A few years ago, on a whim, I entered a contest for Daily Candy, called Start Small, Go Big. I entered for two reasons... One, I might have the chance to meet Christiane Lemieux, whom I had admired for a long time as the business woman that she is and also because I made a deal with myself that I would enter any contest that I found interesting that year and that could help my shop in some way. Well, I was selected as the winner in the design catagory and was flown to NYC, with my best friend, for a busy weekend of meetings and dinners. I met Jonathan Adler, Sara Blakely, the women behind Birchbox, just to name a few and I finally met Christiane Lemieux. We sat at the same table for lunch and talked about design, building a company and our families. It was in that hour long meal, four years ago that our friendship was sealed. She has remained a mentor, a sounding board an inspiration and mostly, someone I call my friend. I'm so honored to feature her for this month's She's So Boss. For those of you not familiar with Christiane, I know you know her work. It's truly iconic in the world of interior design, as the founder of DwellStudio and now also the executive creative director for Wayfair. She is the author of Undecorate, a wonderful look at how to follow your own style when decorating your space. Lastly, Christiane is also very involved with Every Mother Counts, a non profit dedicated to making pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother.
Join me in getting to know Christiane a little more as she sat down to answer a few questions for me, about blending family (she's the mom to two beautiful children) and work. These are some of the things I also struggle with, as a working mom... so glad to know I'm not alone in just letting some things go and learning to prioritize.
1. What does 7 AM look like to you?
At 7, I am equal parts alarm clock, short order cook and personal valet. I have to get the kids up, get breakfast cooked, help pick and put on clothes and check that homework is packed, I trade with my husband who finishes what is started to grab a shower and get out of the door by 8:20. We walk to school every morning for drop off. This hour is easily the most challenging of the day. It's fraught with compromise, challenges and often tears. I can handle anything at work - ANYTHING - after getting kids up and to school.
2. What's your favorite part of your day?
I love coming home for dinner with the family and hearing about the activities of the day. I also love kiddies after a bath in jammies- is there anything better?
3. How do you stay connected to both family and business when traveling?
I am not sure what I would have done without the invention of Face Time - I often deeply thank Steve Jobs - he made it easy. My kids can use it seamlessly and see me almost anywhere in the world. With my team at the office it's all email and conference calls.
4. With so many things going on with different channels of your work, how do you keep perspective?
I honestly just try and stay in the present and enjoy what is happening right now. I love my work and if I am learning - I am so engaged. I just put one foot in from of the other and tackle things as they come.
5. What is your favorite family tradition and what does it entail?
We have developed so many family traditions from movie night Friday to Saturday fun run. I think my family would all agree that our traditional Thanksgiving in Jamaica is our absolute favorite.
6. What are your "can't leave home without" items?
Having kids is like an exercise is survival. They are always thirsty, hungry and need a Band-Aid at the worst moments. I have all of the above in all my bags - from the evening clutch to the backpack - just in case. I am ready for other people's kids too. I also recommend hand sanitizer, wipes and a good red lipstick. With this list can survive anything from a playground meltdown to a black tie event.
7. What do you find to be the biggest struggle balancing both work and family?
Time - there are just not enough hours in the day to do it all. I don't try anymore - I was just driving myself crazy. I now have a stack rank system I learned from my new CEO at Wayfair. I put everything I need to get done down on paper. I assign each task a number and it becomes very obvious how to prioritize my day. The uncritical things just fall off. It's so freeing to know you are tackling the things that are critical to both work and family. Also - I am not sure what I would do with out apps like Fresh Direct that allow me to take care of mundane tasks like groceries while in a taxi on the way home from a meeting.
8. What is your greatest joy about being a working mom?
There are so many positives but I think the greatest joy is leading by example. My children get to see me love my work, lead an amazingly rich life (because they are along for the ride) and build something meaningful. They see the philanthropy I do, whether in Haiti or the Bronx and also know and love the amazing team I built at DwellStudio. I see all of this come out in ways I never expected. I think it works. I also hope they learn that they can do anything if they work hard enough and know that anything is possible. I want them never to be scared to try and fail and to look for the thing that moves them so work is never work but the thing you would love to do event if you were not being paid.