We spotted this supremely chic French mom the week she moved into our neighborhood years ago, became friends with her through our kids, and now are excited to introduce her and her new book Say Bonjour to the Lady…a clever and cheeky look at the difference in parenting styles between the French and Americans.
Bonjour – I am Florence, a French mother of 3 leaving in NY for 7 years – my kids are 13, 11 and 7. I am also the VP of the French brand Bonpoint who is, in my humble opinion, the most elegant yet cool brand for children in the world!
Tell us about your family life–let’s start with–what’s a typical weeknight?
We are having dinner every evening altogether. Which means the 5 of us minimum, most of the time plus the au-pair and half of the time with other guests (our guest room is filled months in advance!). So I come back from work and go straight to the kitchen to prepare some food. Then we wait until my husband arrives. Sometimes dinner is at 8 pm which I know is not great as the the little one should probably already be in bed at that point. At the table it is all about the fun stuff that happened that day at school or conversation with our friends.
I cook every evening. We are eating the exact same way we were eating before leaving Paris. Except maybe burgers a little more often. But if I am exhausted and order pizzas, my children will complain and ask for a “real meal”.
Do you have a go-to dinner that appears weekly? What’s in the breakfast rotation? Any food-based family rituals?
A roasted chicken with lemon and garlic + potatoes gratin is a once a week tradition. Breakfast is brioche and jam or if I have time French toast. The girls and I love to cook together: mostly cakes and cookies but sometimes they also help me with something a little more functional! like peeling the carrots or washing the dishes!
Regarding screen time, would you say you’re very conservative, easy breezy, or completely confused as to what is appropriate…
We are French and have rules for pretty much everything! No screens during the week days. 1 hour on Saturday and one hour on Sunday. That being said, it is becoming VERY hard to control with the two older kids smart phones… in any case phones stays in the living room, never in their bedrooms. And absolutely NEVER at the dinner table. Same rules for my husband and I. And I gently suggest to our au-pairs to follow it as well 😉
Tell us about how you celebrate birthdays in your house. Give us some examples. Do you like or resent the goody bag phenomenon?
I say no to goody bags. It is always filled with things you want to throw away immediately, what is the point? I am trying to launch a movement but I am not very successful here!
We do very simple birthday parties. Often at home. I bake some cakes and do a pretty décor in the kitchen. I may or may not invite a clown or a magician. That is basically it.
The older kids are starting to ask for very specific things like an afternoon at the Trampoline park or going flying trapeze… I guess I’d better get used to it!
Tell us about a typical weekend.
In France we used to go to the flea market and then for brunch with friends and that was it. It was heaven. Since we moved my husband embraced the whole week-end-are-for-activities spirit way too seriously. The 3 children are playing games (soccer of course) on Saturdays and also sometimes on Sundays. Then the birthday parties get in the mix. Between 1 and 3 depending if we are lucky or not! Do I need to mention the playdates and sleepovers? I sometimes end up with 6 kids at home on Saturday night and think that I am losing my Frenchness.
Favorite activities for when you’re stuck indoors, or do you not let the elements get in the way?
We love to put the music on and dance, always in the kitchen. Our little one is leading the show. We listen to what the kids love: the Chainsmokers, Shakira, Flo rida, Bruno Mars.. Right now the big hit is DESPACITO thanks to our Columbian au pair !
Do you listen to music or are you stuck in what you liked post-college and what your kids listen to?
I am so very stuck. I adore old French singers: Brel, Barbara, Aznavour, Brassens. Sounds like I am such an old lady!
What’s the thing that always stays on your to-do list and never gets crossed off and nags at you?
The house things: fixing the sidewalk, the stoop, changing the recess lights… I am thinking I will take care of it but always find another more urgent thing to do!
On the other hand planning family trips is always the first thing that I tackle as it became my hobby, looking for interesting places somewhere in Papoua makes me very happy.
Do you have a fail-safe beauty product or routine or something that just makes you feel armed for the day when you leave the house, or do you have a routine before you go to bed?
I am obsessed with the Caudalie brand and use their Beauty Elixir a million time a day. It is on my desk and my team is telling me that I use it when I am annoyed at something to keep my calm 😉
Your favorite family trip ever? (And if this is hard to decide, tell us more than one.)
We did a trip around the world 4 years ago. Russia / Siberia/ Mongolia / China / Japan / Vietnam / Cambodia / Thailand / Australia and New Zealand. It was the best year of our life hands down. The children were 3, 7 and 9 and my husband – bless his soul – was homeschooling them every morning. I was the activities project manager so I had the fun job 😉
Do you have any personal a-ha tip that you want to tell us about.
I have a tip related to this very long road trip with my family. When things go really wrong – you are stuck in the mountains in the middle of nowhere (norther Vietnam) at night because your train broke and have to find a way to go to the next village with 3 asleep kids a 5 pieces of luggage. Those are going to become you absolute best memories. Remember it. The worst travel situations makes the best souvenir.
You feel your best when?
When I have time for yoga before starting the breakfast marathon during the week days.
Favorite clothing item and why?
This very long Indian skirt that I bought in a supermarket in Bombay last December to be “appropriate” for the visit of a mosque. The store was not great, the skirt cost 2 dollars and weirdly enough I can’t live without it.
Proudest moment in parenting?
When I see that they are being kind to each other or helping each other even for 5 seconds I am the happiest person on earth.
What do you feel you could be better at?
What makes you feel guilty?
Pretty much everything makes me feel guilty: travelling too much, coming home tired at night, going out too much, missing a thing at school because of work (“and EVERY other parent was there…”), eating an entire bag of quinoa chips (quinoa or not – it is still fried right ?), not doing my yoga for 2 weeks…
But the worst is when I am shouting like a crazy person for any reason (they are not listening to me, fighting each other, not doing their chores, ignoring my calls…) and then my little girl says with her super cute high pitched voice “don’t lose your mind maman – we have done it already”.