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Musician Amanda Sudano Ramirez on embracing adventure and chaos

Amanda Sudano Ramirez, one half of the musical duo, JohnnySwim, and star of an upcoming reality show on Joanna and Chip Gaines' Magnolia Network, talks about what she's learned about embracing chaos from life on the road touring with kids, how she and her husband juggle being both musical partners and parents, and why "home" will always be her family.

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Liz Tenety: Before this episode begins. I want to thank our sponsor, Nuk.

Nuk has designed and developed the highest quality products that are innovative and scientifically proven to support your baby's safe and healthy development. They offer a wide range of baby products for all stages, and I'm especially a fan of their natural bottles, which really come close in flow and fit to breastfeeding.

And now Nuk is also launching the 3AM Club. A place created by parents, for parents. We all know that navigating our new world with a baby can feel massively overwhelming. And Nuk wanted to create a hub where parents could find peace of mind. I relate to that too, because that's a big reason why I started Motherly.

The 3AM Club will be a resource and a way to connect with tips and people that it can help. The Nuk 3AM Club launches in a few weeks. To stay current on the latest and sign up for Nuk emails, you can visit nuk-usa.com.

Liz Tenety: We have an article that Motherly titled "Why Moms of Three Are So Stressed, but Moms of Four Plus Are So Chill." And it's based on the survey that showed that mothers who have larger families tended to actually be less stressed than moms who have three kids.

I know it's not true for everyone. It's definitely true for me that the more children I had and the more out of control my life became, the more I had to learn to like relax and embrace the chaos.

I'm more relaxed now than I really ever have been. What has helped me as my family has grown--as we added a puppy and chickens and two full time jobs to this--is learning how to treat it like a dance. Everyone's moving at all times and just learning to embrace the wildness of it and know that there's so many things that I can't control and embracing that adventure and uncertainty and surprise and chaos, in its own way, has been really liberating and brought a lot of the joy back to motherhood for me.

Liz Tenety: Hey mama. Welcome to The Motherly Podcast, honest conversations about modern motherhood. I am Liz Tenety the Co-founder of Motherly and mama of four myself. Today's interview is with Amanda Sudana Ramirez, one half of the musical duo Jonny swim and the star of an upcoming reality TV show on Chip and Joanna Gaines' Magnolia network.

So, listeners note, we spoke to Amanda right before COVID appended all of our lives and listening to our conversation again, I was struck by how Amanda's philosophy of embracing the adventure and chaos of life on tour with her husband, who's her musical partner and father to her three kids, helps them while they're living on the road.

Amanda's philosophy and approach to motherhood, I think has a lot to teach us, especially in this moment of uncertainty.

Liz Tenety: Amanda Sudano Ramirez. Thank you so much for joining us on the motherly podcast.

Amanda Sudano Ramirez: It is my pleasure.

Liz Tenety: What did you think motherhood was going to be like before you became a mom yourself?

Amanda Sudano Ramirez: That's a great question. I nannied a bunch of kids, you know, when I was growing up. So, I kind of had this picture of like, it's going to be just like, it was nanny, except for it's going to be easier because they're going to be mine. So, the stuff that's annoying or, you know, wiping the butts and stuff that you're like, I'd rather not do this to the kids that I nannied, it's all going to be so much easier. I didn't really realize that when you nanny you get breaks and you can sleep in. And there's this whole other thing going on.

So, it definitely was a, a shock. When I first became a mother, I knew that it was 24 hours a day every day, but I don't think I really realized that it was as intense as it was.

Liz Tenety: Your parents were both musicians -- your mother, Donna Summers. Did you always feel like music was your path in life?

Amanda Sudano Ramirez: Yeah, pretty much from as long as I can remember, we were writing songs and part of that was just obviously how I grew up.

We grew up with songwriters as parents. So, when we were bored, they'd be like, go write a song about the rain or, you know, whatever. Some of my earliest memories are writing songs, and somewhere in my dad's basement, there's still tapes of four-year-old, Amanda. singing a song she wrote about how her teacher gave her a star on her homework. True story. Yeah, it was definitely, always like in my head we joke because from early age I had a friend that was in like musicals and stuff and probably like five or six. And I was like, how do you do that? She's in commercials. She's in shows like musicals and she sings and I wanted to do it too, and I asked her and she said, well, I have an agent who does it.

