Chickpeas with Fennel and Herbs //

In light of Mother’s day – or because we’re both moms and we like to talk about motherhood, work, balance, and life – my friend Jess (from Sweet Amandine and author of, Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home) and I had a lengthy conversation about becoming mothers and what all of that really means. We talk about our initial desire for motherhood, the striving for balance (and subsequent giving up on the idea) and we attempt to remind ourselves about what we are doing right in parenting rather than parading our failings.

I adore Jess’ perspective on life and motherhood. Talking with her I’m reminded that each day is a gift; one to be treasured and enjoyed. I so enjoyed talking with Jess and I hope you like reading through our (edited) conversation.

Jess and I are thrilled to be teaming up to offer a special Mother’s Day package that includes a signed copy of her book and a NWS Chocolate Chip Cookie mix, beautifully packaged.

Join the conversation in the comment section for a chance to win a package or check out the Not Without Salt Shop to order one for yourself or a special mother in your life. I’ll randomly select a winner on Monday, May 2nd – which also happens to be the last day for placing your order if you hope to receive it in time for Mother’s day. 

We have a limited number of these pretty packages so be sure to get your order in!
Chickpeas with Fennel and Herbs //

Jess: I remember when we first met, at the home of a mutual friend. I was there with my 1.5-year-old and was still figuring out how to parent while socializing with other adults. Meanwhile, there you were with your THREE awesome kids, seemingly totally at ease. Also, you brought homemade peanut butter cups! I remember thinking, this woman is such a natural, obvious mother. Did you always know you wanted to be a mom?


Ashley: Yes, I did always know I wanted to have children. I have vivid memories of seeing pregnant women on TV or women with newborns and I’d think, “I want to experience that.” This may sound a bit morbid but as a young child I was fearful of dying and I’d think to myself, “as long as I live long enough to have children I’ll be okay.”


Jess: That is such a powerful feeling you describe.


Ashley: Well, the other thing is that I was surrounded by women having children. I grew up going to church and all of the women in my life had children so by default, I guess, I just assumed that’s what we did.


Jess: That’s amazing to me, always wanting it.


Ashley: You didn’t?


Jess: Thoughts about whether or not I wanted to be a parent just weren’t on my radar for a long time. Certainly not when I was a kid, though I did have strong ideas about what I wanted to happen in my life: I wanted to move to New York City. I wanted to go to college. I wanted to work hard at something, and get really good at whatever it was.


Ashley: So was it when you and Eli were dating that you started thinking about having children?


Jess: [laughing] It was when Eli and I were dating that I started thinking about marriage! My parents separated when I was seven – maybe that’s why, before I fell in love with Eli, I never thought that I absolutely would, or should, get married and have kids. How old were you when you married Gabe?


Ashley: Oh man. We were babies. Gabe and I met when I was 18 and he was 19. We got married when I was 21. Our first baby came three years after that. A total surprise. I was having health concerns that I thought would prevent me from having children, or would require me to undergo medical intervention in order to become pregnant.


Jess: So when you found out you were pregnant, you must have been thrilled.


Ashley: Thrilled and terrified. We had just bought a convertible in L.A. because I had said that when I became pastry sous chef, we would celebrate with a car we really couldn’t afford. (We were young!) Two weeks after we bought the car, I found out I was three months pregnant.


Jess: That’s amazing.


Ashley: We were so far away from where I thought we would be when we had kids but yes, at the same time, I was thrilled. Something changed in me when I held my positive pregnancy test. Suddenly it wasn’t just me asking myself “what do you want for breakfast today?” It was “what is the best choice for the baby?” The moment I found out there was a baby in my belly, I felt like a mom. Did you feel that?


Jess: [laughing] Oh no, no, no… I mean, for me, all of this is wrapped up in the crazy health thing that happened to me.


Ashley: Yes, of course.


Jess: I was 28. Eli and I had been married for not-yet three years. I went for a run one morning, and an aneurysm ruptured in my brain. We had just decided we were ready to be parents. I’d been off the pill for two weeks.


Ashley: Oh my goodness, I hadn’t realized the timing of it all.


Jess: It was nuts, because for so long I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a mom. Then that summer, Eli and I realized we were at a place in our lives and our relationship where we felt absolutely ready. And then… ka-pow! For a while, we were told that it might not be safe for me to be pregnant. Then, at the follow-up scan months later, we learned that the tiny bit of aneurysm that remained after the surgery was gone, and I’d one day be strong enough to carry and deliver a child. Anyway, my feelings during pregnancy were less about motherhood, and more about my body proving its strength. I thought: I can’t believe I get to do this. I’m not even supposed to BE here. (I actually still think that all the time.)

Chickpeas with Fennel and Herbs // Chickpeas with Fennel and Herbs //

Ashley: So when did you feel like a mom?


Jess: I think my identity as a mother emerged alongside the slow but steady rebuilding of confidence that I am healthy, strong, and here for my children. I associate being a parent with being invincible, or at least seeming so to your children. Not in a let’s-set-impossible-standards-for-ourselves kind of way. Just, how thinking that your mom’s a superhero is a beautiful part of a young child’s love. That feeling a child has, like: “You are my world!”  The illness and near-death in my past made me worry that I might not be able to be that for my kids. I have two little girls now, as you know, ages 4 and 2. My new identity crept up on me. I’m not sure when. But now I definitely feel like a mom.


