Divorce is a horrible event for a family and it is more impactful to the children caught in the crossfire. Host, Greta Gasparian, sits down with Lily Bekmezian, the owner of House of Sofella, to discuss this common yet taboo issue in the Armenian culture. Lily talks about her life’s journey—from going through divorce, to rebuilding her life and starting an online business. She then shares her opinion about the worst part of the entire process and how pressured she was as a woman in a conservative community. For Lily, being a perfect example to her children as a mom is the critical thing to achieve even after divorce. Know more about this powerful woman who is in her mid-thirties, divorced with two young children, and a single mother working full time.
Listen to the podcast here:
Lily Bekmezian – Rebuilding Life After Divorce + Becoming A Single Mom
We have Lily and she is going to talk about the topic of divorce, rebuilding life after divorce, starting an online business and all that amazing stuff. Lily, welcome to the show.
It’s good to be here. Thank you for having me.
Here’s a little backstory. Lily and I met on social media. She approached me. She wanted to send a cute package from her adorable boutique and we’ve been connected ever since. I spoke to her on the phone to browse about topics we could talk about something that’s inspiring. The one thing that inspired me about her was her positivity and the amazing way she came out of a divorce. I thought it would be nice for an Armenian woman especially, to talk about such a taboo subject or actually it’s taboo when every culture I feel. Even though it’s a lot more normal these days, I still feel like it’s something people don’t want to talk about because it’s uncomfortable. It brings up a lot of emotions that no one wants to go back and deal with. Thank you so much for being brave enough to talk to us about this topic. Tell us what was a marriage like for you? Give us a little recap of what it was like.
Marriage was great. It’s that whole idea in our culture, you’re raised, you’re going to get married, you’re planning your dress, how many kids do you want? You have these imaginary timelines set. It happens but it doesn’t always plan out the way it’s supposed to. I married my high school sweetheart. We were friends all of our lives. I want to say since like twelve, thirteen years old. Everything was super simple, very fluid. It was easy. We had the same friends, our families knew each other. It was a safe choice I wanted to say. You don’t know any better. You know that this is what you’re supposed to do.
That’s like your home in a way. It’s like your safe haven. It’s what you know.
You have similarities. Your families are similar, your culture, your language, your traditions. It’s easy that way. It was great. I was married for about nine years and I had two great kids out of that. They are the inspiration behind House of Sofella. With me married and working and having kids and the stress that life brings altogether, there are a lot of financial burdens. There are a lot of things you’re figuring out. A lot of that sometimes you do behind closed doors. A lot of people don’t know the struggles because I can guarantee every young married, everybody.
I can’t think of one person that doesn’t go through struggles in a marriage. That’s impossible, whether it’s financial or communication or trust or whatever it is. Everybody goes through some form of a struggle in marriage.
You’re taught to not talk about your problems. You’re taught to work them out, “It’s okay. Everyone goes through it. It’s not a big deal. You’ll figure it out. You’ve got kids. What will people think? What will people say?” This is almost as if it’s like a lot and you abide by it like a citizen.
We all live with it. It’s okay. It’s fine.
Because in our culture there is no divorce. There is but it is taboo. It’s hidden.
It’s super taboo. I feel like couples who are Armenian that I know who have gotten divorced, you don’t even get a warning sign. You don’t get a, “We’re getting divorced.” It’s like you hear it from the grapevine and then you’re like, “Are you serious?” In our culture, we always put up a front. You could be miserable, but you’re smiling because you’re obligated to.
Also, you’re still in love with the person you may or may not divorce. You’re protecting. You’re in protection mode because at the end of the day, that’s your family. You still don’t want anyone disrespecting your family. The one thing I’ve upheld and the one thing I’m a true believer in is karma. I don’t want to speak badly about anybody. This was my husband, the father of my children. I want everyone to respect that and I respect that. You go through things and you move on and you forgive or you don’t, depending on who you are. I have chosen to completely de-stress my life. With that, comes forgiveness. With that, comes no anger, no hatred. I want to be that one in a million divorcee who you go to your kids’ games together, your vacation together, you have family dinners together, why not? Why can’t that happen? I absolutely want to touch on the fact that we didn’t divorce on such healthy terms. In a marriage where one partner isn’t always present or healthy in their own right, I feel like it’s important to talk about addiction because that’s what we experienced in our marriage, gambling addiction. In our culture, that’s not an addiction. Everybody does it. It’s no big deal. It’s not a big deal because some people can handle it. It’s not addiction if you can handle it or is it? I’m not sure.
You’re oblivious to it, I feel. Most of the women whose husbands clearly have an addiction of some sort are oblivious to it because it’s easier to close your eyes and act like, “Everything’s fine. I can put a smile. My kids will never notice and I will deal with him. I got this. I’ll deal with it.”
You’re a fool to think that. It doesn’t make the person who has that burden any less or more of a human being. He’s no better than I am, I’m in no better than he is. The fact is that you have illnesses and sometimes there could be cancer in a marriage and that could take a toll. Sometimes there could be cheating and fidelity and that takes a toll. Sometimes there’s an addiction. There are so many different things in marriage and so many components that you have to juggle. Honestly, you throw your hands up in the air and pray, “I hope it works out,” because sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. You fight for it. I fought for it. I did fight for it and I’m proud of myself for that.
