"Don't Compare Yourself to Other Mothers," Says Camilla and Marc Co-Founder

The Aussie designer and mother of three opens up

Updated 09/13/18
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mom advice—Camilla Freeman-Topper
Duc Thinh Dong

I was oblivious to the sisterhood of parenting before having my son. It took a while for me to really find it, to uncover my tribe, and I was definitely hesitant to open up and be vulnerable. But once I did, the world opened up. Suddenly the responsibility of raising a child no longer seemed impossible. Daunting, yes, impossible, no. 

Helping other parents connect and bond, both over the highs and the lows, was the impetus behind our Her Domaine series. We felt that by sharing the honest, filterless stories of having children would help to bring us all closer with a shared understanding and renewed hope that we're in it all—the good, the bad, and the ugly—together.

This month we hand the microphone over to the extremely talented designer and co-founder of Camilla and Marc, Camilla Freeman-Topper. She is raising three beautiful children while running an empire with her sights set on international expansion, and she isn't about to slow down anytime soon.

On Making the Transition From Working Woman to Working Mom:

new mom advice—Camilla Freeman-Topper
Duc Thinh Dong

"Any working mother would agree it's not easy to get back into the office after giving birth. Luckily, given we are a family business, I had flexible hours, so I managed to ease back into it without the incredibly daunting pressure or void I imagine other mothers could feel. I was also fortunate enough to bring my first child with me for the first six weeks of returning to work for the few hours I went into the office.

"I have an incredible design team who ensured projects kept moving, and my brother, who is my business partner and best friend, has always been supportive of making sure my family remains my priority.

"In saying that, my team would agree I’m very hands-on when it comes to design, so I take a lot of business meetings via Skype, Facetime, or conference calls to and from the office and after the children have gone to bed."

On Building Your Confidence Post-Baby:

"Stay true to who you are and be gentle with yourself, remembering that your skill set and capabilities don't vanish the moment you become a mother. A lot of women can feel disillusioned and out of the game, so to speak, once they return to the workforce. I always encourage staying connected with your colleagues while on maternity leave so it's not such a jarring experience returning."

On the Biggest Lessons Learned:

working mom advice
Duc Thinh Dong

"Having three children has definitely taught me the importance of slowing down and appreciating the little things. I now have a renewed perspective on time and how valuable and precious life is, both at work and at home. At work, I try to be conscious of everyone's time and always endeavor to be punctual and ensure the meeting is shorter and more efficient so I can leave on time. I make sure I either pick up the kids and take them to after-school activities or aim to be there when they arrive home from school.

"The moment I'm with my children, work is secondary. Having children has taught me to be present and in the moment. I take the time to listen to them, hear about their concerns or questions they may have about what’s going on for them in any given moment. More than anything, having children has certainly taught me to make love my absolute priority in everything I do and say."

On Ditching the Filters:

Duc Thinh Dong

"I have been fortunate enough to witness this shift from my first child through to my third. When I had my first child, the realness or the authenticity wasn't as prevalent. Having seen the transition, I truly hope that this shift has been empowering for women to know and understand that life as a mother is by no means an easy feat. It’s hard work, and every day there is another challenge to face. We are hugely responsible for these little people's lives, and as they get older you realize it more and more.

"It can be an overwhelming experience, so I hope this transparency will allow other mothers to feel that we are all the same, and experience similar struggles. I think it's equally as important to share the highs of parenthood and the beautiful love you feel when you work through the struggles and feel a continual and deepening bond with your children.

"The challenging moments can often overshadow the joys, so I think it's important to spread this message first and foremost."

On Embracing Mistakes and Living Intuitively:

Duc Thinh Dong

"Being a mother is such an intuitive experience. We have this innate ability to access a wisdom that will tell you everything you need in any given moment, and when it comes to my children, I trust that above all else. No book can ever teach you how to really connect with your child, and I find that when I can slow down, really listen and notice the subtle cues in my children, we have the most beautiful and honest conversations that are not possible when we're rushed.

"I genuinely believe there is no such thing as a mistake in parenting. Every moment of my children's growth has been part of the journey, and I welcome the mistakes so we can all learn from them. Learning to love the process of parenting is so important."

