We can likely agree that introducing your child to cultures and experiences beyond what they’d naturally encounter is important, but it can definitely be tricky to figure out just how to do that. Sydney Hinds is here to help. Deeply passionate about not just the people in her life, but those living lives of their own across the world, Sydney was on the path to becoming a human rights lawyer when an accident left her with a traumatic brain injury and the need for a new career option.
She stuck to her love of diverse cultures and opened The Village Anthology, a colorful collection of handmade clothing and home decor items from across the country and beyond. Beyond adorable products that will make you go, “I need that” at every single thing, Sydney’s committed to breaking down the stigma around mental illness that’s she’s experienced so personally. We sat down with her to talk career changes, parenting techniques (meditation has been a game-changer for her), and how you don’t need to travel to have authentic cross-cultural experiences.
Name: Sydney Petite Hinds
Current Company/Title: Founder and CEO of The Village Anthology
Education: MS, Global Development from Tulane University
Location: New Orleans, LA
Children: Luca, 2.5 years, Ravi and Severiano, 3 months
What was your first job and how did you land it?
I was a personal assistant for a power couple. I originally landed the job as a last-minute babysitter for their children leading up to one of their big events. The original gig was only for 2.5 weeks, but about a month later I got a call with the offer for a full-time position. The experience was invaluable and required a lot of traveling, the opportunity to have full creative freedom in designing an internship program with a music festival, and in a way served as an apprenticeship for entrepreneurship as I had an insider’s view on what drives decisions and the creative process.
How did your experiences studying abroad impact you?
My first study abroad program was also the first time I had ever left the country, and the opportunity opened my world more than I could have ever anticipated. The semester kicked off on a social justice tour throughout the Balkans, which was such a humbling experience that grounded me and fueled an insatiable curiosity for authentically experiencing new cultures.
An accident and resulting brain injury rocked your life a few years ago — what helped you get through that time?
Prior to the accident, I was on the path to becoming a human rights lawyer with goals to help communities and organizations internationally. After the accident, my brain wasn’t processing information like it was before, and I was later diagnosed with having a traumatic brain injury. While my brain wasn’t able to process the dense theory and application of policy, I was beginning to go stir crazy not working or traveling (I also had Luca at home, who at the time, was less than one year old). Eventually, my neurologist suggested I try different things that would not only ‘work my brain’ but ‘work for my brain.’
My interest in other cultures spilled into the products I chose for my family and our home. I began tapping into this passion and quickly discovered it was something I was innately good at — brain injury and all.
I found special items that were built with intention, which brought me so much joy. Discovering unique makers from all over the world and learning their stories felt like I was bringing the world to my doorstep at a time when I couldn’t venture further than that.
Friends and family encouraged me to open a store, and after enough positive reinforcement, The Village Anthology was born. Becoming a mother during this time in a way was a really positive thing because I desperately needed a creative outlet that was my own, and it inspired me to find that channel, eventually leading up to The Village Anthology.
From the beginning, I knew there would be a social component to the shop and after my personal experience of brain trauma, partnering with a mental health non-profit felt like the most aligned choice. It’s important for people to understand that mental illness is equally as debilitating as a physical illness, even though it’s often not visible.
What advice do you have for women who themselves or a family member are currently working through an illness or injury? How can they best care for themselves and others?
Check in with yourself as much as possible. Self-advocacy is so key to personal healing because no one can read your mind. No one can begin to understand what you’re going through if you don’t give a voice to it. On the flip side, If you’re caring for someone else – don’t wait for them to ask if you’re truly trying to help. Try to be the one to offer solutions or – pending the relationship dynamic – just jump in and take stress off of the person in any way you can.
What are some of your favorite pieces on The Village Anthology?
What’s the importance of exposing children to different cultures?
I think exposure is one of the most important things you can give a child. It teaches them to find their own voice and form their own opinions based on personal experience. It’s also integral to teaching empathy – which is my number one goal as a mother.
What would you tell a mom looking to expand her children’s cultural horizons?
