If you were a kid, how cool would it be to visit SuperPark or Pororo Park whenever you wanted? That’s what GM Carolyn Chia’s kids get to do, all in the name of ensuring a great customer experience!
If there’s a mama we are in awe of juggling a billion things at once, it has to be Carolyn Chia, the GM at DreamUs – the corporation behind some of our favourite indoor playgrounds SuperPark, Pororo Park, Petite Tayo KidsClub and Tayo Station. Carolyn manages her four parks full time and looks after her three kiddos 7-year-old Shayne Er, 5-year-old Ian Er and Jace Er who is just two years old. Carolyn is quick to credit her hubby in doing his fair share of looking after the kids (he cooks for the fam too – score!), and together they manage their kids’ routines while instilling independence in the older ones. We caught up with Carolyn at her home to find out exactly how she manages her busy routine, along with her kids’ schedules, all with no outside help. Read on for an insightful interview with gorgeous photos courtesy of Emily from Evie Grace Photography!
Share a little about yourself and your family…
I am a truly blessed woman who has a very loving spouse who is very hands-on and supportive of my business and personal pursuits, three beautiful children, four popular indoor play parks and no domestic helper! I’m driven by passion, I need to believe in what I do and be able to find joy and purpose in doing so.
Tell us something interesting or quirky about yourself!
I love scuba diving, can’t wait for the kids to be able to join us for scuba diving trips! My very last diving trip was in Silfra in Iceland where I had the chance to dive in between two tectonic plates in extremely cold, clear, drinkable water!
The most memorable dive trip was back in 2004. My friends and I (including my hubby/then boyfriend) were on a liveaboard when the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami happened. Few weeks before the disaster, we were out at a National Park in Thailand doing a marine reef check survey. Our efforts were later used for further studies and assessment of the damage due to the tsunami.
Talk us through your career pre- and post-having children?
Before kids came into the picture, I was handling regional marketing for an MNC and travelling almost monthly for the last 7 years. Things changed when Ian was born. With both my husband and myself having jobs that require frequent travelling, I decided to take a step back, rejecting a promotion as the Head of Marketing and instead hopping into a local SME as the General Manager of DreamUs – a company that is in the Business of Happiness! It’s been a very enriching and rewarding experience so far where our mission is to create an engaging and safe place for families to bond together and forge happy memories. No regrets and I wouldn’t look back!
What does a typical day look like for you?
On a typical work day, mornings start with hugs and kisses from the hubby, Ian and Jace (Shayne would have left for school before I was awake), followed by breakfast prepared by hubby, our home chef who basically prepares all of our meals. Ian will get himself prepared for school, daddy gets Jace ready and once the adults are ready, we leave for school. I’ll drop daddy off to work and head off to work myself. Whenever possible, we will arrange to meet up for lunch to spend some couple time together. End of the day, we’ll pick up the kids together and either head home where my hubby prepares dinner or head out for family bonding over meals. Mad rush after dinner to shower the kids (or teach the older ones to do it themselves), the older kids pack their own bags while I pack for the toddler, some screen time/playtime and we start sending them to bed from 9pm onwards. Bedtime routine can last for up to 2 hours sometimes. This is the time when the hubby chills with wine and Netflix while I’ll take care of the night routine. Once kids are all in bed, it’s either couple time or ‘me time’ to catch up on news of the day/social media/ work, if any.
Do you have any tips for working mamas in Singapore? How do you balance life, family and work with no helper?
In all honesty, it’s a constant juggling act. Balance is an elusive dream in a perfect world that hardly exist 😉 For me, it’s about maintaining sanity and having a hands on spouse that makes a world of difference. If any, we live by the following:
- Create a routine and train kids to be independent
We find that it helps a lot when the kids are given a routine to stick to. The adults have a better control of the day and the kids know what to expect. It also helps a lot when they learn to care for themselves more and help out around the house. It can start with very simple things that can be done from around 1 year e.g. like returning their milk bottle to the sink when they’re done, putting away toys after playtime, etc. As they grow older, they take on more tasks like packing their own bags daily, washing their own dishes and finishing their school work on their own. Having the older kids to help look after the younger ones helps too.
