I am delighted to be sharing this interview series with you, where I will be talking to a different woman every fortnight about parenting, motherhood, their daily rhythm and what makes a beautiful childhood. So without further ado, let’s meet the mother…
This week, I’d like to welcome Parisian mama of two Sophie Lazarski to Frida be Mighty. As soon as I came across Sophie I fell in love with her honesty and openness in sharing the highs and lows of gently parenting two young children in a big city far from home whilst setting up a local food business business. Sophie brings so much authenticity to whatever she does, and I’m sure you will enjoy reading her answers as much as I do…
Can you introduce yourself and your family?
I’m Sophie, I was born and raised near Tunbridge Wells in Kent and moved to Paris as an Au Pair when I was 21. I met my husband here and we’ve since had two children, Arthur who’s coming up on 3 and Fred who’s 7 months old. We live in central Paris and spend our days figuring out raising bilingual kids (much hilarity involved) and mostly hanging out in our beautiful corner of the city!
Do you have a daily rhythm? What do your days look like?
This is something we really work on day to day as my husband works shifts and I work from home. Arthur is at school Monday to Friday. This means that our times together as a family are few and far between and I’m mostly on my own with the kids for morning time and our dinner, bath & bed rhythms.
Our mornings start between 6.30 and 7am. The kids and I generally get up and have breakfast straight away in the kitchen. While we eat we chat or listen to our morning Spotify play list (Waldorf inspired circle time songs). We’re lucky to live across the road from Arthur’s school so our mornings can be pretty slow. Usually after breakfast there’s time for about 30-45 minutes of free play. We try to build as much free play as possible into the day, school starts at three years old here and while it’s mostly learning through play there is some structure and traditional schooling too. This means that I try to keep things as loose and unstructured at home as possible.
Because I work from home, Fred and I have quite a solid rhythm during the day that surrounds his naps. I often work at the computer while he plays on his mat next to me – his current favourite thing is playing with his brother’s cars. While he naps, I complete orders for the day in the kitchen. It’s full on at the moment, but I have loved being at home with him and feel very lucky to have been able to combine it with my work. As I write this he’s at an adaptation day for his new créche, where he’ll be during the week now I have to return to full time work.
Our afternoon rhythm starts at 4.30pm when I pick Arthur up. We try to go to the park if it’s nice outside and are generally home by 5pm so we can start prepping dinner. Fred plays in his highchair and Arthur helps me shell peas or cut vegetables for dinner, while I finish up Arthur generally plays or draws at his table in the kitchen. We go straight from dinner into the bath where Arthur plays while Fred finishes up his dinner and I clean the kitchen. After both the boys are clean and in their pyjamas we read stories on the sofa while I breastfeed Fred. I try to get Fred in bed asleep by 7pm so I can have half an hour focussed with Arthur before he goes to bed at 7.30pm. The boys share a room which has been a challenge in getting bedtimes smooth but we’re slowly getting there!
Are there any philosophies or books which have influenced your approach to parenting?
“Simplicity Parenting” and “The Danish Way of Parenting” have been really influential for me. Early on when I was pregnant with Arthur we decided we wanted to keep things as simple as possible, have the minimum of baby gear and toys. Of course it’s been a “learn on the job” sort of situation, we definitely bought stuff that we didn’t use or need (baby bath, structured baby carrier, toys etc…) but in general we’ve managed to keep things minimal by being open with people about our needs and desires for our family. Our kids are obviously still really little but we don’t do extra curricular activities and try not to over-pack our schedules so that they have lots of time for free play and discovery. In terms of a parenting philosophy, I try to remember not to expect things of my toddler that I wouldn’t expect of an adult. I try to treat him with the same respect I would an adult family member and I try to remember that he’s a person, not a machine. I’m not in the same mood every day, I don’t want to eat dinner sometimes, I don’t want to communicate a lot sometimes and so I try to be understanding when he exhibits these preferences too.
You recently launched a business delivering home-made food to families in Paris. How important do you think nutrition is when it comes to those sleep-deprived early days of parenting?
It’s invaluable! My company Nourish & Bloom was born out of the realisation that many of the parents we knew when we were brand new parents just weren’t taking care of themselves at all. In the sudden overwhelm of being responsible for tiny humans, they were forgetting that they needed caring for as well. The tiredness and business of new parenthood can create a spiral of bad habits where we are putting our children before absolutely everything else, not making the time to eat properly, becoming more and more tired due to lack of sleep and poor food choices and continuing in a vicious circle. Proper food and proper rest are vital in the early days but unfortunately because people are living less and less in community, where new families would be provided & cared for, proper meals can be few and far between!
