Bonjour Bébé

Interior designer Meridith Hamilton Ranouil has adapted her husband’s French-inspired attitude toward relaxed parenting with baby Emma. 

By Amy Gordy/Photography by Lilly Darragh

Bonjour Bebe
 

Meridith Hamilton Ranouil has taken another go at motherhood with the birth of her second daughter, Emma, 10 years on the heels of her first, Isabella. While much has changed in baby culture in the last 10 years, Ranouil is finding herself much more relaxed and go- with-the-flow thanks to the influence of her husband, Pierre, and their French perspective on parenting.

“The whole parenting culture is so much different than it was with my first pregnancy. People can be so hateful and judgmental. If you have a C-section, you are a failure. If you stay at home with your kid, you are lazy. If you go back to work, you are a bad mom. You can’t win. It was like that a little in my first pregnancy, but it’s really so much more now,” Ranouil said.

She quickly learned to avoid the mommy blogs, and turned to the French culture of her husband for a little guidance. “American culture says to give the baby everything they want, and don’t ever let them cry. In French culture, the baby doesn’t rule everyone’s life. We have a life, and we have a baby. It’s a lot more laid back and there’s not as much pressure. You don’t lose yourself as a mom. I’m much more relaxed as a parent, and it’s been a great experience.”

Ranouil runs her interior design business from home, so she’s able to have a flexible schedule to pick Isabella up from school, attend events, spend time with Emma and even get in a good workout. “I love boxing. The people at my gym are like a second family to me. I take Emma with me and set her up in her bouncer and work out. She loves to bounce!”

Ranouil credits her daughter Bella and husband for making life with Emma so great. “Bella is a huge help. It took her a little while to come around to the idea of having a sister, but she’s really stepped up to the plate and is always willing to help out,” Ranouil said.

Her husband had experience as an au pair while in college and was ready to step right into the role of “Dad.”

“He has a lot of experience with kids. Some men, if you hand them a baby, they have no idea what to do and get stiff. Pierre was a natural, and he was so good with me after the pregnancy with my influx of emotions and changing hormones. He helped me through the hard part and he’s been great with Bella. He always makes sure she feels included in everything.” 

Bonjour bebe

THE INSIDE SCOOP with MERIDITH

WHAT WAS THE MAIN DIFFERENCE IN THIS PREGNANCY AND YOUR PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE? I am so much more relaxed! I am aware now that every little thing is not worthy of my worry and stress.

WHICH PERSON IN YOUR LIFE HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST HELP WITH EMMA? If I had to name just one it would definitely be my husband, Pierre. From the moment she was born, he has been amazing. He not only helps with Emma, but also helps with keeping me centered and making Isabella, my oldest daughter, feel important. Honestly, though, I have had so much help and support from friends and family—I am very blessed.

WHICH BABY PRODUCT COULD YOU NOT LIVE WITHOUT? The Jumperoo! Emma has always been a mover, even in the womb, and she will jump in it all the time.

HOW HAS PREGNANCY CULTURE CHANGED SINCE YOUR LAST PREGNANCY? There is so much more pressure to be “perfect.” There was pressure 10 years ago, but now with Facebook groups, blogs and other interactive social media, the cyber bullying has gotten a little out of control.

HAVE YOU GONE BACK TO WORK FULL TIME YET, AND HOW WAS THAT TRANSITION? I am lucky to be self-employed with flexible hours. I have begun to work again, and it is not easy, but I am trying my best to balance the designer side with the mom side.

WHAT WERE YOUR FIRST THOUGHTS WHEN YOU SAW EMMA? “She has red hair!”

WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF EMMA’S NAME? Pierre and I wanted a short name. Isabella suggested the name Lizzy since her friends call her Izzy, and her sister could then be called ‘Little Lizzy.’ Well, that obviously wasn’t going to happen, but ‘Little Lizzy’ stuck until we could find the real name, Emma, which was chosen in part because it is pronounced the same in French and in English. This was important since she has both French and American citizenship. Elise (pronounced Elize) was chosen as her middle name to incorporate Lizzy.

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE AND LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT THIS PREGNANCY? I was pregnant. I was pregnant.

WHAT WAS THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU RECEIVED ABOUT MOTHERHOOD? About a week after I had Emma, I was stressing out about something little. Bella came to me and gave me a big hug and told me, “It’s OK if you make a mistake, you are still the best mom ever.”

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE ABOUT TO BECOME A NEW MOM? Try to relax. Don’t read the blogs. Don’t get sucked into the Internet groups. Most importantly, if something happens or does not go as planned, it is not the end of the world. Enjoy your time—it doesn’t last long and every stage is a gift.