(We are so happy to introduce our newest writer, Stephanie, a television producer and media veteran turned non-profit worker. She is a reality TV expert, a true crime aficionado, and a single mom. She can be reached at @Stephanie_Hinds on Twitter, @stephaniehindss on Instagram, and [email protected].)
Former Laguna Beach star Kristin Cavallari appeared on the She Pivots podcast Wednesday, calling her decision to split from her former football player ex-husband Jay Cutler after a decade of being together the “best” but “scariest” decision she’s ever made.
I’ve always found her fascinating, but unrelatable – and she’s certainly controversial. She’s got wealth, privilege, and a thriving, multi-million-dollar business. Me? I’m a middle-class, Black millennial living in Toronto with a 4-year-old kid. But hearing her open up about her divorce showed me that we have more in common than I thought.
I was a lover of The Hills when it aired in the late 2000s. But being a Lauren Conrad fan, it made it hard to take a liking to Kristin. I could never figure out how I felt about her – and perhaps that’s one of the reasons I tuned into her show Very Cavallari, which aired on E! for three seasons from 2018-2020, to figure her out.
The show offered a front row seat into her life as a wife, entrepreneur and mom of three, despite her keeping her kids away from filming. It was there that I realized she is truly a bad bitch. I grew to respect her hustle, I loved her ability to be both a boss and a friend to her employees, I appreciated her style of parenting, and I loved that she wasn’t afraid to toss some drinks back and have a good time – a thing people refuse to believe moms are entitled to.
During the filming of Very Cavallari, the marital issues between her and Jay Cutler weren’t necessarily centre stage, but they were apparent. He seemed to be having an identity crisis after retiring from football. This was happening against the backdrop of her business, Uncommon James, really taking off.
What I’ve learned through my own personal experience is that men aren’t always the best at coping with not being the breadwinner. When women go on maternity leave or have to take time off of work for child-rearing purposes, it’s natural that they become financially dependent on their partners. Maybe not completely, but they absolutely depend more on their partners for financial support and contributions. This can really inflate a man’s ego and instill a sense of power and control in him that he may not have had before. So when they lose that – it can trigger what we saw happening with Jay.
That was my experience, too. A few months after giving birth to my daughter, I found inappropriate text messages in my partner’s phone. It fuelled my insecurities, already at an all-time high because post-baby bodies are no Victoria’s Secret runway model prototypes. It invited a ridiculous amount of paranoia into my life and made me curious as to what signs and red flags I may have been missing while I lived in my bubble of ignorant bliss. Making the decision to walk away wasn’t easy, and when Kristin calls it the scariest decision you’ll ever make, she’s not mincing words.
Around the time of my split, I was a freelancer. I had no benefits, no full-time employment, no job security and very little peace of mind. But there I was, packing my things up and moving out of the home we bought just over a year prior. My sister and I moved all of my belongings in our two Honda Civics. I rented a basement apartment that was way above my budget. And on the first night there, I bundled up some blankets and slept on the floor because my furniture hadn’t arrived yet. It was the loneliest moment of my life. My parents thought I was making a big mistake. None of my friends had kids yet or understood the myriad of emotions I was experiencing, but faith and a few dollars got me by.
Since then, I’ve been thriving. I secured full-time employment a few months after my breakup, and many times over since then. I earned promotions, salary bumps, and even started my own business, though it’s no Uncommon James. Most importantly, I became a better mom.
“I really had this fire and this determination to prove everybody wrong, that I knew what I was doing,” Kristin said during the podcast episode. “I had tried so many things and I had learned to trust my gut.”
Kristin and I differ in a lot of ways. We come from different places, different backgrounds, different socioeconomic statuses, and we have opposing views on fundamental and divisive things like whether or not children should be vaccinated. Yet, despite all this, I felt incredibly connected to her listening to her reflect on her divorce. The struggle she identified in having to make such a major decision is something that weaves so many women together – and if I had heard her words a few years ago, lying on the cold, hard floor of my basement apartment, I think I would’ve felt a lot less alone.
Controversy and privilege aside, her sentiments resonate with a lot of women. They certainly resonated with me. She’s illustrated that success doesn’t come overnight. Money and privilege don’t exempt you from hard times and moments where you question yourself and wonder whether you’re doing it right. And she’s shown that success can be ours if we’re brave enough to go it alone. So from now on, I am drinking in her success as I continue to celebrate my own. And this, precisely, is what can happen for a lot of women when we turn down the noise of the outside world and lean more on ourselves and our intuition.