Photo by Christina Schumacher

With 111k Instagram followers to her name, Babyccino Kids co-founder and mum-of-four Courtney Adamo is renowned for her impeccable style and candid views on parenting. Currently based in Primrose Hill, North London, she and her husband are about to take their four kids – aged between one and a half, and 10 years – on a year-long trip around the world, with no firm plans as to where they’ll end up. Here, she talks childhood, ignoring emails, and why she plans to rebut formal education for the next 12 months… 

You grew up in the States. Tell us about your own childhood.
I grew up on a tulip farm in a small town about an hour north of Seattle. We had the ocean on one side, mountains on the other, and our house was surrounded by farmland. We lived down a long drive quite far from the main road, so even as young children we were free to roam around outside on our own.

I’m the eldest of five children, so there was always someone to play with and we were usually all outside plotting our next adventure. I was also really into horses and spent all my free time riding in the fields around our house. Every spring when the tulips bloomed and the fields filled with colour, I would hop on my horse and ride through the fields. There is something so introspective about being on a horse in the middle of a tulip field!

I moved to the UK when I was 21. I’d just graduated university in Chicago and had moved to LA to start my career in journalism. I met Michael (my future husband) the day I got to LA, and three months later he was offered a job in London. We moved all the way to London together after only two months of dating! We thought we would live there for a year – a good opportunity to travel around Europe. We had no clue we would still be here 12 years (and four babies) later.

Babyccino Kids is now a global phenomenon. Tell us about it.
I started Babyccino with two friends, Esther and Emilie, back in 2007 when most people didn’t know what a blog was. We had all met in London two years earlier when our first babies were born and we bonded over new motherhood and the questions/concerns/gripes/pleasures that come with it.

We used to meet in cafes and talk about babies and new-found products we loved, recipes we made and enjoyed, activities we had discovered, and other interesting parenting topics. Two years later, Emilie moved to Paris and Esther moved to Amsterdam. We started the Babyccino Kids blog as a way to stay in touch with each other and continue to share our discoveries as new mothers. In 2011, we launched our shopping portal, which is a curated directory of more than 350 stylish children’s boutiques from around the world.

You have four children – how do you balance motherhood with being your own person?
I’m not sure there is ever really a perfect balance in my life. It often feels like I’m being pulled in so many directions, and because of that there is always an area that is not getting enough of my attention, whether it’s my job, my children, my husband, my home, or myself. Often it’s myself! I would love to do more yoga, see more friends, read more books, cook more meals… but I’ve come to terms with the fact that life is busy right now and I can’t do it all.

I try to maintain the balance between my family and my job, and if that feels balanced, then I’m generally happy with how things are going. I think it’s best to try to be really present in each role and to keep them as separate as possible. I try not to be on my phone or answer emails when I’m with my kids – whenever I attempt to mix motherhood and work, I just end up being really cranky and impatient. My husband and I also agree that weekends are strictly for family – no computers, no emails.

I think it’s sort of about adjusting our mindset and coming to terms with what really makes us happy. So often we’re chasing after something bigger or better, comparing ourselves to others and putting a lot of pressure onto ourselves (and our kids). I think it’s important to take a step back, see the bigger picture and then to find happiness in the simple things.

What advice would you offer new mums?
I always like to reassure new mothers that they should relax and trust their own gut feelings, put down all those contradicting parenting books and enjoy the time with their baby. We can get so caught up in how other people are doing things or what all the books tell us we should be doing that it’s easy to forget to listen to our own babies and trust our own motherly instincts. Also, there really is no ‘right’ way.

One of my closest friends, also a mother of four, recently sleep-trained her six-week-old baby to sleep through the night. My first instinct was to judge her as one of those crazy, controlling mothers with a tight schedule, but then I reminded myself that it works for her and that her children are all happy and healthy. My babies all slept in our bed and nursed on demand for the first six months of their lives, and I’m sure she would think I’m a hippy mother with no routine! What works for one family might not work for the other, and that’s OK.

We hear a new chapter is on the cards, starting with a trip around the world. What’s the plan?
A year-long travel adventure is something my husband and I have always dreamt of. We knew if we were ever to do it, it would have to happen while the kids were still young, before schooling becomes too demanding and their friends become more appealing than their family. Our eldest just turned ten, and when we reflect on the last ten years it’s scary how quickly it’s gone and how much of a blur it is. We’re hoping this year of travel will allow us to slow down and be more present, to spend quality time together as a family and to explore the world, discovering new cultures, languages, foods, etc.

We’ll be traveling from South America to New Zealand and Australia, then to Asia and then back to Europe, following the sun for the year. It’s an adventure but the aim is not to be adventurous. It’s about slowing down time and really being together.

Are you planning to home-school the kids while you are away?
We’re hoping that this year of adventure and discovery will provide an exceptional education for all of us, not just lessons of geography and language, but of all subjects, learned by immersing ourselves in foreign places and cultures. Our aim is to sit down with the children every day and ask and answer questions about all that we’ve seen and done that day. We’ll be encouraging them to keep a journal and write in it daily. We’ll also ask them to read every day, and we look forward to having more time to read to them as well.

We’ll probably use online maths programs for the older children, so that they continue to learn maths in the recommended way, but we hope they will also develop their maths skills by practise in everyday situations. Essentially, they will learn by doing and we’re excited to witness their emotional and academic growth over the coming year. Their school has been incredibly supportive of our choice and has encouraged this style of hands-on learning.

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