Ashley: Are there any preconceived notions about yourself or being a mother that have flown out the window since you’ve had your girls?


Jess: You know, the way I work definitely shifted post-kids in ways I didn’t think were possible. Before I had kids, my best working hours were early in the morning. I’d wake up at 5am and go straight to my desk and work for a couple of hours, then crawl back into bed for a bit with Eli, who would be just beginning to stir. That sounds like such a luxury! Now I spend those early morning hours either with my kids, or trying to sleep a bit after a night of nursing and musical beds. When I became a mom, I realized that I had to dispense with the idea of a “best” time to get work done. I had to learn to work whenever I had the chance. In terms of motherhood, hmmm… I didn’t picture my life with kids much before they actually came along, so I didn’t have many preconceived notions. But I can tell you one thing: I love being a mother so much more than I thought I would. What about you?


Ashley: I think I had this naive, “I got this!” attitude at first. Wooooosh. That went out the window quickly. And I’m glad it did, because that has taught me how to ask for help, set up my community, my village, to humble myself in front of my children and say, “I don’t always got this, but I’m going to do the best I can and we’re going to be alright.”


Jess: That’s so wise, Ashley.


Ashley: Well, I can’t do it all. That’s hard to admit. The longer I live the easier it becomes, though. For that I’m grateful. It’s good for my kids to see that I can’t do it all and to hear me admit it, so that they can be easier on themselves down the line.  You do the best you can where you are, continually reevaluate where you’re putting your energy, adjust, and try your best again.


Jess: I’m always so curious to hear how other women do it. Literally, what it looks like on the ground. I remember talking to you when we were both knee-deep in the process of writing our books. You had an incredibly tight deadline. The entire manuscript -recipes, photographs, all of it- was due in something like six months, is that right? And you did it! How?! What did a day in the life of Ashley look like then?


Ashley: I had eight months. It was tight but totally doable because one, I have an amazingly supportive husband and two, I had a dear friend who helped immensely with the organization of it all. The boys were in school at the time and Ivy was in preschool. I would take the morning work shift and work until it was time to pick up Ivy. I think some of the days I worked all day while Gabe was with the kids. I divided the book project into three different tracks – the recipes, the photos, the words. It felt like three separate projects that eventually morphed into one. Our little family knew that this was a big deal for Mom. We worked out our family schedule so that my writing the book and doing the very best I could was top priority. My days weren’t necessarily balanced – which is an elusive rainbow-colored unicorn of a creature that simply doesn’t exist. I gave up on daily balance and now look at my whole life as the thing in which I want to have some semblance of balance. That season was heavy on work, for me. Now we’re nearing the summer months and I’ll be more towards the mom role. It eventually balances out.


Jess: Yes! Eli and I take the long view of “balance,” too. We’re like, this is what we’re doing right now: starting a company, writing a book, taking care of young kids. It’s a lot, and we’re often tired, but we’re happy tired! And we know as the kids get older, it won’t always be this way. We’re rolling with it. I think that’s my version of “having it all:” having as much as I can at any given moment, knowing that the definition of “all” is always in flux, and feeling profoundly grateful.


Ashley: Ooo, I remember being in the throws of diapers, nap schedules, mid-day kids’ TV, constant food on the ground, and thinking, this is my life from here until eternity. You, with little ones, are really in the thick of it now. But it really is temporary.


Jess: That’s what I tell myself! What are your days like now that your kids are older?


Ashley: The kids are up by 6:45 am and then out the door by 8 am. I usually use the first hour to get my coffee, sometimes I exercise, but most often I journal, listen to something inspiring and just breathe. It’s very hard not to jump into email and get started, but I really try to start the day with a bit of calm. From there, every day is different. Sometimes I’m working on a recipe for the blog or a client. Other times I’m preparing for a cooking class. I try to offset the work time by getting together with a friend for coffee, and once a week I meet a friend who is teaching me French. That’s probably my first New Year’s resolution that has ever lasted until May! Evenings are for homework, family time, baseball practice, and downtime.


Jess: So you basically organize your work day around your children’s school schedule? Are all three in school full-time now?


Ashley: This is the first year that all three of my babies are in school and that really is amazing. I’m incredibly introverted so those six hours of quiet are so sweet.

Jess: Six hours alone in the house? Amazing…

Ashley: Yes! Even with all that time to work I had hoped that I’d be the cheery mom, eager to greet them when they arrived home from school. I’d open the door with a smile on my face, chocolate-smudged apron around my waist, and a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies in hand. I think I’ve maybe done that once. Nope, I’m lying. Never. They walk in the door to find me on my computer frantically trying to finish something, or in the midst of a huge pile of dishes from a shoot earlier in the day. They come home to my chaos, but my intention is always to close up shop and be there for them. It’s hard though, isn’t it? Especially when you are freelancing and you are the boss – I mean, to just turn it off?


Jess: It is hard. I think that’s one of the best things that has come out of making sure I have enough childcare: being able to feel okay about shutting down the work part of my brain when I’m with my kids so that I can be fully present.


Ashley: What does that look like for you?


Jess: Have I told you about my parenting life in the early days of writing my book? When I signed my book contract, I was still enrolled in my PhD program at Harvard, teaching undergrads, working on my dissertation. My first daughter was 9 months old. People – mostly other women! – would say to me, “You’re so lucky that your work has flexible hours. You can be a full-time graduate student AND a full-time writer AND a full-time mom!” I’d think to myself, oh, okay, I’m supposed to be able to do this. Why is this so hard? Why do I feel like I’m failing at everything? We had four hours a day of childcare, which felt like a lot, but of course, it’s ridiculous to think that I could teach, and write a book, and write a dissertation, and be a mom and, you know, clean the house, get groceries, pump my breasts, maybe shower sometimes… all in a 20-hour work week.