You don’t wake up and say, “That’s it. You pissed me off. I’m getting a divorce.”
There are a lot of bad days before that one judgment day. People don’t see that and people judge you for it, “Did she do everything she could? Did she try to help the situation? Is there anything else she could have done? Why couldn’t she have tried harder for the kids?”You go through things and you move on, and you forgive or you don't depending on who you are. Click To Tweet
That’s the worst part is people’s assumptions. It’s like, “Lily, are you sure you tried hard enough? I know this one couple and they went through the same thing and then they tried hard.” You’re like, “I don’t need to tell you that I went to therapy and this and this. What do you think I did? I have two kids. You think my first option was divorce?” People are crazy.
Here’s the thing. There’s an imaginary hierarchy of importance in a family. The moms, the wives, somehow we’re always at the very bottom and we’re okay being there because it’s our nurturing way to take care of everything and everybody. Once there’s time left over, I’ll get to me. It’s okay. I haven’t slept. It’s okay. I’ve been crying for like three days but it’s okay. I haven’t eaten yet but it’s okay. Then it’s not okay because you have to take care of yourself no matter what as a woman, as a mom, as a wife. Mine came at a little later date, but it finally came.
What do you think is the worst part of divorce? Is it the family dynamic changing? Is it all the people with their assumptions and the rumors?
Honestly, it’s like a death in the family. That’s what they say. I didn’t believe it because when we decided to mutually end our marriage, we were still living together for a little bit. We had a garage sale together. We were still taking the kids to school, picking them up on the important dates. We were doing things because we’ve been friends for so long. Here’s the thing, it wasn’t unnatural for us to be friends together. That’s what we knew. That was the easy part. The hard part was trying to make it work as a married couple. When you have such different personalities and I’m sure I was probably called crazy enough for a couple of times where you believe, “Am I crazy though?” Maybe I was a little crazy. Of course we’re all a little crazy. There’s nothing wrong with that.
I’m psycho if you ask my husband.
I was okay with that. He would always say, “You’re like a robot.” I’m like, “I know. I don’t want to be a robot. I want to break out of routine, but someone’s got to keep it together.” That takes a toll on a marriage too. I played a role in there. I’m not ever going to say I didn’t play a role in the demise of my marriage. He had his own issues. Those were his, but I had my own as well. The combination of that together is explosive. What do you get? What can you do?
It’s hard to navigate two different personalities. You said you’re a Capricorn. My husband’s a Capricorn. I’m a Virgo. He’s very chill, very down to Earth. I’m like, “You said 3:00, I’ll go at 4:00.” I’m like, “No, but you said 3:00.”
That’s interesting because that’s Capricorns.
He’s a very special kind of Capricorn.
He is a special cookie or maybe like the male and female version have some discrepancies. They say opposites attract and we’re opposite, but we’re not. This is my opinion on marriage. I think you need to have arguments or more so conversations, but also you need to learn each other’s language. That’s the hardest part is that if there is an issue, let’s say a financial issue and you’re screaming at me but I’m talking calmly. We’re never going to get to a happy medium ever. If we’re both talking calmly but you’re zoning out, that’s not going to do. You need to learn each other’s language. If something’s upsetting me, I can’t come screaming. My husband zones me out.
They completely shut down. I remember in one of our therapy sessions and we did couples therapy and I don’t think we needed the length that we did at for, but we loved going. We loved our therapist and he was so great. He became almost like a mentor, like a marriage counselor, let’s say. It was fun. We both looked forward to that. He was always so willing, which was nice and surprising of an Armenian man. That was nice. I remember clear as day, we were talking about a topic. I can’t remember what the topic was, but I remember they both zoned me out and I was like, “Have I lost both of you?” My therapist turns to me and says, “We’re going to have to teach you to stay within a certain timeframe to make a point.” He was nice about it but it’s constructive. He’s like, “There’s going to come an actual time in whatever you’re trying to get across.” After that point, everyone shuts down. We start thinking about dinner, we start thinking about work or whatever or what buddy we’re going to go see. He’s like, “You did it and it happened, so I’m going to bring it up.” My ex-husband said, “I’m so glad I was not the only one here because I think I stopped listening five minutes ago.” You learn each other’s language to communicate. You have a short window there.
The hardest part is when you have these conversations and you still disagree. That’s like, “Okay but we can agree to disagree because this is both of our lives and now, we have a baby or more than one kid.” Marriage is always difficult. We were together for a number of years and you think you know a person but you don’t until you get married or you live together. Armenians, it’s different. You don’t live together unless you’re married, “I didn’t know you did this. How did I know?” It’s a shock and then you have to adjust to this person and how they are from their day–to–day life. Are they messy? Do they clean? Are they OCD? It’s hard.
It’s all fun and games until you live together.
I always talk to my mom and my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law about this and I’m like, “I don’t want to talk big, but when I have a daughter and she wants to move in with the fiancé or something, I think I’m okay with it,” even though my husband will probably shoot me when he hears this. I think I’m okay because I don’t want her to get married and then say, “Mom, I don’t think this guy was right for me or I can’t deal with him because he’s too OCD or he’s messy. He doesn’t help around the house.” I think it’s healthy. You’re Armenian and there are there are rules in a way.
