Because my days are usually tail-ended in a flurry of madness, crying and bribes (and that’s just my children trying to get me out of bed), I’m fascinated with how other people manage their days. Call it nosiness or just looking for tips, but I’m always keen to find out how other women juggle their lives. As founder of London-based children’s clothing brand La Coqueta (think GORGEOUS, traditional clothes that perfectly capture the innocence of childhood) and mother of five (aged between 2 1/2 – 7), Spanish-born psychologist-turned-entrepreneur (yup, she’s smart) Celia Muñoz knows more than most. From daily routines to relaxed weekends and making sure that she gives each child enough time, here’s how she does it…
How did you end up living in the UK?
I grew up in Spain and visited London once and loved it so much that when I finished my studies I decided to come to London, originally just for a year. I settled in very quickly, met lots of people, got a job and loved my life so much that I decided to prolong my stay for an additional year… 2 years became 3, 3 became 4…and so on. I’ve now lived in London for 14 years and I’m not really planning to go back to Spain any time soon. London is our home and as we visit our families regularly, living in this city is something that works for us as a family.
Why did you decide to set up La Coqueta?
The idea came to me after I had my first child. I got into making my own pieces because I had a very clear idea of what I wanted my children to wear and I could not find it very easily. I’ve always loved the way the Spanish dress their children and I feel La Coqueta is a continuation of my personal life – being Spanish and being a mother…La Coqueta is a reflection of my cultural heritage. After my initial research I decided to open a shop in the heart of Hampstead (North London). Initially the collection was aimed at London mums but since launching the website we soon realised that the brand had a global appeal.
How many days a week do you work?
Officially, I work from Monday morning (after I’ve taken my children to school) to Friday afternoon but unofficially I keep track of everything that is going on during the weekends too. When you have your own business, it is difficult to be strict with times. I have the flexibility to work whenever I wish so that I can adapt to my family life and then make up for it when they are all in bed.
Talk us through an average day in your week….
I wake up at 6.45am, have a shower and get all of my children dressed (luckily four out of five get dressed by themselves!). We then prepare and eat breakfast together which is something I love as we all get ready for the day ahead. We leave home at 8am and we all walk to school together. The moment I drop them off at school I catch up on all of my overnight emails while I walk to the store or back to the office. An average day of work is spent between the office (which is very conveniently located next to my home and the shop which I visit every day).
I generally stop working around the time the children come back home so that we can play together and do homework etc. From then we spend the evening together…I rarely have dinner with them as I wait for my husband to come home, however we all sit together and talk while they eat. Afterwards it is playtime…I usually take them out in the garden for a football match or hide and seek (I find that it gets them really tired before they go to bed!), I tell them a story in Spanish and take them individually to bed so that I get to spend 10 minutes with each of my children. Once they are all in bed, I call my husband and I go back to my office to work until he comes back. We generally chill out over dinner, a nice glass of red wine and a good chat…That’s all we need!
How do you deal with childcare?
I deal with childcare in a very practical way… I have a Dutch nanny (my husband is Dutch) who helps me with the children when I am not around. After a few years juggling around, I found that what works for me is to work with somebody who I trust 100% who can take care of my children when I am not around. The moment I get home, I take over as I like to be with my children alone and spend quality time with them. My nanny and I have worked out a way that in my opinion is perfect for my family and her. When she is in charge I do not interfere with her work and vice-versa so that there is no overlap and we don’t confuse the children. We are now in a position that is a lot easier as my eldest child is 7 years old and my little Hugo, who is 2 1/2 recently started nursery. I have always kept my children at home until the age of 2 1/2 so that they learn Spanish through me and Dutch through my husband and my nanny. We then get them into nursery so that they learn to speak English, at last!
I wouldn’t be able to work if I did not have a nanny but I find not having any overlap with her at home is something that works for me.
Have you always used a nanny?
When I had my first daughter Flavia I decided I didn’t want to have a nanny, but when I had my third child I soon realised that on top of being a mum I wanted to do something else and pursue my own ambitions. And so, it became evident that I needed some help at home. I found it extremely hard at first as I felt I had a stranger taking over my role as a mum, but it helped me to work through my own insecurities and I learned a lot about myself as well as taking care of my family. As I started to have more children, La Coqueta was born and having a nanny was a real need. Our needs are changing every year as our children grow up…we encourage them to be independent, take care of their own things, help at home etc, from a very young age so that they all help me out when I am alone with them. Things are becoming a lot easier now, less physical and the need for full-time childcare is reducing.