So, every year for Christmas and my birthday, I had asked for an agent and I really didn't know what an agent was, but I would ask my parents and every time they were like, we're not getting you an agent. Like, you're okay. You can get one when you are older -- an adult. And I was like, no, no, no, this is what I want to do. And to do it, I need an agent!

So, whatever you have to do, that's what I want for Christmas. So, it took me a while, but I finally have one now as an adult, though I didn't get it for Christmas. But yeah, so it was always, it was always what I wanted to do.

Liz Tenety: You also met your husband through your work. You have a very unusual and also poetic love story. Can you tell us about how you met and became a couple while also working together?

Amanda Sudano Ramirez: We both went to college in Nashville. I saw him across a crowded room and yeah, my first thought was, "Oh, he looks like he could kind of be my brother." Because I saw him from far away and I was like, we're kind of the same skin color.

And I didn't know a lot of people that were my same skin color around. And so, that actually drew my eye first. And then he turned around and started walk out and I was like, oh, he's super cute. And he was with like all the popular girls and I was like, oh, he's with all the popular girls. He's like one of the popular guys.

And I'm kind of like, the nerdy, introspective girl in the corner. And so, I avoided him at all costs. I would see him out with people that I knew, and I would say "hi" to everyone and kind of just nod at him and like walk away and really kind of scurry, you know, scurry away. Like, please don't talk to me!

He valet parked cars at a mall in town and I would drive up to the valet, and if he was working, I would drive past him in the back of the mall and walk all the way around, through a back entrance, because I was like, I don't want to have to say "hi," because I'm going to be nervous.

And if he says, "Oh, I know you from such and such," and I'm going to have to talk to him. And if I say something dumb or, you know, or if I don't talk to him, then he's going to be like, "Oh yeah, I saw that girl. She didn't even say 'hi' to me." Like I was so in my head about him. So, for four years we didn't meet, I moved to New York.

I was doing my own thing. And then I came back to Nashville four years later and I was at a coffee shop. [And I walk in, and he's standing right there with another really close friend of mine and my friend says, "Oh, you guys know each other, right?" And I, at that point had kind of a serious boyfriend, so I was like, "okay man, play it cool."

You know, you have a boyfriend, you don't have to be nervous. Maybe you can even hook him up with one of your friends. So, he actually came over to my table, sat down with my friend and I – and he was like, "You know, I've heard about you for years. Like I know we've been around each other. We've just never met. So, is it okay if I just hang out with you guys for a little bit?"

And I just thought he was so charming and so sweet. And I was like, he is not like Mr. Douchey, popularity guy that I thought he was. And so I literally immediately started texting. single friends of mine was like, "Okay, there's this guy he's so cute. You should meet him!"

Liz Tenety: You were trying to set him up?

Amanda Sudano Ramirez: I was trying to set him up because I had a boyfriend. So, I was like, this guy, somebody needs to, like, one of my friends needs to like lock this down. So, I like kind of checked in with him for my friends – and this ages me very much, but back then, the only social media was MySpace. That was, like, the big one. So, we started chatting on MySpace.

Long story, but he invites me to a show. He was like, "if you're back in Nashville, I'm playing this show."

Okay, cool. I didn't know he was musical. And I was like, to myself, see, on top of that, he's also a musician! But I really hope it's not horrible. Because that could be weird. You know, if I go and I hate it, then that's it, you know? So, I go to this show, I ended up breaking up with a boy, the other guy.

I'm in Nashville. I go to his show and I'm like blown away. And I was with my friend, and was like, do I want to marry him? Do I want to be him? Like, I don't know, what are these feelings that I'm having? So, I found him after the show and I was like, "Write songs with me. Would you write songs to me? That was awesome. What are you doing with this? Like, are you trying to get a record deal? Like, what are you, what do you want to do?"

And he was like, "I dunno. I like writing songs. I was in a bad record deal when I was a teenager. So, right now it's just like, my passion. I love it. But you know, I'm not, I'm not really trying to be proactive about it."

And I was like, "That is so dumb. Like that is super dumb. Would you please come over and write songs?" And I think he just heard me say, would you please just come over and hang out and maybe have some champagne or something. S,o anyway, we started writing songs together and he was so fun and a month later, we started making out too. And there you have it.