My husband had just left his company to found a start-up, so money was tight, and I felt guilty getting more childcare. But Eli helped me understand childcare as an investment in my professional future and in who we wanted to be for our children: people who are passionate about their work, who are making the things they want to see in the world. So I went on leave from my graduate program in order to focus on my manuscript, we increased our childcare to 30-ish hours per week, and though I still had to work late nights, I was in a much better place.


Ashley: So how do you care for yourself in the midst of all that — motherhood, work, and everything else that life throws at you?


Jess: I refill by spending time alone inside my brain. I know this sounds workaholic-y, but honestly, when I get a long stretch of time to write, and get to come out the other end having made something, I feel good as new. Guarding my writing time as best I can is probably the #1 thing I do to take care of myself. What about you?


Ashley: Because I have so much time during the day now I give myself the permission to do things that are not work and just for me. So for example, French lessons feel like something for me. It’s a personal goal and I’m choosing to spend my time working toward that goal. Also, I’m trying to build more time for painting and drawing into my day. It’s a creative outlet that, for now, comes with no expectations. I get to open my journal, put color to the page and then close it up. I have an incredibly supportive husband who is always encouraging me to build in the time to take care of myself. It feels much easier to do that now that my kidlets aren’t so little. It’s also a practice I want them to see me doing because yes, I want them to learn how to care for themselves.


Jess: I love the awareness you have of modeling for your children.


Ashley: I think we’re starting to have this culture within motherhood where we feel free to admit where we are failing. I think that’s important. I mean, it’s freeing to shout our “failings” from the internet rooftops, saying, “I fed my kids boxed mac & cheese!” or “I let my toddler eat cereal off the floor this morning!”


Jess: #nofilterparenting!


Ashley: Exactly.


Jess: We’ve talked about this before, and I remember your saying something smart: that by calling these things out as “failures,” we’re condemning our very humanness. Man, if feeding my kid powdered cheese is my biggest parenting “failure…” Sounds okay to me!


Ashley: The next evolution of motherhood I want to see is “admitting” to ourselves and each other what we do well.


Jess: Yes! How are we doing this motherhood business right?


Ashley: You first.


Jess: You know, I think I really came into my own as a parent when my kids started talking. Newly verbal toddlers get so frustrated and angry when they realize that they can communicate their desires, but don’t yet have the skills to be 100% effective! I think I’m really good at being present with my girls during meltdowns, helping them find their way out, and back to an emotional place where they can communicate.


Ashley: That’s amazing. It’s so inspiring to hear that. Okay, now it’s my turn, I guess. Why is it so much easier to talk about what I’ve done wrong? Recently I started journaling with each of my children. It’s a space for them to feel free to tell me about what’s going on. It’s a safe place for them to voice fear, concern, happy thoughts, sad thoughts, whatever they need. For me it’s a sweet point of connection and it’s something that is very personal to each of us.


Jess: And, uh, you also bake them awesome treats all the time!


Ashley: I do. And you do too!

Chickpeas with Fennel and Herbs // Chickpeas with Fennel and Herbs //

Jess and I would LOVE to hear what you are doing right in motherhood. We both feel strongly about changing the message and celebrating one another for our strengths. We all know we can’t do it all but rather than wasting breath considering what we aren’t doing let’s spend a bit of time appreciating what we are. Believe me – this was the hardest question in our conversation. Jess had to repeatedly remind me to rid my mind and sentences of qualifiers. Then, when I answered I felt light, lifted and encouraged and when I heard Jess’ response I was eager to celebrate her in her strengths and inspired by her patience and gentleness towards her little ones. It’s freeing to admit we can’t do it all but it’s life giving to honor what we can and are doing.

What are you doing well today? How are you doing this motherhood business right? Answer in the comments! Let us all be encouraged by everyone’s strengths.


Jess and I are thrilled to be partnering together in creating what we think is quite possibly the perfect Mother’s Day gift: A signed copy of Stir and Salted Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix all bundled together in a tidy little package. Give it to your mom, or a dear mom friend, or hell, give it to yourself!




Chickpea Salad with Shaved Fennel and Herbs

Last week over on my Facebook page, Molly Wizenberg and I had a fun conversation on motherhood (it’s a recurring theme around here) and how we feed our families. We both rely heavily on a can of beans. The day after our talk this was what I did with my can of beans. For dinner I served it alongside a platter of fresh vegetables, and sliced salami, a bit of cheese, and bread.

Serves 2 for lunch, or 4 as a side

1 small fennel bulb or half of a larger bulb

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 cup roughly torn fresh herbs (mint, dill, parsley, chives, basil)

1 cup arugula

1/3 cup crumbled sharp cheddar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil


1 teaspoon Nigella seeds (you could also use poppy seeds, toasted cumin, fennel, caraway or sesame)

Thinly slice or shave the fennel. A mandoline makes quick work of this.

In a medium bowl combine the chickpeas, shaved fennel, fresh herbs, arugula, cheddar lemon juice, olive oil, salt (start with a 1/2 teaspoon and go from there) and the Nigella seeds.

