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Singaporeans Abroad: Overseas Mama and Paris Fashion Designer Phoebe Charn

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Singaporean mamas are doing amazing things all over the world! Today we speak with Paris mama Phoebe Charn, the shoe designer behind Anothersole

In this ongoing series, we take a closer look at Singaporean mamas living overseas and how they take to life abroad in their stride with little ones in tow. Phoebe Charn is a shoe designer and entrepreneur who makes juggling work and family seem like a breeze. When she’s not jet-setting around the world, Phoebe can usually be found in Paris, France with her husband and two sons, Théo and Angelo. Her latest project is Anothersole, a brand of soft leather lace-ups with an ergonomic sports footbed that is committed to a social cause: 10% of the proceeds go towards working with established charities to combat child hunger. (Sassy Mama’s own Style Hawker is also a huge fan!) Read on for Phoebe’s tips on raising independent kids, how she keeps her sons in touch with their Singaporean heritage, and her top 5 kid-friendly Paris recs!

Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am the creative director and co-founder of footwear brand Anothersole and I also run a trading company for shoes with another business partner. I adore fashion, love to shop and enjoy hanging out with chill and humorous people. I have two boys and a very supportive husband.

What brought you to Paris? How long have you been living overseas?
My husband is French and we moved to Paris in 2005 after we got married. In between, we were also living in China for a couple of years. We moved back to Paris in 2014 for our children’s education.

Favourite aspect about living in Paris?
I love the beautiful architecture and history in this city. I really enjoy going to the museums, too, especially on the first Sunday of every month where admission is free.

Your most recent purchase…

For your children?
New Balance sneakers and some basics from Dpam and Uniqlo.

For yourself?
Aesop products from my recent trip to Melbourne.

How do you think parenting in Paris differs from parenting in Singapore? What do you appreciate most about it?
In Paris, it is not common to have full-time domestic helpers in the household so I feel that parents do not pamper their children as much as in Singapore. French kids grow up to be quite independent and can usually feed and dress themselves from a young age.

As they grow older, they are expected to help in the kitchen and to clear the dishes away after meals. In Singapore, domestic helpers tend to do a lot of things for kids.

I appreciate the fact that children are more independent here in France, which better prepares them for the day they will move out and live on their own. This would be one less worry for parents, which isn’t such a bad thing.

Bedtime stories are also an important aspect of French parenting. I like it that French parents make use of this time every night to develop a deep bond with their children.

Did you give birth to your children in Paris? If yes, what was most memorable about the experience?
I gave birth to my elder son in Avignon in southeastern France. What was most memorable was that the nurses and the doctors were very caring and attentive. They realised very quickly on the second day after he was born that I had post-natal blues and sent a psychologist to come see me every day for a week at the hospital. They also arranged for massage sessions for me at the hospital. I don’t know how they knew so quickly but they were very good at what they do.

Can you talk us through your career pre- and post-baby?
I travel a lot between Europe and Asia for my job. I worked as usual throughout my two pregnancies and only stopped traveling one month before I was due.

I suffered from morning sickness during the first trimester but I made sure it wouldn’t affect my work schedule by eating smaller and more meals. Overall, being pregnant and having children weren’t much of an obstacle to my career. 

Favourite kid-friendly restaurant in Paris?
We do not go to especially kid-friendly restaurants although, of course, museum cafes are always great for kids. I feel that the French love children as we’ve never had any difficulties bringing our kids out to restaurants. My friends tell me that Les 400 Coups is great for kids.

Favourite kid-friendly activity in Paris?
Hanging out at the Parc Floral de Paris. We always go there as we live very close by! The kids love it and never ever get bored.

Top five places in Paris you would recommend to parents traveling with kids?

  1. Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle
  2. Catacombes de Paris for older kids
  3. Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie – the biggest science museum in Europe!
  4. Musée des Égouts de Paris
  5. Bateaux Mouches – technically not a place but a boat tour of Paris on the Seine is always a winner with kids.

Is there something that you do to keep your children in touch with their Singaporean roots?
I bring them back to Singapore once a year during their summer holidays and I also try to make them chicken rice.

Best souvenir someone could bring back from Paris…

For a child?

For a mama friend?
Anything by L’Occitane. 

What do you find is the most challenging aspect of being a mother living in a foreign country?
In France, it has to be the language. Having to communicate in French, it’s not always easy to connect with other people and have very close friends.

On raising multilingual children…
They don’t understand why they have to learn Chinese because it’s a difficult language for them. 

What’s your top makeup tip for a busy mama?
Sunblock, eyebrow makeup and a light touch of mascara. 

Tell us about your go-to recipe for your family, something you often whip up on busy days.
Fried noodles or fried rice.

What do you always bring back from Singapore for yourself and for your children?
Bak kwa and pork floss.

What do you think you would miss the most the day you have to leave Paris?

Merci beaucoup, Phoebe! If you think you or someone you know would make for an interesting Overseas Mama, please let us know!

All photos courtesy of Phoebe Charn and via @phoebecharn

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