- Maintain sanity by having me-time and always try to spend time as a couple
You can only take care of others when you take care of yourself. Take time to pamper yourself doing your hair, or going for a massage, or simply catching up with your own friends! I don’t do this very often but just once in a blue moon is good enough. More importantly, spend time with your better half to keep the romance alive!
- It takes a village to raise a child
We are not superhuman. Acknowledge the fact and ask for help when needed. It truly takes a village to raise a child.
How do you save time? What are your organisational tricks and tips?
Having four different outlets at different venues, it’s important that I build teams whom I can trust and are able to work with minimal supervision. As a company, we provide the guiding principles and goals, the team gets empowered, takes the baton and runs along. I keep myself connected to the ground by following the customers feedback daily so that we can be more responsive to customers’ needs. Thankfully, my kids love my job too. So we often visit the playgrounds as patrons to ensure service excellence is maintained. I work on the go a lot, always on the phone/WhatsApp, sometimes even when driving (hands-free!). However, unless absolutely urgent, I try not to be on my phone when I’m with the family.
Have your personal childhood experiences shaped the management of your indoor playgrounds?
I was a naturally curious and adventurous child. Sometimes that can be misinterpreted as disobedience, so it is important to have the right environment so that children can express their curiosity and sense of adventure to the fullest. At DreamUs, we strive to create that space so that the whole family can have fun together.
Favourite current family-friendly activity in Singapore?
Previously when all my children were toddlers, Pororo Park and Tayo Station were the favourites. Now that my children are older, we love SuperPark as it is an all-age playground that is suitable for my 2-year-old toddler, 5-year-old preschooler and 7-year-old primary school child. Even the hubby likes it! There’s something for everyone there!
What’s your favourite family ritual?
We do fun swims at home very often. Sometimes, even on weekdays after picking them up from school before dinner. It’s a great way to relax while the kids exhaust their energy and have a splashing good time! Night times are often more peaceful and manageable after a swim. Everyone feels a lot more chill and relaxed.
Any tips on managing sibling rivalry with three kids?
We try to foster empathy as much as we possibly can, playing out the scenario of being in the shoes of others to help them understand each other better. Once, they refused to listen and both were just crying and fighting. I stood by quietly and took a video of them. Showed it to them afterwards and they became more aware of their actions and stopped. I was pleasantly surprised it worked!
What is your self-care routine?
Apart from having a daily routine with cleansers and moisturisers, I think it is important to address stress levels and mental health too. After big projects, it is important for me to take time to unwind and spend more time with family. Simple activities like swimming or cycling help to take you away from the screen and phone. Once in a while I also take time to do a massage and hairdo so that I can feel good and confident about myself.
Do you have any tips for keeping the romance alive in your relationship?
I have to admit that this is something my husband is a lot better at than I am. He often makes time and effort for lunch during weekdays without kids even if it means travelling over to me for that 1-hour break. The more he does it, the more I want to reciprocate. I guess that’s how we keep the momentum going. We also take a few hours on Saturday nights by ourselves while leaving the kids with my parents.
Favourite date night restaurants?
For the occasional date nights, we love teppanyaki and trying different restaurants with tasting menus e.g. Bistecca, Fat cow. As a family, we love Café Melba at Mediapolis, Em by the Marina at Sentosa Cove and Hubers Bistro at Dempsey. These are places where we get to chill and watch the kids run freely in the huge open space.
– As a mama, I wish I were better at….keeping the kids occupied without using screens
– I wish I had more time for…proper date nights!
– I always feel saner after…my to-do list is cleared!
– I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about…work!
– My favourite moment of the day is…picking the kids up from school!
Thank you for a lovely chat and some great tips Carolyn. And a huge thank you to Emily from Evie Grace Photography for the gorgeous photos of Carolyn and her family!