When That Mama Daphne Hedley left Singapore as a teen, she had no idea that a finance career that took her from Australia, to Tokyo and all the way to London would eventually lead her back to the Little Red Dot. Now as a mama to an almost two-year-old boy and co-founder of natural living company Mekhala, Daphne is an old hand at multi-tasking and staying organised. We spoke to her about the path that led her home, her gorgeous little boy, and how she manages it all!
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your career?
I’m a rebellious Singaporean who left the country in my teens to study in Australia. I went into PR, worked for a while at a bank, then continued my career in finance in Tokyo and London. After my dad passed away, I decided to pursue an MBA at INSEAD, spending 6 months in France before returning to Singapore to be with my family. I met my husband in Tokyo and then again in Singapore, where we got married and left our banking jobs. We travelled for a bit as I was undecided about what to do next before he got job back in Singapore. We returned 3.5 years ago and that’s how I ended up co-founding my current company, Mekhala.
Can you talk us through your career pre and post babies? How did you get back into the swing of things after having children?
I was in finance for most of my working life and lived in various countries, so you could say I was very comfortable with a somewhat itinerant existence. My husband and I took a while to get pregnant and we talked about how I wanted flexibility, to be able to spend time with the baby, and additionally also to have a career or job that I loved going to every day. Because I run my own business, I don’t think I ever stopped working! Our son, Rylan, was born at the end of November in Australia, and I was quickly back on email making sure we had orders sent out for Christmas. I still travel a little for work and Rylan is a good traveller, but I try to spend most of my time in Singapore and only travel for business if I have to.
How do you balance work and motherhood?
With lots of apps, a great helper, supportive husband and team, and a natural talent for multi-tasking! Honestly, I was exclusively breastfeeding but didn’t have excess milk to freeze, so I either raced home every 3 to 4 hours to feed Rylan, or I took him with me. He came to the warehouse where I sat on cartons, dirty and sweating, feeding my sweaty little baby. He’s also been dragged around in a baby carrier as I’ve overseen shop renovations, or sat in the car seat when I’ve been delivering goods. I have great support from family and my helper so I can go to the shop on weekends, or go on business trips. I’m fortunate that I can be flexible with my time, so now that Rylan goes to preschool three days a week, I take him to school, go to work or work from home, then pick him up three hours later, then get back to work again. I’m fastidious about dinner, so I’m lucky to have access to amazing produce and pre-made sauces!
How do you save time? What are your organisational tips and tricks?
One… shop online – it’s incredible how much time you save. I buy clothes, shoes, groceries, health supplements, baby stuff, gifts… everything really. Two… have a spreadsheet for everything, including work and personal details, so that you never waste time looking for information. Three… buy good quality pre-made sauces so you can cook healthy delicious meals in no time at all! While it does sound like a bit of a plug for my brand, this is precisely why we do what we do. Everyone’s so busy these days but we’re also becoming increasingly health conscious at the same time. We ensure our products are of the best quality, are easy to use, and also very versatile. For busy mothers, it’s a life saver.
Do you have any tips for aspiring “mamapreneurs” and other working mamas in Singapore?
There are moments when I wonder if it’s all worth it – the racing around, long hours and stress of the business, whilst trying to spend time with my son and husband. Then I think about the future, when my son is old enough for me to show him the business, the farmers we work with and the community we belong to, and I am reminded that it’s definitely worth it. So I guess that’s what most working mamas need to remind themselves of – that your children will learn so much from your experiences and appreciate all the hard work you put into your business and career.
What is the one piece of advice that you want all families to know about natural and organic living?
It’s not that hard! Read the labels on the food you buy and aim to cut out (or reduce) refined sugar, white rice, bread, and artificial additives.
Favourite activity with your kids in Singapore?
Swimming! Rylan loves the water, so whether it’s our pool, a friend’s pool or the beach, he loves it.
Favourite kid-friendly restaurants in Singapore?
Din Tai Fung! Sounds crazy, but aside from the wait for a table, the service is efficient, they’ve always got a high chair and kids’ cutlery, and the dumplings are the perfect size for kids.
Favourite family-friendly holiday spot in Asia?
Thailand. There are so many family-friendly resorts to choose from, people are super friendly and they love kids! The weather is also well-suited for family holidays.
Activity that I do not love to do but do it anyway because my kids love it…
Indoor gym. It’s not the most exciting for an adult, and I’m not sure indoor playgrounds are ideal for encouraging a love of physical activity, but they are usually well-equipped and keep the kids entertained, rain or shine.
Do you have any tips for keeping the romance alive in your relationship?
Plan date night once a month (not as easy to stick to as one might imagine), go on short trips just the two of you, and make time to talk about your day.
Favourite date-night restaurants?
Bistro Du Vin — warm atmosphere, with no fuss, hearty food shared over a bottle of red wine. Very romantic!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
Don’t worry too much – kids are a lot hardier than we give them credit for. I got this advice from a friend who’s had a few children, and they are all very much in one piece, so I think she knows what she’s talking about (here, here Daphne!)
Give us your essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women.
This is a tough one! I can’t imagine I have a unique insight into motherhood, although everyone tends to say that I do a really great job of running a hectic business and caring for my family. So maybe I would say – never sell yourself short. You probably can’t “do it all” in the sense of the word, but set the bar high, and continually surprise yourself by what you CAN achieve as a mother and as a career woman.
As a mama I wish I were better at…
Not being distracted when spending time with my son. I’m OK with doing things for him, but when we’re just playing, I often start thinking about work or errands.
My most humbling mama moment was…
The day I became a mama and realised that I had no idea what I was doing! Thank goodness my mother insisted on flying to Australia to help out.
One thing I won’t sacrifice as a mama is…
Cooking for my baby. Few things give me more joy than watching Rylan enjoy a mama-made meal!
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about….
I’m a really good sleeper and rarely wake up thinking about stuff! When I do, it’s usually because my son’s up – he used to be a horrible sleeper, so I do what I can to put him back to bed.
Even when my child has a family of his own, I’ll still…
Cook for him. I’m sure he’ll have a lovely wife and he might even be a really good cook himself, but nothing beats mama’s cooking!
My favourite moment of the day is…
Putting my baby to bed. He’s got a great routine and clearly looks forward to bathing, being zipped up in his sleeping bag, hanging out with Fatty (his favourite teddy) and his bottle. I just love going through the routine with him.
I always feel saner after…
Hot yoga. My mind is clearer and my body feels so energised. I really love it and wish I had more time for it.
I wish I had more time for…
Trips with my husband! We’ve been on a couple of trips on our own since Rylan was born, and although we missed our son, we really cherished our “us” time. It also made us cherish our family time more too!
Bedtime is always smoother when…
You show tough love! My son was a terrible sleeper at first, and would sometimes wake every 45-minutes at night. When he was 4 months, I turned to to the Ferber method to sleep train him, and he’s been a dream ever since! Occasionally he regresses, like when we travel or when he’s very sick, but once that’s over, it’s back to tough love and he adapts very quickly.
Thanks so much Daphne!
These lovely photos of Daphne and Rylan were taken courtesy of the fabulous Gunilla from Sugarlight Photography — thanks for snapping such gorgeous photos, Gunilla!