Liz Tenety: So, your musical career took off together. So, where along this journey, did you decide to get married and have kids? And how did your careers factor into all of that?

Amanda Sudano Ramirez: I realized pretty early on that we liked doing it together. We liked writing songs. We like singing together.

We liked the adventure of it. Neither one of us, I think because of the family that I grew up with, there wasn't this idea of like, I'm going to get a record deal and then become a superstar overnight, which I think a lot of people had. I didn't have that in my head. Like I knew how hard my mom worked before she had her first hit single.

I knew the pitfalls. I knew that the potholes along the way, that could cause you to really mess things up long-term. If you move too fast, like in this career, like if you let other people tell you what you should sound like, if you sign a deal with the wrong person, it's the wrong deal, because you're just eager and you want to do something.

You know, my parents really raised me to like, take your time. There's no rush, you know, write songs that you want to write, figure out what your voice is.

Liz Tenety: It's almost like because of the family grew up in, you knew how hard it would be, right. Not just the glamour of it, but just the sacrifice.

Amanda Sudano Ramirez: And the beautiful thing is, is that. I feel like the way that my parents taught me that was not in kind of like a, this is hard work you need to do, it was like, this is wonderful. This is what you love to do. Then love doing it at every stage. Every step of the way is going to be beautiful at some point. And it's true. My mom actually drove us to this show once and we're actually in New York and the show is in Connecticut and we were like, mom, you don't have to come to the show. There's going to be seven people there. I don't even know why they asked us to play this. You know, we probably have four people coming to see us and she was like, are you kidding me?

These are the good old days. Like these are the good old days. This is exactly the show I want to see first. I mean, she'd been to a bunch of shows, but she was like, this is the kind of show that you're going to remember and I'm going to remember. And so, they kind of taught me to just appreciate it every step of the way.

Like, if you're loving what you're doing, then you are lucky and who cares. If you have to work as a barista on the side, do what you love, whatever the cost and make wise decisions along the way.

Liz Tenety: So, along the way, how did having children factor in and how did you, how did you make the decision to jump in?

Amanda Sudano Ramirez: Well, we got married. Three years in and we're writing songs together and we were just having a blast. We were just on the adventure. We weren't paying our bills with music. At that point, we were playing every show possible. Anytime somebody would ask us to play anything and do anything, the answer was, "yes." We spent a lot of time in his Volkswagen Golf, tracking the country with Cheez-Its and sleeping on people's floors and stuff.

And, so that wasn't a life for a child, you know, but then at some point, I guess it was about five or six years in the marriage. We were kind of like, okay, so let's talk about it. Like at this point, we're still touring, but we're touring a lot more. We're touring better. We compare bills with music, you know, and at this point also I was in my thirties.

So, I was like, we should probably start thinking about it. And so, the minute that we said, hey, let's think about it, I got pregnant.

Liz Tenety: Yeah. It's like that.

Amanda Sudano Ramirez: It was amazing. Before that I would be like, you know, if they could figure out a way to safely keep a baby – maybe they could sleep in an overhead band or like under the seat in front of you – or like you could make a bassinet or something, then maybe we can tour and have kids.

But in my head, I was like, I don't know if we could really do that. So, I think I put it off for a really long time because it really made no sense. And honestly, three kids still doesn't make sense, but we set out to do it and have an adventure.

Liz Tenety: Yeah. You've said this word a few times already. Adventure. Is embracing life as an adventure, kind of your like core philosophy here?

Amanda Sudano Ramirez: It really is, you know, we say every time we've got all the kids and one's having a meltdown because they don't have the snack they want, and then, the flight attendant says, "sorry, the planes grounded." We're like, "you know what, it's always an adventure." At some point we're going to look back on this and laugh or cry, but we'll remember it, you know. You only get one life. So, like you've got to make it fun and make it worthwhile and soak it up.

Liz Tenety: So, tell us what this actually looks like in practice. You now have three children. What does touring as a family look like on a day to day basis?

Amanda Sudano Ramirez: Okay. So, I don't really know yet with three, because she's only been on six flights at this point. She's eight weeks old.