Stir everything together well then taste and adjust the seasonings

66 Responses to “On Motherhood + a can of chickpeas”

  1. Molly

    This is a (another) beautiful post. I’m a Mom of three, and as the eldest of them is going to be graduating high school in a month I’m on the other end of the spectrum with her. Not at the end of parenting certainly but in a transition. And boy is it hard. What I’ve been doing with both of my daughters is opening up to them more than I ever have in an attempt to teach what I know about being a young adult woman. My own Mom passed away when I was 14. My beloved mother-in-law has been gone for six years so I’m painfully aware that my two teen daughters need modeling, and support, and guidance. Most of the time it is all good. My advice to Moms with younger daughters is don’t be surprised by the teen years. I’m in the throes of them with 2 out of 3 kiddies but have been assured that all comes out right in the end. I can keep you posted!

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Molly, Thank you so much for your perspective. My oldest turns 10 next week and that’s wonderful and scary. But I don’t want to fear the teen years, I want to lean into them and really be a partner with my children through those hard years. Thank you for your encouragement. It feels so good to hear “it all comes out right in the end.”

  2. Laura

    I laughed out loud when Jess described first meeting you, Ashley. I have a friend who is just like that. She’s a mother of two girls and pregnant with her third. She brought blueberry scones one morning to us right after our daughter was born, made us dinner another night. She’s wonder woman. Meanwhile, I have trouble putting complete sentences together.

    I have a ten week old and oscillate between “hey, we’re doing okay” and crying/apologizing to our baby because I have no idea what I’m doing. But I’m proud of how patient I can. It’s helping me get through the hard times.

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Laura – I had so many qualifiers to add to my response to Jess’ impression of me. I assure you I don’t feel natural in this role – or it has taken a long time for me to come to terms with how I mom. You know what I mean? I knew the kind of mom I wanted to be and was so distraught when that wasn’t me. Now I feel freedom in being the mom who I am and am learning how to even praise that in me. It’s so hard! You are doing okay! Even when you don’t know what you’re doing. None of us do. I’m proud of your patience. That is so hard. Keep at it and don’t beat yourself up when that patience runs out praise yourself for when it’s there!

  3. Kate

    I love this! A I expect my first child this summer, I am so eager to hear other more-seasoned mothers discuss their versions of motherhood, the good and the bad. Its so encouraging and inspiring. Thank you! 🙂

  4. Taste of France

    This is so touching and enlightening! The time allocated to journaling is interesting. I probably spend too much time on blogs, but with content like this, I learn so much.

  5. Mama2One

    Thanks for the encouraging comments. We all need to remember we have lives separate from children, but with children. They need to see us succeed and fail.

  6. Nanda Garber

    Wow, great post! Very timely. Most days I’m not sure that I’m doing anything right as a parent, let alone as a sole proprietor of a home-based business. I’ve got a 7-year-old with some life-long behavioral and emotional challenges, as well as a less-challenged but still fairly high-needs 5-year-old. Most of my momhood has been caught up in figuring out how to find my kids the extra support they need (still unknown, ever searching) while not sacrificing myself completely. When my life is too child-focused, I can’t truly be there for my kids. An ongoing challenge.

  7. Kaitlin

    Thank you for this post! I am loving the motherhood theme lately. I thoroughly enjoyed tuning in for your Facbook conversation with Molly, and now this conversation was such a treat to read. I’m not yet a mother myself, but I am like you in that I have known at my very core–ever since I was a young girl myself–that what I want most from life is to be a mom. Now, as my husband and I think we feel “ready” to start a family, words like these make me even more excited. Thank you, and happy early Mother’s Day!

  8. Kristen

    I love this post so much. I loved reading your coversation. I also love hearing about what motherhood looks like for others or “what it looks like on the ground.” I am a “happy tired” mamma to 3 girls (7,4, and 2) and I want to join your movement to celebrate the things we mothers feel like we are doing right. It is funny and freeing to share the real life #nofilterparenting moments but it doesn’t build you up like sharing the moments when you feel like you did something right would. I remember with my first baby (and every baby after that) feeling like super mom about half of the time and feeling like I had no idea what I was doing the other half. OK here goes – I think my proud motherhood moments come when I treat my daughters as humans who deserve respect instead of kids who I’m the boss of. I’m also really good at saying I’m sorry when I was wrong which does not come natural but it is something I think is really important to teach them by example. Whew! That was harder than I thought. Why is it so much harder to admit the bad stuff? Here’s to changing that!

  9. Kyla

    I love this. It is always nice to hear of other Mom’s struggles, I can really relate to the hardships. But I love the idea of acknowledging our strengths (even if it is hard to do without qualifiers)…I love my family but we certainly didn’t talk about our feeling or say we love each other very often, I really don’t remember my Mom saying it ever. I’m proudest of how I make a priority – and a ritual -of telling my daughter she is loved, really having her hear it over and over so it gets under her skin. I will yell her name up the stairs – have her answer “What?” and before I can even say “I love you”, she says “I know, I know, you love me” with only the slightest amount of eye-rolling. That’s right kid, I do. And I want you to know it.

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      hahaha. That is so beautiful. What a sweet sweet gift you are giving her especially after you didn’t receive that much as a child. I’m so inspired by you.

