After a long and fulfilling career in corporate HR, Anna Maria DiDio decided to follow her heart and embrace her passion project. Following years of infertility, DiDio and her husband decided to pursue international adoption. Their lovely little girl joined their family from Mexico, but in the process Anna Maria learned that her joy was her daughter’s trauma. For her Second Act, Anna Maria has turned to writing, publishing a memoir about the international adoption process, as well as a series of children's books dedicated to opening communication about the tricky emotions, transitions and coping needed in adoptive or foster families. Listen to my interview with Anna Maria DiDio on the Second Act Success Podcast.
SHOW NOTES FOR THIS EPISODE
CONNECT with Anna Maria DiDio:
Website – www.amdidio.com
Books – Love at the Border: An Adoption Adventure
Many People to Love (L.I.F.E. Book 1)
How I Wonder Where You Are (L.I.F.E Book 2)
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Second Act Success Podcast
Season 1 - How Anna Maria DiDio turned her adoption experience into a book series to help other families | Ep #47
Guest: Anna Maria DiDio
Host: Shannon Russell
Transcription (*created by Descript and may not be perfectly accurate)
[00:00:00] Shannon Russell: Happy 2023. It's a new year and a new season of the Second Act Success Podcast. I'm your host career coach, Shannon Russell. I am excited for season two of the show because I have incredible guests, insightful conversations, and some more solo episodes mixed into of just you and me talking careers, transitions, and life. Let's kick things off with the first episode of season two.
Are you at a crossroads in your career? Ready for a change, but you're not sure how to get there. Don't worry. We are about to produce your best life together. Welcome to the Second Act Success Podcast. I am your host. Shannon Russell. I am a former Television Producer turned boy mom. I left my dream job to find family balance and in doing so, I produced my dream life. Now I am a Business Owner, Podcaster, and Career Coach. My mission is to help other women, like you, find what they are truly meant to be doing. [00:01:00] If you are ready to start over in your career or pivot to a new purpose, then get ready to be inspired by stories of women who have done just that. We will share advice and actionable tips to motivate you as you move along on your path. It is time to shine. So let's start producing your balanced life of abundance today. This is Second Act Success.
[00:01:26] Shannon Russell: As I talk to people about their career journey, whether it's my clients or guests on the podcast, I love to talk about the through line that connects where they all started to where they are now or even to where they want to be. I am obsessed with the common thread that pulls our purpose. Have you thought about yours? It's fun. Let me use myself as an example. So, I began my career as a television producer. My job was to take an idea for a television show that the network had and bring it to the screen. . When I left television, I decided [00:02:00] to produce my own life by opening a small business in my community, using a lot of the same skills as I used in television. Now as a career coach, I work with clients to produce their best life by taking an idea of what they want to do and helping them achieve this goal. So you could say the thread in my life, maybe taking an idea and working with others to make that idea a reality
For my guest today, her thread is social work and helping others.
Anna Maria DiDio has a master's in social work. And she started off thinking that she wanted to work with families. However, she got a job in human resources and ended up working as an HR exec for large corporations for most of her career, she was still helping people, just not in the way that she had. After struggling with infertility, Anna Maria and her husband adopted a daughter from Mexico. It was then that she decided to help others with their adoption process [00:03:00] by writing a series of. She retired from HR and began a career as an author.
Anna Maria is here to tell us all about her journey to this new career and how her social work thread is still intact as she works on her second act.
Let's meet Anna Maria DiDio.
Welcome to the podcast.
[00:03:18] Anna Maria DiDio: Thank you so much for having me.
[00:03:20] Shannon Russell: Do you wanna tell me where your career journey started?
[00:03:22] Anna Maria DiDio: The journey started like many do in college, wondering what was I going to do next? I had such an interest in, just the psychology of people and how, how they made decisions and, decided to get a, master's degree in social work because I knew I wanted to work with family. However, after my internships, I decided that was not quite for me, but still connected to the people realm and started my career in human resources.