We’re too sheltered from what life is like. It’s like everybody we know married the first guy they dated and that’s it. It’s like, “Why?” I don’t understand.
I’ll tell you what it is. They don’t want people talking because if you have more than one boyfriend or more than one fiancé, then they label you and then no one wants a labeled daughter.
The family name is completely tainted and that’s it.
It‘s more defining, it’s their reputation but it’s like, “Okay?”
I have two daughters and the one thing I want for them, honestly, is to experience life, be successful, financially and 100% independent. If they choose to share that with a life partner, then they choose to share that with a life partner. I remember my dad. Maybe your dad probably said this. “Dad, I want to do this.” “Get married and then you’ll do it.” “Dad, I want to tattoo.” “Get married and then have a tattoo.” “I want to go to China.” “Get married and go with your husband.” I was just like, “This is completely going backwards.” I’m vowing now. This is on air and completely on there forever. My kids can’t see this until they’re 30. I don’t want to do that to them.
Going back to the hardest part and this is honestly the hardest part for me as a mother going through a divorce. I don’t know what it’s like when you don’t have children going through a divorce. I’m sure it’s hard, but it may be not as hard. It’s sharing your children in two different residences. It’s explaining to them why you’re not living in the same home anymore. It’s seeing the questions in their eyes, but they’re not old enough or they’re not mature enough or they’re not brave enough yet to ask the questions that need to be asked in the proper way. You don’t know what answers to give them anyway, so you come up with these things, these reasons, whatever it is.
I don’t even know half the things I told my kids, by the way. It was like, I would pray every night, “Please don’t ask me. I don’t know what to say.” It’s also somewhat staying as honest as possible. You look at their age, you look at their intellectual level, what they can handle, what they can’t and their emotional state. You are honest based on that. Every child is different. Every parent is different. What’s not different in every divorced family is the divorce part. There’s always going to be a separation there. You can’t do anything about that. I think kids do, they see honesty and transparency and they don’t like to be lied to no matter the age.
That’s a given fact that children don’t want to be lied to because they’re so much smarter than we think, that we give enough credit for them. They’re so much smarter than their age and they feel these things. When you and dad are not close to each other and you’re mad, your face shows that the vibe is there. They feel it. They know.
They don’t know how to process that. It’s emotion, it’s not logic with them. That is the hardest part of divorce is having your kids be okay. Mom and dad will be okay. We’re adults. You do this, you work at it, you do it mutually, knowingly, you know the repercussions, you know what you’re getting yourself into in a sense. The kids have no idea, especially young kids. It’s doing everything for them.
What’s it like for them now that they’re a little bit older to live at dad’s and at mom’s?
My kids love it. Do they wish mom and dad and we were all living together? Of course they do, absolutely. Are they struggling and are they crying and stressed? Are they emotionally affected by this? Time will tell. You don’t know yet because they’re little. My girls are almost seven and nine years old. With the nine-year-old, she gets a lot more than the little one and she’ll ask questions in a very nine-year-old way. I feel like she’s 29, honest to God.
I already just imagined her asking a question like, “Mom?”
It’s a matter of fact or it’s like, “How come this? How come that?” I think they like it because they get away with things at dad’s house that they don’t get away with at my house. There’s always that good cop, bad cop. Dads are fun and he’s good with keeping the routine and the structure. I laugh about it because he and I laugh about it. He’s like, “Come on.” I’m just like, “Now it’s completely out the window.” They use it to their advantage. These kids are so smart. They get double the gifts, birthdays and holidays. Birthdays are like a week and holidays are like a month, so they’re good.
They’re fine. We don’t have to worry about them.
I want young women, older women, middle–aged women, women of all backgrounds, religions, nationalities and just women. I had to learn a lot on my own. I didn’t have anybody guiding me through this. My mom has always been very strong because she didn’t have a dad growing up and there was divorce in her family. She’s always been strong. I never cried ever in front of my parents. I’m almost divorced now for years. I shed some tears and she was shocked and blown away. She was like, “We thought you were so strong. We thought nothing bothered you.” I was like, “How could you think that?” She’s saying this and I’m crying, she’s crying. We had a moment there. My one advice, don’t go through it alone. Find somebody, not necessarily someone who’s gone through it but it’s preferred because I feel like you can probably get a little bit more constructive advice and guidance. Something to bond with them on. If you can’t find somebody, don’t hold anything in. Talk about it, cry about it, yell about it and break things.
I’m huge about dealing with your emotions.
With Armenians, it’s suppressed. It affects your health in ways you will never imagine. If one thing I could have done differently was open up a lot sooner, talk to someone a lot sooner. Talk to somebody. It’s so common sense-like but it’s so overlooked. I held so much in and not just with the divorce aspect. I’m that kind of a person. I hold everything in until I explode from it. The minute I do it, it’s almost a thousand pounds off your shoulders. It’s like giving birth to this problem that you’ve been growing and keeping it in you for so long and then you give birth. You’re like, “This feels so great.” I think it’s because we’re so afraid of being judged. We’re so afraid of being criticized.
