- At Home
Marilyn Monroe once said: "It's not true I had nothing on; I had the radio on."
With all the visual entertainment and social media around us, why do many of us moms still listen to the radio? For some, it's the soothing music that can lull a crying toddler to sleep. For others, it's the noise that can drown out the sound of children complaining in the back seat. And maybe for the rest of us, it's the musical "happy place" we visit in our head just to take a short break from reality.
For thousands of moms living in Southern California, this happy place includes a popular family-focused, Christian contemporary radio station, 95.9 FM The Fish, and a bubbly, well-liked (and new mom!) morning radio host named Lara Scott.
Driving to visit her at the radio station, I think of all the questions I want to ask her, most of which center around her life as both a career woman and a mother of a two-year-old boy, Dallas.
What’s it like being a working mother in the public eye? How does she juggle it all? As an on-air radio personality with crazy work hours, does she even get quality deep sleep? Should I tell her she's one of my favorite radio hosts?
I'm determined to see if her experience so far with motherhood is anywhere close to mine. I decide to learn her story...and discover the modern mom behind the microphone.
Twenty minutes later I'm shaking Lara's hand in the 95.9 FM radio station. She is decidedly sweet, and I immediately like her. Her voice matches her persona: enthusiastic, charming and genuine. Blond hair swept back into a bun and a stylish coat hugging her thin frame, there's a realness about Lara, and I can immediately see why listeners are drawn to her.
She tours me around the LA-based station, and we end up in a studio room adorned with a gigantic frame of a fish that hangs behind the sound board. It's where she hosts the “Family Friendly Morning Show” with Bobby Shaw; it’s a show that I can share with my two young boys without having to monitor content.
I immediately focus on the big microphone and ask if she is ever nervous during a live broadcast. "Not anymore," she answers. She used to be, back when she was working her first radio hosting gig in Oregon for a tiny radio station in a town that was probably just as tiny. She was only 17 years old but she was, as she described, "fearless." Lara had initially planned on studying pre-law at a university, but then, when love struck, she announced to her parents she was staying in Oregon to be with her boyfriend and to attend community college instead. "You've just ruined your life," her dad had told her. "I'll take my chances," she answered. And, she did...even when her boyfriend dumped her a week later.
One of those chances was when she called into that small radio station on a dare to ask if they were hiring. Yes, in fact, they were. To her surprise, her radio boss felt Lara's previous radio experience was sufficient: the hours she had spent as a little girl creating albums had paid off. Lara describes how she used to read 80s magazines like Big Bopper and Teen Beat, listen to the local Top 40 station, and write down the artist facts. With her stereo cassette player and her plug-in microphone, Lara would create tapes for her mom called "Mom's Top 10 Countdown.” These tapes always announced the "Against All Odds" song by Phil Collins as the top requested song, no matter how many years passed. It was her mom's favorite song, after all. So many years later, Lara still preps this same way, writing down advice tidbits or stories she reads or hears on the news so that she can discuss them on the air later.
We snap a picture of us next to her big microphone, and I ask her what she likes best about speaking on the radio. She answers that it's not the actual act of talking, but the result of it that inspires her. For example, she recently shared on air that she had to suddenly slam on the brakes in her car, causing a box of cupcakes to hit the dashboard. Hearing people tell her after the broadcast that a similar thing had happened to them or that something she said had cheered them up is what drives her. She’s inspired by the sense of creating a community, of personally connecting with other people over the air.
It's also the unique experiences she has via her job that moves her. One was meeting her beloved Duran Duran 1980s rock band and being able to sit on Simon Le Bon's lap. I'm sure she was tempted to tell him that when she was a kid, she dreamed of being Lara Le Bon.
She was also invited to participate in international outreach programs. For example, she flew to Jamaica with a group called “Food for the Poor.” You can see the impact of it on her face as she shares the story. “I witnessed poverty like I couldn’t even imagine,” she says. It was this trip that compelled her to actively seek ways to serve and get involved in her own community.