You don’t need to travel the world to expand cultural horizons. Something as simple as diversifying who they interact within the local community, trying new foods, or taking a small day trip when possible is both cost and time effective. When trying to expand their cultural horizons, join in on the experience with them and try to make it something new for yourself as well.
When you do travel, try your best to avoid the tourist things and gain an authentic feel for the local vibe. My favorite way to do for this is to start a conversation with locals – my best experiences usually come from the unexpected recommendations!
The Village Anthology is dedicated to working with The Seleni Institute to help destigmatize mental illness (amazing!!). How do you plan to talk to your children about mental illness?
I will never forget the first day my son corrected me when I said the wrong word to him in a conversation. This is one of the current challenges I still navigate post-TBI – a mild aphasia where I subconsciously say an unrelated word in the wrong context in verbal conversation. I am very self-conscious about it, but it’s improved drastically over the last year. It really affected me to the point of addressing the incident with my therapist, my saving grace, firmly reminding me that my son just needs to be aware that, “Mommy had a brain injury and sometimes I’ll say the wrong thing.”
Children are so open-minded and they typically accept things at face value; it is us, shaped by our own beliefs and stigmas, who struggle with the conversation. Another thing is that I make a point to keep an open conversation around the fact that I see a therapist, and I think that will lead to deeper conversations about the topic as they get older.
We love how wildly colorful and bright the Village Anthology is! How do you encourage Luca’s creativity and vibrancy?
From the moment he was able to, I would give him a choice in picking out his outfit. Depending on the situation, I may set the parameters on what those options are, but ultimately the decision is always his. I’m also adamant that he will be the one to decide when to get his first haircut – so far he genuinely loves his long hair and has no interest in cutting it, and styling it is a part of his morning routine.
What are some of your favorite activities to do with your kids?
I love anything outdoors. Right now with infant twins, our options are limited (especially with the New Orleans heat), but we find ourselves taking walks and lounging in the afternoon shade
What skills has your job lent to motherhood? Vice versa?
Becoming a mother has taught me the importance of efficiency and taking advantage of every minute to knock out my to-do list. But at the same time, it has taught me to expect the unexpected and has shaped me into handling crises with as much grace as possible. In work, I love lists, and incorporating this into motherhood (especially with three under three) ensures that we stay on top of things.
When it comes to motherhood, what are you most confident and insecure about?
I’m definitely confident in integrating mindfulness and gentle parenting techniques. I have seen the positive effects on my oldest and those often small-yet-powerful moments of validation are well worth all of the patience it takes to handle the difficult times of navigating strong toddler emotions and feelings.
I am still working through insecurities about the balance between being a mom and wanting a career. In the past, I’ve been surrounded by many women who I look up to so much but are on one end of the spectrum or the other that I have personally found it hard to figure out what that healthy balance is for me without feeling like I am compromising my time with my children or my business.
Sydney Hinds is the Everymom…
Chocolate cake and champagne.
Go-to coffee order?
Iced macchiato with coconut milk.
Best children’s book to read?
This is truly a hard one because I have so many favorites, but The Giving Tree is my sentimental favorite from such a young age. I still have my original copy with a note from my own mother.
Five-minute self-care treat?
Silence with intention to just be present without any thoughts. I try to fit it in once a day, for 2-5 minutes and it always an instant reboot.
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be?
Ruth Bader Ginsburg – I remember reading her biography while pregnant and her dedication to her goals while striving for a standard of personal authenticity is powerful.
Most embarrassing mom moment?
My oldest was three months old and we were in Newport Beach, California, for my husband’s work conference. Up to that point, I really hadn’t left the house with him but cabin fever quickly set in after several days of being alone with him all day in a hotel room. So I took him down to Huntington Beach and we went to get lunch. It was the first time I had ever taken him out alone in public, and I was still navigating social anxiety from my TBI, and the place was packed. I had him in the stroller and as I was walking to my table trying to push a stroller and simultaneously balance a tray of food with a lemonade on it, the drink spilled and created a huge mess. Almost on cue, he started crying and for the longest minute of my life, I felt like such a failure. Looking back, I laugh at it and would brush it off since spills are very much so a normal thing in our lives these days, but at the time, I was truly embarrassed.