If you don’t have somebody to talk to, investing in therapy is helpful. I’ve gone to therapy before I got married to get some insight and no one even knows this, except my mom because I ended up telling her way after I even went. I don’t think my husband even knows. I went to therapy before we got married and I was confused about certain things. I talked to therapists. I got a completely different person’s perspective. You can talk to a girlfriend, you can talk to a mom and I have great girlfriends and my mom is very supportive. There are things you feel weird even though there’s nothing wrong with it, to talk about your mom because she’s a mom. She was like, “Why do you have these thoughts? Is there a doubt in your mind?” Your friends will always remember this.
A therapist is a professional and I think it was helpful. Also sometimes, your mom and your friends will be like, “No, you’re not the problem,” but I was the problem. At the time, whatever it was that I was talking to her about was an issue that I wasn’t seeing. Nobody said, “Greta, you’re approaching it all wrong.” It wasn’t until this therapist said, “How can you do something and he can’t do something?” I was like, “What do you mean?” She was like, “Why are you allowed?” I’m like, “Because.” She told me what I didn’t want to hear and I stopped going. I stopped going because I didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t want to hear that I was thinking wrong. This entire time, if I was thinking about it or talking to a girlfriend about it, I was like, “I’m not the problem.” It turns out I was the problem. That’s a tough pill to swallow.
This is crazy for me to say this. I started seeing a therapist, a whole different one. This was about me getting better and trying not to be codependent, which by the way, she told me to read this book, which is life-changing and amazing.Every child is different. Every parent is different. What's not different in every divorce family is the divorce part. Click To Tweet
What’s it called?
Who was it by?
I don’t know. Go on Amazon. It’s amazing. I feel like I was co–dependent to the extreme and not towards a specific person. In general, I was co–dependent upon people’s opinions about me, thoughts about me, emotions about me. I was a people–pleaser. I was trying always to do the right thing, so I was pleasing everybody. Going back to if there’s time for me, I’ll take care of myself. Making decisions based on the wellbeing of others. Not my children of course, just others. This book is incredible. It opens up your eyes. It’s basically a slap in the face like, “Wake up, self-care, take care of yourself now.”
What’s the main message of the book?
It’s like you’ve got to look after you.
You look after yourself, you do you and stop being so co–dependent on everybody else, on anything else. If you can’t take care of yourself, if you can’t be alone with yourself and be happy with yourself and be content and that’s enough for you, then you’re co-dependent somehow some way in some shape or form. It’s teaching you how to completely cut yourself from that because that’s an addiction too. I didn’t want to hear that. She told me, “There are things you need to do by this time. You’re so way behind on doing things. We’re going to do this, this and this.” I thought to myself, as you said, you don’t want to hear it and you’re just like, “I’ll deal with that later,” but I couldn’t run away from it. It’s like that book is like a mirror. It’s really good. Anybody out there, please, you would love it and then maybe you should talk about it. It’s amazing.
We do this completely unconsciously and until somebody doesn’t get background and say, “I see what this is,” and points it out. You’re like, “What? No, that can’t be.”
“Why are you so angry all the time? Why are you allowing people to completely navigate your emotions or your decision making? What happened to you?” I was never that person. You’re never that person until you are that person and then you don’t want to be that person anymore.
Then you work towards not being that person.
That’s where I am now. Everyday you’re working on yourself.
Honestly, I stopped going but I realized after I had my son that I wasn’t where I wanted to be. There was so much more I could do, I could give. I don’t know what happened. It was like my hormones went back to normal after a few months and then I got some clarity and I started to do me things, like go to the spa once a week without feeling guilty. Guilt is the worst part. It kills you inside.
“What do you mean you’re going to have coffee by yourself for an hour?”
I will feel embarrassed sometimes. When I wanted to get a babysitter, I felt embarrassed asking for one.
I had a full–time nanny. I had to. We needed two incomes in our household. It’s very difficult. When you’re trying to raise kids and work and you got a mortgage or your rent and utilities and you want to go out once every so often with your friends and have a great dinner, somewhere nice and trendy and fun or a vacation once a year. I didn’t realize after getting married, because when you’re not married, you’re at home. At least in our culture, your parents take you everywhere. We do vacation with them everywhere. You’re on their health plan. It’s great.
I’m still on my mom’s health plan. They’re kicking my ass now. They’re literally kicking me out because I’m turning 26. I’m like, “No, keep me for another year.” You don’t realize these things until you get married.
“Vacationing once a year, we have to save for that? We have to not go here?” Even the whole working and I had the nanny and I felt guilty. You feel so guilty. You come home and your baby’s about to go to bed and you leave before your baby sometimes wakes up. It’s mom guilt. It would drive me crazy being home.
That’s okay. For a while, I felt like a crappy mom because I was going crazy because my mom works, my mother-in-law works. I had no babysitter and I was home with the new baby all day, every day with no help or little to no help I should say. I’m also not the type to call my mother and I’m like, “I need an hour. Please come,” because I feel bad. I don’t want to ask for help because I don’t want inconvenience.
You want them to know and call you and should miraculously show up at your front door.
It’s something like that.
Would that be so terrible?
It’s hard to navigate. I don’t think I know anyone who’s been married and not even contemplated separating because it’s not always fun and games. Sometimes there’s an issue that you can’t see eye-to-eye on and you feel like, “I’m done. I don’t want it anymore.”
There are a lot of those issues, by the way. I think she was like maybe five but there are twenty.
