On Blogging, Working, Motherhood, and Failing: Real Food Whole Life Turns Two - Real Food Whole Life

On Blogging, Working, Motherhood, and Failing: Real Food Whole Life Turns Two

March 4, 2016 (Updated on July 8, 2021)

You guys, Real Food Whole Life turns 2 today! Can you believe it? It’s kind of surprising, and then again not surprising at all, in the way most anniversaries are. It seems like I’ve been doing this forever and yet for no time at all.

In some ways the first year of RFWL hardly counts because, 1) I had no idea what I was doing; and 2) my fear of doing it “wrong” held me back from doing much at all.

Those of you who have been with me from the beginning, and I know who you are (thank you, thank you so much for your support and encouragement) will remember that I mostly just posted weekly meal plans that first year.

Those meal plans were made up of other blogger’s recipes, and after curating the recipes I gathered and and photographed each ingredient.

I really didn’t know how to use a camera and had to resort to using a bounce flash to get enough light. I also wasn’t editing the photos because I didn’t know how. Yikes.

In addition to the meal plans I posted just a handful of recipes the first year. I didn’t post more because I figured my recipes were too simple.

Really, I’m just a working mom who cooks simple meals for her family.

My qualifications in the kitchen basically include a self-education at the school of the Food Network, led by my favorite teachers: Rachel, Giada, Ina and Ree.

Why, then, I asked myself, would anyone care about my recipes? Plus there was the fact that I truly sucked at food photography.

I mean, really. Let’s just take a little look, shall we?

So, yes, the I’m-not-really-a-cook and the I-know-nothing-about-photography mentality led to very few recipe posts during the first year.

But still, I kept at it.

Because there is something about cultivating an interest that is so deeply personal yet shared so publicly, about creating space in life for something that’s not related to work or mothering, about creating something, that just matters.

You know?

People often ask me why I started Real Food Whole Life, and I find it a bit difficult to answer.

Difficult in part because there wasn’t a specific moment one day when I woke up and thought, “Ah-ha! I know what I should do. I should totally start a blog and then spend countless hours over the next few years torturing myself trying to learn things I know nothing about.”

It was really more of a gradual process, an interest that turned into a passion that turned into this.

I became interested in food, health, and well being in my early twenties after struggling with my weight in college.

Around that time I remember telling my husband, Andrew, that I wanted to do something related to food and health, but that I didn’t know what that something was.

The interest was always there, in the back of my mind, but since I couldn’t think of a what or a how, I pressed on with my (unrelated) studies and career.

Years went by, and in my late twenties the interest was still there, so I decided to pursue it the only logical way I knew how; by going back to school to get my PhD in public health policy.

I guess there’s just something about having a dad and a husband with doctoral degrees that leads a girl to believe that this is a logical thing to do.

So I went back and stuck it out for 4 painful years, maintaining a grueling schedule of full time work and school.

I endured the punishing workload and the generally soul-crushing nature of my program because, 1) I thought it the best path toward my interest, and 2) I didn’t want to fail.

 Photo by  KLiK Concepts
Photo by KLiK Concepts

But then in 2012 Elle was born, and all hell broke loose in my life. I admitted defeat and sent up the white flag.

Who has time for an interest when there’s a tiny human to take care of?

And since I clearly wasn’t taking even the most basic care of myself, it seemed like something had to give.

It was painful to quit, to give up everything I had sacrificed and worked for, but it was freeing, too.

After quitting school and my crazy job, I found a new job with more flexible hours and focused on getting my life in order. You can read the full story, here.

A year went by, the dust settled, I felt whole once more, and then, there it was again.

The voice in the back of my head, a nagging interest that I just couldn’t let go.

Elizabeth Gilbert writes about this in Big Magic: A Creative Life Beyond Fear. She warns against waiting to find your true passion. Instead, she encourages, just go after your interests with a healthy sense of curiosity.

Pay attention to those nagging ideas, the one you just can’t let go of. 

No goals, no judgement. Just interest and curiosity.

Now back to the question of why this all started.

I think it started because I suddenly had a capacity to be curious as a result of letting go of the things that were no longer serving me.

Without the reading lists and writing requirements I suddenly had a little space. And I’ve been able to fill that space with all kinds of amazing things.

The second question people often ask is how I’m doing all of this–working, being a mom, and running the blog.

My answer is simple.

First, I’m not doing it all. Yes, I’m doing a whole lot of things, but most of them I’m not doing that well. It’s okay. Really. I own it.

What I am doing is the hard work of letting failure trickle into my life around all the edges and in between the cracks, because at the end of the day there is just no way to do all the things perfectly.

So I’m doing all the things while accepting failure and mistakes as part of the game.

It’s uncomfortable. Seriously, you guys. So dang uncomfortable. But worth it.

The second part of the “how are you doing it?” question is that I’ve found such joy in following my interest, which led to curiosity, which turned into creativity, which manifested into this.

How freaking cool is that? I didn’t think I had it in me.

Most days I still don’t think I have it in me.

I often say that if I had known how hard this was going to be; how much it would stretch me to let go of perfection and fail all over the place, I probably wouldn’t have done it.

Good thing I didn’t know.

