I LOVE that I get to interview inspiring, creative couples like Jen & Dave Cooper and Elan & Aidan Morgan and Kayla & Josh Cagan. Writers, photographers, videographers, editors, illustrators - they create AND they are in a relationship. Some collaborate together, some don't. Some have kids. Some don't. All are making it work.
We NEED to make our art. And we need our life too with friends and family.
How to do both when you value your creative work AND your relationships? Read on for another take on being a creative couple.
Today it's photographer Gabe Rodriguez and food photographer/blogger Ashley Rodriguez of Not Without Salt. I met them at a food photography workshop that they co-led in Seattle. (We spent the first day in Aran Goyoaga's lovely studio and on the second day we ventured out to Pike Place Market). You will love them.
(the gorgeous photos were taken by Boone Rodriguez)
Who are you and what do you do? How long have you been together?
I'm Gabe Rodriguez. I’ve been working the past 8 years as a wedding photographer and Ashley and I have been married for the past 10 years.
Hi! I’m Ashley and I have a really hard time answering the question, what do I do? It’s only been recently that my passion for food photography, recipe development, and writing has turned into my full-fledged career but yeah, I guess that’s what I do. Also, we have three kids. So I do a lot of parenting stuff too. Gabe and I have been together for 14 years and married for 10. I totally just had to use a calculator to figure that out.
What are your strengths? What are your partner’s strengths? How do they help you work well together when you are collaborating?
Hmm… I tend to think of a lot of practical logistics for projects. Ashley is a doer. She has an ability to tackle a project like it’s nobody’s business. So I’m usually thinking about how to do a project while she’s off and running with it. I can use my abilities to help solve problems as they come up while Ashley has the ability to get things done.
I dream big. Gabe makes those dreams a reality.
What have you learned from your partner?
Still a lot left to learn, but she’s taught me to jump in and get my hands dirty. I’m not sure I would have ever left my job to pursue photography had it not been for her support and encouragement.
Gabe forces me to laugh even when I find nothing particularly funny about the situation. But once I start laughing everything is put into perspective. I can then stop building whatever it is into an overworked drama and get to work figuring it out.
What are you most impressed by/proud of your partner?
I’m impressed by her ability to consistently create amazing work. She’s always cooking, writing, photographing or painting. Always something creative on the horizon and it’s always good. :)
How well he supports, pushes and encourages me. I never understood love until I was loved by Gabe.
Also, the way he documents our lives. We’ve spent countless evenings wandering through the photo trails of our years together. In fact, for our 10th anniversary he put together a slideshow/video of our 14 years together. From first date to life with three kidlets. It’s the best gift I’ve ever received. I can’t wait for the sequel.
How best do you support your partner and his/her goals?
I’m learning how to listen. You’d think I’d know how to do this 10 years into a marriage, but I’m still learning. I’m working at being an ear to hear and a good voice of encouragement. I also like to be available to help with any technical questions or complications wherever needed.
I think I see his potential more than he sees it
So I make it my job to tell him the truth of how talented he is and try my best to remove the fear that he sometimes has in order that he can live out his potential. Also, he’s an external processor so just listening to him work things out in his words and time is a good way that I can support him.
How do you split the day-to-day administrivia?
It’s a constantly evolving process. Right now we share the day working while our kids are in school. We’re continuously reevaluating our day-to-day, week-to-week schedule to be with out kids, be with each other, and have time to create as well as take care of all the loose ends.
This is always changing but right now we have three kids who are in school at different times throughout the day. So we are doing a 50/50 split of the day. I take mornings, he has the afternoon. Some evenings we have to work but we make sure that at least one night we put away the computers/phones and focus on each other.
Since we are both self-employed we can also adjust the schedule if need be. As a wedding photographer in the PNW Gabe is very busy in the summer so I’ll take on a bit more parenting duty and at different points in the book writing process Gabe has put his work on hold so that I can focus on the book full-time.
If you have children, how did you decide who does what/when re: childcare?