The problem is nobody gets to the root of the problem like, “Why are you doing this that it’s making me feel this way? Why do I hate it that you’re out late?” If you’re arguing or speaking or conversating, you don’t get to the root of the problem. Naturally, it keeps coming up and up and it’s this vicious, disgusting, repetitive cycle of the same thing and then you get fed up. You’re like, “I don’t want to talk about it anymore. It’s not getting anywhere.”
I remember every time I’d get into an argument at home with my ex-husband, there was always an event right after. I’m just like, “Why can’t I just stay home mad? I want to stay home and wallow in my madness, my misery and my anger a little bit,” but no, I’ve got to throw on that happy face, get dressed and go and smile.
You’re a trooper. I’d be like, “I’m staying home. I’m not going.” You learn to maneuver your personality. I bet you, God willing, down the line if you were ever to get married again, I don’t know if you would or if you’re dating someone, now you know how you are because you’ve done all that inner work and that’s important. Sometimes you don’t realize it until you get married or go to therapy.
The most important part, I swear to you, is learning to do things on your terms. It’s non-existent sometimes. It’s not culture. It’s like, “What do you mean your terms? It’s not you. It’s us.” Who’s us when you’re having the meltdowns? Who’s us when you’re completely falling apart? There is no us, it you.
There’s too much pressure in our culture.
I’m over the pressure. I’m so done.
I’m sure other cultures have this, but it’s too much pressure and people put their happiness on the line. Then they’re 35 and they’re like, “I get divorced now and then what? Do I ever get happy again?”
I was 34.Connecting to somebody feeds your soul. Click To Tweet
Did you ever feel that way?
Yeah. That’s why sometimes it goes for so many years. There’s a statistic out there somewhere, I’m sure of it. The first thought of divorce hits the first year of marriage. The second thought of divorce hits like the second. It’s this crazy timeline of how often you contemplate it until it’s done. It’s nuts. it’s like 60% now of all marriages are ending in divorce.
I read a crazy article that Millennials are changing that, which was a good thing. I think it was Time Magazine that put out an article that Millennials are getting divorced less and they’re changing that.
Maybe they’re getting married later.
It could be. I never went into it. I got married at 23 and I felt ready, but I don’t think anyone’s ever ready for marriage. Being financially independent as a woman is important and my mom always told me that and I was always, “Mom, relax.”
It’s like if you have a little safe or a stash somewhere.
I didn’t even listen. I was such an idiot. Then I had a baby and I was home. My job at the time was social media. I had left my makeup business and all that and I wasn’t teaching anymore and I was a full-time mom. I’m like, “What do I even have? I have nothing.” Blogging is an income if you’re hustling and on Instagram all day and every day. I don’t want to do that. That’s not me. I had to pivot and that’s where Plan Chicly came to be. I thought this is amazing and I want to do this.
I can’t wait. I’m so excited about that.
I can’t wait to show you. I’m excited because this is me almost coming into my womanhood, if you will, with this business. This is the one thing I’ve thought of in my life and never once thought of dropping. There are so many problems.
I wish I was you. I was 25 when I got married, by the way. I wish I had your drive. Back then I had a great job. I loved my job and it was amazing.
I wasn’t always like this.
No, it’s always been in you.
I’ve had this fire inside me where I can get passionate about something. My problem before was I’d get passionate and then I’d start to do my research and then maybe start designing and all that. Once I had my first failure, I was so weak that I can’t handle it. I’m not doing it. It’s so scary. Everything in life happens for a reason and when it’s supposed to. Right when I got married, I knew I was going to start a business because I’ve always wanted to do something like that. I didn’t know what it was. I’m a creative person. I could think of 50 completely different things and get passionate about all 50. I picked one and then I found out I was pregnant. I didn’t think twice, I dropped it. I had to drop it because in my mind I thought there is no more important role in your life than being a mom. Not everyone thinks like this.
Some people would be like, “I’m not dying because I’m being a mom.” I can go to work. I’m a very extreme personality. I’m literally either this or I’m that. There’s no in-between Greta. You either get all-in Greta or you get zero. If I do something, I’m 1,000% in but if I don’t, don’t even bother. The minute I found out I was pregnant, I was like, “I’m done, completely.” I don’t regret it because I needed to go through nine months of Zen and relaxing and doing nothing but worrying about creating life. That’s what I did. I did things that made me happy. It came naturally and I felt great and I read the books I wanted to read. I woke up when I wanted and I cooked and I did all this. I was off of social media for maybe seven of those nine months. I would like to come in, post and then a week later I’d post. I was in tune with myself and my body and growing life. That’s just me. I dedicated all of those nine months to creating Levon. He’s so perfect.
He’s so cute. I have to tell you, I love having girls. I actually had always wanted a boy. Maybe he could be like ours and I’ll spoil him and stuff because he’s so cute. I miss that age. I miss it like crazy.
I enjoy him so much because he talks now. He’s like a little human. He has a personality of his own. I took on that role and I took it from very seriously. I’m very extreme.
It comes through your social media platform. It really does because you do your cooking segments with your son. Anything that you’re posting through your social media channels, you can very plainly see that you’re very devoted and dedicated. That’s why I had such a connection with you. That’s why I followed you for so long. That’s why I wanted to meet you. Did I harass and stalk you? Maybe a little bit.
I love it when people do that.
It worked. Nobody do that, though.
We talked about this even on the phone. I love talking to people. I don’t want it to come off as like bragging.
