That Mama Kelly Hamilton is a mother to one super cute little boy, and an entrepreneur who runs her own boutique creative agency, The Experience Architect. With an infectiously positive attitude, we can’t help but adore this all round cool chick (who loves her morning coffee just as much as we do!). We chat to Kelly about working motherhood, how she stays on top of the demands of everyday life, and why she believes every woman should do what they love.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your career?
I’m a 31-year-old new mama to my first baby boy Arlo, who is now 5.5 months old. I previously lived in Sydney for 7 years where I was lucky enough to meet my husband Mark (who is also a Kiwi) before he was transferred here for his job working as a Projects Director for APAC.
Professionally, I have spent the past decade in multivariate roles in the retail, property, design, luxury and lifestyle industries. In Singapore, I founded and run an experience agency called “The Experience Architect” — a 360degree boutique creative agency, which helps brands and clients to innovate and grow.
I’ve been throwing parties, executing marketing initiatives and producing imaginative advertising campaigns, from concept to wrap throughout the Asia Pacific Region since the early 2000’s. I work with designer lifestyle brands, including Sassy Mama faves edit lifestyle and Vamastyle, as well as other brands including Penfolds Wine, Whole 9 Yards, Hendricks Gin, Gucci, FLABSLAB and Beam Global.
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 have always been a very social person and enjoyed attending and throwing interesting events right up until a week before I gave birth. I decided before giving birth that I would go with the flow to see what motherhood would bring for me, and whether that would take the form of a break from work (or not!) without putting a time frame on it.
I enjoyed working with my clients so much and because my work is very much my creative outlet, 3 months after Arlo arrived I started getting questions from clients asking me if I was ready to come back. By that stage, still pretty sleep deprived and running off “mama-fuelled-adrenalin” I decided to take on some small projects and ease back into the business.
The major change for me is that I now have a little person to consider every hour of the day! I’m lucky that he is such a cool little dude who comes with me to all my meetings and site visits. Of course that can be super challenging in itself but so far so good – he is quite a chilled baby. It does mean however that I need to be very organised for every meeting, but you make it work and my clients love him so I have been very lucky.
How do you balance work and motherhood?
The key for me has been to give each part 100%. To do this I have to schedule my day as much as you can with a 5 month old! So when it’s playtime for baby that means no phone or emails, and when it’s work time I focus and dedicate my time to the job at hand (while baby is sleeping!). Of course there are times when the two cross over, but I’ve really learnt how to make the most of the time I have. I thought I was good at multi-tasking before Arlo arrived, but now I’m a super women multi-tasker — I even amaze myself sometimes with what I can do within an hour of baby naptime!
How do you save time? What are your organisational tips and tricks?
I pre-pack all of Arlo’s gear into our diaper bag so we are always ready to roll out the door no matter what. Being a working mama with no help or family here to rely on (except my super supportive hands-on husband who helps out as much as he can!) I have very much become a “mum-on-the-run” so for me any gadgets or apps I can get my hands on that help me multi-task are a lifesaver. I’m not into spending countless amounts of money on the newest baby gear but being smart about those baby items that help me spend less time preparing and more time doing are winners for me.
Do you have any tips for aspiring “mamapreneurs” and other working mamas in Singapore?
My biggest tip would be to get out there, give it a shot and see if it works. What have you got to lose? You can do it – both being a mother and an entrepreneur. I am walking proof. Sure it is challenging but nothing worthwhile in life is ever easy. After all, what’s the worst that could happen? If it doesn’t work, you can always decide to stay home and look after your babies (which is a huge job in and of itself!). If you don’t try you will never know so please give it a go. Shoot for the stars and follow your dreams because when your babies grow up they will benefit greatly from what you have achieved.
Favourite activity with your kids in Singapore?
Because I am so active and out and about with Arlo my favourite activity is hanging out at home, turning on the music, dancing around the house and creating a baby dance party with my little man so I can see him laugh and smile. I pull out all my photobooth dress up props too and he loves it. He really enjoys music so eventually when he is big enough I will take him to Musical Monkeys.
