GoBe Kids is excited to share an inspiring interview with AJ Blanch! AJ is a certified master in the art of juggling; not only is she a rising author, but she is a mother and educator to four homeschooled kiddos. This modern-day superwoman published her first book in a 3-part series, Astrid Stone: Found in Embers, in December 2022 (with the second book coming out soon in Fall of 2023) and plans to continue writing until she has a library full of her own books.
We had the pleasure to sit down with AJ to discuss the joy of a multifaceted lifestyle that comes with wearing many hats! She shares incredible pieces of wisdom on what it means to practice self-care not only as a mom, but as a person living in an increasingly demanding world.
Here are AJ’s key takeaways on self-acceptance and motherhood:
- Embrace your unique journey to success! Everyone accomplishes things at their own pace, and sometimes our inner critic can feed into the myth of the “perfect” timeline.
- Words matter. Positive feedback can go a long way to establish self-confidence from a young age.
- Let go of unrealistic standards—even if someone seems like they’re doing it all, it’s completely normal for it to feel like something is slipping through the cracks. Your cupboards and floors might not always be clean…and that’s okay.
- Self-care isn’t just about recharging your batteries with a face mask and a smoothie; it’s about setting boundaries and learning to say “no” so you can have a consistent battery-level that doesn’t need recharging (even though a recharge every now and then may be needed). Don’t be afraid to protect your mental health!
For a more in-depth look at AJ Blanch’s story, read the full interview below!
A lot of writers look back at a specific moment in their lives that sparked their passion for writing. What inspired you to write your first book?
I discovered that I enjoyed writing when I was too young to even spell anything. I have memories of making a crude ‘book’ or two with paper and staples, drawing stick figures and writing nonsense words and letters. I would “read” to my mom, who always gushed with delight and praise of my finished product. It made me proud of myself that I could create something that my mom loved reading so much. (Clearly she was an incredibly nurturing mom, I’m so lucky to have grown up with her.) She was the first person who sparked the dream of writing in me.
I remember often thinking that being an author was like being an astronaut or the president of the United States… something so big that even if you wanted to do it, you would never really get there. Seven years ago we moved into a fixer upper and I would listen to audiobooks while I worked on the house. At one point, I was listening to Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and I remember exactly the wall I was painting when something she said in her book flipped a switch in my brain.
"A good-enough novel violently written now is better than a perfect novel meticulously written never."
Suddenly being an author didn’t seem like such an impossible dream and I decided to pursue it obsessively.
Now that you have your first published book out, what’s your favorite thing about being an author?
I love getting to live in the details of a story for a little while. When I was drowning in a life with 4 toddlers, audiobooks kept me sane! I hope that my stories will do that for other young moms. Like I’m reaching out through space and time, and holding her hand and telling her, “It’s going to be okay. I see you feeding your kids cereal for dinner—again. I get you. You’re a warrior. And while you’re washing peed on sheets, spilled milk, and working through that mountain of dirty dishes, I’ll take you on an adventure.”
Tell us more about Found in Embers.What are some of the challenges you faced while writing it?
My first published book, Found in Embers is a representation of so much personal growth and overcoming. I have struggled with massive amounts of anxiety for as long as I can remember. It took so much grit and push to get from start to finish and there were so many inner battles in between. The fact that this book exists makes me really proud—not because it’s the best book you’ll ever read, but because of the person I had to become to make it happen.
You’ve homeschooled your little ones for years! What have been the pros and cons of homeschooling?
Homeschooling is really so much fun because I totally like hanging out with my kids. They are funny and kind and then… sometimes push all my buttons at once! That’s when I call my mom or husband and vent about my woes. Talking through things helps me find perspective. We have good school days and bad school days, and the bad days are my biggest challenge—mostly any tears and arguments we have revolve around math. None of us like it! My favorite days are when everyone is pleasant and gets their work done and we do something that nurtures the soul… like all sitting in the sunshine on the trampoline and reading a good book aloud and discussing it. I would also like to add that our family absolutely loves GöBe! We own every product that they make and though my kids are a little older, they have a lot of fun packing snacks to go on an adventure, or lunches to go to their homeschool co-op or go on a field trip.