  Photo by KLiK Concepts
Photo by KLiK Concepts

So here we are, two years later.

This past year I finally went for it with the recipes and photography.

I still cringe at the quality of the photos on the daily, but I also know that you guys aren’t nearly as critical of them as I am.

Or at least you mostly keep those criticisms to yourself (thanks for that, btw).

And I’ve been pumping out two recipes a week because I’m hearing from you that you’re enjoying them.

And that sometimes your husbands, partners, and kids even like them, too. Sharing healthy food in this way with you is beyond incredible to me. Truly.

I have no idea what’s going to happen with Real Food Whole Life in this next year. Exciting, right?

I know I want to write more personal essays and to share more, even though that too scares the you-know-what out of me.

You know what I’ve found, though?

After enough time the fear of failure just gets boring.

Like, okay, yes, people might think what you’re doing is stupid, or lame, or bad, or annoying. But even if they do, you’re doing something. Which is kind of a big deal.

In Big Magic Elizabeth Gilbert cites the often quoted phrase, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” and counters, brilliantly, by posing the question, “What would you do if you knew you would fail?” Would you do it anyway?

At this point I’m saying yes. Yes, yes I would.

What about you?

On this two year anniversary I want to thank each one of you so much for reading and following along.

Each comment and email means more than you’ll ever know. Thanks for being part of this community, for making the recipes, and for engaging in this conversation.

I appreciate you. Now on to the next year!



Share this post

0 comments to " On Blogging, Working, Motherhood, and Failing: Real Food Whole Life Turns Two "

  • Meara Lesho

    I love your blog! The meals are personal, simple, healthy and loved by my family. Thank you!

    • Robyn Downs

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Meara. Trilled you and your family are enjoying the recipes. Thank you so much for following along! xxoo

  • Samantha Bostic

    I relate to this post in so many ways, especially what you said about the first year of your blog. I started a blog of my own (www.healthyhuggyhappy.com), but have since let the fear of failure (i.e. who is even reading this? there are too many websites, mine will get lost. how can I start to make an impact?) fuel my writing (or lack of writing, really). Your blog is a beautiful creation with wonderful recipes and a very relatable writing style. It’s motivating to me that you started at a similar place of "what the heck am I doing?!" and wound up here!

    PS- I teach Barre3 at the Vancouver/Camas location and went to the Thanksgiving food event where you gave a little talk- instantly loved what you had to say!

    • Robyn Downs

      Samantha, what a kind note! Know that I share those fears–putting your work online for everyone to see is challenging in so many different ways–but I think fear of failure is right up there at the top of the list. I’m sure you have something unique to share. I hope you continue to chase your interests and let your creativity shine. So glad we connected at b3 Camas. Such a wonderful community! xxoo

  • Mara

    Seriously awesome post! I can relate on so many levels. This post brings inspiration to me. Also, I think I need to read Big Magic. And a huge congratulations on 2 years!! Keep on doing what you’re doing.

    • Robyn Downs

      Thank you so much for your note, Mara! So happy it’s inspiring to you. Yes, you must read Big Magic. It’s a game changer. Thanks for following along! xxoo

  • Melissa

    Happy two-year anniversary! You are amazing! I get excited every time you post a new recipe, so thank you for all the time you put into developing, writing and photographing them. When I make our meal plan each week, your blog is the first place I go to start our plan, and along with barre3 recipes, it mostly fills out what we make. Thank you! Can’t wait to see where your blog goes in the next year! You have limitless potential!

    • Robyn Downs

      Well, aren’t you the sweetest, Melissa! I’m thrilled you’re enjoying the recipes and posts and that they are helping you with meal planning. Thanks for following along! xxoo

  • Laura

    Congratulations on two years! I love your blog, and some of your recipes are now favorites in our house! Keep up the great work! 😃 I think your photographs are great- so bright and vibrant!

    • Robyn Downs

      Laura, thank you, you’re too kind. Thrilled you and your family are enjoying the recipes. Thanks for following along! xxoo

  • Meghan Ross

    Yay! Happy anniversary!

  • Julia Young

    Your post was perfectly timed. I’ve been wrestling with so much internal judgement and fear of trying new things (including a blog) and just getting out of my standard stay-at-home mom day to day. I love all parts of your blog, especially the non-recipe parts. I’m going to grab Elizabeth Gilbert’s book and perhaps stop thinking about that blog and just get to it. Thank you for everything.

    • Robyn Downs

      Julia, I’m right there with you! Definitely grab a copy of Gilbert’s book and go for it. I’ll be cheering you on. xxoo 🙂

  • Linda

    Robyn: Love your post and think the photography is beautiful! I always go to your recipes or Barre 3’s (my daughter owns 2 studios in Arizona) to keep up my goal of healthy eating!! You’re doing a fantastic job so keep up the good work!!

    • Robyn Downs

      Linda, thank you so much for your kind words! How wonderful that your daughter owns two studios in AZ, you must be so proud. Thanks for following along, and so glad you’re enjoying the recipes! xxoo

  • Kathie

    Congratulations and thank you for your recipes and tips! I’ve made a bunch of them. Your thought and hard work is much appreciated!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *