Jenna Bush Hager chats with the mom of three daughters. 

Joseph Llanes

Jenna: You’re a musician and author and also run the Music Is Love charity. Any tricks for prioritizing? 
Martina:
No tricks! I’m always multitasking, but I’m pretty good at focusing on what needs to get done first. Sometimes I think I’m doing so well, and other days it’s like—what is happening?

Jenna: How do you keep your three daughters [Delaney, 24, Emma, 21, and Ava, 14] grounded?
Martina:
My husband, John, and I grew up in Kansas with normal childhoods. We sat down to family dinner every night. While our girls’ lives looked different, the values were the same, and their everyday routines were fairly normal. They didn’t get everything they wanted; they worked for it. The older girls had jobs at 16 and paid for half of their first cars with the money they had saved up. They didn’t take anything for granted.

Martina McBride with husband John; daughters Delaney, Emma, and Ava; and dog Mae
Courtesy of Martina McBride

Jenna: When you think back to when you were growing up in Kansas and feeling the happiest, where were you? Who were you with?
Martina:
We lived out in the country, about 10 miles from any town. In the summer, my brother and I would hop on our bikes (usually barefoot!) and ride to our grandparents’ house, which was a mile down the road. We had the freedom to be outside and play. I miss that for my kids.

Jenna: Is your parenting style similar to your mother’s?
Martina:
My mom is no-nonsense. She tells it like it is. My kids know that I’ll always be straight with them. If they ask for advice, I won’t sugarcoat many things. My mother supported my dream of being a singer, which was amazing coming from a small town. I do the same for my girls. 

Jenna: Where did you get your passion for entertaining?
Martina:
My mom and grandmother cooked, but it wasn’t fancy. My mother-in-law was a great entertainer, and when we got married and visited her in Wichita, I watched her host. She had supper clubs and bridge club. She would always set out appetizers and serve sweet tea. I think I really saw that for the first time with her. It was a whole new world to me. It made me feel good and ignited a natural spark inside.

Jenna: Any hosting fails or dinner parties gone awry?
Martina:
Oh goodness, that happens a lot, Jenna! Just remember that if things don’t go as planned, it’ll be okay. (And make sure you always have a pizza in the freezer!) We learn from making mistakes. Keep in mind that when people come to your house, they want to spend time with you. Give yourself a break. Everything doesn’t need to be made from scratch. When someone invites you into their home, it’s special.

Jenna: Anything your daughters have taught you about yourself or life?
Martina:
A million things. For starters, they have taught me patience. I’ve learned that I can’t be in control of their lives all of the time, which is hard for me. They have a wider view of things in a way that was different than we had growing up. They have a more relaxed perspective on life. It’s cool and probably healthier too.

Jenna: Best parenting advice?
Martina:
I’ve always wanted my kids to come to me about everything. And while I know they don’t share it all, it’s important for them to know that nothing they can ever do will make me stop loving them. Always pay attention to the little things your kids tell you as they’re growing up, because those will reveal the big things.

Jenna: Biggest surprise you learned about motherhood?
Martina:
How hard it can be but also how rewarding it is at the same time. I never realized that having kids would change my life as much as it did. Being a mom never ends. You’re in it for the long haul. You never stop worrying and wanting your children to be happy. I didn’t know this was going to be a lifelong adventure.

WATCH: 7 Things Every Mom and Daughter Should Do Together At Least Once

Jenna: First word that comes to mind when you reflect on motherhood?
Martina: Fulfillment. I love my work, but being a mom is different. There is a lot of joy, worry, and responsibility, but it has also been the most gratifying thing in my life.

Jenna: What’s your favorite aspect of life at this stage?
Martina:
I’m fortunate to love everything I’m doing right now. As I turn 53 this month, my perspective has changed, and I’m grateful that I can pursue two passions in my lifetime—music and cooking. I believe 2018 was a transitional year for me and that everything will come together in 2019. Who knows if it will happen or not, but I love the exciting opportunities on the horizon.

Martina’s Best Advice

Cherish Family Recipes 
I believe in food memories. My mom taught me how to make her pot roast, so we’ll have that with mashed potatoes and gravy for Christmas or whenever someone comes home. It’s the one my girls always request—it’s so nurturing.

Don’t Skip Suppertime
When the kids were growing up, we had dinner together as often as we could—at least four times a week. It was a priority for all of us, the girls too. It was our time to sit and talk as a family.

Manner Matter
We were strict about being respectful of others, and I’m proud that my kids are very considerate. It’s always “Could you do this for me?” not “Do this for me.”

Make Time Together Count
The whole family went on tour with us in the summer. On days that we weren’t performing, we would find a lake and have a cookout—including the band and crew. We were like one big family.

Entertain with Ease
Growing up, my daughters always had friends come over to hang out by the pool. We do the same these days, swimming and cooking with friends. I marinate chicken breasts with lemon, rosemary, and olive oil and throw them on the grill. Then we serve them with corn on the cob, fresh sliced tomatoes, and fried okra.

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