As Lara shows me the sound board and explains how the scheduling software and buttons work, she makes it look so easy. Of course, her career experience has made her quite the professional -- from lending her voice to TV programs (Bravo, VH-1) and in-flight programming (Air Force 1 radio), to working as the music director at KZQZ and hosting the midday show at another popular LA-based radio station, KYSR/Star 98.7 FM.
In 2006, she joined the Fish station shortly after discovering Christian radio and wanting to be a part of music that inspires people. This move to a family-focused, contemporary Christian station was never part of her initial career plan. But, as Lara says, after experiencing a low point in her life fighting through loneliness and anger about issues in her past, “the right station came at the right time.” Her friend had invited her to a great church, and Lara’s life began to change for the better.
Ten minutes later, over lunch, Lara is talking more about her life as a mother. It’s ironic, since she had never thought she’d get married or have kids. It was always her career that she planned on being her main focus, and the idea of staying with the same somebody for life was, in a word, unimaginable. But then she met her husband who was “completely different” than anybody she had dated and who enabled her to be completely herself. Ten years later, she was a family of three.
The transition into motherhood was anything less than easy, and I immediately feel a bond with her when she shares that her son too had colic. There’s just this natural understanding between moms of colicky babies, and I have yet to meet one that doesn’t cringe when she hears somebody say: “That baby is so happy; that woman must be a good mother.”
I nod emphatically as Lara explains how she tried everything for his colic…drops, books, football carrying hold, different baby slings, etc. But one thing worked for Dallas: long walks in the stroller. It’s why Lara walked him for several hours a day and lost weight. The mom of a colicky baby still doesn’t give up looking for other alternatives though. “I was browsing the Internet at 2 am looking for advice about how to calm colicky babies, and one site told me that if you hold the baby a certain way and hum ‘Old Man River’ that the vibrations would calm the baby,” she said, laughing. “It didn’t help…but I tried.”
I ask her if she also has a good singing voice, to which she answers: “If my son could describe me in five words it would be ‘My mom’s a terrible singer.’” After a moment, she adds, “Maybe that's why my son had colic.” I have to laugh; I always appreciate a mom with a fun sense of humor. Lara shares that the day that Dallas was born she realized she did not know any lullabies to sing to him. I’m sure there was at least one witness who heard Lara sing hair band songs from the ‘80s as she rocked him or “Kiss Me Deadly” by Lita Ford as she changed her baby’s diaper. Having sung Beatles tunes to my sons for years, I can immediately appreciate this.
Over the past two years, Lara has not only added to her lullaby collection but she has also settled nicely into the mommy routine. Her typical day starts really early with “a strong cup of coffee” (she loves her French press!) and ends really late with work…with quality family time in between. The entire first year after Dallas was born Lara worked from home. She turned an old bathroom into her studio, ripping out the sink and toilets and then putting in a small desk. With curtains and foam on the walls, this makeshift bathroom studio let her run everything from home, even the broadcast. “Listen closely to my broadcasts,” Lara says. “See if you can tell whether I’m working at the station or in my bathroom studio.”
Since Lara speaks with moms every day on the radio, I ask her to share some advice with readers of Modern Mom magazine. Her eyes widen as she excitedly leans forward.
Lara’s 7 tips for making motherhood more manageable:
Figure out what you need to do and then what you want to do. You’ll never find Lara far from her to-do lists. She maintains a professional one and also a personal one. It’s a great way to add organization to one’s life. She also advises moms to write things down. Whatever pops into your head, put it into your phone, a piece of paper, a post-it, a napkin...because the mommy brain can sometimes be forgetful. Writing down notes has saved her life (especially with work). “I tend to be more creative while running errands or playing with my son than when I'm sitting in the office, staring at a computer screen,” she says.
2. Hug your children daily.
Show physical affection to your children as often as possible and spend as much time with them outdoors. A perfect 45-minute time chunk for Lara would be hanging out with her family at the beach or chasing each other at the park. Dallas is currently obsessed with fountains and so they drive by fountains all over the city, windows rolled down, and sometimes they’re rewarded with a water spray.