So I worked in corporate human resources for very large corporations for many, many years, [00:04:00] and that was quite satisfying, fulfilling. But interestingly enough, now that I'm, at the end of my career and, retired, I've sort of transitioned back to my social work days. And, I am quite active in the not-for-profit world. And along the road, I adopted a, wonderful little girl from Mexico and, uh, active in the adoptive community and writing children's books for adopted children, foster children, and blended families.
[00:04:30] Shannon Russell: Oh my gosh. How wonderful. So it really does come full circle and bring you back to social work. So Did you originally think you wanted to work for non-profit in that kind of world and then through your internship you changed your mind?
[00:04:43] Anna Maria DiDio: I wanted to work with families, Initially I thought that would be for a non-profit, but eventually I thought, well, you know, I'll have my own practice. I'll work with families and It was an interesting sort of transition as I began to do some of that work in my internships. I saw that I was [00:05:00] so kind of results focused, maybe a little bit too type A to kind of go through that process with families. I attribute it all to being so young. You know, we make these decisions at a point where we really don't even know ourselves. So, when it came time to really look for something I. Straddled both worlds for a little while, thinking, what am I going to do? And then as I began to look into, just more of a, of a business opportunity, I found myself just really aligned with, what human resources was doing for people in the business world. It sounds somewhat simplistic, but that's really where it.
[00:05:37] Shannon Russell: what kind of, role did you have in human resources and how did you work with the employees to make it a better experience for.
[00:05:43] Anna Maria DiDio: Well, I started out by knowing nothing. So when you, when you know nothing, you go into, , a role like that doing really fantastically fun things like. Benefits and compensation and calculating how insurance [00:06:00] works at how much we're spending on insurance. And so I did a lot of that initially. But then gradually got into more strategic roles, leadership roles. And eventually working for some large pharmaceuticals in employee relations. And that was, it was so interesting to talk about coming full circle. That was really the most connected I've been to. Individuals, their are issues at work, performance related issues, work conflict, mediation, all that fun things. But it was, you know, super fascinating and a real good progression through the human resources realm.
[00:06:41] Shannon Russell: you're using all of your skills from college to kind of help make the work environment better. You're kind of counseling the employees in a sense.
[00:06:50] Anna Maria DiDio: Right, Right, right. Truth be told, I mean, I was the company representative, so, you know, we always had to remind employees of that, you know, we were [00:07:00] not their friend or their counselor but guide with the, Organization's values and rules, and of course the law and all that.
[00:07:08] Shannon Russell: How long did you stay in human resources for these corporations?
[00:07:12] Anna Maria DiDio: My last employer was, uh, about 12 years. Another one was 10. That was really just a fascinating journey.
[00:07:21] Shannon Russell: So you're working in human resources and you decide to start a family. Is that right?
[00:07:27] Anna Maria DiDio: Correct. Yes. And the story really begins with infertility. So, so that was, a struggle for many years. And that can be, I don't know if your listeners can identify or not, but it's extremely isolating. You, you think you're the only one going through it. And, we wanted to start a family and I had been married and that I had a miscarriage, during my first marriage, which ultimately kind of led to divorce. And then when those in infertility issues persisted, I was very depressed and wondering how this [00:08:00] was, gonna resolve itself because it's really takes a lot of mental energy to keep that going. I mean, obviously a lot of things are happening to you physically, whatever. strategies are, but, wondering how all that would would end.
So We had support from some wonderful medical professionals, and at the end of the day, I did have a, a beautiful baby girl. But then adding to our family was just a miracle that not, was not going to happen again.
We, uh, You know, took stock of what we wanted to do, how we wanted to add to our family, and thought that international adoption was really the, the answer for us. And so that's how we found ourselves in Mexico. Looking at, in the face of a, adorably, cute, , little girl. She was six years old at the time, so that's what we.