On Prioritizing Self-Care:

Duc Thinh Dong

"In juggling between caring for my children, spending time with my husband, and running our business, I definitely try to find time to prioritize myself. This balance took some time to work out, but being patient and trying out different approaches is what will get you to where you want to be. My husband and I schedule a foot massage once a week, and if we are lucky, once a month we will have a bite to eat afterward, just the two of us so we can be present for each other with no distractions.

"I meditate every night before I go to sleep (I won’t lie, I haven’t managed to navigate finding the time in the morning to do that). Meditation has made a huge difference in my personal and work life. I do either yoga or Pilates twice a week, and I try to walk at least two to three times a week, usually on the weekend. I also try and fit at least two sessions of boxing and cardio in if time permits and I’m not traveling.

"I love to cook. It's a huge passion of mine and nothing pleases me more than spending an afternoon on the weekend listening to music and testing and tasting new recipes. My eldest girls also love being in the kitchen, so we all work together. Regardless of your hobby or passion, my advice is to take time out. I've seen how much it helps me re-center and re-focus before I tackle the week at work or with the kids."

On Her New Approach to Work:

Duc Thinh Dong

"Having children has definitely changed the way I work. Everyone is different, but for me, it's really helped in terms of my perspective and what I'll choose to prioritize in my day. I have certainly become more time efficient, running meetings more succinctly and making sure I'm always prompt. Having children has taught me how precious everyone's hours are in the day and to use them wisely.

"I definitely approach work in a different way as a mother and my energy and focus come from a new place. When we were working at building Camilla and Marc, I would sweat the small stuff and spend hours deliberating on every detail. Today, our team is incredibly strong so that allows me to focus less on the smaller detail and more on the bigger picture."

On Making the Shift from One Child to Three:

Duc Thinh Dong

"Our girls are very close in age. I was pregnant with our second child when Leudica was six months old. So after the initial shock, the jump from one to two children was surprising and luckily quite seamless. After our third child, Wolfie, was born, who is four years younger than Missy, our middle child, my husband and I became outnumbered.

"Wolfie is definitely a burst of energy and rules the household. My husband and I make it work by communicating constantly. Schedules, appointments, routines, we talk about it all daily—it's the only way.

"I'm also very fortunate that my beautiful little girls, Missy and Leudica, are like mothers to Wolfie—they absolutely adore their baby brother and are extremely protective and watchful over him."

On Her Morning and Evening Routines:

"Wolfie is usually barging into our room in the morning, crawling onto our bed to wake us up with his many cars and trucks tucked under each arm, in a bucket, and filled in his pockets, carrying as much as physically possible. He’s slowly but surely managed to turn our room into his mini garage. It’s manic, but nice for my husband and I to have that short window of one-to-one time with him before we get our day started. We’ll go downstairs, prepare breakfast, and try (as much as possible) to take this time slowly so everyone starts the day in a calm state.

"Evenings are focused on the girls doing their homework and practicing their musical instruments. Once done, we sit down together to debrief around the dinner table together as a family discussing the day that was. Once dinner is done, we go into the routine mode. I'm super diligent about routine, the only way I believe my children have thrived in a busy household. We read to Wolfie before bed, the girls read to themselves, and then a page or two to us and then it’s bedtime.

"Once the kids are asleep. my husband and I will both spend some time working through the respective emails that we may have missed out on that afternoon, and then we jump on the couch to chat and watch an episode or two of our favorite series for some down time before bed."

On Advice for Working Moms:

Duc Thinh Dong

"I think it's important to not be too hard on yourself. Sometimes the pressure at work is intense, and other times, you really need to refocus your energy solely on your family. Whenever one thing is demanding your attention, it doesn't mean you're letting the other down. I think it's important to constantly remind yourself of this.

My advice would also be to not to compare yourself to other mothers, working or not, and to do what works for you, your workplace, and family. Each person's journey is different, so there will never be a right or wrong way to run your own business."

On What She Wished She Knew Before Becoming a Mom:

"That it's the wildest, most beautifully challenging and rewarding thing in life. What I have learned has enabled me to be a better person, wife, and most of all mother to my three children."

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