How This Interior Designer Juggles Work & 7 Kids

Being a working mum is hard, and it can often feel like missed deadlines, forgotten dry cleaning, and never, ever seeing friends is the norm. But we don't have to reinvent the wheel to figure out a better way through. Just look around at all the super successful mums kicking ass on a daily basis.
This Is How I Do It is a new day-in-the-life series featuring some of these impressive women, who juggle big careers and families with grace and humour. Their stories won't literally do your laundry and pack your kids' lunches while you answer email, but they offer an honest peek at how someone else gets her life together every day.
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Photo by Catherine Hall, courtesy of THE NOVOGRATZ.
Cortney Novogratz, 46, and her husband Robert, have been the design duo The Novogratz since they started their careers in Manhattan 25 years ago. They're parents to seven: Wolfgang, 20. Bellamy, 19, Tallulah, 19, Breaker, 17, Five, 12, Holleder, 12, and Major, 8. You may remember Cortney from their Bravo show, 9 by Design, or their HGTV show, Home by Novogratz. You definitely don't want to miss their Instagram account.
My day-to-day:
6:00 a.m. I wake up, walk downstairs, and start the coffeemaker first thing. I drink some water while I wait and glance at my phone: emails, texts, Instagram, social media, etc. Robert usually is up already, believe it or not, and in our home office. I usually try to bring him a cup of coffee and have a quick chat with him.
6:30 a.m. Our son Holleder wakes up on his own and pulls homework or his sports uniforms together, showers etc.
6:50 a.m. I wake the rest of our kids.
7:00 a.m. Luckily, now I only have to make two lunches; there was a time I made seven. While I'm making lunches, I also make breakfast. Usually, it's a few different types of cereal but some days we do bagels and/or eggs when I have more time.
7:25 a.m. Half the kids leave for school. Since moving to L.A., we must drive our kids to school, and I can't be at all those schools at once, so my older kids either Uber or my friend Stefan (takes a village) will drive them. There's always a rush of finding backpacks, last minute homework being printed, etc.
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7:45 a.m. Robert takes Major to school. Robert walks while Major skateboards, which a bonus since the other kids' schools are so far away. I get another cup of coffee and race through the house to clean up before our office team arrives..
8:30 a.m Our home becomes our office — our team arrives and of course I make more coffee, and sometimes some tea.
9:00 a.m. We have a powwow of the day or week and what is all happening. If I don't have a full morning I try to fit in a walk in the Hollywood Hills around our home.
10:30 a.m. I'm dressed for success and on-site for a project or running errands, sourcing tiles, fabrics, etc. Or, I'm in our home office on conference calls or Skype sessions.
1:00 p.m We usually host meetings around lunch, whether it's local clients or clients in from the East Coast. Robert and I believe our home is our best showroom.
3:00 p.m. I pick up our youngest, Major, while Stefan or Uber grabs the rest. If there's a game, Robert and I try to attend.
4:00 p.m. The tutors, piano teacher, skateboard coach, etc. arrive at our home. I realised a long time ago I was more productive bringing folks to us rather than running all over the city for extra activities. Some days are left open for play dates, and of course, I try to host so I don't have to circle around town picking up my kids before dinner. Plus, I'd rather all then kids hang at our house. If you work for us, the afternoons can be full of life, but I always check back in and answer any interviews or emails that are needed.
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6:00-6:45pm: We either go out to eat or start cooking. We take turns setting the table — some of my kids are quite good while others aren't — but each night someone has the duty. There's always someone extra at our table — a coach, friend, contractor, etc. Since moving to L.A., we eat outside every night and the kids run around, which is awesome.
8:00 p.m. Homework begins and goodness sometimes it's just a simple spelling test, but sometimes it's a full on project with wood-cutting in the yard.
9:30 p.m. I try to get everyone showered and bathed. Having five boys that doesn't always work. I try to get our youngest to bed first, but again that doesn't always work. There's a lot of wrestling going on and nine times out of ten something gets broken. So I clean up, pull out the vacuum, and so forth. As long as no serious injuries, it's all good. I prefer no emergency room runs after 7 p.m.
11:00 p.m. I try to watch TV or a little news while I check back in on emails. Then it's bedtime.
Photo by Catherine Hall, courtesy of THE NOVOGRATZ.
My current passion project: Learning to maintain the citrus trees in my yard. Since moving to California I've taken up gardening more, and it's so fun to be able to use the lemons and oranges that grow on our trees.
The best part of my day: Coffee time before everyone wakes up. I get to breathe, plan the day, and have a few minutes of alone time since I usually don't get it again the rest of the day.
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The one thing I wish I didn't have to do: Laundry. If I must, then I choose only towels; thank goodness I have my friend and housekeeper Diana to help — we do at least two loads a day since we're a clan of nine.
The one thing I always worry about: I'm usually not someone who worries. I guess you can't with seven kids. But lately it's been difficult transitioning my oldest three into adulthood — off to college, into first apartments, and so forth. I seem to worry about them because I no longer have control, but missing them is even harder.
The secret to being a successful working mother is: My secret is that I work alongside my husband, their father. We don't take our success or failures too seriously. Working together allows us to juggle it together. We've had a home office for over 25 years so that family life and work life is all under one roof. It means we never shut either one off, but I prefer it that way. I wouldn't want to sacrifice either; I love our career so much that it doesn't feel like work, and naturally I love my big family. I like to call it our creative chaos.
The one thing I would tell other working mums: Let go of the guilt. Having a career allows your kids to know you not only as their mum but as a person with a passion and interests outside of them. Our kids will leave us one day, and we need to have other things going on. Yes, at times we drop the ball, make mistakes, or miss a few events due to work, but we are their parents forever. We can't forget that we were someone before them. Robert and I chose to have kids to enrich our lives and raise good humans. Instead of changing who we are, we've tried to include our kids in what we do, while allowing them to find what they love. Support other working mums — we need each other. Reach out to each other with your questions. Working mums get it done, so be proud.
Becoming a mother changed this thing about me: I was the youngest of five and a bit spoiled, however I knew from an early age I wanted a lot of kids and a full house. Having my son Wolfgang instantly created a less selfish me. I became less all about Cortney and started to understand that what we put into life, we get out of it. Give and you shall receive.
Tell us about your village. Who helps raise your kids: "It takes a village" is my motto. I even once photographed our village of 20 folks for our family holiday card with the caption "Honour Your Village This Season." My contractor/Manny/friend Stefan has been in our lives for over 15 years. He met his wife through us, got married at our home, and even moved across the country to stay part of our village. I'm thrilled to share he will soon become a father. My designer Michelle, second in charge, literally does it all. She works closely with Robert and helps run our company which helps run our life. She's a lawyer, designer, and also sings with our son's band. Her sister Heidi stepped in to hold all of us up including Michelle. We love families so we believe in hiring them. Most of our interviews start with, Do you like kids? Do you have a sense of humour? Oh, and can you design? Diana is our housekeeper, house manager, and lucky her son Ericson is good friends with Major, so when she needs to work long hours — if we're hosting a big party or something — she can do so while being with her kids. Major and Ericson are known to be the last ones on the dance floor at our parties. I try to communicate with our village and with each year ask what they want to see change, because in any field you've got to feel inspired, and it can't ever get dull. Fortunately, if you work with the Novogratz clan, it's never really dull.
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