Motherhood is so uniquely individual it's near impossible to find a one-size-fits-all approach, and yet in those moments of struggle that challenge us, raise your hand if you too wished for a magical one-sheet that gave us all the answers. Yup, thought so. Well, rather than dreaming for the impossible, we decided to launch our own version with Her Domaine—a safe space for moms to share their story from the mistakes they've made to their morning rituals, all in the comfort of their own home.
This month, we chat with Los Angeles–based model and mom to 12-year-old Ruby, Rachel Mortenson. The well-established model has worked with numerous big-name clients including GUESS and Yeezy Season 1. Modeling aside, she's also an interior design enthusiast. She was the creative behind the complete renovation of her 1963 California home, from start to finish, and even created a dedicated Instagram account to document the process.
Ahead, Mortenson shares her experience as a young mom (she had Ruby at 21) and how she carved a happy life for them both along with a successful career.
How did you manage the transition from working woman to working mom?
For me, it was never so much a transition, because I've basically been a mom my entire adult life. I had Ruby at 21, and I've always worked. It was more about finding a lifestyle balance for me, my schedule with modeling is never consistent, but when I'm home with her, I can be completely present. I don't work a job that I have to "bring home" with me. Once I'm off set, I can fully focus on Ruby.
Returning to the workforce after having a baby can be daunting for many women. What confidence-building advice do you have?
There is nothing more daunting than being responsible for another human being. If you can do that, you can do any damn thing in the world! So take care of yourself, take time to work out, dress in what makes you feel good. Remember you are capable and always remind yourself.
What are some of the biggest lessons your daughter has taught you about work and life?
It's funny because you are always giving your kids advice, and words of wisdom, but sometimes you stop and realize you aren't applying your advice to your own life. Just teaching her about how powerful her thoughts are has been a constant reminder to me that mine are as well. It's really taught me that wanting the best and happiest life for her starts with me wanting and creating the best for myself; she mirrors everything I do.
What is the best and the most surprising thing about being a mom?
Just seeing her happy and knowing my part in that. One of the most surprising things for me has just been the feeling of accomplishment. Just at the end of the day, when she's tucked in safe and sleeping. Having gotten through another day as a parent, work, the load of laundry, a home-cooked meal, it’s this feeling of accomplishment.
What are some things you do for yourself that you believe every working mom should?
I'm not always consistent in things. My schedule doesn't exactly allow for routine. Some days I have three castings or a shoot, other days I'm home all day and catching up on the million things of running a household. Basically, I do what I can when I have a chance. I take a nap sometimes instead of going to the gym.
Honestly as a parent, sometimes the laundry can wait, you need the nap or the Spin class more. Taking care of myself allows me to be a better mom. One thing I’ve always done (and that I think is key) is to always give her a set bedtime, on the dot. At 8 p.m. she's tucked in and the lights are off. Kids need sleep, and I need my moments at the end of the day before I'm wiped out as well.
I shower at 8 p.m., do my face routine, and am in bed with my book by 9 p.m. for a couple of hours of quiet and reading. I prefer fictional literature or sci-fi, something to step out of reality. I probably read four to six novels a month, reading has always been my favorite thing to do. At 8 p.m. my day is wrapped up. No more dishes, emails, laundry folding, mothering— it's strictly "Rachel" time.
Do you believe in balance?
It's just day by day. Trying to stay organized. I have a mortgage and a child to support, so usually when a job comes in I have to take it. It's hard to keep a balance. I just try to be present as much as possible when I am home.
How different is it now as a mother of a 12-year-old compared to when she was a baby/toddler?
So far it's not as different as I thought it would be. She turned 12 recently, but it still feels the same in so many ways. Still trying to make sure she's getting everything she needs emotionally, listening (like realllllyyy listening), making sure she plays enough, eating healthy enough, doesn't fall off the roof. It's just still trying to keep them alive, healthy, and happy.
There are so many books and information out there, but for me, it's always been about following my instincts. As hormones kick in I might be doing more googling, but up until now, I've trusted myself fairly well. When in doubt, I can always call my best friend or sister.
