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Laissez-Faire Mom Laura Bennett: Let 'Em Eat Cake!

She's got six kids between the ages of 3 and 22, but Laura Bennett is no soccer mom. She's not a PTA mom. And she's certainly not a contender for Mother of the Year.

That's because in keeping with the classic design eye she demonstrated as a contestant on Project Runway, Bennett subscribes to a more time-honored form of motherhood.

"I think I'm the same old mom that was around when I was growing up," Bennett tells NPR's Liane Hansen. "And for some reason we've kind of drifted away from that brand of motherhood."

In her new book, Didn't I Feed You Yesterday? A Mother's Guide to Sanity in Stilettos, Bennett shares her mother manifesto.

Bennett says, "Things have just gotten so crazy and out of hand, with helmets and seatbelts and what they eat and what preservatives are in there."

"Children grow up so fast," she says. "You can't get lost in the little stuff. You just have to sit back and enjoy it because it's just going to be gone before you know it."

So it's OK, Bennett argues, if your kids are only getting four healthy meals a week.

"I survived, I'm sure you survived, and I feel certain that all six of my children are going to survive."

And really, it's all about survival -- for both mother and child.

"I call it 'The Oxygen Mask Theory,'" Bennett says -- because to her, it's like when you're on an airplane and you're told to put your own mask on before your child's. The idea is you should take care of yourself and your kid, not just the latter.

Bennett has put a lot of thought into that mask.

"If I take some time for myself everyday, that's not selfish in any way, or hurting my children. That's actually helping them, because then I'm better for them. I'm more whole and more complete and more sane," she says.

But Bennett is not without a sense of humor about her parenting.

"I recently heard a version of that that I really liked," she says, referring back to the oxygen-mask metaphor. "If you're traveling with more than one child, choose your favorite."

And in her book, she isn't shy about sharing details of her children's quirks -- the son who picks up dates online, another who can be affectionate to the point of creepiness, the web-toed 6-year-old who calls himself "sexy" -- because she says those are things the family jokes about all the time.

That Bennett family sense of humor was featured on prime-time TV when Tim Gunn of Project Runway visited Bennett's Manhattan apartment during the show's third season and her youngest son welcomed him with turtle poop. The fastidious Gunn reacted with an emphatic "Ew!"

Bennett went on to win third place -- no small feat considering that she was competing while pregnant with her sixth child, Finn, and that she had no idea what she was getting herself into when she decided to try out.

"Auditions were at Macy's, which is just a few blocks from where I live," Bennett says. "So I grabbed three dresses that I had made from my closet and walked over there, totally not knowing how huge it would become."

Bennett says she got through the show's intense workdays by taking comfort in the view from the window of her Runway apartment in Manhattan -- a view that featured her children's bedroom window, seven blocks away.

"It's so much harder than it looks on television," she says of her time on the show. "But it's probably not harder than raising six children."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NPR Staff