But in the past, historically, you set up home on a tour bus. You have a pack and play in the back. You set up a little crib in the back. Now, with our older one, he gets a bunk with a little toddler rail. He's about to be five. He would correct me and say "I'm not five yet." Almost five. So, he's been on a bunk since he was, I guess, like two and a half or something.

So, we keep the kids on West Coast time. So, we wake up kind of generally around the same time together. And our beautiful, wonderful nanny will usually wake up the younger ones. And give them breakfast and stuff so that I can sleep in. Because a lot of times the shows go so late. Obviously, when I'm on the East coast. It's easier because the kids will kind of stay up since they're on West coast time so they can stay up with us. And then we can all kind of wake up and figure out breakfast together. But on the West coast, those ones are rough. So, usually if we're in a new city, we always find something fun, like a children's museum or whatever.

And then if they want to hang out for soundcheck, they hang out for soundcheck and they take naps. I mean, it's funny because it's chaotic. It is chaotic. It is adventurous, but there's a rhythm to it. It's not that every day is different. Every day is kind of the same. And it's more or less similar to how it is at home. Except for, instead of going to school, he'll go to a museum or he'll go see something local that's awesome. Or some friends there or something.

Liz Tenety: How do you talk to your kids about the adventure and like, how do you frame it to your children?

Amanda Sudano Ramirez: Uh, you know, I think at this point they definitely love the word adventure.

Our son is, he loves it. We'll say, "Hey today, we're just going to get in the car. We're going to have an adventure." And he's like "I'm down, I'm down." I don't know where we're going to end up. We might go to the beach, a museum, whatever. So, it's definitely made him flexible. I think that's the biggest thing is gratitude and flexibility that we try to ingrain in him first, by carrying it in ourselves, if that makes sense. Like if we can carry gratitude, even when things are not looking like they should, or when we're tired or when we want to be grouchy, let's remain grateful and let's remain flexible. And then you have fun.

Liz Tenety: Traveling with kids for our audience… I know that just travel is such a source of stress and worry.

And you do it like hundreds of times a year with your kids. So, I know you actually have your own blog called "Touring Toddlers," where you talk a lot about life on the road. So, can you share some of your top tips for having a less stressful travel experience with kids?

Amanda Sudano Ramirez: Absolutely. Yes. So that's a big thing for the Amy, which our nanny/life manager who goes everywhere with us -- is that babies are portable.

You can take them places and it's fun to do so. And that you should. There is adventure waiting for you. And so, we really want to empower people to have some fun with their families and make some memories that way. But I think the overarching ones, I think we've already said, are gratitude and flexibility.

Things are going to go wrong. You can plan on it. Your kid is going to puke at the wrong time, you know, poop their pants at the wrong time, cry at a time that's not great for you. And honestly, they're doing exactly what they're supposed to be doing. And then you're flexible with it.

So, I think if you can do that and stay calm and know that things are going to be up in the air and you can just -- you can move, you know, like nothing is permanent. Like you might miss a flight. There's other flights. There's other things you can do. So, if you can be not as stressed about it, then your kids will also not carry that as well.

Because it stresses kids out when they see their parents stressed out.

Liz Tenety Definitely.

Amanda Sudano Ramirez So that's obviously the overarching one. My practical ones for me on the West coast, keeping the kids on West coast time is a huge one for us.

Liz Tenety So, no matter where you are in the country, you keep them on your home time zone?

Amanda Sudano Ramirez:. We just keep them as much as we can and they start to sort of drift back. But you can have more fun because you can take them out places and you're not like, "oh, we've got to get home for bedtime." Like you will have people look at you funny. They'll be like, do you have a baby in a restaurant? And like loud bar at 8:30. And you're like, you know, it is much earlier back at home. So, you will get some looks, but, uh, your kids will be so good and well behaved because they'll be eating their dinner at normal time that people will be impressed too sometimes.

So, another really random practical tip for us because sometimes it's not dark in rooms and really bright for a lot of their sleep time. We usually travel with either paper blackout blinds that you get from home Depot for like 10 bucks and they stick.

Liz Tenety: Oh yeah, I've seen those!

Amanda Sudano Ramirez: Yes. So, they're really thin and we get them online. We get them like a bulk pack. We'll just throw it into the suitcase so that we just have it in there. And if it's too bright and there's a window that doesn't have a shade or, or something, then we just stick that up.