Do that, it’s fine. Reaching out for help isn’t easy. It’s hard, it’s intimidating, it’s terrifying. You feel like, “Look at all her followers. Is she even going to read my message? Is she even going to have time?” You start having all these scenarios in your head. You start not liking the person. You’re so overthinking and creating something that doesn’t even exist. With you, it was different because there are so many bloggers out there, there are so many influencers out there. Sometimes you go through their pages like scroll through them, nothing draws you in. With your page, immediately something drew me in. I felt some warmth through it. You do need to know. I’m sure you get these compliments all the time from your followers, but it’s true. You’re doing something right. Good for you.
I’m very conscious when I post. For a while, I feel like I lost my mojo and the real purpose of what I was doing, which is why I took a few months off.
Because it becomes like a popularity contest.
I didn’t care. I never cared. In fact, I lose followers all the time. I went from 80,000-something to 60,000-something. I could care less. It doesn’t define me. It doesn’t make me happy. If someone’s meant to find my page, they’ll find their way to my page. If someone connects with me as a mom, but not a business woman, they do. They connect with me. If someone could care less about me and loves my cooking, which I get a lot actually.
We’ve got to cook together, by the way.
We should do that.
You’ve got to check out my cooking blog. I’m not very active on it now because it just started.
What is your cooking blog?
It’s The Gourmet Cut. I’ve been in hospitality all my life in the restaurant industry. Honestly, when you talk about passion, that’s a passion of mine. We’ve got to cook together. That would be so much fun.
Lily and I are going to come at you soon. We got this. Going back to the topic of divorce, tell me how you rebuilt your life from nothing. You left the marriage clean slate, no strings attached, no financial strings, nothing. What was that process like for you to rebuild your life from scratch at 35 and with two children?
I’m still in the process. It’s that never–ending process. What it’s like is it’s unpredictable. It’s terrifying. Maybe it’s our culture going back to it, but I was lucky enough to have the parents that I have. I was able to go and stay there with my two kids. They have space, they have the means to take us in. I never missed a day of work in my life. I’ve never stopped working. I didn’t let it cripple me. It’s hard.
It’s horrible because that’s hard.
You have your tantrums in your car in private as a normal strong woman does. You look crazy in your car and then you wipe yourself, put your glasses on and get out of the car and keep going. That’s what it is. Keep going. If you stop, that’s the scary part when you stop, when there’s silence around you because you don’t know. That’s when you get lost. I didn’t do that. I kept going. I kept going blindly, but I kept going. That’s the trick. Going back to having kids and not having kids with divorce, I think at that point you’re doing it sole survival for your children, for them, for you. You’ve got to you got to clothe them and feed them, take them to school.
What an amazing example to set for your two daughters that you don’t lay down and die.
You want to but you don’t or you do it in private. That’s fine. People do it every day while married. How do you not do it when you’re not?The hardest part of divorce is trying to have your kids be okay. Click To Tweet
Even when you’re single, we all go through it.
Let me tell you, it is starting from scratch but there’s this nice saying when nothing is for sure for certain, then the possibilities are endless. That means every single day, you can create something new. Every single day can have its own blessing. It can have its own setbacks but it comes down to the way you look at it. Were we lucky to be able to have a home and a support system? Absolutely, because without that, it’s terrifying. That’s how you see the single moms with kids in shelters. That’s what happens.
I would assume so if you have no family and nobody to turn to.
Life throws you these crazy odds. If you don’t have a support system or a family to help you, then what else happens to you? My heart aches and breaks. By the way, I talk to my kids about this all the time. I always tell them all the time there aren’t 1,000 peaks and valleys out in the world for everybody and we’re very lucky and they know. It’s not easy. You start from zero and you keep going. You fake it until you make it.
Everybody does, you fake it until you make it, especially in business. Tell us how the House of Sofella boutique came to be.
It’s my third baby. I’ve always wanted to be a business owner, something of my own because I know my integrity and my work ethic. You know who you are. Look at what you’re doing at 25. I’m 37 and this project was conceived when I was 36.
By the way, to our audience, you’ll see from our YouTube channel that she does look 26.
If you ask my kids, I’m 27. For a long time though, I kept lying and lying and then I go, “I’m 37.” I am 37 and I’m so proud of it.
She looks beautiful, so it doesn’t even matter. Age is just a number.
Sofella was conceived a few years ago and I’ve always known I wanted to be a business owner. I just didn’t know what business. I came from hospitality. I wanted a little restaurant, a little eatery. You put the numbers together and then just cry a little bit and say, “Let‘s do something more practical.” My eldest has always been a fashionista. She is my inspiration. They both are but her love and drive behind making her own clothes, she would cut up her little clothing and make sometimes very inappropriate styles. I’m just like, “Are you out of your mind? That’s crazy. This is not happening. Trash.” Then I’m like, “This kid has got something pretty amazing. Let me do something with kids’ fashion.” That’s how it was. I’m like, “Sofella.” My daughter’s names are Sophia and Stella. The house came from building a brand that they can add on to if they want to add onto when they’re older. Maybe do like a collection where they’re designing or maybe do like a cookbook with kids in mind. I wanted to build a brand, an umbrella that I can shove things underneath when I need to. The clothing, so that’s how it came about.