  10. Deadra V

    Loved reading this conversation! It’s so interesting to hear how other mamas are making it. I have three (5 1/2, 4 and 2 1/2) and one on the way. For me right now it’s trying to enjoy just having these three littles all at home and watching them express themselves. Sometimes it leads to really big messes! I don’t cook the meals I wish I was all the time or have all the laundry done or get to drink a hot cup of coffee in one sitting but I’m so blessed I try and remind myself of that when I get discouraged.

  11. Christine

    This is such an incredible interview. What I love is how realistic it is: while I enjoy interviews that talk about motherhood on a more philosophical level, I really love hearing about the day-to-day life of other mothers. How they are managing the juggle, what their days look like, how they use their working hours…that’s the good stuff!

    I have two boys, 3.5 and 5, and like you, Ashley, I always knew I wanted to be a mom. We’re past the years of sleep deprivation and diapers and I feel like we’ve hit such a fun phase right now. They are these little people with opinions and interests, and they are just so entertaining and amazing. But the juggle is really hard. Like you I write books, and I juggle a freelance career along with a part-time job at the boy’s school. I find that I really miss quiet, reflective time. As an introvert, that time is crucial to my well-being. I’m trying to view this as a season in life- one that will soon shift and change.

    Anyway- all that to say, I loved this fresh, honest approach to the “motherhood conversation.” Thank you for sharing!

  12. Carmen


    Your post today, like so many before it, touched me and inspired me in ways I didn’t know a complete stranger’s words could. The words and photos on your blog have left me both laughing and in tears. They’ve inspired me to make croissants with my 2 year old. They’ve encouraged me to be a better communicator with my husband (thanks to your AWESOME book, Date Night In. *side note-I made your tarragon aioli in my KitchenAid stand mixer for our date night in tomorrow and it worked brilliantly). They’ve challenged me to relax and enjoy a lazy Sunday once in a while.

    As I write, my 2 year old is asleep in her bed after a trip to the park and library on this dreary and chilly day in the northwest, and my 9 month old is curled up on my lap switching back and forth between nursing and napping. It’s kind of dreamy. I often wonder if I’m “momming” properly and then my little girl will wake up and whimper and I’ll go to her and ask her what she needs and she’ll wrap her arms around my neck and respond as she usually does, “just you mama.” I think I’m doing okay.

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Ohhhhh Carmen, now you have me in tears. Thank you from the very depths of my heart for your sweet words. So powerful. Also, you made the aioli in a stand mixer?! Amazing! Using only 1 egg yolk?! I’m so blown away. 🙂

      • Carmen

        Yes! It required a bit of “MacGyvering”, but the end result was gorgeous and my arms were spared the burn of hand whisking the aioli. I just propped the bowl up about 1/4″ with some washcloths so the whisk could reach the bottom of the bowl. Painless homemade aioli-who knew?

        Thanks again!

  13. Shannon

    A wiser and more experienced mother today me one day in passing that as a mother “the days are long, but the years are short.” That has stuck with me and I constantly experience the truth of that. While being a mom can be SO challenging and can make the days feel long at times, what an incredible responsibility and role we have been given to help shape and encourage our little ones to become all they can be and to take up their rightful space they have been given in this world. I have two daughters (ages 6 & 3) and I think my gifts as a their mother are showing them in those teachable how to be confident, strong women while also seeking to serve and love those around them (and what it looks like to pick ourselves up and continually pursue that goal even in the moments when we fail in that area). Happy (early) Mothers Day to you Ashley!

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Beautiful lessons. Thank you for sharing. I never understood what people meant when they said “it goes so quickly!” until I heard someone say that same sentiment. It’s so true. Especially during the little years the days feel so long but then you look back and they seem like just a puff of smoke.

  14. Cynthia Schmidt

    Coming from a family with unhealthy parenting dynamics, I had to learn what that meant from good role models – thank goodness for them! One of the most valuable things I have learned from my mentors is the importance of “alone time” – time to journal, meditate, pray, read, write – whatever lets you re-group and re-gather your sensitivities and equilibrium for the world and the day ahead (or at the end of the day). This then helps me to parent from a “richer” and gentler place, for me and for my family. Thank you and bless you and Jess for your honesty and vulnerability in this conversation. Being a parent is a fluid and dynamic role, but such a precious (and, from the perspective of an older mom, fleeting!) one. Enjoy every moment that you can and let go of the guilt – all shall be well!

  15. Rebecca Mongrain

    Ahhh Motherhood. I think society puts so much pressure on Moms to be perfect. Nobody is perfect and I’ve quickly learned that in my 4.5 years of parenting (I have a 2 and 4 year old). I feel that I’m doing motherhood right by letting my girls see me work, see me taking care of the house and yes, taking care of myself. I workout most mornings at 6 a.m. That is my time. I have honestly left the house to go workout while one kid was waking up screaming because that is my time and their father can take care of them. I also try to model being a good daughter to them. My mother is disabled and I’m her main caretaker. She lives in Assisted Living but I’m her go-to person so they see me taking care of her a lot. Parenting is hard, messy and so wonderful. I will admit to looking forward to school when my kids are there for longer stretches. Heck, next year I’ll have two whole mornings (about 4 hours) to myself and I am so excited!