As a homeschool mom, I have battled the many “what if I’m not doing enough?” doubts, and “what if my kids aren’t performing at the top of their class?” (because as a homeschooler there’s all this pressure for them to be extra book smart so people won’t judge that I’ve done a bad job educating them or something lol). It’s easy to get caught up in the worry that my kids won’t be sensational successes as adults if they don’t do XYZ. But when I start feeling that panic and mom guilt set in, I remind myself that the truth is: I would rather my kids be totally average and live a totally average life but be really happy because they spread joy in their little corner of the world, because they live with integrity, because they are just really good people… than to have them be living this huge life of fame and fortune because they’re so well educated and working hard, yet leaving pain in their wake, or not living by their values.
What’s the “secret” to being able to juggle motherhood, a career, and homeschooling all at the same time?
I think that us moms just do what we have to do and we all look at each other like “how do you do it?” I wish I had a service that would mop my floors and baseboards for me, but they just mostly stay dirty. I wish I had a math tutor that could teach my kids with some kind of Mary Poppins magic, but we just struggle through it. I wish I was so organized and put together that we had beautiful seamless routines that meant that I never drop the ball and I always get all of my work done, but I just do what I can, and the rest falls through the cracks—and sometimes the balls are dropped so hard that they shatter and I have to pick up the pieces.
In the end, as long as I don’t drop the ball that is labeled: “make sure the kids know they’re loved” then I think I’m doing okay and the rest can ebb and flow.
I do have to give massive credit to an amazingly supportive husband who does a beautiful job sharing our load of responsibilities. He has always taken my writing career seriously—even when it was just a dream of mine, he’s always been my biggest backer.
Are there any tips or tricks on keeping a healthy mind and heart while parenting that you find yourself frequently using?
I’m a big fan of people like Tony Robbins and Joseph McClendon III because they have taught me a lot of good mindset tactics that work well for me like choosing where to focus, “Where focus goes, energy flows.” Or how the words we use to talk to ourselves influence our experiences (like saying, “I’m pretty bummed” instead of “I’m so pissed off!”). Or that shaking our tushy puts a smile on our face—seriously, try it! (An emergency dance party in the kitchen helps elevate everyone’s mood.) I try to put some kind of positive message into my head every morning when I get up (inspirational or motivational YouTube video or podcast clip) so that I am primed for the day to choose happiness. And let’s be real, I’m a total work in progress over here! I’m just grateful I have kids and a husband who remind me to lighten up and smile more often.
What does self-care mean to you and how do you make time for it?
Self-care to me is about being kind to my body (maybe that looks like choosing lemon water instead of juice or soda, maybe it looks like going to bed instead of trying to get one more thing done.) It's making my bed in the morning so that my room is calming when I come back tired at the end of the day (I never used to do that until I was stuck at home in 2020, and I haven’t missed a day since… now I wonder why I didn’t create the habit sooner because it makes me feel good). But mostly I’m discovering that self-care is having better boundaries (which has always been hard for me!). Saying “no” to many of the never-ending requests for my time and resources, letting myself off the hook if I need to take a break. Opting out of other people’s drama rather than taking it on and losing sleep over it. Self-care is me going to weekly counseling. You know, basically building care for myself into the everyday routine.
Lastly, what advice do you have for busy parents and/or first-time parents?
My advice to busy parents: First, make sure to take the time every single day to snuggle your babies (even if those babies are 16 years old), breathe them in, and hold them close. It’s medicine to the soul for both the parents and the kids. And second, family dinners, where everyone can slow down and chat around the table… are a treasure to be guarded and experienced as often as can be managed. And third, be kind to yourself. You’re doing way better than you think you are! I want my kids to be successful and soar in life. But my highest aspiration for them is that they will be kind and live with integrity and so live a life that truly fulfills them.
We had a great time speaking with AJ! If you have any questions or comments about AJ or her book, please email us at email@example.com or send us a message on instagram @gobekids.co! You can reach out to AJ on instagram @author.ajblanch, Tiktok @ajblanch, or Facebook @AuthorAJBlanch, and check out her website www.ajblanch.com to learn more about her and her latest novel!Purchase AJ's Book Here!
- Sofia, from the GoBe Team