Running a successful business and being a mom is challenging. How do you keep yourself and your children healthy?
My daughter is like a baby sloth we say. No one hates physical activity more than that child, she's convinced her P.E. teacher is trying to kill her. So it's always about finding ways to get her active. Family walks, planting flowers in the yard—anything I can get her to move which sometimes involve bribing. She's never been into meat, and recently went vegetarian, so I'm always trying to make sure she gets enough protein. It's a constant battle, every day there's a news article about what's good or what's bad. One day tofu is in, now soy isn't good—it's stressful but I do my best.
I like to cook and so does she, so at least I know exactly what she's getting in her body. When we have a night out she loves going to Little Pine, which is vegan and really delicious. As far as me, I eat what she eats, for the most part, I do eat meat occasionally and eggs, I've used Isagenix shakes for years for my protein smoothies. Recently I started a using Rituals vitamins supplements, and I'm really loving them.
What are the morning and evening rituals you swear by?
One word: coffee. I can't even drive her to school without a cup first. Probably my favorite vice, and I have to have it with half and half and sugar. I refuse to give that up.
My boyfriend is usually up first. He makes me a cup and then he wakes Ruby. I make her breakfast and pack her lunch, while he helps her do her hair. I run her to school then come home for my second cup while I run through emails. On shoot days I'm usually out the door before she wakes. I have a quick shower and usually, I'll throw on some eye patches on my drive to set.
Evenings we eat dinner together. I cook, or if I worked that day, we usually go out. We live in Studio City and have some great options here; we do sushi quite often. After dinner, we walk the dog or watch some TV together then Ruby gets ready for bed. We listen to audiobooks in her bed every night for about 30 minutes, right now we are going through the Harry Potter books. I think that helps her relax and get ready for a good night’s rest, plus we have cuddle girl time.
What mistakes have you learned from and even benefited from in your career/life?
It's funny because I've always wanted to please everyone at work. Sometimes to my own downfall, because I didn't speak up for myself, I didn't know my worth. You always want people to "like" you, but I've realized not everyone is going to like me, but I have to fight for what I deserve.
On the other hand with family, I've always spoken up too much and been too hard on the people I love. Slowly as I get older, I've tried to rebalance those faults of mine. Fight harder for myself career-wise, and fight less and love more personal wise.
What advice do you have for working moms who have just had their first child and are feeling nervous about balancing both?
I'd say call your girlfriends with kids, and not any friends, I mean your real "give it to you straight friends" cause they will tell you straight. You won't always have balance, things won't be perfect, and that's going to be okay. It's a day-by-day thing and the chaos will happen, but you can handle it.
What are your greatest fears about motherhood and raising a child?
I'm always asking her "what's the chances this is going to screw you up later?" and she just laughs and says, "Mommmmm!" I'm just always thinking, Am I doing enough? Is she happy? Will she resent me one day? I think my biggest fear is what I'm doing now that could affect her as an adult. The idea of not being her hero one day is really terrifying.
Sleep is so important but many working moms don't get enough. What are your tips for getting more z's?
Sleep when you can. Put down the phone at bedtime. Take a nap when you can; the vacuuming can wait until tomorrow. I'm crazy about sleep, for her and I.
How do you keep your relationship fresh and the passion alive with a child?
I think the 8 p.m. bedtime rule for her helps tremendously. That's our time together or just for quiet. We try not to be on the phones in bed. Dates are so important, even if it's just to walk the dog alone. I'm not super glam on my days off, but if we go out, I fix up, and I always sleep in something pretty. Buy yourselves some nice nightgowns, ladies. It's basically reminding yourself that you are a sexual person and not just Mom; a woman has to do that for herself.
What’s one thing people might not know about you?
People usually get to know me fairly easily. I'm pretty upfront, I've always been very much myself. Sometimes it's probably not the best thing. I don't have a "just getting to know your side." I'm 100% Rachel out of the gate, and at all times, which I never found that odd until I moved to L.A. I don't think people expect that as much here.