Liz Tenety: So you have obviously quite a partner because your husband is not only your husband and the father of your children, but your coworker, you know, your co-star. What is that like for your relationship? Can you help us understand how that works?

Amanda Sudano Ramirez: So many people ask about it and I think it's, uh… Obviously we like each other, you know, we got married, we don't really know any other way. Like we started dating while we were starting to write songs and traveling together. So, we are very codependent.

Like, we'll need some alone time. I'm going to go see a movie by myself and you go read a book somewhere and like 10 minutes later, we're like, "so what are you doing?"

Like, but we genuinely like, just enjoy being around each other. So, I think that obviously helps a whole lot, but yeah, we've never known any other way.

It gets hard with the kids, you know, it's not like he can go do something and I can stay home with the younger ones, both gone. So, it definitely makes it tricky sometimes.

Liz Tenety: I read that you described, like being with your husband as having your home, even despite the fact that you guys spend so much time on the road.

Amanda Sudano Ramirez: Yeah. And that's the beautiful thing too with taking our kids is that, you know, wherever we all are, we're happy campers, you know?

Liz Tenety: Okay. So this is going to be a little bit out there, but. I heard this quote on a podcast and it, it came into my mind when I was learning more about your life on the road and the spirit and mindset that you seem to take to this adventure that you have with your family.

Okay. So, the podcast episode, it was Krista Tippett's podcast "On Being." She was talking to a Rumi expert about the whirling dervishes. And the premise is that there are these mystical dancers who twirl in circles to music, getting to this point of like ecstasy and this Rumi expert who was on was describing what they are doing when they're whirling, as learning how to stay centered while moving.

Amanda Sudano Ramirez: That perfectly described us.

Liz Tenety: It came to my thinking about your life and it really stuck with me. How do you feel like you are able to stay centered, amidst so much swirling around you?

Amanda Sudano Ramirez: That is, that is beautiful. Well, for one thing, I do think it's something that I learned from my parents because there was always a lot going on.

They really taught us to kind of stay connected to each other. And I feel like that's such a big part is there's always a lot happening, but if we can kind of stay connected with one another. If Abner and I can kind of look at each other and be on the same page as the kids. Do you know that there's some times where you're obviously staring at your kid your kid a billion times a day and you're helping them and you're doing whatever, but like when you just actually sit and like, make eye contact with them for like a solid couple of seconds and make sure that, you know, you say whatever to them and they're making eye contact with you and you both feel like you relaxed.

So, we do that. We don't do it as explicitly all the time, but we just make sure that we're connected with one another and we can all kind of like lock arms and be connected. And then I think it's the same sort of the idea of flexibility of being okay with things changing, being okay with things, not going the way you expect all the time, it kind of allows you to do the dance. If you're too rigid, then that's when I feel like things get hairy. But if you can be flexible and I feel like things will be all right, and then you can swirl.

Liz Tenety: Not all of us can live life on the road, but I think a lot of us, especially in the grind of motherhood, want more adventure. Do you have any advice on how to say "yes" to new adventures in the midst of such a busy season of motherhood?

Amanda Sudano Ramirez: Yeah. I think the opportunity for it, you know, presents itself probably more than we let it when we're kind of, you know, just trying to get our "to do" lists done and making sure everybody's fed and everybody's butts are wiped. You know, it's easy to kind of just get into that mundane rhythm and then feel like, wait, am I trapped here?

And so, I think the biggest thing is do what is in front of you to do. If you have snow outside, then, you know, go have a snow adventure. If you live by the beach, then wake up one day and go, hey, you know what? Let's go to the beach today. And I think most of the time we have kids, you're like, you know, you have naps to figure out and you have, you'd want to keep everybody somewhat on a schedule, but kids are flexible too, you know?

And so, you can kind of go. Worst comes to worst and they melt down or it's horrible and we'll just come home. Nobody's keeping you there. You know, we can go to this exhibit and take them to a museum. And if they don't like it, and if it's horrible, we can go home, we'll stop and get ice cream that makes everybody happy and we'll come home.

You don't have to lock yourself in, but there's stuff in front of you to do. Just do it. Just. You know, if it pops in your head, go.