  16. Sina | the kosher spoon

    I love being a mother and with having 4 (the oldest being 6), I’ve come to realize that through the daily grind, I’m able to grow as a person and am forced to constantly assess my priorities and simplify my life as much as possible. Just like you, I thought I’d be the cheerful mother, ready with home baked treats, and an impeccable home. Rather, I learned to trade that perceived ideal with being a fulfilled mother. So though I did cook a 5 course meal for a friend when I was 7 weeks postpartum, it fulfilled me more than washing my sticky floor, even when I know my kids eat from it. I think the hardest part for me is tuning out the guilt, even when I know it’s unfounded. It’s out of a desire to strive for the best but it usually leaves me deflated, anxious, overwhelmed. Oh but you said to focus on a part I’m good at! I think I’m good at being a mindful parent. There are many high stress situations in a home full of toddlers, and I try my best to appreciate the season I’m in, remain calm, and smother them with love and kisses. Because ultimately that’s all they’ll remember. To me, motherhood is the biggest gift. And as passionate as I can be at things outside of it, I think therein lies the biggest impact I’ll have on the world.
    Great topic, you two.

  17. Becky Albrecht

    My mother could be a bit…no, make that a lot, crazy. Life with a manic-depressive was a roller coaster for all who lived with and loved her. She committed suicide when I was 10, leaving me on the cusp of puberty, feeling deserted. One of the stongest memories I have of the time shortly after her death was that all the other girls in my class had moms that came to watch the menstruation movie with them (this was a LONG time ago!) and I was alone. I vowed I would never do that to any daughter of mine. And so what was a sad story became a really happy one – after lots of time (and therapy) and growing up and moving on, I was able (or rather still am able) to dig out the good bits from my mom’s topsy-turvy life and use them for myself and my daughter. A little crazy is a good thing: a ‘ditch-day’ from school – to go watch the culturally stimulating Blue Angels practice, or one time, to go to Disneyland, sharing one of those spray cans of whipped cream – straigh outta the can, directly into your mouth, dance parties in the living room, driving (just the two of us) through the Southwest in an old VW bus, or binge-watching Gilmore Girls. Sometimes doing something a little bit bad/decadent/nuts makes for a great bonding experience! As a family we’ve had some rough (health-related and subsequently financially-related) times, but our relationhip is really solid, maybe in part due to my need to be just a little bit different (?) and find my own way as a mom. Regardless, I feel I’ve done SOMETHING right when my (in my humble opinion) gorgeous, talented 19-year-old actually chooses to hang out with me in the evening, sipping wine (we live in Europe, so it’s okay!) and cooking dinner. She is getting ready to head off to college, and I know that while I (or rather, “we” as I have to acknowledge my wonderful husband’s role in all of this too) have done what we’re as moms/parents supposed to do – that is, bring a little person into this world, support and nurture them, and then set them free – I will sorely miss the every-day contact with lovely young woman I consider my very best friend. But I also know that she’ll only be 5 hours (by train) away, and that the green stool in the corner of the kitchen will always be there, along with a glass of wine – or even better, our favorite smoky-peaty single malt…ready for tears or laughter or a little bit of both.

  18. Tori//Gringalicious

    This salad sounds fabulous and I love this whole post. Although I’m not a mom yet, my very close sister just had her first and it’s made me really start thinking about what I’ll be like as a mother and I find this post such an inspiration! Thanks for sharing.

  19. Natalia M

    I have yet to become a mother myself. I grew up in a family of nine kids, and I was responsible in helping raise a lot of them since I’m one of the oldest. Besides giving birth and breastfeeding, I’ve done it all pretty much. I still feel like a mother to my siblings, and worry about them like my own kids. Despite all of this, I’m still frightened of motherhood. I’m not sure if it’s the fear of being an imperfect mother and not being able to give it all to my kids, or if it’s the parenting struggles and sacrifices one has to go through. I definitely don’t see myself ever coming close to my mother, I can’t comprehend even thinking about what it’s like to bring nine human beings into this world. Reading about you ladies talking about motherhood though, somehow puts my mind at ease. It’s a lot of hard work and sacrifices, but seems like neither one of you would ever say it wasn’t worth it. Being a mother is only something you understand after having kids, I hope to one day overcome my own fears and become one.

  20. Holly

    I’m not a mother (yet), but I found this conversation to so lovely to read! I’d like to have kids, and hearing from strong, honest + open mothers makes me hope I can be one of them one day as well 🙂

  21. Alexa @ Sweet Little Kitchen

    Thank you both for sharing the good and hard parts of being moms! As my husband am I contemplate having children, I am torn in two: partly thrilled because I love kids and have always wanted to be a mom, partly terrified because of all the unknowns and fear of losing my interests. So it’s encouraging to see you working at fitting all the parts of life together and acknowledging that nothing has to be perfect. And that spring-y chickpea salad looks lovely.

  22. Charlene

    I’m newly married (1.5 weeks!!) and and have talked about definitely having kids, just not quite yet. This is so, so encouraging to read! Thank you so much for sharing!

  23. PerryAnn

    I loved reading this interview. It takes me back to when my boys were young and everything was indeed a balancing act. We homeschooled then so so much of life was centered around the boys and I loved that life. Now they are in high school – one graduating this year and their lives include so much more than home. I have a career now that I love and I like that they see me involved in that. And that we still love hanging out with each other!

  24. Carlene

    Ashley and Jess,
    I loved this conversation! I am on the other end of parenting except one is never done parenting! I had always wanted to be a Mom and consider it my greatest achievement to date! I always said that as a parent I wanted to have very few regrets and for my children to know I did my very best. Well, I have some regrets but do think I did my best. So to you younger Moms, hang in there! It’s okay to be a little selfish and take time for yourself. Love on your ‘babies’ and tell them everyday how much you love them. Children can be our greatest source of joy as well as pain. They after all are our most precious earthly ‘possessions’, gifts from God!!!