With five children you must be very busy. How do you make sure you give each child the attention they need?
It is incredibly busy indeed… I guess I get asked this question very often and the reality is that I always try to be the best mum I can be. The answer to this question is that I try not to think about this topic too much. If my children see me happy, they are happy. We are an incredibly tight family and all the time I am out of work it is to be spent exclusively with my family. I have limited my social engagements greatly (only to Saturday night) so that I am with my children all the time when I am not working. I find my children are confident little ones, they probably don’t get the same attention as if they were an only child but equally my husband and I have given them the best gift you could wish for, lots of siblings of similar ages and I can positively say, they have the most amazing time together. Our family is our first priority and we give them as much attention as we possibly can. They don’t think about it too much…they focus on what we give them not on what we could give them if circumstances were different…We are open to change and we will adapt to our children’s ever evolving needs as when they come.
People say that when you have your 3rd, 4th or 5th child, they just slot in. Do you think that’s true?
I actually found the arrival of my third child the hardest. When we had one we got the hang of it quickly, with the second, with my husband, we had one each but with the third…we didn’t have an extra pair of hands. So funny how different it is for different families. After some time I found it a lot easier as they played so much with each other and truly the fourth and the fifth child as you say, they just slot in in a wonderful way.
Do you have a set routine to your weekends or is it more go-with-the-flow?
I am very routine focused as I am not sure I could make it work otherwise. I find our routine works wonders during the week but during the weekend we are a lot more relaxed…it should be weekend for everybody and as we try to do as many things outdoors as possible. Sunday evenings are always hard as the house rules are back and our children know there is no messing around with that!
How do you make it work during the school holidays? Do you plan to do less work/take time off over the summer?
We generally go away on holiday during school breaks but of course, ours aren’t that long. We’re very lucky because our children’s school caters for working parents and organises activities during half term, which my children attend. During the summer they also spend time with my parents and their great grandmother, together with their 15 second cousins. Since last year we started sending our three older children to my grandmother’s for 10 days so that they could spend quality time with her and my parents without having us around and they get to practice our native languages which is wonderful.
Do you think you’ve achieved a good work/life balance? If so, how do you think you’ve managed it?
I think slowly but surely I am getting there. I find working next to home a wonderful experience as I manage to separate both worlds completely. I love the fact that I know everything that is going on every single second of the day when I am not at home because we are so routine focused and I can hear my children in the garden while I work with my colleagues.
What do you think are the main differences in Spanish and British parenting?
Hmm…that is a difficult question as I think that the differences are not nationality dependent but it has more to do with values. Most on my friends live in the UK as I moved to London in my early 20’s and we all share very similar views on parenting.
What’s the best thing about being a working mum?
I think it is different for every mum but for me going to work every day has allowed me to become the queen of multitasking.
What’s the hardest thing about being a working mum?
That sometimes there is so much planning around things that I may lose my spontaneity and I need to force myself to not become overly robotic and process focused.
How do you find time for your relationship with your husband?
My relationship with my husband is my very top priority, as it has always been. We feel incomplete without each other and from very early on we realised that we must always take care of each other’s feelings. The last thing I would do is to give relationship tips but what works for us is to ensure that the time we have together is only for us and not for anyone or anything else. We do not watch TV, we’ve given up quite a lot of things that we like to do individually just for the sake of being together… we talk lots and we ensure we keep the romance alive. We have a date night once a week and it works wonders for us.
Do you manage to carve out much ‘me’ time for yourself?
That is the area where I feel I could improve quite a lot. The reality is that I don’t, it would be nice to have a bit of time for myself but you can’t have everything and I am totally happy to trade that off in exchange for having a happy family and getting to do a job that I love. I do however take care of the “me” essentials… I would never leave my bedroom without being properly dressed or my red lipstick.
What would you change, if you could, about your current set up?
On the home side of things I would love to have more time for my children, be available all the time but equally I know La Coqueta needs me quite a lot at the moment and I have managed to get the best set up I can get. As we grow, that work-life balance will become a lot more realistic. I work with a wonderful team and find that contributing to a nurturing and friendly work environment makes things a lot easier. Half of the team works from my home office, they all know my children, where I live and I hope I can keep that for a very long time.
If you could give any advice to someone looking to juggle work and family, what would it be? Focus on a routine that works for you and your family and do not let yourself be influenced too much by what other people do or say if it’s not for you. Having a job as well as being a mum can be challenging at times and it is important to focus on what makes you feel good and confident, whatever that may be.