This month’s That Mama is food stylist, online boutique trendsetter, cat lover, Instagram superstar, and new mama Bella Koh
We’ve long been fans of super stylish Bella Koh (perhaps best known by her Instagram handle @catslavery); from her perfectly composed photos, to her gorgeous home, to her oh-so-cool boutique Fleas and Trees, she’s a style setter of the first rank. She’s also a new mama (daughter Alessandra is 7 months old), and wouldn’t you know she seems to have taken on this challenging new role with aplomb, managing to run her online business from home without any extra help. We find out how she makes it work (and how surprised she is to love motherhood)…
Can you tell us a little about yourself, your career and your family?
I’m local, and my husband is from Hong Kong. We met in my poly days in design school. He taught there and we have been together for 18 years.
I graduated in fashion, sloughed a good 10 years in the industry before deciding that it wasn’t favourable for my health due to stress and crazy schedules. Called it quits, became addicted to yoga and living a slow life. Subsequently opening a shop that advocates my thoughts. After which Instagram came along where I documented my daily food journey… and the rest is history.
Can you talk us through your career pre- and post-baby?
Well, I must say I was never a baby person. We were hardcore cat people haha.
My husband and I were together for almost 17 years before we decided to have a baby, partly because his fatherly instincts kicked in. It’s one of the craziest decisions we’ve ever made in our lives as we always thought we enjoyed being free to do whatever we want, whenever we want, being child free and all. It was a very laid back lifestyle where we both felt very comfortable with. We were also managing Flea & Trees, our shop situated at Tiong Bahru for almost 3.5 years.
Then halfway through my pregnancy, we decided to close the physical shop when the landlord raised the rents. We kept the online shop running. The best part of my job for Instagram is that I work with many different clients involved in a part of my lifestyle. It was a very genuine platform that allowed me to push the boundaries of this career in social media.
I never felt there was a huge change on that side of work. Now I juggle between being a full time mum to a baby and 3 cats along with being a full time content curator.
How did you get back into the swing of things after having kids?
I basically didn’t have time to think about that as I was on tight deadlines with clients. And somehow got back into the swing of things almost immediately a week after she was born.
We didn’t have a confinement nanny, nor any baby help. It was just me and the husband. Of course there were moments of panic, especially during the first week at home with a baby. But things soon followed naturally. I had great support from my family, who constantly encourage us in many ways. We did have a live-in maid for 2 months but that sadly didn’t work out and I count that as a blessing in disguise. Baby Alessandra now has my full attention.
How do you maintain an identity separate from your child?
Honestly I don’t. I’m loving this new identity of mine and her being a part of my life. We are inseparable for now.
How has having a child changed the way you define work?
It was more integration than change for me. I learnt to work her into my life and include her into my work life. I’m more motivated now and I have never felt as focused as before.
How do you save time? What are your organisational tricks and tips?
Start the day early and feed yourself well in the mornings before your baby wakes up. Thankfully my little one has been sleeping through the night since she was 1.5months old. She’s now on an 11pm to 10.30am sleep schedule. Once she wakes, I’ll feed her and the cats. After which, I’ll leave her to play on her own on the high chair while I attempt to get all vacuuming done before the second feed at 11.30am. It’s more playtime again and this time I get the floor mopped while she watches in curiosity. She’s usually asleep between 1pm to 3pm after her bath. I think it’s so important to plan around the baby’s schedule to make it work. Getting things done quickly and swiftly helps tremendously. Multi tasking saves the day!
I wish I had more time for…
Travel. It’s currently what I’m missing. I used to enjoy travelling alone as my husband works as a senior lecturer, his leave is pretty much scheduled. I’m not brave enough to travel with a baby yet and I’m definitely missing the four seasons in various parts of the world.
I always feel saner after…
Yoga, after a weekend picnic and after a good cup of coffee.
What part of Singapore do you live in? What do you like about it?
Tiong Bahru (click here for more pics of Bella’s gorgeous home). It’s a short ride to any part of the city and I love how everyone knows everyone in the hood. It’s a village, as I call it.
Favourite kid-friendly activity in Singapore?
Baby yoga at Pure Yoga, Picnic at Botanic Gardens, walk round National Gallery… anything that is play or discovery is kid-friendly to me.
Favourite kid-friendly restaurant in Singapore?
Too many! PS cafe at Tiong Bahru, PS/Chopsuey at Martin Road, Kith Café at Rodyk, Ginza Kuroson, ColBar.
Interestingly, we are still back at our usual spots even after having a child. Some things never change.
Favourite family-friendly holiday spot in Asia?
We are planning this one. It’s looking like Japan or Thailand. We love artisanal countries with plenty of craft.
Do you have any tips for keeping the romance alive in your relationship?
Keep the conversation alive, watch good films together, wear matching outfits… haha. I was kidding about that.
Favourite date night restaurants?
The Cat Kitchen. Nothing beats cooking up a storm together and enjoying that homemade meal.
Do you have any tips for aspiring “mamapreneurs” and other working mamas in Singapore?
Start small and scale your business with passion.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
That “The days will be long and the years are short.”
This pretty much sums up parenthood. I felt that when she was six months old. Definitely bittersweet for every parent.
Give us your essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women:
Think like a child for how you would want to be raised. Have a free spirited mind.
As a mama I wish I were better at…
Setting rules and being more regulated.
What’s your favourite family ritual?
Peekaboo before baby’s bath time. She loves it and always squeals in delight.
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about…
Why the husband is still snoring.
My favourite moment of the day is…
Every moment spent with the boo. She is my universe.
Thanks so much to Bella for taking the time to share her thoughts and her home with us, and thank you to the amazingly talented Kerry Cheah of Red Bus Photography for the fabulous photos! Baby Alessandra’s adorable outfits are all courtesy of Kerry & Mase.