How to reconcile your career and private life- Advice from Mathilde Lacombe

How to reconcile your career and private life- Advice from Mathilde Lacombe

20 April 2016

Director of Birchbox France and “maman poule” (mother hen) of two children, Mathilde is expecting her third child in May. Before the photo shoot we had lunch at Nanashi in Le Marais (Paris), to exchange stories about our everyday lives as young, working mothers. I’ve known Mathilde since she gave birth to her first child, three years ago, and I really appreciate her advice, full of good sense, and her serenity when she talks about maternity. In this article, we’ve chosen to discuss in particular the balance between career and family life, a subject she has already covered accurately on her blog.

Career and Management.

You started your career eight years ago, firstly as a free-lance journalist and a blogger and then as an entrepreneur creating Joliebox, which is today a company with more than ten employees. Your everyday life and your responsibilities must have changed a lot. Have you had to make any concessions to your career? Or on the contrary, has becoming a mother helped you to redefine your priorities and mature in your job? I don’t think I’ve had to make any concessions. On the contrary, I think launching my own company has meant that I need to ask myself less questions: I had the liberty to have children whenever I wanted to. Maybe if I’d stayed in a large company I wouldn’t have dared? I really hope not, I think it’s really scandalous that women can be penalized in the development of their careers because of a pregnancy. Especially because if women can handle children, they can take care of work! Mothers know how precious time is, and so they are very time-efficient.

Is being a manager of a composed madeup of youndger people with different priorities in life (Parisians, no children…) a difficulty? Three years ago when I had my first son, I felt really different to the rest of my team. I was the only one to have a child and a “family life”. I reorganized my schedule so I could come home earlier and my priorities were different. However, I’ve managed to rediscover my rhythm and now there are other mothers at Birchbox, we support each other!

Do you enjoy real time off or do you work from a distance (i.e. vacations, week-ends, nights…)? When I’m with my children, I force myself to disconnect fully in order to enjoy my time with them. I don’t see them a lot during the week, so nights, week-ends and holidays are dedicated to them. Asides from that, because of my job I always keep an eye on my emails and social media, but I’ve learnt to manage it.

You live in Reims and work in Paris. What do you do during the commute? In the morning, I either read or watch a TV show (I’m addicted to ‘The Affair’ at the moment). On the way back, I finish doing my emails since I’m one of the first to leave the office.

Mathilde par émoi émoi (4)

Daily Organization.

Do you have a secret to making everything work? No secret, just a very involved husband who looks after a lot of things. We’ve found our balance and a fair division of the daily tasks. This is key for me, it’s impossible to handle everything alone.

Tell us about your day-to-day organization. The children go to nursery. I get the train early in the morning. I get the children up and ready, and then my husband takes over and is in charge of taking them to and from nursery, and giving them dinner in the evenings and sorting out bath time. I come back for story-time and cuddles!

When you went back to work, were you children sleeping through the night? If not, what did you do to deal with the tiredness? They were sleeping through the night when they were 3 months old. The nights when they were sick though meant that the tiredness and exhaustion didn’t entirely stop. But I feel as though from becoming a parent, you develop a true resistance to fatigue. Tired or not, we have to be present at work and at home so I just forget about being tired and get on with it (with some good concealer)! A piece of advice: go to bed as early as possible. I’m in bed by 10pm, otherwise waking up at 6am is just too difficult!

What do you do when you want to go for a night out with your husband or for a romantic weekend break? Do you leave the children with close family, a nanny, a baby sitter?  We are lucky that we have our two families close to us. This is a real luxury that grants us some private moments for just the two of us. This is so important for maintaining our stability because you can soon forget yourselves as a couple when you become parents.

Do you receive help for hosehold chores (nanny, housekeeper, family…)? A housekeeper comes once a week.

Mathilde par émoi émoi (8)

Pregnancy and maternity leave.

