This month’s ‘That Mama’ is lawyer-turned-designer Visha Nelson
This month’s That Mama is another corporate world refugee who’s found success and satisfaction exploring her creative side. Singaporean mama Visha Nelson was a high-powered corporate lawyer and mama of two in London before she decided to try her hand at interior design. Today she operates her own design consultancy (and beautiful homewares shop). We loved her refreshing take on the importance of following your bliss and carving out time for yourself — because ultimately this is what makes us the best mamas we can be. Read on for gorgeous photos of Visha with her kids Harry, 12 and Lara, 10 — along with their too-cute Singapore Special, Mango. Plus find out how meditation has made a huge difference in this mama’s life.
Can you tell us a little about yourself, your career and your family?
I am Singaporean born, but have lived abroad for 20 years (largely in England, where I met and married my English husband and had our 2 kids, followed by two years in HK and a year in New York working as a lawyer). I moved back to Singapore eight years ago due to my husband’s job and started my home décor brand The Cinnamon Room here in Singapore three years ago.
Can you talk us through your career pre- and post-children?
Prior to having the kids, I was a capital markets lawyer for the London magic circle firm Linklaters. I also worked in their New York, Hong Kong and Singapore offices on secondments.
After having the kids, I wanted a better work-life balance that my previous career didn’t really allow and decided to follow my passion in design. My very first project was renovating and decorating our very own 4-bedroom family house in London. I loved the entire process so much that it spurred me on to take some design courses at Chelsea Art College in London, which only reinforced what I really wanted to do for my career going forward.
How did you get back into the swing of things after having kids?
It took a while after having my second child to get back into the groove of pursuing my interests. As many mums know, having a young family is all-consuming and it’s very hard to put yourself first when you have little ones so dependant on you. I made an executive decision that I would only do things I was passionate about when making time for myself. I knew I couldn’t go back to the law as I didn’t love it enough to leave the kids I adored at home to do a job I didn’t feel passionate about.
In working in design, the projects I did gave me the flexibility of working with a work-life balance that many working moms crave. Now running The Cinnamon Room showroom in Holland Village, I am able to open and close the showroom flexibly to meet the various demands on my time with the family.
How do you maintain an identity separate from your children?
Very simply, I stay true to myself and my passions. I love being a mum but I also love other aspects of my life and pursue my interests like meditation, good nutrition, fitness and of course my work as a designer. By pursuing my passions, it helps to maintain my own personal identity and the children seem to also be inspired by seeing me doing what makes me happy!
What part of Singapore do you live in? What do you like about it?
I live in Bukit Timah now just off Adam Road. I was born in Singapore and lived in Bukit Timah in my childhood home in Binjai Park, so Bukit Timah has always been home to me. I love the greenery and proximity to the Botanic Gardens which is one of the few places in Singapore that hasn’t changed too much in my 20 years living away.
How has having a child changed the way you define work?
Having kids has changed my priorities in life. Creating the right work life balance is key to me. In terms of choosing my work projects, I will always still put my family first to see that I can still be there for them whilst still feasibly embarking on my various work commitments. The beauty of working for yourself is that it gives me the benefit of creating this work life balance. Its does require a great deal of organisation but its worth the effort as I love both my family and my work dearly so there is an incentive to get more organised!
I wish I had more time for…
Pampering myself. I can’t tell you the number of appointments I have cancelled for massages and general pampering. After the family, work, home and keeping fit, pampering myself seems to fall to the bottom of the pile!
Favourite kid-friendly activity in Singapore?
Well I think my kids would say a trampoline park! It ensures that they get a run around rain or shine and its air conditioned as it can get too hot outdoors! My choice would always be a museum for a special exhibition, often aimed at kids too! I used to guide at the Singapore Art Museum as a docent so there were always great kid friendly exhibitions there. We also love the ArtScience Museum for variety and quality of the exhibitions there.
How do you save time? What are your organisational tricks and tips?
Living in Singapore makes life a whole lot easier with a helper at home to do a lot of the tasks that I had to do myself when I was living in London with two young kids. Cooking healthy meals is of paramount importance to me, so I do bulk shops and the freezer is my most used home appliance so I have what I need to plan our meals ahead.
I always feel saner after…
Doing my meditation! I started meditation about four years ago and it is a great means to centre and ground myself. It has become something I really look forward to and to ensure I always make time for it, I now host free mediation sessions at The Cinnamon Room every Thursday morning led by my meditation teacher, Gladys Lee of Dawn of Gaia. We’ve had a great response to it as it is open to beginners as well as those familiar with the practice of meditation. The energy of the showroom is very peaceful, and I love opening up my space to the great energy of a group meditation session.
Favourite kid-friendly restaurant in Singapore?
Akashi Sushi in Orchard Parade Hotel.
Favourite family-friendly holiday spot in Asia?
Sri Lanka; we love it so much we are in the process of building our own beach house there! Great food, beaches, and activities including safari and whale watching!
Do you have any tips for keeping the romance alive in your relationship?
Ensure you keep time aside for date nights! My husband is a finance lawyer and is constantly travelling. Between our work and family commitments, we often lose our connection with each other, so date nights always help to help us catch up with each other whilst not being interrupted by work or the kids!
Do you have any tips for aspiring “mamapreneurs” and other working mamas in Singapore?
Follow your dreams and go for it. There will always be a million reasons why we shouldn’t do something, how we should put everything else first, but its also important to not lose yourself. I speak from experience as I did lose myself to family life when the kids were little, but I knew I needed more than just being someone’s mum or wife…I wanted to reconnect with myself and I did that by finding something I was passionate about.
Being a designer and working in a creative environment fuels my soul! Live from your heart and follow your passions would be my advice…doing anything wholeheartedly and being passionate about it is what I believe to be the key to success!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
Not to take what your kids say too personally and pick your battles! Laugh more!
Give us your essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women.
Make time for yourself so you don’t lose yourself and resent the sacrifices you’ve made as a parent. Parenthood is hard work if we let it consume us altogether. It can be enjoyable if you find a balance. Your kids can bring you so much more joy if you yourself are feeling joyful!
As a mama I wish I were better at…
Being patient…meditation helps to centre me but I still find myself shouting at my kids more than I would ideally like!
What’s your favourite family ritual?
Friday night family dinner in Greenwood Avenue, which we walk to. It gives us all an opportunity to catch up with each other at the end of a week!
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about….
What I haven’t done and must get done! Running a business solo means multi tasking all the time and sometimes things fall through the cracks of organisation.
My favourite moment of the day is…
When I do my morning meditation and feel connected to the universe, knowing for that precise moment in time, no matter what, all is well.
Thanks so much to Visha and her kids for welcoming us into their gorgeous home. And a huge thank you to Irina Nilsson Photography for the absolutely stunning snaps!