[00:08:45] Shannon Russell: So when you decided to adopt, was that something that you wanted to pursue? Did you learn about it? Did you research first? How did you kind of take those steps? Because I think so many people want to go down that route, and it's just very [00:09:00] overwhelming. So, so how did you kind of find the right steps to get you to Mexico to meet your daughter?
[00:09:06] Anna Maria DiDio: Yeah. Oh, that's a good question. So, you know, initially you kind of dip your toe in and when we had all of the infertility issues, we had started reading about it, maybe networking with some other, , couples that have adopted and, and that kind of thing. So you think, you know a little bit. Okay. Then we had our baby girl, and then when we set out on that path again, , we began more, reading and speaking to people and, and seeing what. Possibilities there, there are out there because there's a saying, every adoption is unique. And it's so true. I mean the number of international adoptions has really been decreasing, over the years. But it, it's still happening. And then there's lots of foster to adopt. One day I just happened to see an article in the newspaper about a summer camp that brought children from Mexico to this bilingual local Catholic [00:10:00] church is a summer fun experience. And then the end of the article said, And these children are available for adoption. By that time our daughter was seven, eight years old. So we thought, well, The time for an infant had really passed us by, So I called the church, called the agency, and we got started on this path. I mean, it still took time but we began the process right away. And it was probably a year and a half later that we were actually meeting her for the first time. But the adoption was not final yet. That took another six months.
[00:10:31] Shannon Russell: So there was some hope, you found some hope that article brought it to you. Talk to me, if you don't mind about that experience of meeting her for the first time and saying, We're bringing you home. You're coming to live with us and be part of our family.
[00:10:43] Anna Maria DiDio: And you know, it was a year and a half after that where she finally did come home. So at the time, I don't think she really understood, what was happening. Now looking back about what happened when she did finally get to Philadelphia, she probably really didn't understand. But, going to [00:11:00] Mexico, being at the orphanage, and that's why I decided to write about it. So I thought. I'd always enjoyed writing, so I began to, you know, journal our experience and take notes and, and all told, that took a number of years too. I wrote the story. I wrote it in a memoir kind of format. The book's called Love at the Border An Adoption Adventure. And it really was, I mean, we were just in this kind of new country with all these new things adding this wonderful girl to our family. So that's, that's how the writing bug bit me and being an adoption advocate really started.
[00:11:36] Shannon Russell: Did you begin writing while you were working in your corporate job or
[00:11:38] Anna Maria DiDio: Oh, yes. Mm-hmm. Yeah. I just had this little notepad with me constantly scribbling in it and, taking notes. We thought that our, our love could solve everything, but honestly, I mean, this is really the serious side adoption does begin with trauma and loss, and so she had that experience two times over having been brought to the [00:12:00] orphanage as a but then cared for very lovingly. The orphanage was a loving, wonderful place. The people there were were terrific. And then she's there for six, seven years. And then one day, oh, she's in Philadelphia, at our house. So, needless to say, she was not happy. So that was another whole transit.
[00:12:20] Shannon Russell: Were you able to take a maternity leave to be with her for some time?
[00:12:24] Anna Maria DiDio: Yes, Yes. So, so that was in the beginning and, you know, we hired an English tutor and we had therapists. And so it was really time to devote to that transition.
[00:12:38] Shannon Russell: So how did you go from your corporate job to writing full-time?
[00:12:41] Anna Maria DiDio: I had a very fulfilling, wonderful career. And then at the end the position was eliminated. So I had put a lot of work into the journal and what the book was going to look. But when I was laid off, that was sort of an easy decision to move [00:13:00] forward with the book and then get it published. And then covid hit. It was really hard as a self-published author to market the book, but I did what I could. But, then just having the hindsight of the years,. I thought, what is the best thing I can do to help other adoptive parents? And that was the reason for the children's.
[00:13:21] Shannon Russell: Wow. Isn't it just so interesting how this happens? A life event catapulted you to start something that you had been thinking about for so long and it really made you push that dream of writing to the, for.