How did you organize yourself when you were on maternity leave? Did you continue to work from home? I kept reading my emails! After my first maternity leave I learnt that no one is irreplaceable and essentially that everything carried on fine without me. It’s a relief once you realize this! For my first child, the team at the office was very small and I had nobody to delegate my work to. So I was back at work within 2 weeks of giving birth. I really don’t recommend it though, maternity leave is a precious time and you should make the most of it.

Did you plan your pregnancies around your professional obligations? Not at all, it is a personal matter and not a professional one. I think it’s risky to plan children around work, because there’s never a good time. Even more so in a startup like Birchbox that keeps on growing very fast.

Child daycare.

Your children go to nursery school, why and how did you and your husband choose this type of child care? We wanted our children to be part of a childcare community.

When you returned to work, did this adaptation go well with your first two children? Do you have any particular advice for mothers to make this transition go more smoothly? It went very well. I think it was harder for me than for my children. During my son’s first week at kindergarten, I cried everyday whereas he seemed quite happy. I don’t have any specific advice because I think the situation is different depending on the childcare option you choose. However I think you need a week to adapt to whatever new scheme you have chosen.  It’s important to accept that things are different at nursery to what we are used to doing at home (different nap times, activities…) otherwise it’s easy to get frustrated. Even it’s heartbreaking for the first few days, I was glad to return to work each time. I need both to feel balanced and happy!

Personal projects.

I really admire the way that you’ve maintained your blog and your Instagram account with such an intense professional life at Birchbox, and with young children. Do you have any time specifically dedicated to writing your blog? Thank you! From now onwards it’s going to be during the weekends when the children are taking a nap. I post less now than when I started my blog, but I’m really touched to see that my readers continue to follow me. Most of them have “grown up” with me and can relate to my new posts when I am talking about maternity, children, lifestyle… I love how my blog has developed; it’s a real representation of me! However, I haven’t yet found the time to write the book I’ve always dreamt of writing!

Do you have any other personal projects on at the moment? A third baby for next month! Also we’re very lucky to have found our dream house, which we’re moving into soon… in short a wonderful spring ahead for the family!

Mathilde Lacombe - émoi émoi (1)Time for yourself.

What would you most like to do (or dream of doing) when you have:

An hour off for your lunch break: I book a manicure at the office with the app Simone!

A day off without children: I work on future posts for my blog, tidy the house, or arrange to have lunch with my mother or with a friend.

A weekend with your husband (and no kids!): Whenever we have the opportunity, we organize a weekend away, just the two of us, to a new place every time. The only rule: less than 3 hours away by car, and some history to soak up (Bruges, Lausanne, Pierrefond…). Sometimes, we just stay at home and chill!

Do you have any more advice specifically for future and young mothers reading this? Don’t try and be perfect, and be lenient with yourself: in your children’s eyes you’ll always be the best!

Mathilde Lacombe wears an Imanimo kimono dress, a Mamalicious bodycon dress and a Paula Janz boyfriend T-shirt with  Mamalicious  white jeans in distressed denim.

9 comments

  1. Marie
    21st April 2016, 9:49

    En fait c’est le mari qui fait les doubles journées, qui s’occupe des enfants au dîner quand ils sont fatigués et bougons, c’est sûrement lui que la crèche appelle quand il y a un problème, qui range les courses et range le bazar le soir. Bref, moi j’applaudis surtout le mari au même titre que j’applaudis toutes les mamans qui assurent quand c’est le mari qui fait carrière. Surtout que bientôt il y en aura un troisième. Bravo le mari !

