I had met the Adamo family briefly once before at a mutual friends birthday. Courtney was then pregnant with her fifth child Wilkie and about to pop. She looked exactly as she does on Instagram but more illuminated, more magnified. Naturally beautiful, not a scratch of makeup and softly spoken, very sweet and utterly unfazed as her insanely genetically blessed children ran around her. Micheal, her husband introduced himself with a warm smile and kind eyes.
It was plain to see why so many of us have connected with them through the weird portal that is Instagram. We have travelled with them around the globe as they searched for somewhere to call home, felt inspired to live a simpler family life as they threw away the shackles of city life and gasped in shock but quickly recovered with excitement at the news baby number five was on the way.
Fast forward to Easter 2017 and Sam and I find ourselves in the Adamo's new family home nestled up in the hills of Bangalow. We drink tea and chat about the usual, kids, community, sleep and travel. Marlow needs to be picked up from kindy, Ivy has just been dropped back from a play date, Quin is walking around with Wilkie on his shoulder and Easton is flicking through surf mags. In person five kids seems less then I imagined and I get to thinking.....There still might be time to knock another one out.
Firstly congratulations on your new baby boy Wilkie, he is completely delicious. What’s a little baby vomit between friends, it definitely brought us closer to together. Do you realise you and Michael are responsible for a modern day baby boom? Seriously, it’s dangerous. You should put a warning up in your instagram profile saying, “Beware following us will make you fall pregnant more often than you had originally intended.”
Haha! Michael has always joked to other dads that they shouldn’t let their wives near me if they don’t want more babies.
What was the moment that you and Michael realised you wanted to live a different life? Was it a series of events or something within you?
I think it was a series of events, a building up of wanderlust and a desire to live a slower paced life with our children. Michael and I moved to London in 2003 after dating for only a couple months. I thought we would live in London for a year; I never expected to be there for 13 years! Despite being very settled, I think there was a part of me that knew we’d eventually want to explore more of the world. More than anything though, we realised how quickly time was passing—how fast our kids were growing up. Our eldest was about to turn ten and we felt like a decade had passed in the blink of an eye. We were working really hard, life was busy and time seemed to accelerate every year. We decided it was time to step off the career treadmill and take time to genuinely and fully be with our children while they were still young.
I feel so many people are drawn to you because they see in you and Michael a dream they have for themselves; escaping the craziness, slowing things down, spending more time with their children. I can imagine it must have been daunting at times making that change, leaving your friends and families. What advice do you have for people wanting something similar but feel it is too overwhelming, too impossible, too financially daunting?
Do it! Don’t overthink it. Don’t dwell on all the what-ifs or potential problems that could arise. You’ll work them out and you will never regret it!
I remember speaking to a mum at the children’s school before we left and she had all sorts of questions for me: What if one of you gets sick while you’re away? What if you get somewhere and you don’t love it? What if you can’t get the kids back into school when you return or your husband can’t get another job? She must have thought I was ill prepared because I just stared blankly back at her and could offer no really considered answers. The thing is, I just don’t worry about those kind of possibilities. I knew there would be challenges, but I also knew it would be life changing and that we would land on our feet whenever we returned.
Of course we didn’t just pick up and leave. We had a plan for how we were going to pay for this adventure and what we might do on our return. Michael’s background as a producer served us well as he handled all of the logistics and monitored our budget. Still, during our year on the road we met so many families with a similar adventurous spirit, travelling on all sorts of different budgets. We met a beautiful family in Chile who had spent the past couple years travelling around South America in their Westfalia van, living very simply and enjoying their time together. If you long for adventure, or even if you just want to slow down and be more present, it’s about making that a priority no matter what sacrifices need to be made. Lastly, pack light. You won’t need much.
Did you always want to be a mother? Was a large family always on the cards for you?
Yes, I always wanted to be a mother, and having come from a big family, I liked the idea of having a big family of my own. I’m the eldest of five, so I’ve been ‘mothering’ since I was a young girl. I was ten when my youngest sibling was born and my sister and I treated him like our very own baby. My mom jokes that she only ever saw him when he was hungry.
I always wished for four kids. Five is an unexpected but very welcome bonus!
Describe to me Courtney pre kids. Where did you live, what did you do for work, how did you meet Michael?