  25. Julie Turner

    Love this post! My son is 9 months old today and yeah, the whole balance concept seems foreign-what is that? how does it look for me? I felt pretty put-together before my son was born and my expectations have definitely gotten a reality check 😉 That little boy has changed read:wrecked my life in the most incredible way! I may never recover…but grace as a whole new meaning, and I need A LOT of it! I also need coffee, and wine…haha. Ashley, Date Night In is on my wishlist- I keep hinting to my husband-we need it! Thanks for posting this today.

  26. Deidra

    Always inspired by your food and outlook on life – marriage, motherhood, all of it. Almost finished cooking my way through all of “Date Night In” and love it!

  27. sarah k @ the pajama chef

    i am currently almost 39 weeks pregnant, so this conversation was fascinating to read! i have a wonderful mother, and have gotten to see my sister and many friends become moms in the past couple of years so i’m looking for inspiration and strength anywhere i can find it! i will be going back to work after a 17 week maternity leave (it sounds so long now, but i’m sure when it comes time to go back to work i will wonder where all the time went) so i’m anxious about figuring out how all that will go. thanks!

  28. Wendy

    Thank you for sharing this inspiring conversation. I have two school-age girls; one has a number of food allergies. So we only have a few places where we feel comfortable eating out. At first–out of necessity–I felt a bit burdened that I had to cook all the time. (My husband and I used to eat out a good bit, before the girls, and we/I miss that.) But now, when I think about the fact that I cook dinner probably 300+ nights a year, I am amazed (!!) and happy about the gift(s) I am giving my family. I always loved to cook, and now it’s become my hobby/passion. Thanks so much for helping me to remember.

  29. Lillian T

    I loved this entire post and the conversation style you both have. It is so inspiring to hear how real it all is and yet you are both able to manage it (certainly it takes everyone involved to help out). Thanks for sharing’ also the salad looks awesome!

  30. Beth

    Thank you for this post, Ashley. I so appreciate hearing other mom’s perspectives, and hearing about your strengths and failures together. As the mother of a 1.5 year old girl, I’m still very much in the learning and sometimes difficult phase. But some of the things I do include singing to her often, kissing and hugging her as much as possible, and just being silly together. Laughing with your child is such a sweet thing to do. Also I love to take her outside for walks, and we see and experience nature together.
    It’s also wonderful to read your thoughts on continuing your careers with kids, and showing them that example of perseverance toward creativity and also independence. I think that is so powerful. Thank you again for starting this conversation and for the encouragement! 🙂

  31. Ellie | Hungry by Nature

    I’m not a mother yet, but this was so wonderful to read. I know I want to have children and my husband and I talk about it a lot – we’re just not quite there yet. But I think a lot about how I want to raise my kids and how my parents raised me and it’s kind of scary, but also so exciting and anticipatory!

  32. rosalind

    Thanks for the very honest dialogue about motherhood. I’m not a mom but know it will be the hardest but most rewarding things I will do with my time.

  33. lara

    I love the idea of letting your kids see you can’t do it all or do it alone. It really is such an important lesson.

  34. Sarah

    This post about celebrating the daily ins-n-outs of parenting is exactly what I needed today. We stayed at my brother’s place last night, and on the train ride home this morning my normally-placid three-year-old had an epic meltdown, which of course set off the already-tired bub. And so I’m feeling rather like a parenting amateur even though I’ve been at it for over three years now!

    The thing that I feel I’m doing right in motherhood, right by my kids, is helping them embrace their imagination. I’ve read to my kids daily since the day that they were born, and encourage them to spend time in creative play, to embrace their boredom, to enjoy the outdoors. I already see the positive results in my older daughter, who plays the most wonderful and engaged games for hours by herself. Ever since I was small I have loved that I am never lonely or bored, because I always have my imagination (and books!) to keep me company. I want to give that gift to my kids.

  35. Kayleigh

    You guys are inspiring and encouraging. It’s so easy to focuson the ‘ failures ‘ of motherhood. I have three littles. My favourite thing is to take them for walks every day, and be silly with them. They’re each so funny, and have their own little quirks. They’re so interesting, when I take the time to actually listen to them

  36. Amelie Saint-Jacques

    What a wonderful post! My son is two, so this is a phase where he’s testing limits and pushing all my buttons and it’s hard for me (much harder than soothing a crying infant). I feel like I’m doing a good job when I can keep my cool, or take some time to think of a better way to meet his needs if what I’m doing isn’t working. I also feel like a good mom when I go outside my comfort zone for him – I’m an introvert and hate driving, but every week I drive him to the pool and swim with him and the other moms, singing songs and all. He enjoys swimming so much now and has made so much progress, so it’s all worth it!

  37. Anna

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts! I so appreciate hearing the perspective of other creative, hardworking moms (so basically all moms). The first thing that comes to mind, for me, is not what I would expect or think of as the best thing BUT I have been doing my best to embrace this season and worry less about what I am accomplishing (or not accomplishing) professionally. With an almost three year old and and another baby due any day now, I know I will get back to my writing and artwork sooner than later but I have reached a place where I am okay with focusing on my family for this period of time. It doesn’t seem like something I should be proud of, but I think reaching a place where I can feel pretty good about the way I spend my days is important to me.