[00:13:35] Anna Maria DiDio: then
When the job was eliminated, I thought, well, my whole world changed. And I thought, do I have something to say still? Because when your job's eliminated it wasn't up to me, and it ended before I was really ready I was planning on these second acts all along, but when it's taken out of your control and suddenly you have that. I mean, it was very kind of empowering, [00:14:00] And so now I'm writing the children's books and obviously promoting the memoir because that's where it kind of sprung from, expanding my message because I see so many,, parallels and so many, messages that are right for a adoptive, families, foster families, blended families. And that's, that's my goal.
As I began to think about ways to promote the, the memoir to continue that, because promoting a book is sort of a long game. and I was speaking with someone who said, you know, I could see this as a children's story, the memoir. I thought, well, that's interesting, but children's stories take so many different forms. So I decided I've officially labeled it all ages the topics covered between parent and child would be appropriate for the parent either to read to the child or for the child to read and ask questions. It is a children's picture book with very kind of serious. Topics, serious feelings and emotions that I think parent and child will benefit from [00:15:00] discussing.
[00:15:00] Shannon Russell: And it's called the Life Series, is that.
[00:15:03] Anna Maria DiDio: Yes, Love Inspires Families Everywhere, and the first book has called Many People To Love, and it's about, uh, Carla coming to the US and acclimating, food, family culture, and, you know, these are the things that she lost. And this is something that is appropriate, again, for foster children, blended families. As you're transitioning to a different home environment. Sometimes parents don't stop to think about that. the second book is called How I Wonder Where You Are, and it's Carla and she has a a school project, which is a family tree. And I think that's a very sensitive topic for adoptees. Her birthday is approaching and she's thinking about her birth. She's shopping with her mother and her sister, and people say that her sister looks so much like her mother. Well, she wants to look like someone. [00:16:00] So it's these feelings that every adopted and foster child would have thinking about their past. Who do I look like? Where did I come from?
[00:16:10] Shannon Russell: Now with all of your experience and with your writing, have you been speaking at adoption events or working with agencies at all?
[00:16:17] Anna Maria DiDio: Well, that's another good question, once you have a series, then it becomes easier to do that kind of thing. And that is my plan. So stay tuned.
[00:16:25] Shannon Russell: Oh, I just love this idea. I can see many books in your future and, and just getting them in the hands of families on their adoption journeys. Just a wonderful gift for friends or family that have similar stories. The work you're doing is just so lovely.
[00:16:40] Anna Maria DiDio: The, um, How I Wonder Where You Are Book book is really about grief and as it's associated with the adoption world that's referred to as disenfranchised. So grief, that's not really acknowledged. People would say to me, Oh, she's so lucky to be adopted by you. You're, you're so [00:17:00] wonderful. And she's so lucky. That's, that's, that's so, I mean, I used to cringe when I would hear that, because that's not what it's all about. She's experienced the, the trauma of her life and the pain of separation, not only from her birth mom, but all that she knew. and the family, the books, the conversations, all, all that is so important in helping children a adjust
[00:17:26] Shannon Russell: Yes. I'm sure these books can help siblings with the adjustment as well. You had an older daughter who now had to get used to a new sibling being added to the family who needed a lot of special attention. So that is a huge adjustment.
[00:17:40] Anna Maria DiDio: Yes. So she was an only child for, eight years. And she had a few tearful moments that she's getting all the attention and the focus was off of her. In the long run, that was key to a family that knows how to shift, shape and [00:18:00] share. And, and she became a better sister. They both became better.
[00:18:06] Shannon Russell: And now you're back to the social work aspect of your degree. It really all came full circle, didn't it?
[00:18:12] Anna Maria DiDio: That's right.
Yeah. Isn't that funny? So, After I was retired, I, not. Uh, dove into this whole writing thing, but, I, I've also, I'm also very active in some local non-profits, raising money, particularly for women, women in under-resourced countries and in organizations in and around my hometown,, especially with covid. It's been so desperately needed.