She has my favorite designers. Tell me about some of the designers you have.
By the way, the designers that I’m with are the designers that my kids grew up with. It reminds me of back in the day, “Remember with the cute little lace dress you wore that summer?” It’s reminiscing. It’s fun for me to go back memory lane with that. The designers are unique. They’re so special and they’re all European. I have maybe two that are American, but that again have the materials, the longevity, the designs and the patterns.
She’s very picky with what she puts in her boutique. I love that about her.
Thank you. It takes a lot of time because I do this by myself, so I’m always thinking about what do I want my brand to represent? There are so many incredible brands out there and incredible brick and mortar stores for children’s boutiques that I love and I’m a fan of and a customer of, by the way, but they all look the same. They’re all carrying the same black and white themed outfits and the taupes. I love those. Don’t get me wrong but I wanted something different, a little colorful. I bring life to kids’ clothes. That’s why I went with what I was comfortable with, European brands. I carry Jean Bourget. I carry this unbelievable brand from Paris, designed and manufactured, Lili Gaufrette.
The story behind that is amazing. It’s about this imaginary figure, Lili, who’s roaming the streets of Paris as a little girl and the story behind her outfit choices. Every brand has a story and I connect with it and I think it’s amazing. If you were to walk into my store, which who knows maybe a year from now I may have a boutique. Who knows? I would sit you down and say, “Let me talk to you about this brand.” This is how I am. My passion, you can feel it. You can sense it. Of course, when you’re sitting across from me, my face is probably lighting up because the clothing, you connect with it. It’s incredible. It’s a little bit more on the pricier point but you get quality.
One thing with quality is you can pass it down. Whatever my nine-year-old wore, my seven–year–old wore. All throughout their lives, we’re recycling these and then I gave them to my cousin’s kids. By the way, something I had about seven years ago, my cousin’s daughter ended up wearing, it looked brand new. I’m not saying this because I carry these clothes. I’m saying this because my kids wore it. It’s an actual experience as a consumer. I was a customer for so many years. All the boutiques that I shopped from closed.
There was Sunset Kids. I remember my mom used to buy me a lot of stuff from there when we had special occasions. There was actually also one on Fairfax that had some nice European brands. I can’t remember the name. You’re right, they all closed down.
They’ve all closed and they’ve all gone online. I wanted to bring them back because I looked for those brands. You can’t go to Neiman’s, you can’t go to Barney’s. You can’t go to Nordstrom’s or Bloomies. These brands are also special because you can’t find them in stores. That’s the pro. The con to that is you don’t see them until you purchase them. I promise you, once you purchase them and they’re in your possession, you’re just like, “I can’t wait to wear it.”
Tell us how you do pop–ups. I think that’s a great way that you bring these brands to consumers. Talk about the pop–ups.
The pop–ups are my favorite. There’s so much work because I have to solicit family and friends help me for free. Why not? They are hard. They’re not easy to put together. It’s so much fun because you get to go into the neighborhoods. Every city that I do a pop–up in, which Glendale is they love all the fancy stuff. The Beverly Hills, I want to say they’re more colorful very surprisingly. The West Hollywood crowd, they love the monotone, the minimalist collections that I have, which I’m obsessed with. I’m dressing your son in that collection until he’s old enough.
She got me the cute clothes. I’m going to unbox it on Instagram.
That line, by the way, only goes up to 36 months. We’ve got to get on it. Every city, you get to see the people, what they’re like, the clothing they like, the colors they go for, the styles, the hip, the trendy, the classy.
You built connections, I feel, as a business owner.
I pass out my business cards. I sometimes have my kids with me. They pass out my business cards. They get to see the inspiration behind it. It’s truly a family business. At the end of the day, my kids need to know, nothing is going to be given to you for free. I’m not giving you anything for free. I will love you, take care of you, cherish you, be there for you for emergencies and everything, but I’m also going to be the hardest one on you. I’m going to tell you that if you want something, you’re going to work for it. You’re going to get it yourself. You’re not going to rely on any man, any woman, any father, any mother. You’re going to rely on yourself.
I love that you’re an excellent inspiration of that to your daughters. That’s why I loved your story because I feel like you can tell kids, “Do this on your own,” but if you don’t do it on your own and they don’t see it and you’re not a physical representation of what you preach, how do you expect them to do that? When a parent smokes but you tell your kid their whole life, “You can’t smoke.” “My mom does it.”
It’s like my parents aren’t business owners. They’re modest people who worked for the county. Me opening up the business, they’re very supportive and they helped me with every pop–up. They’re like my groupies. They pack up the car with the bins. They help me set up. My mom is always there, very supportive. It’s so great to see that. They don’t know what it actually takes behind the scenes. Sometimes they’ll say, “Does it normally take this long?” I’m like, “It takes long.” They don’t understand social media. They don’t get blogging. They don’t get what are the blogs on the website. They don’t get why I’m constantly changing the design of the website, trying to be relevant. They don’t get Google marketing, the SEO factor of it. I didn’t get it until I had to learn it single–handedly by myself, by the way, “What is SEO and why is it ruining my life? It’s completely ruining my life. It’s making me bankrupt, driving me crazy.” You need it if you’re going to exist in the online world.
I think that’s how I and you connect because we’ve learned from nothing. We’ve done trial and error and then here we are still pushing through, still hustling.
