We've all succumbed to perfectionism at one point or another in our insatiable pursuit to be liked and accepted by our peers and loved ones. But as the best-selling author of Daring Greatly, Brené Brown says, "perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: 'If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame." And we all know that this approach to life only enhances those negative feelings. However, it's not easy to turn back once you're on that path.
Who else reading this has felt the societal pressure to be the perfect mom, wife, boss, colleague, employee, friend, sibling, and daughter? It's hard not to get sucked into the perfection loop thinking it will protect us and minimize blame, judgment, and shame, but it fuels it. Which is why Nathalie Genty, founder of the Paris-based kids clothing brand, Melijoe, and mother of five, gave it up. She set about focusing on her own happiness (and that of her children) instead. The end result is a perfectly imperfect life that is all her own.
In this next edition of Her Domaine—a series that celebrates all moms—Genty takes us into her wonderful world where "just being together" is a morning ritual and it's "no big deal" if the kids don't like a vegetable. Sounds like a place where we would want to grow up.
MYDOMAINE: How did you manage the transition from being a working woman to a working mom?
NATHALIE GENTY: It was natural for me. I know for some people, it feels like a big sacrifice or a really scary time. But for me, it was very natural and my kids have always helped me to relax. If I did not have them, I could not survive.
MD: Returning to the workforce after having a baby can be daunting for many women. What confidence-building advice do you have?
NG: I would say to always keep your foot in the door so if you take time off, you will have an easier time returning and getting back on track. I think that really helps with confidence. Just having a career and something else to focus on in addition to being a mom. A lot of women lose their identity when they become a mom and choose to be home. I never left the workforce, and I think that helped.
MD: What are some of the biggest lessons your daughters have taught you about work and life?
NG: My kids have taught me to take a step back. Things that were important before don't take precedence anymore. Family comes first. When I face an issue at work, it is nothing compared to an issue with my kids.
MD: What is the best thing about being a mom? What is the most surprising thing about being a mom?
NG: I can't get enough of the cuddling with the little ones. With the older ones, it's the chaos that I love. It's life, and it's fun. When they are not here, I watch videos of them because the house is too quiet and clean, and I miss them!
When I have bad days, I like to go home earlier, spend time with them, and remember what's important.
The most surprising thing about being a mom is how powerful I feel. I realize more than ever that women can handle anything and everything.
MD: What are some things you do for yourself that you believe every working mom should?
NG: If you can believe it, I really don't do anything right now. I think what I do well is understand there is a time for everything in life. It's not a big deal if I have no time for me at this point in my life. The kids grow so fast, and I want to take full advantage of being with them. When they get older, I'll get back to a workout routine (I love fit ballet) and do all the reading I love.
MD: With the demands of young children, it can be tricky finding time to fit in a workout. What are the workouts or fitness routines that work for you?
NG: If I have time, I go. If I don't, I don't. Sometimes I can go twice a week. Sometimes I won't work out for weeks. We will try to organize yoga sessions in the office to make it easier for everyone, and that has proven to be a win!
MD: How different has it been going from one child to five? Why? Can you share some of your tips to making it work?
NG: Nothing changed except for the size of the car and the apartment. I find it's actually easier to have more kids, as they play together and help each other. You just have to watch and laugh with them. With only one child, there is more pressure to entertain and play.
MD: Running a successful business and being a mom is challenging. How do you keep yourself and your children healthy?
NG: We eat organic. But we eat everything. No vitamins, as I don't believe in them. We get nutrients from a good diet. I only have one rule: no candy or soda and few sweets. Even though I drink a lot of Coke Zero, they are not allowed to have any before they turn 12. Breakfast is important. Every morning I squeeze fresh oranges for the kid's juice and make them hot chocolate, fresh toast, and jam. That's very French. For their desserts with meals, I give them yogurt with honey or fruit.
No one can squeeze everything in one day. If I don't have time to do something one day, I'll do it the next. I have learned to let go of being a perfectionist. In other words: Sometimes you just have to let things go at the risk of being imperfect.
MD: What are your tips for getting your kids to eat veggies?
NG: I mix them in soups or puree them. It has never been an issue. If they don't like a veggie, they don't. It’s no big deal. They'll eat them when they are ready. I won't stress about that.
MD: What are the morning and evening rituals you swear by?
NG: With five kids, it's hard to have rituals. Of course we have cuddle time at night every night and we recap the day. And we always have breakfast together. Just being together, whether we are reading, doing homework, eating, or lying on the couch together, is a ritual for us.
MD: What advice do you have for working moms who have just had their first child and are feeling nervous about balancing both?
NG: You do as you feel! Stop listening to people. I do not like to give advice often, but the one piece of advice I give is to manage your time and priorities. You cannot manage your kids, your job, practice yoga every day, and go out at night with friends.
MD: You travel a lot for work, so what are your best tips for traveling with children?
NG: Not to make trips that are too complicated. We try to pick night flights so they sleep. I always have Aden & Anais swaddle blankets for each of the girls. They take them everywhere. I put it on them on the plane because they can make a mess, and it goes on the blanket instead of their clothes. Less stress!
MD: What is your number one time-management hack? How do you get more done in less time and squeeze everything you need to get done each day?
NG: No one can squeeze everything in one day. If I don't have time to do something one day, I'll do it the next. I have learned to let go of being a perfectionist. In other words: Sometimes you just have to let things go at the risk of being imperfect.
MD: Sleep is so important, but many working moms don't get enough. What are your tips for getting more z's?
NG: I have enough. The kids go to bed between 8:30 and 9 p.m., then I can go to bed since my husband is not here or I work for a little bit. But I get to sleep and make sure of it.
MD: How do you keep your relationship fresh and the passion alive with five children?
NG: We sometimes manage to leave the kids with their grandparents and I meet him in London on Friday so that we can spend the weekend together.
MD: What's one thing people might not know about you?
NG: I may appear cold to some people, but I am extremely sensitive and fun-loving.
What is your parenting philosophy? Are you a perfectionist too?