[00:18:36] Shannon: Hey, it's Shannon. If you are enjoying this podcast, then you will love my weekly newsletter. It's full of career advice, productivity tips, and of course inspiring stories of women who have launched a new career that they. Just go to second act success.co to sign up. Plus you'll get the My Success Vision Board to help you with your 2023 planning as well. Now it's [00:19:00] back to the episode.
[00:19:01] Shannon Russell: , what advice would you give to other professionals who are thinking of adding to their family through adoption?
[00:19:07] Anna Maria DiDio: It's so important to do your homework and by that I mean, read about, real adoption stories, real adoption scenarios. There's a lot of advice from therapists but until you really go through it, you have no idea how those emotions are going to feel. But when you read a story about a family actually coping with, certain behaviors or, about, transitions or adjustment, that that's really the ticket and to, to network and meet other adopted families. Is, is super important.
[00:19:40] Shannon Russell: Well, you have such a passion for your purpose, and it really is so inspiring.
[00:19:47] Shannon: Alright. It's time for our Five Fast Qs of the Week. Here we go!
[00:19:52] Shannon Russell: Name one thing that these different chapters in your life have taught you.
[00:19:56] Anna Maria DiDio: Uh, appreciation. Appreciation of the moment, [00:20:00] uh, of your life as you are experiencing it. That at each phase I recognize that, and that the significance of that just became sort of deeper as time went on, but really appreciating each moment.
[00:20:13] Shannon Russell: Would you recommend taking a leap into a big life change to your best?
[00:20:17] Anna Maria DiDio: if, if circumstances presented themselves and, I thought my friend was ready for the next event. I've, I've, coached many a friend to the next phase
[00:20:27] Shannon Russell: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone who's about to start their second act?
[00:20:32] Anna Maria DiDio: Take stock of your talents and, and use those to the best of your ability. What do I do best? What do I enjoy? What brings me joy and how to, how to move that forward in the second act is great.
[00:20:43] Shannon Russell: What does the next chapter look like for you?
[00:20:46] Anna Maria DiDio: It's that long game of marketing the books now at the same time, devote my time to the non-profit world and still do my traveling
[00:20:55] Shannon Russell: so where are your books available?
[00:20:57] Anna Maria DiDio: The books right now are for sale on Amazon, [00:21:00] and so just sorting by either the title or my name, Anna Maria DiDio, and also my website, that's amdidio.com.
[00:21:08] Shannon Russell: Well, Anna Maria, thank you for sharing this story and your whole journey. It's so impressive and I'm just so happy to hear about your loving family and all that you are working on to help other families going through this process.
[00:21:22] Anna Maria DiDio: Well, thank you so much. I enjoyed speaking to you. .
[00:21:24] Shannon Russell: Wow. What a story Anna Maria has. She really has had a very, very full career in human resources. And then taking that step back to write, and really bring her experience with adoption. into her writing so that she can help other families. It's truly inspiring and what an amazing second act for her. If you would like to connect with Anna Maria and learn more about her work. Go to amdidio.com. Thank you so much for tuning in to our first episode of season two.[00:22:00] I am looking forward to a very full year of the Second Act Success Podcast, and I thank you for joining each and every week. I would love to know what you want to hear on the podcast this season. Please head over to www.speakpipe.com/secondactsuccess. It's there that you can leave me a voice message telling me what you would like to hear or you can tell me an aha moment you had when listening, or tell me maybe about your second act or any advice that you would like to share with other listeners of the show I'm looking forward to hearing all of your thoughts and ideas. Thank you so much again for joining, and I will chat with you next time.
Thank you for joining us. I hope you found some gems of inspiration and some takeaways to help you on your path to Second Act Success. To view show notes from this episode, visit secondactsuccess.co. Before you go, don't forget to subscribe to the podcast. So you don't miss a single episode. Reviews only [00:23:00] take a few moments and they really do mean so much. Thank you again for listening. I am Shannon Russell, and this is Second Act Success.