From finding the showrooms, your reps to what’s a marketing developer or a poster designer? What do they do? What do they tell you they’re going to do and don’t do? What’s SEO? Why do I have to pay for all this separately? Why can’t it all be done at the same time with the same person?
There’s so much that goes into a business. We’re going to have a separate segment that Lily does on our YouTube channel where she talks about how you can start your own online business and some mistakes that she’s made that she can teach you. Keep a look out for that. Go on our YouTube channel for that. I’m so inspired by you. You’re an amazing mom. You set an amazing example for your two girls and you got this. She’s going to have a boutique soon. We’re putting it out there in the universe. It’s going to happen.
My boy model, can he be my model?
Yes. Levon is so good at stuff like that.
I have my kids model everything and by the way, it’s like child labor at its finest.
Her daughter is so cute at it. She’s like a little blogger. She’ll go in her dress and be like, “Mom, I like this because of the inner lining and the cotton.”
“It’s so soft. It’s not see–through. I love the ruffles.”You can't take care of yourself if you can't be alone and be happy with yourself. Click To Tweet
She’s your best asset.
She was like, “Mom, what about the boy stuff?” I’m like, “I know.” I need it. I was going to bring like a duffle bag for the clothes and we’re going to give him chocolate all day. I’ll babysit if you want to go out that night from all the chocolate. We’re doing that.
I’m excited. You have a bright future. You’re so positive, you’re so inspiring. You’re an amazing mom, amazing business owner. Be sure to follow Sofella Boutique. Thank you so much, Lily, for opening up, being honest and raw and genuine and talking about your process, the process of divorce and rebuilding a life. I’m sure it’s not easy.
Anybody out there who knows me, who’s met me, who’s talked to me, who’s confronted me, I’m very honest. There’s nothing to hide about me. I tell you because if someone comes up to me and genuinely says, “I heard you got divorced, what’s that like?” “I heard you’re a single mom. What’s that like?” “You’re starting a business by yourself. What’s that like?” Ask me. I would be more than happy to sit with you and talk. I’m so open about things like that because if I can connect to somebody else and if I can somehow make them breathe a little bit more easily, it feeds your soul.
That’s what I’ve been like feeling on social media. When I tell people, “DM me,” I respond to everybody and I love that you are like that too.
This is so true. She’s so genuine and warm.
I can’t not be genuine. If I’m not genuine, you’re not going to get a response.
I like the feisty Greta too.
That’s my extreme personality. I’m super genuine, but you rub me the wrong way and feisty Greta comes out.
I like feisty Greta. I got a little glimpse of that and I think I messaged you, I’m like, “Who is this?” That’s actually real time, real life people.
No one is always that nice.
Airbrushed, polished photo and my life are like a boutique.
I do my best to put both out there, although no one’s given me a reason to be feisty and show my feisty side. Maybe I’m just lucky, I don’t get any nasty DMs. I don’t get rude, mean girls.
I don’t think you would, but it would be nice to see a little.
If someone comes at me wrong, what should I do? I’m very genuine and I’m proud that I am. That’s why with this, that’s a requirement of mine, is that if you’re coming here, when we’re talking about a certain topic as taboo and as personal as divorce, if you’re not going to be honest and real, there’s no point in talking about it because it’s not going to help anybody. It’s not going to give any insight to somebody going through it. I don’t want it, not here, not now and not ever.
I am proud of you. I had no idea you are only 25. What you’ve accomplished is incredible. You’re inspiring.
I’m just starting. This is the beginning.
When they say influencers, you’re inspirational. It’s good for you.
Do you know how many times I wanted to chop the idea?
I did because I thought I don’t know if I can do it. I went for it and my first interview, “How do you think it went?” She said, “Awesome.” I was judging myself a little too hard in that.
We’re all going to do that to ourselves.
I’m my worst critic. When I think of the conversations I have with people like you and all the others, I’m so proud that I can be the mediator to talk about these things. It’s in the realms of what all women care about. Business, divorce, finances, it’s marriage, children, motherhood, and that’s the whole point of Inspiring Women with Greta. I hope I’m inspiring you. I hope my guests are inspiring you. If I’m doing something wrong, I need an email right now. I need you to tell me.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to help inspire and advocate.
I hope that’s the message people get.
It’s absolutely supporting one another. How can you go wrong?
That’s how I feel.
If I can do it, in your mid-30s, being divorced with two young children, a single mother, working full-time. If I can do it, anybody can do it. I always say that you just have to do it. It’s possible. You said, “You’ve got two kids. What is the message you want them to know? What are you leaving these kids with? Don’t you want them to brag about their mom? Don’t you want them to say, ‘My mom?’” I brag about my mom all the time. She is strong.
She was the perfect example growing up and that’s why it’s important to actually put in what you preach and show your children. It’s a new era. I love it. Thank you so much, Lily, for coming on. Keep a look out for her YouTube segment. It’s going to be amazing. It’s how to start your own online boutique. We’ll talk to you soon. I love you.
- Lily Bekmezian
- House of Sofella
- Codependent No More
- Greta Gasparian on YouTube
- Jean Bourget
- Lili Gaufrette
- Inspiring Women Instagram
- Inspiring Women Pinterest
- Inspiring Women Pinterest
- Inspiring Women YouTube