For nearly a decade, Mia Freiberger-Devillier has worked alongside her husband, Chef Justin Devillier, in the ownership and operation of three thriving New Orleans restaurants: La Petite Grocery, Balise Tavern, and their latest, Justine. In addition to their growing family of restaurants, the couple shares the privilege of raising their three daughters, Ruby, Beatrice, and Evangeline.
As we look forward to Mother’s Day on Sunday, we want to shine a light on the hard and often thankless work mothers like Mia do for their families, both personal and professional. Fortunately, we were able to steal a few minutes of Mia’s time to find out how she does it all.
Not only do you and Justin share a family personally, but you also share a family of thriving restaurants. Tell us a little bit about how you two navigate the day-to-day as parents and business owners.
Well, suffice to say there’s never a dull moment! It’s really just one day at a time, perfecting the art of multitasking, and being able to prioritize and delegate. A big thing for us as we’ve grown this business is being able to build a culture in the restaurants that communicates our mission and our values, not only as people but as a company. It’s important for us to maintain that vision so that we can be confident in the people we have in management positions. Because we obviously can’t be everywhere at once, being able to entrust and empower the people in our company is vital.
At first, those were growing pains, but then you realize you have to be able to step away and trust that the people we have in these positions are going to do their jobs well. Especially when we travel for work or other things that come up—all of it is to promote the restaurants and the overall well-being of the company. We have to be able to trust that the restaurants are in good hands because they are. There’s no way we could do all of this without our team’s support. Every person is so integral to the organization. It’s been special for me to grow as a business owner and to grow these three restaurants into a group.
“I think that my experience in the restaurant business has better prepared me for the challenges of motherhood.”
What is your work-life balance philosophy? Do you think it’s more important to keep the two worlds separate, or do you prefer a little more fluidity?
I think in our industry you have to have more fluidity because it is so demanding. You have to be open to it and accept and embrace that it’s all part of your life. I don’t know that it’s even possible to separate it, especially in our situation. As our kids get older, we’ll have to prioritize what’s more important from that standpoint. Even then, as long as we’re able to maintain our management teams at each restaurant and trust that things are going as they should, we’re able to say, “We’re going to take this Friday afternoon off to do a school activity with our child.” It’s more important to be present for those things. Kids don’t always understand when you can’t be there, so that’s where that balance part comes into play. We always make sure at least one of us can be there. It’s very much about time management, so if we do that wisely, we can keep a more fluid work-life balance.
Do you think motherhood has influenced you as a businesswoman?
I definitely think it has influenced me. We care about our employees as though they’re part of our family. We want them to come to work and be happy to be there because we care about them as people and want them to love what they do. And that takes another level of commitment as a business owner, to make sure that things are in place that will ensure a good culture at the restaurants. Just like we never want anything bad to happen to our children, we never want anything bad to happen to our employees, and I definitely have a mama bear approach in that way.
Conversely, has the service industry influenced you as a mother? In what ways?
Working in this industry is really intense. You’ve got to have a certain threshold for stress and thick skin—and those things are pretty much prerequisites for motherhood as well. Thinking on your feet and being in the moment is something you have to do to be successful in the restaurant industry, and becoming a parent has had that atmosphere, too. Restaurants and kids don’t come with instruction booklets, and I think that my experience in the restaurant business has better prepared me for the challenges of motherhood.
What’s the best advice that you’ve been given as you manage owning and operating these businesses and being a mother?
It’s hard for me to pinpoint specific advice that I may have been given. I feel like those of us who are in this industry and have kids just have this mentality of keeping your head down and pushing through to get things done. Having the patience to work through things with integrity—I think those are the two most important values. They are at the crux of what will make or break you.
What’s something that you’d like to share with other moms who are balancing motherhood with everything else?
As moms, we’re so prone to putting other people’s needs first. Of course, you have to make sure your kids are taken care of and that your staff is taken care of, but you also need to make sure that you are taken care of. If you’re not, it can compromise these areas of your life. It’s hard because we can all lose sight of taking care of ourselves in the middle of that day-to-day grind. But it’s important to take a step back every now and then and think about how you can treat yourself, too.
What are ways you put that into practice?
I like to treat myself to a massage once a month—that’s a big thing for me as far as self-care. It may not always happen, but it’s important for me to take that time.
Dine at Mia Freiberger-Devillier and Justin Devillier’s restaurants:
La Petite Grocery is one of our favorite brunch spots in the Bayou State.
Can’t make it to New Orleans for Mother’s Day? Prepare the perfect Mother’s Day Brunch for the women who do it all.