  38. Allison

    Thanks for sharing your lovely conversation. I’m not yet a mother, but it’s on the not-too-far-horizon (we hope/plan). It was always something I expected, but when we got married almost 3 years ago, it suddenly became terrifying, maybe because it became an actual possibility. I’m still recovering from the terror, and right now a lot of my community consists of young families that are struggling to find balance and to recognize what’s good (at least in the conversations I’m part of). Which doesn’t help me anticipate my future. I think in any/everything, it does no one any good to diminish or ignore the absolute true value of things s/he does well. And I think there is always something that is done well. Thanks for opening a window into just a sliver of what you both do well in motherhood, and for inviting others into that space 🙂

  39. Christie

    Motherhood has been hard, especially as a single mom, but so, so worth it. My kid (now a teen) still considers me his best friend and still loved to spend time with me and makes me feel like I AM doing this crazy journey right somehow. Cooking is definitely one of the ways we enjoy spending time together as it’s fun to experiment and find things we both enjoy.

  40. Farrah

    At first I tried to be the perfect stay at home mom. I imagined it would be playtime all day and that I’d love taking care of our home and making it a masterpiece. Turns out I pretty much hate being domestic and really really love my professional work. I still struggle for balance while working outside the home. I love my son’s amazing preschool and that because of them I can focus on being present and relishing quality time with my family instead of coming up with toddler art projects.

  41. Camille

    What a wonderful post! I love the idea of reframing parenting conversations to talk about successes

  42. Bianca

    I am in constant awe of my friend, K. We are about to be in our final year of med school, and she had a baby 2 months before we started school. I can’t imagine having a child–i could barely take care of myself during these stressful and harried times! I will always admire her hard work; really puts everything in perspective

  43. Charlotte

    I loved this conversation. One thing I think I’m doing well is letting my son know he is loved. Yesterday after a hard day at school, I told him I loved him and he replied, I know. I struggled a long time with mum guilt, quit a full time job and am trying to create a new job for myself but I want to be present for my boy and advocate for him.

  44. Meg L

    I am not a mother yet, but my students in some ways are my “children”, where lots of care and patience are put into my work with them. Thank you for sharing the ups and downs of motherhood – it does help me to re-appreciate my own mother and all the mothers out there for their care and love to their children.

  45. Dominique Brooks

    I have two children — one is about to enter high school and the other is in elementary school. We both always wanted kids and because we met each other, there was not much time actually make it happen. I thought that because of some health issues I had that it would be a challenge to get pregnant but I got pregnant within a couple of months of our wedding. Now that they are getting a bit older, it is interesting to see them turn into their own people. We have our own challenges as my youngest has special needs — but she is fabulous! On top of that, we also would like to adopt a younger kid (my husband was adopted) so we have to see how that goes.

  46. Brooke

    #nofilterparent! Oh my. Yes. I needed to read this conversation. I just had my first child one year ago and I really struggle with the idea of balance. I remember my previous life and somehow I keep thinking that I should be able to do so much more in a day/week/year. I’m trying to have patience with myself as a woman who struggles between career ambition and the desire to just stay present as a mother because it’s true…In hindsight, this year flew by and my baby is starting to look like a little boy and I don’t want to miss a thing. Thanks for sharing.

  47. teva

    Thank you so much for encouraging mothers to share their accomplishments. We need more positivity on the internet and we also need to be reminded of our strengths as parents. I sing with my children every day and I find that it is such a joyful way for us to find connection. Even when I don’t totally feel like it, if one of my children asks if we can sing together, I muster the energy and we always end up having a good time.

  48. nicole

    I really love this – and I love the feeling like we’re all in this together and doing our best and succeeding and failing every day. Which is real and normal and good. Lately I’ve been digging really deep to find patience with my 2 1/2 year old, who has been waking up at 5a, and is grumpy and tired all day (me too!) — because really, I get how she feels and it’s not her fault. I try to get my cooking and other work done during her naptime and after she goes to bed so that I am more present with her. This has been a huge goal of mine, to not only be present with her but to not resent that I’m being pulled away from work or other tasks I’d like to do. Then again, I try to make a bit of time for myself every other day or so, mostly through exercise (an outside run when my husband is not traveling). It helps keeps me more sane and thus makes me a better parent.

  49. Margaret D

    My beautiful daughter turns 22 this month, and my spouse and I will be married 24 years. He has always been a full partner in raising her, and she is a hard working, perceptive and delightful young woman now. Perhaps one of the things I am proudest of is including her in my cooking; she will still call for advice on how to cook something, but she’s quite the cook in her own right.

  50. Mary Jo

    Thank you. Your blog always brightens my day. My amazing daughter introduced me to Notwithoutsalt and reading it makes her seem a little closer. She is currently in Spain.

  51. Jill

    Great conversation about the push and pull of being a mom and an autonomous being. Thank you!

  52. Tory

    So so hard on ourselves, but it is so much harder to pat ourselves on the back as moms isn’t it? Thanks for talking about it.

  53. Heather M

    Ashley, you are always so inspiring, proving motherhood can be beautiful and messy in the same moment. I think the biggest aha moments for me have been remembering kids have all the same emotions, needs, desires that adults do and yet we seem to forget what that feels like before we grew up and gained the experiences that continue to shape and grow us, before we learned to filter the raw emotions. I want to thoughtfully nurture joy, excitement, adventure, hope…


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