In our How She Does It column, we speak to inspirational mothers about work-life balance, their favourite travel destinations, travelling with children, and how they really do it all.
This month, we sit down with US-based Jessica Rolph, mother of three, and co-founder of child development brand Lovevery, and talk about how she switches between her roles as wife, mother and CEO and the importance of revisiting the travels of her own childhood with her kids.
Tell us more about you?
I’m Jessica Rolph, co-founder of Lovevery, a company focused on healthy brain development for ages 0-five. I’m really passionate about children’s nutrition and learning, and spent the last 17 years of my career in early childhood. The first company I co-founded is called Happy Family, a leading brand of organic baby and toddler food. My co-founder and I sold Happy Family to Group Danone in 2012. After learning so much about the importance of nutrition for young children, I found myself wondering, “are we doing enough to nourish our children’s brains?” and this led me to found Lovevery. My husband and I live in Boise, Idaho, with our three children: Leland, 13, Thacher, 10, and Bea, eight.
What’s your working life like?
I am so energised by what I do at Lovevery; my best days are when I feel closest to our customer. The times when I feel most energised are when I’m working on something that directly touches children and their families. I spend a lot of time doing things that some people may not think are ‘CEO-like.’ I might edit a developmental post word-for-word, or review a detailed research report from a play study about toddlers playing with a prototype of a routine board.
What inspires you in your career?
It was actually my children who gave me the idea for Lovevery. When my oldest was a baby, I remember watching him play with one of those plastic toys with flashing lights. He pushed one button, a purple cow popped out, music started playing, and the whole thing lit up. I found myself wondering, “what is this toy supposed to do for his development?” I discovered a doctoral thesis by Dr William Stasso on infant brain development (nerdy, I know). It had all these ideas for activities I could do with my baby. Stasso talked about developmental windows that were opening in my child’s brain, and how I could help at each stage. Once I started tuning into what my baby was really interested in, I had so many ideas for books and learning tools – playthings that would really engage him instead of the toys with flashing lights. One example of a product idea came from when I watched my son deeply engaged with pulling out tissues from a tissue box. He was fascinated – the tissues kept coming out of the box! I imagined creating a toy made of connected fabric tissues that would pull out of a wooden box. Once I teamed up with my co-founder, Rod Morris, we started turning all of these ideas into prototypes and developing the vision for what is now Lovevery.
These three items help you juggle everything.
My beloved assistant Eva, and our nanny, Christina, have been with me for so many years, make juggling look effortless, and helping me move from frantic to thriving. I know they’re not items, but I couldn’t manage everything in my life without them. Items that I love include Superhuman email, my Franklin Planner, and my affirmations wall. Superhuman helps me manage my chaotic inbox. My Franklin Planner helps me see projects that I’m managing one, three, and six-plus months ahead. I look at my affirmations wall everyday. It sits in a corner of my bedroom and includes my intentions, my dreams, and encouraging notes from my family.
If you could give your past self one piece of advice about being a working mother what would it be?
Feel confident in knowing that you are creating meaningful memories with your children in your time together. They recognise when you are present with them and feel your special bond.
Have your career goals and aspirations altered since becoming a working mum from that prior to your children?
One of my biggest struggles is balancing my passion for work with my love for my family—and being mindful of all the important roles I have in life as a wife, daughter, mother, CEO, and friend. There are times when I can’t shut off a work problem that I’m still processing at home. Now, as a mother, I worry in those moments that I’m not being present enough. But then I think the question is, “what standard am I holding myself to?” I think so many of us parents, whether we are working outside or inside the home, expect ourselves to be calm and present 100% of the time. It just isn’t realistic. I think about it more in the context of personal energy. When am I feeling energised by my life? When am I feeling drained or resentful?
If you had the power to change one thing for working mothers, what would you change?
I would eliminate the guilt we often feel, and the pressure we put on ourselves. I still experience self doubt and spend some late nights ruminating over micro-failures and missteps—especially as a working mother. I have to remind myself: don’t be afraid to fail and don’t worry about chasing this idea of perfection. Because it’s not attainable.
If you have a day to yourself, what do you do?
It’s actually a bit daunting to imagine a whole day to plan solely around myself without my kids or work as part of the equation! I think I would start off with dedicated time to exercise (a hike or hot yoga with my husband), and to make myself a big salad with homemade dressing for lunch. Ideally, my mom would be in town and I could meet her for tea. Then I would take a nap before a night out with my husband.
Heading ‘out out’ – where is your favourite spot?
Dinner at Percy in downtown Boise is our ‘out out’ treat. The shaved Brussel sprout salad is my favourite.
Tell us about the best holiday you’ve taken with your children?
Every summer we travel back to Minnesota where I grew up to spend a week with my parents at our small family cabin. The kids love spending time outdoors, swimming in the lake and being together all week with their grandparents. For me, there is something so special about it, like travelling back in time. Each time I’m able to recapture new memories from when I was growing up. Watching my children enjoy some of the same experiences I had as a child is so special.
Favourite hotel ever – with and without children?
Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, California (without children!) is a favourite retreat. The ocean and forest views are stunning. For a splurge with the kids, we love the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, California. You can spend the day relaxing at the beach, or visit the famous San Diego Zoo or Legoland.
Top tips for Idaho with children?
My family lives in Boise, Idaho which has so many fun things for kids that revolve around being outdoors: taking a bike ride on the Boise River Greenbelt Trail, catching sunset while hiking Table Rock, or paddle boarding on Quinn’s Pond are great activities in the spring and summer months.
Travel essentials with kids?
We try not to use too many screens with our kids, so we bring a lot of books and play activities like colouring, card games, origami, and stickers for entertainment. My kids also enjoy audio books so the Yoto Mini is a great travel companion. And lots (and lots) of snacks.
Travel essentials without kids?
A good book to read through without interruption, an eye mask, and some dark chocolate.
How do you think travel benefits your children?
We travelled with our children starting at very young ages, mostly to see out-of-town grandparents or to take the kids camping. When it’s just the five of us, sitting next to each other in the car or on the plane, we enter that cosy ‘family bubble’ feeling. Even though travel days are long, we are closer at the end of them. Travel has also helped our kids develop a sense of independence. All three children have taken solo flights (direct) to see their grandparents. It’s so emotional watching your child walk down the gate, out of view, and seeing the plane take off, but they all love flying alone. I think it might be the unlimited cookies and screentime!
The best advice you would give to other mothers?
The saying, ‘the days are long but the years are short’ has been a mantra of mine for a while. This feels very true for both my life as a parent and as a CEO. I’m always trying to find a way to be more present and enjoy the journey.
How do you do it?
When it comes to balance, I try to think about what I can let go of. That means, for example, letting go of an orderly, clutter-free house. I try to free myself from as many obligations as I can so I can focus on what really matters to me. I read somewhere that exceptionally successful people are good at saying no. That resonates with me.
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