Liz Tenety: You actually have a new adventure coming up. A reality show called "Home on the Road," produced by your friends Chip and Joanna Gaines and their new Magnolia network. I love everything that I just said. I'm so excited. Can you tell us more about this and how it came about?

Amanda Sudano Ramirez: A lot of actually what we talked about is going to be on there. There's a lot of tour bus. It's really like a really good overview of life on the road with kids. Because each show that we did, while we were filming, was really different.

There's one like a big, full band show with lights and thousands of people. Then there is a really small show, you know, like I said. It is out in the Hamptons and there's a hundred people in there and it's just my husband and I. And we play festival in the middle of that – there's a little bit of all of that.

And then, you know, on top of it, you're seeing a four-year-old trying to get energy out on a tiny tour bus, the size of a tiny apartment, you know, and there's 15 people living on it and you're trying to contain him to one area.

Liz Tenety: What do you hope people get out of watching the show?

Amanda Sudano Ramirez: That's a great question.

I hope that there are people that maybe feel claustrophobic that maybe feel like they have dreams and they have hopes and they don't know that it can coincide with their families. And I hope that what people get out of it is that it can -- and that doesn't mean that it's easy and it doesn't mean that it's all seamless.

You know, it's a lot of trial and error, but I do feel like God gives us dreams to guide us and to lead us. And I hope people follow dreams and I hope people follow dreams with the people that they love by their sides.

Liz Tenety: Well, Amanda Sudano Ramirez, thank you so much for joining us on the Motherly podcast.

Amanda Sudano Ramirez: Thank you guys for having me. I hope I was coherent!

Liz Tenety: You are amazing. So great. I got goosebumps.

Liz Tenety: For our next segment, I want to thank our sponsor Nuk.

Nuk designed and developed the highest quality products that are innovative and scientifically proven to support your child safe and healthy development. They offer a wide range of baby products for all stages from adorable tableware to bottles and sippy cups.

In particular, I love how well designed their products are. For example, their sippy cups have ergonomic shapes and really promote easy transitions from bottle to cup. And they're guaranteed not to leak, which I absolutely love. Now, Nuk is also launching the 3AM Club, a place created by parents for parents.

Becoming a mom can feel overwhelming, so Nuk wanted to create a hub where parents could find peace of mind. The 3AM Club will be a great new resource in a way to connect new parents with tips and people that can really help. Next mission is providing peace of mind to parents. Something we can all really get behind for more information on Nuk and the 3AM Club visit Nuk-us.com.

Liz Tenety: So, Mary, we have a house where there are four [00:26:00] kids and a dog, right. What's it like in our house? Is it loud?

Mary: Sometimes it's loud.

Liz Tenety: Is it messy?

Mary: Yeah. When we play it is messy.

Liz Tenety: Is it chaos?

Mary: No, not chaos. Wait, mom, what does chaos mean?

Liz Tenety It means like there's stuff happening everywhere. It's very loud.

Mary: Oh, it is. Yeah, it is.

Liz Tenety: Is it fun?

Mary: It is fun!

Liz Tenety: It's fun too.

Liz Tenety:

Well, that's it for our show this week. Thank you so much, Amanda. And thank you for listening to our podcast. This season, we're going to take a short break before season five launches, but we are already recording some amazing episodes with incredible guests. I can't wait to share it with you, and if you have any guests suggestions, please send us an email. You can send that to podcasts@mother.ly with your ideas. We love to hear from you. And as always, we love it if you would spread the word about the Motherly podcast. So, if you can please leave us a review on Apple podcasts. It takes about 30 seconds and it really helps other mamas discover our show.

The Motherly podcast is produced by Jennifer Bassett with editing from Seaplane Armada. Our music is from the Blue Dot Sessions. I'm your host, Liz Tenety. Thank you so much for listening.

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Hosted by Liz Tenety

Liz is an award-winning journalist and editor, and the co-founder of Motherly. A former Washington Post editor, she thrives on all things digital community + social media strategy. She's passionate about helping to provide women with more support, (and way less judgment), on the journey through motherhood. This podcast is an extension of her commitment to hosting honest conversations about modern motherhood. Liz resides outside NYC with her husband, two sons, one daughter and one amazing au pair.

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