  2. 21st April 2016, 12:26

    Pour avoir rencontré Mathilde lors de la Birchbox School en janvier, j’ai été agréablement surprise par sa douceur et sa zénitude, je suis maman de 2 petits garçons de 3 ans et 7 mois et je suis très admirative de son parcours et j’aime beaucoup sa manière d’aborder les choses.
    Un bel exemple à suivre <3

  3. Marion
    21st April 2016, 12:31

    C’est un peu etrange comme portrait : une maman poule qui fait carriere mais qui dit que ca roule et viens parler de sa famille mais sans sa famille?
    Jai l’habitude de voir dans vos portraits des familles, des gens qui s’aiment, des parents qui parlent de leurs enfants, des photos pleines d’amour.
    Je ne lis pas ces articles pour voir que la maman est mignone et que les vetements emoi emoi qui lui vont bien.
    Vos articles sont toujours ds moments de vies et de partage. C’est ca emoi emoi, du partage d’amour, We are family!
    La c’est creux, sans amour, sans images…
    Ses enfants n’ont pas de noms? quand je parle de mes enfants je dit Arthur,Alexandre, Juliette et Jeanne, je dit pas mes fils et mes filles.
    Enfin je sais pas c’est etrange tant de distance dans un article. Ca sonne faux

  4. Aurelie
    21st April 2016, 12:34

    Oui moi aussi je suis decue par cet article.
    Fade et sans famille, emoi emoi c’est la famille!
    la je vois une femme qui pose pour des photos, et qui parle d’une famille qui semble finalement loin d’elle.

  5. Julie
    21st April 2016, 14:37

    Que veut dire concilier vie de famille et vie professionnelle ? C’est être à 80% et s’occuper du mercredi pour la maison et les enfants ? C’est être là à 17h le soir ? C’est être absent de 7h à 20h ? Visiblement un peu de tout ça donc tout le monde sans exception arrive à le faire. Ça n’a donc rien de compliqué d’avoir des enfants et de concilier vie pro et vie perso. Les pdg de grosses boîtes doivent avoir à peu près le même schéma de vie que Mathilde (mais ils sont sûrement moins sexy) . Il y a des portraits bien plus inspirants sur votre mag !

  6. Nathalie
    21st April 2016, 18:24

    Bonjour à toutes,
    Merci pour vos commentaires ! Comme de nombreux autres parents, Mathilde Lacombe préfère ne pas montrer ses enfants en photo sur internet, nous l’avons donc invitée à participer une séance photo “future maman”. De plus, étant assez connue sur les réseaux sociaux, elle ne souhaite pas communiquer les prénoms de ses enfants.
    Sur les questions et thèmes abordés, comme nous avions déjà interviewée Mathilde dans notre série de portraits il y a deux ans, nous avons choisi cette fois d’aborder en particulier le thème de l’organisation vie pro / vie perso (thème qui nous intéresse beaucoup chez émoi émoi !). N’hésitez pas à consulter les autres articles pour lire ses réponses sur d’autres sujets.
    Belle fin de journée et merci pour votre fidélité !

  7. Helene
    22nd April 2016, 7:35

    Comme dit precedement, pas beaucoup d’interet , et cette jolie demoiselle ne me semble pas adherer au concept emoi emoi.
    Si elle ne veux montrer comment “sa vie est belle en famille” et bien qu’elle n’en parle pas.
    Tout vos maman, papa, poule ou cool on fait du article ou il parle de leur enfant, explique le choix des prenoms, font de merveilleuses photos qui montrent leur amour.
    Mathilde a t elle honte de son mari et de ses enfants? ils ne sont pas assez bien pour poser avec elle?
    Elle veux garder sa vie privée? et bien quelle arrette d’en parler sur les reseaux sociaux, a moin que cela ne soit purement qu’une question marketing?

  8. Camille
    22nd April 2016, 8:29

    Ohlala, pourquoi tant de dureté dans les commentaires? Pensez qu’elle ne pose pas avec son mari et ses enfants parcequ’elle en a honte?…sérieusement?!

  9. Jeanne
    28th April 2016, 12:06

    Oh mais oui , c’est une si jolie futur maman, et un bel article!
    N’empeche que madame Lacombe fait un sacré joli manequin pour vos vetement:)
    Je lui souhaite plein de bonheur pour l’arrivée de son 3eme, un second babyboy!

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