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She’s a mother of six, a designer, and is the singular voice behind the hugely successful site designmom.com—not to mention one of the forces behind the Alt Design Summit and Mom 2.0. And did we mention? She and her husband up and moved to rural France. Yep. Living the dream.

What does a day in the life of look like for you?  What is the division of labor between you and your husband? How do you separate home from work?

Are you sure you want to hear this? With six kids, every day is a little reminiscent of when the carnival comes to town; you see a little movement and then – Poof! – there’s the Ferris wheel! My personal Ferris wheel is dinnertime. Here’s how we get there.

On school days, we both wake up at 7:30. Not too brutal, but it takes me by surprise every morning! Didn’t I just fall asleep? I make hot cocoa and figure out breakfast for the older kids while Ben gets dressed. French breakfast is pretty light, so currently this means a croissant or toast and jam, or maybe a smoothie. Simple stuff. Ben drives the older kids to school while I wake up the younger ones and do breakfast shift part two. By the time Ben gets back from his first drive, the younger kids are fed and mostly dressed. He’ll jump in to help with buttons or zippers or backpacks or a last-minute “Whoops! I forgot to do that!” He might pack their snacks while I do Betty’s hair. Or I might gather jackets while Ben helps the kids brush their teeth. At 8:20, he drives the younger kids to school and Baby June goes along for the ride. (She is the most adorable backseat driver, and I think they share some great conversations during this trek!) While he’s gone, I clean up breakfast, get a load of laundry going, and make all the beds. I would much rather do my tasks then the twice-daily morning drive. Ben probably would, too, but he knows I dread the drive so he takes care of it. He’s a good one.

By the time Ben gets back with Baby June, it’s time for the three of us to get cleaned, dressed, and ready for the day. I like to jump in and out of the shower, but June and Ben can be pretty persuasive if we have time to linger! (Some of the best conversations happen in the shower, don’t they?)

Usually, we’re sitting down with our laptops around 9:15 or 9:30. We start by conferencing about the day, which is a very lovely way to take a deep breath and get organized. We talk about family administrative tasks that we need to tackle, from errands and appointments or a home repair, to paying the bills and even researching hotels for the next family vacation. And we make lists of what we’d like to accomplish work-wise that day.

Then we dive in. June hangs out with us and plays with the iPad or watches a movie. When she gets bored, we take turns spending time with her. Snacks and her other breaks are also the prime moments to tackle some laundry or other quickie tasks. We used to have a nanny, but she moved back to England last summer and we never quite got around to replacing her. It’s on the list. I think June would flip to have her own personal playmate that she didn’t have to share with her siblings!

June takes a long nap after lunch, so we double-dive in and try to accomplish the most difficult tasks that require our full attention while she’s sleeping.

When the kids get home from school around 5:00, my favorite part of the day begins! It’s family time, which means homework, school notes, hanging out, and dinner. Ben Blair is the in-house chef; around 6:30 every evening, you’ll find him in the kitchen surrounded by the kids, prepping ingredients and setting the table and just hanging out. I’m in there, too, usually ironing. Dinner is served by 7:00 or soon after, and with bellies full and conversations happily had, the whole family cleans the kitchen. We turn on a dance mix, and everyone helps in their own way – even the littlest ones, and even if that means showing off some groovy new moves they just invented!

Sometimes, the littles are too worn out to handle the thought of dirty dishes and crumbs that need to be swept, and so we split the evening events: one finishing up in the kitchen and one handling baths and suds.

One of us reads to June and Betty, who share a bedroom and literary tastes! The other reads to Oscar. And our older kids hang out and wind down in their own ways, either Skyping friends back in the States or reading their own books. On nights when I just can’t manage to do justice to our favorite authors, I’ll ask Olive or Maude or Ralph to chip in on reading time; they have the best character voices. Our goal is to be done with bedtime by 8:00.

Then we work again, take phone calls, and ideally climb in bed by 11:00. Some nights we sneak in something on Hulu, some nights we fool around, and some nights we find ourselves working late. It happens, especially when you’re balancing different time zones. One thing I like about us is that we try to stick together when we’re up late; that way, instead of being resentful toward each other the next day, we’re compassionate instead, knowing exactly how tired the other one must be!

Things we don’t currently fit in: exercise. I don’t even pretend to exercise and I don’t even think about it, so the guilt is non-existent! Also, the house could really use a more thorough cleaning more often. I’m not opposed to getting a housekeeper to help, but hiring people is harder than it probably should be.

Do you go on dates with your husband alone? How do you carve out time for just the two of you? 

In the States, I was lucky enough to have Ben Blair all to myself a few times every week! We would go to movies or dinner or just a quick run for frozen yogurt. Our older kids are built-in babysitters, and we lived really close to lots of shops and restaurants. It was easy and convenient. And hanging out with Ben Blair is all kinds of wonderful.

Images are by Sarah of Modern Kids Co.

 

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Comments (5)

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  1. Posted by: Mrs. Bodien

    So lovely to hear from Design Mom on momfilter! Design Mom is always my first stop on the Internet. And I just love hearing the hour-by-hour of any kind of mom, I find it endlessly fascinating and inspiring.

  2. Posted by: Amanda

    I love this interview! One point that really struck me is that Gabrielle and her husband stay up late together so they don’t feel resentful. This is the first time I’ve heard a couple do something like that and I think it’s wonderful!

  3. Posted by: juliagblair

    LOVED reading this! So much to learn from Ben and Gabby!

    It is uniquely what works for you and it’s wonderful!

    Thanks millions for sharing!

  4. Posted by: Ann

    I love reading designmom and momfilter, both are just so awesome and enlightening. I’m so impressed that Gabby makes the beds. I gave up on that long ago. Maybe this will push me to be a better housekeeper!

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