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'Motherhood changes everything': An interview with Passported founder Henley Vazquez

"My secret to integrating work and family is putting guilt to the side and just doing the best I can at each."

'Motherhood changes everything': An interview with Passported founder Henley Vazquez

Henley Vazquez is CEO and co-founder of Passported, a startup aiming to make travel easier for young families. (Yes, please!) We spoke with the entrepreneur and mom about how to get away when you've got little ones, and how to start a business when you've just started your family. We talked to her for our #MotherlyMakers series, featuring the women remaking our world.


Motherly: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

I’m a farm girl by birth, a city dweller by choice and a mom to two fantastic kids. I live in New York City and have spent over a decade working in travel and schlepping my (very patient) children around the world with me in an attempt to blend my family and my career. It’s working out so far!

Motherly: Was there a moment when you realized that you needed to start Passported? What clicked for you?

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I was planning a trip to London with my daughter and found myself completely flummoxed, despite the fact that I had access to the best recommendations and loads of industry insiders. There was too much information, and none of it was targeted to me or to the increasing number of families I saw traveling in the same way as we were. I wanted to create on place where families could explore ideas, plan a trip and even book a hotel. I wanted to simplify family travel planning.

Motherly: What's the best piece of business advice you've ever been given?

Work for the customers you have now, not the ones you think you’ll have in the future. Our investor told me this, and it’s something I’m constantly thinking about. What do the “right now” users of Passported want, right now? How can we serve them better? If we can solve the travel problems of the early adopters, they’ll spread the word and be our best marketing and strongest supporters. I’m so thankful to all the fantastic feedback and cheerleading we’ve had from them so far.



Motherly: How has motherhood transformed your career? What’s your secret to integrating work and family?

Motherhood changes everything. Often people focus on the negative—less flexibility on pulling late hours in the office, the inevitable juggling act—but I think having children has impacted my work life in positive ways. I’m far more efficient than I was before kids—when I’m at work, I focus, and my time management is so much better than pre-children. I’m also less of a baby. Having a nasty cold or not getting enough sleep is a non-issue; push through it, you’ll survive.

My secret to integrating work and family is putting guilt to the side and just doing the best I can at each. There’s no such thing as a perfect worker or a perfect mother. Don’t feel badly that sometimes one will need more attention than the other—it evens out if you keep plugging away at both. The more boring secret is putting in extra hours after the kids are in bed, pretty much every night.

Motherly: What keeps you inspired and excited every day?

New places, new faces. There’s nothing more exciting than landing somewhere I’ve never been and turning an unfamiliar destination into a well-scouted guide that other families can follow. It never gets old.

Motherly: What are your words of wisdom for other mothers wanting to turn their passion into a business?

Do it, but don’t be naïve. Starting a business is hard work, and your best bet is to have a solid business plan and a great co-founder. Turning your passion into a career is amazing, but remember that this is still a job, so it will require hard work and sacrifice. In the end, though, it’s all worth it!

Motherly: What are your big dreams for Passported?

I want Passported to be the destination that any family turns to when planning a trip. I hope our city guides will give parents the same confidence abroad that they have at home, knowing where to turn for a great meal or a fun activity or just a tantrum-stopping gelato break.


Motherly: Who is your #momcrush?

There are too many! I am lucky to be surrounded by mothers that hit a home run both professionally and personally, but the mom that truly blows me away is one that’s far from the public eye. She is a friend with three children, one of whom has survived cancer three times. She’s the strongest person I know and a true inspiration.

Motherly: What does “Motherly” mean to you?

Motherly means embracing motherhood with all its quirks, enjoying the up moments, surviving the down ones, understanding that the journey we all take as parents is one that’s better done as a community than as individuals.

Photo credit: Goncalo Barriga for Flytographer

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.


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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

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Life

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

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