We have three young children and they’re awesome. Our schedule is evolving. Now that the kids are in school (some full day but mostly partial days) we have more running around with drop offs and pick ups and it’s been a chore just keeping track of the organized chaos. We have a basic schedule worked out which allows both of us time to create but every week seems to bring some change of plans, there’s never a dull week around our house. This time, before our all our kids are in school full days, is precious. They want to hangout and snuggle on the couch. They want to play legos and wrestle. As much as we want to work all the time, in the long run it’s a relatively short period of time that we have with our kids while they are this age. We want to take advantage of that. But we also love our work.
It's really a case-by-case question and this has evolved in our relationship.
When I first became a mom I thought this all had to rest on me
I put everything on hold or just tried to squeeze it in the early morning, nap and evening hours. But I became very unhappy and dissatisfied. I love being a mom but I was saying no to a huge part of who I am because I was convinced I was "supposed" to act a certain way. Thank goodness I don't see it that way anymore. Gabe never put that pressure on me, it was all me. Now I see us as equal partners in growing three awesome little people. And really the kids benefit so much for hanging out with their dad as much as they do. He's super fun, really great at wrestling and doesn't get nearly as overwhelmed as I do when taking all three of them out and about. They are better little people because of their time with Gabe.
Are you ever envious of each other and if so, how do you handle it?
Ashley does get to go on some cool trips. But I’ve been able to work my way into many of the best ones. ;-) Ultimately, I’m proud of her and proud to be her husband. So I want the best for her.
A victory for her, is also a victory for me. We share in the wins and the losses
I really can't think of a time when I was envious of him. I'm thrilled when great opportunities come up for him.
How do you decide whose career takes priority at different points in time? Money earning potential? Goal achievement? Time required?
There’s been give and take. For a while I think we just assumed it had to be my business because that’s more how we started our marriage. It wasn’t really fair to Ashley, and it was something that we should have discussed more instead of just assuming. Now we’re at a point where we’re able to communicate over our work and our needs and together make decisions on what’s best for our marriage, our family and each other. There have been times when I’ve been very busy and Ashley is with the kids full time and vice versa. There have been times when we’ve both been very busy and relied more on our trustworthy nanny.
It’s continuously changing and we work to adapt
We talk regularly about our goals and where we want to go next. So when one of us has the potential to work out that goal the other will move time and space to make it happen. Sometimes it’s about the money - which is why I step a bit back from work in the summer and sometimes it’s based on time - a project needs a lot of attention for a set period of time so we make it work. If we are both in need of more time to work then we bring in more childcare.
Are you a goal setter? And if so, how do you figure out how to balance your goals with your partner’s goals?
We’ve had good success when we’ve outline specific goals and written them out. Ideally we come together to create short term and long term goals for ourselves and for our family. When we do this, it feels great to be on the same page and to focus on what is important to us (individually and together).
We both are goal setters but our goals usually coincide together. So I don’t really see it as Gabe’s goals or my goals but rather our goals.
What advice do you have for other couples?
Communicate. Don’t make assumptions.
Tell each other how you feel and what’s important to you
It’s the first step in being able to work together and understand each other. Then it’s much easier work out the practical logistics of what that looks like. As well as how you can best support each other.
Love the person you are with
I spent too much time thinking I could change Gabe into someone I thought he should be but it wasn’t until I just loved who he actually is that I could see what a perfect team we are. We are so incredibly different and this used to frustrate me but, my goodness, now it’s the best part of our marriage. Together we are pretty awesome.
I'm inspired by Gabe and Ashley not only because of their talent but because of their dynamic and evolving solutions to paid work and family and relationships. This balancing act is not for the faint of heart - as my old boss used to say, "if it was easy, everybody'd be doing it". It takes honesty and communication. And knowing what you want.
I've been Ashley too, when she spoke about believing that the family side of things all had to rest on her - it's an easy default when we still don't have many successful models that are an "and" rather than an "either/or". Creative paid work "and" family/relationships vs. creative paid work OR family/relationships.
I love meeting all of these couples who are making it an "and", who are finding ways to successfully be in relationships, be parents AND have a fulfilling creative life.