Something happens the moment your child enters the world. Every single one of your senses is set off when you hear their first cry. It's an all-encompassing physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual experience, all at the same time. And from then on, you are a different person. I personally have never felt more confident, powerful, and compassionate after having my son.
For Cortney Novogratz, interior designer, author, entrepreneur, and mother of seven, parenting has also been life-altering. "It's easy to lose yourself in motherhood, but we're women after all," she tells me. "We can do a lot at once, and we thrive with a lot on our plate. Motherhood made me stronger, wiser, and more ambitious."
You may know Novogratz as a reality TV star on Bravo's 9 By Design and HGTV's Home by Novogratz, in which she shared the limelight with her husband, Robert. They have 25 years of designing experience between them, have co-authored three books and are the co-founders of The Novogratz, an online décor site with vintage wares and affordable finds—you should see their removable wallpaper line.
From flipping and designing homes in New York, the pair now live in a 1920s castle in the hills of Los Angeles with their seven children: Wolfgang, Bellamy, Tallulah, Breaker, Five, Holleder, and Major. In this next edition of Her Domaine—a series that celebrates all moms—Novogratz shares what it's really like to be a parent, the biggest lessons she's learned, and her version of work/life balance: "We never shut work off or shut our kids out."
How did you manage the transition from working woman to working mom?
I renovated our first home at 24 while planning our wedding. I became a mom at 25 and just brought Wolfgang along to the job sites. Our contractor would sit at our table and discuss tile while I fed Wolf; from day one I integrated my family into the career I wanted. From there I tried to always have my kids around. Our office was always in our home up until about a year ago. We were very lucky to have employees that could and would work in that environment.
I also had help in the early years with the kids as I clearly can only be in one place at a time. It truly has taken a village, and we have always tried our best to create a relaxed, fun environment for all. I've also loved working with other moms. There's a certain drive a mom has that is so powerful.
What confidence-building advice do you have for women who are just returning to the workforce post-baby?
It's healthy to get back to your passions. Once a mom, you're a mom for life. Robert and I believe it's our life. We had kids to enhance it, but not to change it. It's truly hard to fully be there for your baby, your job, and sexy for your partner, but getting back to work allows you to have other things going on than diapers.
It helps you cope even though it's a lot to juggle. It's easy to lose yourself in motherhood, but we're women after all. We can do a lot at once, and we thrive with lots on our plates. Motherhood made me stronger, wiser, and more ambitious.
What are some of the biggest lessons your children have taught you about work and life?
To have a sense of humor and humility. There are surprises around every corner, and we're all so different. It's taught me to rejoice in those differences. I always use the phrase "the beauty of youth."
This new generation is incredible. They're thoughtful and strong. You would be foolish to discount them; they're going to shake things up.
There’s a huge shift now for all of us to move beyond the filters and share what it’s really like to be a parent. The joys and the struggles, the highs with the lows. Is this something you agree with and try to do in your own life?
I parent with my gut. I took no prenatal classes, I didn't read books about twins, and I'm far from perfect, but my gut is usually right. I've never cared what people think or what they're doing, because Robert and I have created the life that we want, and no one else is in charge. We are learning on the job even after seven kids. We will never tell you what we know but what we have learned, and we are still learning.
What are some things you do for yourself that you believe every working mom should?
I take five minutes to myself. I walk away if needed and regroup, focus, and breathe, whether upstairs in my bedroom or in a bathroom. My mother in law gave me that advice over 20 years ago. We also go to church (not as much as we should). No matter what you believe, it's a nice moment to reflect and have quiet time.
How do you keep your work/life balance in check? Do you believe in balance?
We never shut work off or shut our kids out. We make mistakes and we don't always have true balance. We find the most interesting way to live is to live with extremes. Balance isn't the way we live, though we know it's not for everyone. For us, fear isn't an option.
How different has it been going from one child to more? Can you share some of your tips to making it work?
Adding more kids is an adjustment for all moms, dads, and siblings. It takes time to find the new family dynamic. Luckily for us, it's always happened quickly. We've snuggled with the new baby and then the chaos has set in. Don't be too hard on yourself and enjoy it, as it goes so fast.
Running a successful business and being a parent is challenging. What are your tips for making it all work?
Every working mom's life is somewhat different, so I can only speak to how we roll. Robert and I chose to have seven kids, so we have no choice but to work a lot to provide a lifestyle for our family that we always wanted. It's a lot of work, but we love every minute of it. It's also about priorities; do I go to every school function, or do I prioritize meetings?
I can't be everywhere at once. I do my best to accommodate everything and everyone but in reality, it doesn't always happen. Robert and I are about conquering and dividing. Moms carry lots of guilt, and I am no exception, yet I try to do my best and to do the right thing.
What mistakes have you learned from and even benefited from in your career and life? Why?
Don't focus on your mistakes. Learn from them, move on, and don't live in the past. Be present and engaged. I love a quote by Albert Einstein: "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new."
What advice do you have for working moms who have just had their first child and are feeling nervous about balancing both?
Always keep a sense of who you are, your friends, your job, etc. You give a lot of yourself to your kids. Remember to be good to yourself and to have a life away from the kids too. Everyone will benefit.
How do you keep your relationship fresh and the passion alive with children?
Our kids keep us young. We've continued to travel with kids, even when they were young. We once took our first six kids to Ibiza when the twin boys were only infants. It was an amazing journey. The nightclubs were replaced with water parks, but we had a blast. We still laugh at that trip.
Robert and I try to do things for ourselves all the time, such as skip out for a matinée movie, go to concerts, and of course flea markets.
What’s one thing people might not know about you?
I like to drive fast and dance.
What's the one thing you wish people knew about being a mom that no one told you?
Labor is called labor for a reason. It's hard work.
What is the most surprising thing about being a mom? What is the best thing about being a mom?
I feel comfortable in my skin as a mom and have never taken it for granted—even on overwhelming days. It's been the best gift to myself.
Shop some of our favorite selects from the Novogratz collection below:
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