I had just graduated from university when I met Michael. I was only 22, and I had just moved from Chicago to Los Angeles to start my career in journalism. Michael was 33 and had been living and working in LA for a few years. He was tall, dark and handsome. I had the biggest crush on him from the minute I met him.
We moved to London together just two months later. He was offered a job at an animation production company in Soho and I wouldn’t let him move without me (it took some convincing!). We packed a couple suitcases and off we went. I don’t think either of us thought we’d spend the next 13 years in that city. We were just so happy to be living in such a cool city and with such easy access to the rest of Europe -- we did a lot of travelling– from Copenhagen to Cairo, Barcelona to Prague, we were away nearly every other weekend of that first year.
I became pregnant with Easton exactly one year after moving to London. I never really had a chance to start a career, but I was super excited to become a mother. I never felt too young, I never felt deprived of my youth. I was ready!
When we were chatting about Babyccino, the company you have built over the last nine years with good friends Emile and Esther (link below, a great site on all things re family lifestyle) we were talking about how your team consists only of mothers. That you consciously employed women who were looking for a change in their career since having children or something new to inspire them that they could be a part of while still enjoying motherhood. I can imagine that it’s one hell of a productive office?
Haha! Exactly. Women, especially mothers, are the ultimate multi-taskers. We have such a gorgeous team of women working for us, and because they all had successful careers before they had children, they each bring a set of skills and experience to our team. And because we’re all mothers, we know how to juggle the demands of work and family life. While we might be flexible in our hours, we are reliable in our responsibilities and we work really well together. I’m so proud of our little company and the team we’ve built. It’s a very productive office indeed!
Another congrats on your new book, 9 months (side note: if you haven’t discovered this book and you have young children then this is a must for the bookshelf. It is a beautifully illustrated fact based journey from conception to birth, no made up names or weird metaphors, mention of storks or lettuce leaves). Clearly no research needed 😉 but can you tell us more about the process and again…. um how did you find the time?
When Rachel Williams, Publisher at Wide Eyed Editions, approached us a couple years ago about writing a non-fiction book, Esther and I knew immediately what topic we wanted to write about: pregnancy. We knew we wanted to create a book that celebrates the facts about pregnancy in a straightforward, beautiful way. No euphemisms, no abstract language. We had searched for a book like this in our previous pregnancies and could never find one. So we set out to write it.
Writing the book was not the hard part. The most challenging part was narrowing down just how much information to include. We wanted it to appeal to younger children as well as older ones. We kept thinking of our 10-year-old children and how much they would love a book like this with interesting facts about pregnancy from conception to birth.
The majority of the work was done during the year we were travelling. I remember being in a campervan in a remote part of New Zealand, trying to find a Wi-Fi connection so I could have a Skype call with Esther and our publishers. I also remember being in a little bungalow in Sri Lanka, speaking to our publishers about whether we could use the word ‘vagina’ on the birth page. We had to fight hard to keep the language as factual as it could be!
Tell us the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name…
Easton Bold, adventurous, outdoorsy, social,
Quin Quiet, calm, helpful, shy
Ivy Sweet, creative, thoughtful, cheerful
Marlow Cheeky, fearless, confident, smart
Wilkie it’s hard to say, he’s still so little! I can’t wait to watch his personality unfold.
I know for us when we travel for long amounts at a time with the kids, the growth in them and ourselves is extraordinary. It is truly without a doubt my happy place but it’s not all instagram roses. Travel with family as you know takes effort and an easygoing attitude. It can be messy and stressful. What advice do you have for keeping it streamlined on the road with family in tow?
Of course it’s not all Instagram roses. The travel days are especially tiring, and of course there are times where things just don’t go to plan. But it’s totally worth it as you say. We all gain so much from the travel and we all crave it.
My advice is to keep things simple. Don’t over pack. Don’t bring something along to entertain the kids in every moment or every scenario. Lower your expectations for the big travel days, the 12-hour flights, the airplane food. Those days are going to be bad, but they are totally worth it. And once you arrive, don’t even attempt to see everything. Pick your spot, really get to know it and explore it. Tell yourself you’ll be back another time if you’re feeling really awful for skipping some amazing site or neighbourhood.
How do you and Michael make time for one another?
To be honest, this was the one thing we really sacrificed during our time on the road and we missed it. When we lived in London we had a regular babysitter, so date nights were an easy thing to schedule. We both love yoga, so we’d try to squeeze in a yoga class together at least once a week followed by dinner out. I feel like we used to have much more time together when we lived in London. It’s certainly not easy to have alone time when you’re travelling with four kids but the flip-side is that we’re enjoying much more time together as a family… I do hope we get those regular date nights back soon.
