If you’ve ever put on a pair of Lunya pajamas, you know the brand is far from basic sleepwear. From the modern silhouettes to the use of premium– and thank god, machine washable– silk fabrics, Lunya is pushing women to rethink what they wear to bed. In the world of Lunya’s CEO, Ashley Merrill, sleepwear isn’t an afterthought, it’s a statement that roughly translates to: “Hell yes, I value myself and hell yes, I demand sleepwear that makes me feel beautiful and comfortable.”
Ashley’s life embodies this ethos. The mother of 2 is a force, who has unapologetically pursued her passions, whether that be her earlier success in dressage (she was part of the junior Olympic team) to her support of women, as a board member of Girls Inc. and former managing director of Momtastic. Clearly, Ashley is not one to phone it in, which is why we were so keen to chat with her about how she navigates motherhood and why she thinks “having it all” is truly bullshit.
Q: What do you wish people told you about motherhood — and no, it can’t be how much you love your child.
People told me how hard it was but I didn’t listen. I thought I understood hard work and being tired before I had kids…. (insert maniacal laughter here). It’s a much different kind of “hard” than I had experienced before. Physically, it’s a marathon. When my children were babies I would be in a sleepless state all night, and then “wake up” for work. Now, they sleep through most nights but get up early and are high energy all day long. This means I am always going. “Me time” doesn’t exist, so it’s hard to find the time to recharge. It’s also emotionally challenging. Not knowing if I am a doing the right thing, having to constantly be “on,” wanting to be the best version of myself even when I have been going for weeks at a time with no break. But despite all of this, truth about it is, like most things in life, the challenge is what helps make it rewarding. From the moment I had my kids I was part of a club. I can look at other parents from across the room and share an unspoken respect and understanding. I now know what I’m capable of, and I have come to love myself more through that. Also, I’ve come to know love in a way I never could have imagined. My entire life is now given greater purpose because I’m shaping and loving and growing these small humans. And yes, it’s all worth it.
Q: What makes you feel like a good mom?
Doing the hard thing. I’m always tired and it would always be easier to give in to their tantrums or toss them an iPad. I’m proud of myself when I don’t because I know it’s the decisions I make in those moments that will shape them.
Q: How long after giving birth, did you start having sex again?
6 weeks on the dot. I craved feeling connected and sexual, as opposed to feeling like a milk refrigerator. Having a newborn can be a lonely experience, especially if you’re breastfeeding because there is no reprieve and no one else who can help you with it. I remembered wanting to feel a little piece of normalcy in my life and physical connection with my husband was a big part of that. That said, I remember feeling super freaked out the first time.
Q: Has becoming a mom impacted your career? If so, how?
Yes. It’s helped me feel more motivated to accomplish my personal goals. I realize if I want my kids to reach for theirs I need to walk the walk. It has also put some boundaries on my work schedule, which has helped me prioritize building a killer team at Lunya. Candidly, it also means I work odd hours to try to accommodate quality time with the littles every evening.
It’s also given me a different perspective on the conversations around women lacking from the C-suite. Raising kids is a full-time job. “Doing it all” is bullshit and if you plan to work in a demanding career, 40 hours a week just isn’t realistic. Even with help, I was under water with work, kids and home responsibilities at the beginning. Women are usually the primary caregiver, even when both parents work, and all this pressure for them to enter leadership positions needs to be balanced with realistic support from their partner. It made me realize that more equal parenting partnerships are at the cornerstone of creating opportunity and equality for women. I think I may have gone down the rabbit hole on this one but it’s a topic I’m really passionate about.
Q: If you had 30 extra minutes a day, what would you do with them?
Nothing. Literally. I want no one to talk to me, look at me, or ask me anything. If I had an extra hour I would probably take an art or ceramics class. Or maybe just do more of nothing. That sounds luxurious.
Q: What did you think you wanted in a partner before? And how has that changed?
I married my perfect partner. I was 24 and I didn’t even know who I was or what I wanted in life (not saying I’ve got it all figured out or anything) so I probably need to give him all the credit. The only thing I did know, and did clearly articulate, was that I was an ambitious person who wasn’t going to take a back seat. At 24 I wanted a true partner and someone who I could respect. At 33 I can tell you the ways I respect my husband. He is a loving, strong, principled, driven, confident, and evolving man. I admire what he has accomplished in business, how much he has grown as a dad, how resolute and supportive he is as a husband, and how he always tries to do the “right” thing. He is a big thinker and challenges me to push myself.
Q: Which superpower do you wish you had?
I want to fly. I’d go for breakfast in Paris and dinner in San Francisco. Also traffic is such a pain.
Q: What’s your biggest fear as a parent?
I have some typical fears: will my kids be happy, self-sufficient, strong, capable, make a positive impact on this planet, know true love, etc. I also have some macro concerns, considering what is going on in technology and politics. I’m worried about AI destabilizing humans, planet decimation, nations killing each other, hate and lack of understanding between so many people. I read this and realize I sound like a paranoid freak – lol.
Q: What were your runner-up baby names?
I’m not telling. I might have a second litter down the road and I don’t want anyone to steal them. I love weird, unusual names.
Q: What annoying/embarrassing thing did your parents do to you, that you will undoubtedly do to your child?
When I would panic about career or my future my dad would always tell me not to worry as long as I was going in a direction I was passionate about. He would say life was a series of experiences and tangents working together in ways you cant understand. That it would all add up to something you can’t predict. He was right. (I hate saying those words)
I under appreciated my mom’s wisdom until I got to be about 30. I’m finally listening and obsessed with drinking in wisdom from women who have been around longer than I. As a more seasoned woman, she has a perspective that you can only earn with years of life under your belt. She is my window into life from the other side of the career and young family chapter. I once asked her if she could go back to any age what age she would choose. She laughed at that question and said, “ well I would take my face from my twenties. But honestly, I wouldn’t trade any wrinkles for where I’m at now mentally. I remember caring so much about what other people thought in a way that was exhausting but now I can honestly say I don’t give a fuck.” Ok so I’m ready for that. Every decade I can taste a little more of that self-assuredness she is referencing and its intoxicating. Aging can be scary, particularly as a woman, but my mom has made me excited forit. (I say this while scheduling my botox appointment.)
Q: Draw what you look like on an average morning:
Remember those art classes I said I would take if I had extra time? I haven’t taken them yet so I’m not much of an artist. I actually have this cute picture of me and my son in our morning hours below. My son wakes up super early and is WIDE awake. We have some extra cuddle time in the morning before his sister wakes up where we have funny conversations about his day, observations of life or just asks me “why?” 600 times. It’s delicious.
Our series, TALK MORE features honest (sometimes too honest) conversations with our favorite people, who happen to be parents. These are dispatches from the trenches — the hilarious, the beautiful, the horrifying and everything in between. Know someone that should be featured on Talk More? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.