Gabby ReeceElizabeth Street chats with the former women’s beach volleyball player about her family with Laird Hamilton and her hilarious new memoir.

Fitness expert, model, and former women’s beach volleyball player Gabby Reece and her professional surfer husband Laird Hamilton seem to have it all: Beautiful children, homes in Los Angeles and Hawaii, ridiculously nice bodies, and awe-inspiring careers. And now, Reece can add second-time author to her list of achievements too. Hilarious and heartfelt, her recent My Foot is Too Big for the Glass Slipper: A Guide to the Less than Perfect Life is a candid memoir on life, marriage (she once filed for divorce!), and being a woman.

Elizabeth Street got the chance to talk to this cool and funny mama about what it takes to make marriage work, the things she wish she’d known about motherhood, and more. Read the Q&A below (spoiler alert: we caved and asked her for a fitness tip).

We love that you’re taking the time to show women that no one is perfect. What compelled you to write this book?
Initially this was just a blog called Death by Domestication. I put it up on my health and fitness website to open up a conversation outside of how many calories one should consume or how many repetitions should be completed in a week. I had become more interested in the topic of how to try and “do it all” and stay healthy, and above all be happy. I had fun with the blog, and it was an opportunity to share that we are part of a sh*t-show, regardless of our life’s path. There’s something comforting in knowing your fellow sisters are fighting their own crazy battles, and the book just became an extension of that. It’s really all a ploy to try to figure out how to keep talking about being healthy without putting people to sleep.

You’ve already received a lot of attention for saying that being submissive is part of being feminine. Can you elaborate?
The “submissive” comment was taken out of context, but ended up being a great thing to talk about. Granted, looking back I may have used a different word that didn’t have the same connotation, but in the end it’s been good to start the conversation. I was just sharing that, in my particular scenario, I had learned and chosen to serve my husband and children, and that in our home everything seems to flow best when Laird is taking on the male role and I the female. I think it’s important to remember that if my husband wasn’t a respectful partner I would feel totally comfortable reexamining my situation. I’m an alpha female in every other part of my life except in my home—the interesting nuance is it seems I’m still running things at home and setting the tone, but from a different side of myself. I have learned what a delicate topic this is for a lot of people. I respect that, but in the end for me I have felt empowered by serving.

You split your time between Hawaii and L.A. Which do you think is a better place to raise kids?
When Laird and I first met in 1995, he lived in Hawaii and I lived in California to play volleyball. Since winter is his surf season and summer was my competing season when I played, we just split our time 50/50. Now, we’ve continued this pattern as a family.

I think they are both great for various reasons. I love that my girls have the opportunity to live in the natural environment that Hawaii provides. It seems to have a grounding effect on them, and keeps them connected to the simpler things in life, which end up feeling like the most important. What I love about California is the reminder that it’s a big world, and you can dream to be anything you desire. It has been a luxury to go in and out of both perspectives.

What do you wish you knew about being married and a mom before you got married and became a mom?
I wish as a woman I was taught not to take things personally. The other side of that is I wish I had learned sooner how to be comfortable with confrontation and speaking up for myself in a very matter-of fact-delivery. That took me until my 30s to learn, and is always a work in progress.

What’s the best thing about being a mom?
The obvious things that are so wonderful about being a mom are the little people themselves—loving them, being loved by them, and watching them learn and grow, but otherwise parenting stretches you in a way that only parenting can. The humbling, education, and strength you can get from the parenting process makes it comparable to no other—there is just no faking it and no off switch.

Book CoverIs there a certain part of your book—a chapter, a paragraph, even a sentence—that is especially important to you?
I would like to re-emphasize that we can’t have it all and that life isn’t perfect. The imperfection and messiness is where all the life and good stuff happens. Oh, that and we have to stop having ridiculous kids birthday parties.

Give us some motherhood advice.
Listen to your own instincts and trust yourself. We should let the child unfold into who they are instead of who we think they should be. This can be a tough one for us moms.

And fitness advice? We can’t help asking!
Fitness advice? Do you have an hour? Consistency is your friend, and it’s not about hours and hours each day, but minutes sprinkled throughout each week of each month of each year. Find a form of exercise that doesn’t feel like sheer torture. If you really want to navigate body weight don’t diet. Figure out a way that what you put in your mouth serves you and your goal. It’s not about what you can’t have, it’s about what you are choosing to eat—what you put in your mouth should serve you and your goal. And one last thing: Punishment is unproductive. If you are going to eat it or drink it, at least enjoy it.