Does it ever take you by surprise that people are invested in your life journey, that they feel like they know you and the family? I have girlfriends in the states (they will kill me for saying this) that feel like you’re their girlfriend. They check in with you every other day to see what you’re up to with the kids and they chat about you like you’re part of their girl gang. They called each other when they saw you were having another baby.
Of course it is incredibly flattering to hear this! I feel really honoured that people are interested in our lives. I suppose if I really dwell on it, it can feel strange that people we don’t know are following our journey and looking at our photos. But that’s the world we’re living in and though I did not set out to live this publicly, I really love the connections I’ve made with like-minded people by virtue of it. I have met so many wonderful people and have made life-long friends thanks to Instagram. I’m sure if I met your friends in the US, we’d be friends in real life too! I think Instagram is a pretty good matchmaker. I’m sure I’d be just as enchanted with your friends as they might be with us.
I also have to say that our travels over the past couple years would not have been the same without Instagram. We were able to connect with locals and get a deeper connection to the places we visited. We received so many tips, recommendations and invitations each time we arrived to a new country (who needs guide books when you have Instagram?!). The best part is, we now have friends all over the world we would not have met before Instagram.
What were the decisions that made you choose Australia and ultimately Byron Bay to call home?
It’s easy to say it’s the warm, lovely climate. After living in London where the weather generally does its best to bring you down, a sunny, happy place was a big draw for us. And then there was our new love of surfing. But really, more than anything, the biggest appeal was the warm and lovely community here in Byron. We made so many dear friends so quickly and felt so inspired by the creative community. We felt an instant connection to this place and after one month we all knew we wanted to live here. Now if the visas would just arrive soon!
Describe a normal day in your house. What does getting five children and you ready for the day look like?
All I can say is thank goodness I have Michael. He’s such a hands-on dad and so involved in the daily prep. He makes the coffee and I make the breakfast. While he’s making the school lunches, I’m usually getting the girls dressed and doing their hair. He tidies the kitchen while I make sure the kids have done their homework. Together, we make a pretty good team. Also, our big kids are pretty helpful with the baby. I joked with Michael earlier this week how I don’t know people have babies without bigger children around to help out! I wouldn’t be able to squeeze in a shower without the boys on hand to hold the baby!
And the big question, how the heck do you get anything done in a day? You have five children, one a newborn, a company, a personal blog and a recently launched book. Lets add instagram in there for good measure plus time with friends and family. We are all ears…
It’s the million-dollar question! I wish I had all the answers. I just take it one step at a time. I try not to do too many things at once – I’ve found I’m much more productive (and sane!) when I focus on one task at a time. When I’m with the kids, I try not to think about work, not to check my phone. When I’m working, I try to ensure I’ve got a couple hours of uninterrupted time to devote to it and I stay as focused as I can. Of course now that we have a baby again, this practice is totally unattainable. These days I’m usually feeding the baby while typing emails, carrying the baby in the carrier while vacuuming the house, and asking the kids for a lot of help with it all – Quin is super helpful in the kitchen, Easton helps out with the laundry, and just tonight Ivy set the table while Marlow unloaded the dishwasher all on her own. It seems the secret is delegating!
What will the Adamo’s be doing for Mother’s Day?
I actually haven’t thought about it! Ivy’s birthday is on Saturday and that’s the only thing I’ve got planned for this weekend. Hopefully the weather will be nice and we can have a relaxed day at the beach.
What’s next for Courtney? Dare I ask, anymore kids?
Ha! I’d happily have a hundred more kids! I loved being pregnant. I even love giving birth… but we’re definitely finished. I feel incredibly lucky to have five healthy, happy kids.
I guess my near term plans are to really settle down here and to explore more of Australia. We have lots of ideas for businesses we’d like to start here if/when our visas come through. And of course we haven’t lost the wanderlust bug. We’ll need to get out there and see French Polynesia, Indonesia, Southeast Asia and anywhere else we can get to in this new corner of the world.
Photographed by Sam Elsom
Edited by Felicity Bonello
Shop Courtney's new book 9 Months HERE
Follow the Adamo family @courtneyadamo | Somewhere Slower