3. Feed your family fresh foods.
If Lara could talk for hours about a topic, it would be the art of juicing. When her son was almost a year old, he was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder called Kawasaki Disease. As the doctors began treating her son, she realized that she needed to boost his immune system and looked for ways to get healthy foods, vitamins and minerals into his diet. Juicing was her answer. It was a cost-efficient way to pack nutrients into a liquid form. Her son loves kale…go figure.
4. Put work away.
Physically put distractions away, and focus on what you’re doing at that moment. In other words, step away from the computer and the phone. For Lara, two of the hardest aspects of being a working mom are 1) being away from her son and 2) making sure to put work away when she’s around her family. With the ever-present social media, it’s a hard task to protect her family time and be present with her son. “The hardest thing is to step away from my job and say, okay, I’m finished for the day and I did my best, and now it’s time to shift focus.” It’s a conscious decision. Lara will often hide her computer and turn off her phone ringer so that the time she does have with her family is quality time. Her reward: an adorable two-year-old boy praising the merits of Mickey Mouse and wanting to cuddle.
5. Balance as best you can.
Lara would tell you to give up the idea that if you could just find that one magic tip, you will be able to perfectly balance your life. “I'm starting to think there's no such thing as complete balance!” she notes. “ What I do think is possible is to be committed to what you're doing in the present moment and give it your best--if you're at work, focus and power through. If you're at home, let the work stress go the best you can. As my son has grown, I've started to adjust to that feeling of being about 30 seconds away from disaster and my day falling apart at any given moment. In a way, after my son got very sick, I became less stressed--compared to what we went through with a child that was ill, a babysitter calling in sick is not a big deal anymore. I give thanks every day that he's healthy. It’s about changing one’s perspective.”
6. Look for ways to be active!
The gym is a distant memory for her, but Lara makes sure to be constantly on the move. She tends to take stairs two at a time (unless she’s holding her son), park far away from the store, and squat instead of simply bending down to pick something up. Lara’s son also loves to dance (“he doesn’t seem to mind that I’m a terrible dancer!”), so she spends a lot of time bouncing around while holding a 30-pound kid. She also stretches while brushing her teeth. (I dare not tell her that minutes before this interview I made sure to find the closest parking spot in the radio station’s garage and waited for the elevator.)
7. Reach out to other moms.
Even just smiling at a mom at a park and asking, "How old is your baby?" can start a nice conversation. Lara has found her favorite ways to reach out. “With my work hours and commitments, Facebook has been a wonderful place for me to connect (sometimes at 11 pm!), and I want to say thank you to all of the moms who have shared their stories with me. It's been so encouraging to hear about the challenges moms have overcome, and I've laughed and cried while reading their posts. More than anything, Facebook has allowed me to feel that I'm not alone and not a complete freak!”
Our conversation circles back to her son, and it is clear to me that Dallas is the center of her world. I ask her if her son could remember only one thing about her at the end of the day, what would she want that to be? “I want him to always know that he’s ‘Mommy’s Little Angel’ and to hear me say that ‘Mommy loves you to the moon and back.’” Lara pauses. “But what I want him to remember most importantly is how I made him feel. I want him to feel my unconditional love for him every day and that he is free to be exactly who he is.” It’s endearing to see Lara’s eyes fill with happy tears. It’s a mutual mommy moment.
What strikes me the most about Lara is not that she has a beautiful voice and can eloquently talk about any topic; it is rather that she actively listens…that she takes a genuine interest in my personal story and asks me questions. She is a natural interviewer, not just behind the microphone, but away from it as well. She talks for a living, but she listens even more. It is part of the reason why she is so successful in her career, I believe.
Most career moms balance life between the workplace and the home, but what would happen if the two worlds came together for just a moment? I ask Lara a hypothetical: If the station let her family have a special one-hour radio show, what would she, her husband and Dallas discuss? It’s a no-brainer. “We would explore the beauty of organizing. I love organizing. It’s so relaxing for me to see a drawer that was just pure chaos and then, minutes later, it’s perfectly organized where you find everything.” I bet she would also mention her love of the portable handheld labeler, the P-Touch, and how the Deco Mode feature is pretty cool.
Her title for this hypothetical family radio show: “Planned Spontaneity.” For a morning radio host juggling a young son, healthy lifestyle and several to-do lists, it’s the perfect description.