When you first meet Alicia Ybarbo, you realize she is not very tall. But what she lacks in height, she makes up on wit, smarts, delivery, and charm. A sought out women’s conference moderator or panelist in subjects related to career women and/or motherhood, Alicia is an Emmy Award-winning television producer, bestselling author, and social media mom.
In 2009 her first book, Today’s Moms: Essentials for Surviving Baby’s First Year was published. In 2012, her second book, Sh**tty Mom:The Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us, made the New York Times bestseller list and was listed as “Top 10 Parenting Trend” by Time Magazine. This past march, the second book in the Sh**tty Moms series, Sh**tty for All Seasons:[email protected] It All Year Long, was launched. A producer at NBC Today show since 2000, Alicia is an accomplished social media influencer in all things parenting. We recently spoe to Alicia to find out more about her work, family, and of course, her Latina pride.
On The Family That Raised Her
A second generation Mexican American, she grew up in the rural town of Woodland in Northern California. Alicia’s mom is the second oldest of eight children. “That sorta forced her into helping raise the rest of the children. There was no such thing as privacy in her upbringing.” said Alicia. In fact, Alicia’s mom had to share most everything with her siblings. “My mom recently shared a story with my 11-year-old daughter about how, growing up, she could not wait to buy her first bra. It meant she was going shopping for something that would solely belong to her! And my father grew up with even less,”she said.
Perhaps that is why education was important. Alicia’s parents expected good grades in school and good behavior. Alicia and her brother were the first children in the family to go to a university. She didn’t grow up speaking Spanish. “The generation that my parents grew up with was of the mindset that integrating into mainstream society was most important. What we didn’t get through language, we got through culture. We were definitely raised in a bicultural home!”
Food and family gatherings is how Alicia values her Latino pride. Nothing fancy, just sitting around the table for some laughter and discussion. “My mom’s brothers are crazy! Every year we do a ‘white elephant’ gift exchange and one year my Uncle Art wrapped a $100 bill around a rattlesnake’s mouth and secured it with a rubber band (that was then placed in a shoe box with another rubber band) and said, ‘Whoever gets this present must have me open it!’ My grandmother, bless her heart, was so upset about that, but she frankly wasn’t surprised! Talk about wild holiday parties,” she said.
Alicia always knew she wanted to work on television. “I first found out about TV production when I used to stay home sick from school and watch reruns of Mary Tyler Moore. I knew from a very early age that I wanted to play the character ‘Mary Richards’ in real life. I wanted my own studio apartment to invite friends like Rhoda over, and then I’d head to the newsroom and work for a grumpy male boss like Lou Grant. Years later I ended up getting the producer gig and an apartment, but luckily my bosses have all been fabulous!”
Alicia has fond memories of earlier career mentors. “Later in life, I have learned that we should seek mentors who are at our “peer” level, because they’re the ones who will push us to the next level. One such friend, Kalika Nacion Yap, a career entrepreneur, is that person for me. She throws questions at me that are often difficult to answer… or admit to.”
On The Family She Built
At a demanding job most of the day, Alicia calls her husband her most valuable asset. Despite a demanding career of his own, he has more lenient hours and can be there to get their kids from their activities. “The other things that’ve helped me balance my career and my life: my crock pot, my moleskin paper calendar, some serious under-eye concealer and the generic brand enchilada sauce from Target (not too spicy) because the kids love it!”
Alicia’s children are not currently bilingual, but she believes that they are culturally rich. They are being raised in the Jewish faith and the Latino world. “They are proud of their heritage, all of it. And they get their dose of Latino inspiration and love every summer as they spend six weeks with my parents in NorCal. Sundays are a tradition where grandpa gets his menudo or pozole while the kids pick up some pan dulce from the local mercado. Doesn’t get more Mexican than that.”
On The Sh**tty Mom Series
Perhaps because of her own imperfect parenting moments, she and her co-author Mary Ann Zoellner penned the Sh**tty Mom book series. “Parents put so much pressure on themselves to do everything perfectly. Not only that, but that same stress and pressure gets passed down to our own children. Sh*tty Mom is about laughing at those less-than-perfect parenting moments, while also finding a way to press the recharge button.” Their hope is to bring a little bit more of a relaxed attitude to moms and dads. “Life is hard enough without the expectation on ourselves to be perfect.”
On Balancing Life and Work
When I asked who inspires her, she was quick to answer. “Any woman who helps other women!!! Makes me want to turn around and help someone myself. Offer an introduction, a booking, a shared glass of wine, whatever you can do.”
Motherhood and a career in television? It can be done. Tell yourself you’re going to do it and you will. Don’t let anyone talk you out of it. Unlike me, speak two languages, or three or four. Do your homework: know how to shoot and edit your own video. Expect to work from the bottom up and find support at home to enable you to work. And be different: forget trying to be like anyone else and just be the truest person you can be.”