We chatted with Smash + Tess co-founder and CEO Ashley Freeborn ahead of Mother’s Day, about her roles at romper central and as mom to two littles! —Vita Daily
Hi Ashley! Tell us a little bit about you and what do you do!
Hi! I’m a mama to two smart and lovable girls, Frankie and Stella. I’m a wife to an incredibly supportive and loving husband, Mike. AND I’m the co-Founder and CEO of Smash + Tess. We are pioneers of the Romper Revolution, encouraging every woman everywhere to say goodbye to waistbands, and hello to loving themselves! We exist to disrupt a typically elitist fashion industry that tends to make us feel badly about ourselves, and instead make ourselves feel good about ourselves … what a concept!!! We make clothes to fit you, and not the other way around 😉
Did entrepreneurship/career come before or after motherhood for you? How did that process go, and what lessons have you learned that you can relate to other career moms?
Motherhood came right smack in the middle of entrepreneurship. When I had Frankie, S+T was in it’s second year and I was still at my corporate job. About eight months after Frankie was born, I came to the realization that I could no longer juggle a career, my business and my baby. So one of those had to go … and that’s when I finally took the leap head-first into being an entrepreneur. As someone who LOVES stability in my career, this was a very tough call to make! Now I have two strong baby girls and it’s not always easy, that’s for sure. But I have a lot of support from my family AND I get to work from home, so I check in with them all day.
Does work-mom balance really exist? What does that—or, perhaps more realistically, the juggle—look like for you?
It’s really hard. Sometimes I don’t notice how far I’m off balance until my sleep is terrible, my anxiety is off the hook, and my patience level is non-existent. I’m trying to get better at carving out some more time for myself and my fam. Lately I’ve tried to keep work on weekdays only. Sometimes I intentionally lose my phone on Sundays for a few hours. It helps.
How do you, through your business/work and platform, impact and support other moms—and parents?
We raise money and give back a lot because having a community focus is important to us. In the past we’ve donated to Alliance of Moms, Mamas for Mamas and BC Women’s. But more than that, we exist to simplify the lives of women and mamas everywhere! We offer a community where women uplift one another, root for one another, and celebrate one another.
Did motherhood come easy to you, or were there challenges (if so, any in particular you’d like to share)?
The intense love I feel for my babies helps me get through any challenges. The lack of sleep is hard on me … I admit that my husband is far better at weathering that storm.
Your experience with your newborn (at the time) in NICU strikes a chord with so many new moms; what helped you make it through, and how are you paying it forward?
The love of our #smashtess community helped me immensely. I had very few friends or family members who experienced the NICU, so having a big community of mamas who generously shared their stories and hearts with me was so impactful. In return, we donated 80-plus rompers and care packages to NICU mamas this past fall- filled with items that helped me get through the month I spent in the NICU.
The hardest thing about being a mom? The best thing?
Hardest thing? The worry—I worry about everything—every cough, every cry … even just imagining raising two teenage girls and wanting to keep them in a bubble. I was a high-school teacher and I know all the trouble kids can get into! The best thing? The LOVE of course! My life is so filled with love now.
What would the Mother’s Day of your fantasies be? And what, in reality, does Mother’s Day usually look like at your house?
Just hanging with my family … but SLEEPING IN. Even if that means I wake up early anyway but I get to lay in bed without being disturbed until 8:30 a.m. That’s pretty much what it looks like as well!
Can you recommend your top Mother’s Day gift pick for this year?
Why, A ROMPER of course! Any and every mom will thank you!