want to say it’s like 11 minutes or something, outrageously low. I think about that and the minutes required and how much more than that I do. And I’m like they’re fine. You know when your kid is suffering for your attention and you give it to them. And anything in between that you have to do the best you can. I’m at a point where I work so much I have so many other things going on in life I physically, mentally, and emotionally I cannot handle mom guilt. I just don’t have the capacity for it. And so I just don’t.”
Laura has been open about having postpartum depression with both of her children.
On her mental health after Nash’s birth:
“With my first, I was able to keep a grasp with reality with my second one I completely had a mental break. So that was totally different. It’s all under that umbrella they call maternal mental illness now because postpartum depression is limited. With my second I had postpartum psychosis which is extremely rare version of postpartum depression where you lose touch with reality you have a complete mental breakdown.
That was a much more severe situation where I had to be separated from my child when he was maybe three or four weeks old. It’s weird, it has almost made me closer to my son than my daughter because I look at him now like oh my gosh there was a time I wanted to harm you. You look at him and would cut a bitch for him…is this the same kid I didn’t even want? I was at the point I would have adopted him out. I was ready to give him to my sister to raise as her own. Medicine works. Therapy works.”
On her history of mental illness:
“I’ve been suffering from depression since I was young. It’s very much a genetic factor for me. So I should have known getting pregnant that this is something that would more likely would trigger that but you just don’t think about it and you go on with your life. And no one wants to worry about that anyway. But when it came with the second one I was able to recognize it right away.”
On the importance of talking about postpartum depression:
“A lot of women are just so embarrassed by it. You don’t have to birth the baby and it’s love at first sight. And that’s how people describe it. It was never that way with either of my kids for me. It was almost to be honest, disgust at first. It was like you put me through the worst pain of my life and now you’re screaming at me and now I’m exhausted and I can’t sleep because of you. There’s a lot of resentment. And no one talks about that.”
This year Laura has been very open about her struggle with alcohol abuse. Laura says the responses have run the gamut from incredible support to outrageous judgement and skepticism. But she says the majority of the responses have been positive and people that have been able to identify their own issues because of her.
On her struggle with alcohol abuse:
“I’ve been dealing with alcohol and drug abuse since I was 14. So I have had quite the run with alcohol and drugs and I’ve done it all and abused it all. I will never say I’m an alcoholic because I don’t think that I am. I am a binge drinker and I think I have alcohol abuse problems. I have a problem with drinking as a way to calm emotions and things I don’t want to deal with. And I think I just finally recognized this year when for the hundredth time I drove drunk. And it just clicked that I have these two gorgeous children, I have this amazing husband and I have so much to live for and I need to stop acting like it’s ok if I don’t live. And that’s how I’ve been acting for a long time. Life to me until recently was just kind of disposable, something I had to get through every day.”
On challenging herself to stop drinking:
“I said to myself I just need to prove that I can go three months without drinking. And then when I did that and things just so drastically improved in my life I knew I could never go back to the way it was. I’ve had plenty of drinks since but never more than two or three in one sitting.”
On why she addressed it in public:
“I decided to come out with it. You know they say if you’re going on a diet you should tell people so they hold you accountable…same with alcohol. You’re going to have haters that say ‘Oh you’re doing it for attention’ and I get that all the time. To me it’s just all completely selfish here’s my problem I’m saying it out loud because I want to be called out. And sure enough someone sees me with a drink, they say something.”
How do you embrace life to the fullest? When have you made a change in career or at home that affected you in a big way?
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Want to read about other moms who rock? Check out our interview with Stephanie Forshee!