Favourite kid-friendly restaurants in Singapore?
Mine would have to be Cocotte on the ground level of Wanderlust. It has super cool brunch trolleys and a laid back family friendly vibe that’s perfect for a weekend hangout. For cafes you can’t beat Flock – it’s so easy with Arlo and I can easily take him to meetings there.
Favourite family-friendly holiday spot in Asia?
We haven’t actually travelled yet but from experience I would say Koh Samui, Thailand is our favourite for a relaxed family holiday. We love to stay at The Library and just chill out for a bit.
Do you have any tips for keeping the romance alive in your relationship?
Phone free nights! That means no emails, no texts and no sneaking a look — absolutely phone free and involved in one another’s world! With little ones this probably means being at home, so I like to cook a nice meal or grab some delish take out and create an “in-house date night”. Why not dress up and make an effort to let your hubby know he’s still important to you too!
Favourite date-night restaurants?
I tend to stay in my neighbourhood as I like to optimise the kid-free time my hubby and I so rarely get. We tend to drop by PS. Petit – it has great service, a cool relaxed atmosphere and delish pizza.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
It gets easier – really it does! When you know there is light at the end of the tunnel, the sleepless nights are that much more bearable.
Give us your essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women.
Don’t believe the hype in terms of baby goods – it’s so easy to get excited and buy all this baby gear that you simply don’t need. Join Sassy Mama (thanks!) for parenting updates, as well as the Stork’s Nest community – I wish I did this prior to giving birth. Ask other mamas what worked for them (and what didn’t!) as other mothers can be super helpful — it’s amazing.
Also consider running your own business and taking that leap so you can create your own version of work flexibility. If you can start building that before you have a baby it’s so much easier to get back into it afterwards, than when you are trying to start from scratch with a family.
As a mama I wish I were better at…
Keeping in touch with my friends back home in New Zealand. Unfortunately when you add a baby, running a business and a hubby who works long hours to the equation (with no helper and no family here!) my Skype sessions can get a bit few and far between.
My most humbling mama moment was…
Bringing Arlo home. I thought I was prepared but you never can be when you have zero experience! I’ve found that experience is the best teacher. On the first day at home, Arlo managed to pee everywhere, on himself and me in that very first nappy change, so I then decided to bath him for the first time, which ended in many tears, a stressed baby and a stressed mum – it really taught me to slow down. Not everything can be perfect and you’ve got to roll with it — your baby looks to you to be the calm presence in his life.
One thing I won’t sacrifice as a mama is…
The happiness of my baby. If he is sick, upset and not a happy camper then I will reschedule my day. Thankfully I only work with clients who respect that I am doing it myself but also trust that I will get the job done no matter what (even if it is on a weird schedule!).
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about….
Creative, crazy and unusual event ideas, how I can create unique campaigns, where I can source different items and how I will execute it all! Being creative it’s pretty hard to switch off most nights, so in some ways I am used to little sleep.
Even when my child has a family of his/her own, I’ll still…
Be doing something creative — whether it’s focusing on photography, architecture or property development, I will still be actively working or enjoying something within the creative field and hopefully teaching my family that too.
My favourite moment of the day is…
Waking up to Arlo’s glowing smile. Nothing beats his cheesy grin of pure happiness and love each morning.
I always feel saner after…
Coffee (we hear you Kelly!). I didn’t touch it at all during pregnancy but I cannot live without my morning brew now.
I wish I had more time for…
Canvassing other events in person. I used to do this a lot but now I am really stretched for time, especially with Arlo being so young. For now I live vicariously through online social media and my meet ups with girlfriends in the industry. In person you get to experience the true atmosphere, which I do miss.
Bedtime is always smoother when…
We put on the Rockabye Baby Bob Marley Lullabyes during bathtime. It helps Arlo be calm enough for bed.
Thanks so much Kelly, and thank you to the ever fabulous Gunilla from SugarLight Photography for taking these fantastic pictures of Kelly and little Arlo!