What's the one thing you wish people knew about being a mom that no one told you?
Well, when people ask me what it's like when they are expecting, I tell them sometimes your kid is going to be a brat, and it won't always be your fault, but mostly it will be. However, you'll still love them more than you even knew you could possibly love anything.
Rachel's Top Fashion and Beauty Picks
"I love makeup. I don’t wear a ton of it, but I will always have a little foundation on usually just a drop mixed with a drop of face oil. I’m a big fan of Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua. It’s a really natural foundation, so it just gives me a simple coverage. Then I put on Nars Bronzing Powder in Laguna and a little bit of mascara Full N'Soft (drugstore for the win) and a little bit of RMS beauty lip shine in Sacred (it's my current go-to this summer) and brow gel."
"One of my least favorite things is to sit while getting my nails done, but I can’t stand having imperfect nails. I’d rather leave the house no makeup and wet hair before I’d have messy nails. I stick to a pretty natural nail. I use Essie Ballet Slipper. It's my go-to color, and I like my nails long and round. I take my daughter Ruby with me once in a while, and she opts for blues and greens with plenty of sparkles or a holiday theme. It's kind of extravagant, I suppose, to take a 12-year-old for pedi/manis, but it’s a necessary part of my job and a way to spend time, so two birds one stone."
"I had a very bad chemical situation a few years ago and have been in the process of going more natural and growing my hair long again. I started going to Erik Hagen at Loft 647 in Beverly Hills. He's absolutely changed my hair. He's very less is more and keeps things very natural and healthy. If you are ever in L.A., he's the man. I love the Moroccan Oil product line. My hair gets pretty brutalized at work and I feel like the brand's products really soothe it. On days off, I try to hold off shampooing as much as possible. Also switching to velvet scrunchies (stolen from Ruby) has really helped with breakage."
"Taking care of my skin starts from the inside. I'm 33 and I'm still casting with 20 year olds for jobs, so it’s no joke. I'm obsessed with anything hydrating. I have dry skin, and L.A. is very dry. I'm also on a plane a lot, so things can get pretty dang dry. I pick up a green juice of just celery, cucumber, and lemon most days. Drinking green veggies has really changed my complexion; it gives it a glow. Of course, water is key. I always bring a ton in the car with me, I do pretty much all my water drinking in traffic. I also fell in love with Ritual vitamins; they are minty fresh, all about what you put in. I also sleep with a humidifier by the bed with a few drops of eucalyptus oil in the water.
"Every night I wash my face with Tammy Fender's Cleansing Milk, which gets all the makeup from shoots off and is still incredibly gentle. I always tone, after washing in the evening, and in the morning I skip washing and go straight for the toner. I switch them up, but now I’m using Kiehl’s Cucumber Herbal Alcohol-Free Toner. I’m absolutely obsessed with Vinters Daughter Active Botanical Serum, makeup artist Misha Shahzada turned me on to it. It's so good I hide it from my boyfriend. For all things corrective, I’m big on the SkinCeuticals line. Also, I always wear an SPF—no point in that whole regime without protecting."
"This summer, instead of my typical sandals, I'm lusting for white ankle booties. Currently on my wish list is Stuart Weitzman clinger booties. Killer with a summer dress and a tan. Amber Farr is one of the coolest of moms, and her line Flynnskye makes the best summer dresses."
"I live in classic straight-leg jeans, soft T-shirts, and a cute pair of slides. I love Madewell. It's simple, affordable, and classic. Reformation is a go-to when I want to spend a little more for something with a vintage fit. It has perfect on-the-go and 'cool' mom staples."
"I have been a big fan of Le Specs for years. They make such a range of cool styles and are really nice quality for a price I don’t feel guilty about. For swimwear, I usually opt for a one piece in a fun print, or a minimal black or white tiny bikini. Ruby prefers when I go for the one piece, ha. I love Mara Hoffman, and Montce Swim always has the best fun prints.