I am also guilty of allowing bad habits to get out of hand. I just got back from a ten day holiday on my own with my boys. I ate really well while I was away (Brittany seafood is the best!) but as soon as I got back, tired and depleted as I was from ten days on the beach with a toddler and a baby, I reached for convenience & “relaxation” – take out sushi and wine. The result? A bad night’s sleep, a sugar crash and a dehydration headache which reduced my ability to be the kind of mother I want to be for a couple of days. I know I’m at my best when properly fed & hydrated.
What is your favourite quick meal to cook for your family?
Pasta pesto! Such a classic made 1000x better with home made pesto. You can basically sneak any green veg into it and it gets eaten with gusto. Our favourite right now is spinach, parmesan, olive oil, lemon zest and walnuts all whizzed in a blender until smooth.
You have written a lot about living as a family of four in a small 1-bedroom apartment (which I should point out for readers who don’t follow you yet is absolutely gorgeous and very chic!) and how you make this work for all of you. What tips would you give to a family in a similar situation?
Thank you! Yes we live in a really tiny apartment, half out of choice and half out of necessity! Honestly the first and most important thing I can say is to forget everything that society tells you about what you need to have to be happy and successful. We are constantly told that we should be aiming to be home owners, that kids need their own rooms, or at least their own space, that we need endless toys and gadgets and clothes and decorations to be complete. None of this is true and in fact we’ve found the opposite. We don’t have the physical space to have many possessions and we have to be very intentional about what we bring into our home. I try to live by the maxim “Have nothing in your home that you don’t know to be useful or find to be beautiful.” but it’s such a process. We’ve been living small for seven years (in fact counting university, I’ve been doing it for ten years now!) and I now find myself overwhelmed in bigger homes. There just seems to be so much up-keep involved, so much more to tidy, clean and organise!
Which aspects of parenting bring you the most joy?
Watching the evolution of Arthur learning to speak has been incredible. He speaks both English and French natively and just says the funniest things. Right now his vocabulary is just exploding and I’ve been so enjoying having almost “grown-up” conversations with him! I just find it amazing that just yesterday he was this tiny baby and today he’s telling me all about all the animals he know that are green! I found that when I was pregnant, people often told me how challenging it was all going to be, broken nights, poop etc – but nobody ever mentioned just how hilarious it is, how seriously funny little children are. That has been such a joy, laughing until our stomachs hurt at the sheer hilarity of it all.
Which parts of motherhood do you find challenging?
The noise. I’m by nature somebody who really needs a quiet environment to focus. When I can’t hear my own thoughts is when I really struggle. Obviously quiet is hard to come by in a tiny apartment full of kids and my husband so I just have to practice patience and deep breathing and really really encourage quiet time!!
How do you make time for self-care, and what does that look like for you?
Self care is something that changes regularly for me. I’ve learned to constantly question myself over what I need in a moment, why I’m feeling a certain way before taking action. As I mentioned above, having regular quiet times for myself is incredibly important to me and I often choose to sit alone in the quiet as an act of self-care. However, there have been seasons for me when going out and seeing my friends has been what I desperately needed. Acknowledging that I’m not a linear being with consistent habits and needs has been enormously helpful in my self care journey. At certain times of the month I crave solitude, at others I need to pamper myself and sometimes I need to deep clean my apartment at 10 o’clock at night and that’s a kind of self care too. Accepting that my emotional, physical and nutritional needs are normal and deserve to be met has been extremely helpful. Some things I’m doing right now are:
1. Working with a nutritionist and personal trainer to keep me the healthiest I can be in a very busy time of life.
2. Making sure I get outside for at least an hour a day before the real Parisian winter sets in.
3. Going to bed early because I’m still breastfeeding on demand at night and have two early-riser children (and I’m horrible when I’m tired!)
What do you think makes for a beautiful childhood?
I’m really lucky to have had parents who encouraged us in the strengths they saw in us. They never tried to mould us into what they might have wanted us to be but encouraged us to be who we were – even if that might not be “successful” in the traditional sense of the term. If my sons can come out of their childhood with a solid sense of self, of right and a good understanding of what health, happiness and success are to them, I’ll be a very happy mother. For me, a beautiful childhood is freedom to become. For the child to be able to delve into what makes them them and to be supported in this within a loving environment. Room to play, learn and discover independently, time in nature, time alone with themselves and unconditional love.
If you could share one insight or piece of advice with other mothers, what would it be?
Don’t google anything and don’t follow ANYONE’S advice if it doesn’t sit well with you. You know your child the best and you know what will work for them and how you want to raise them. What works for your friends kids probably won’t work for yours and that’s ok! Everything will be ok.
Finally, what is your favourite children’s book?
This is such a hard question! For non-fiction we really love the Usborne lift the flap first questions books. We’ve got a few and Arthur can spend hours with them. Our absolute favourite fiction book has been The Lion Inside for a while now. We love that it’s written in rhyme (easier to remember & recite when needed!) and the message about being brave has been a huge hit in our house.
Thank you so much Sophie! You can find Sophie on Instagram here and on Facebook here, and read her beautiful blog here.