This month’s That Mama is lingerie entrepreneur and mother of 3, Tara Lai!
Ooh la la! This month’s That Mama is the truly gorgeous Tara Lai, who founded lingerie boutique Avec Amour in Hong Kong in 2011 and recently moved to Singapore. We caught up with Tara and her three adorable kids – Miya, 8; Kaison, 6; and Athea, 2 – to find out what they love about living in Singapore, along with some great advice on launching a business, maintaining your sanity when you work from home, and finding a bit of balance each and every day.
Can you tell us a little about yourself, your career and your family?
I grew up in Melbourne but have been living in Asia for the past 15 years now. I have three beautiful kids who keep me on my toes and continue to amaze me every day.
I started my beauty business in Hong Kong back in 2007 (pre-kids), then added Avec Amour (retailer of International Lingerie Brands) in 2011 when I had two kids. We just launched the avecamourlingerie.com site in September 2016 and hope to continue to expand throughout Asia.
Can you talk us through your career pre- and post-baby?
My career pre-kids was a bit of trial and error, entering into accounting, business development, marketing roles. My boyfriend (now husband) always encouraged me to start my own business so as soon as I had a solid plan, I took the plunge.
I started my business prior to kids and it took a lot of hours, dedication and work to make it successful relatively fast. Once I started a family, I had to scale back the hours but I am still very dedicated to growing the business. I’m very blessed to have amazing staff who have grown with me and help me manage the operations.
How did you get back into the swing of things after having kids?
I have no idea. With a new baby and expanding business, I had no maternity leave. It was a struggle, especially trying to figure out motherhood with my first baby. I suppose, with so much going on, you just do what you need to get done without thinking about it. Soon enough a manageable routine falls into place.
How do you maintain an identity separate from your kids?
I love my kids but I do believe that it is important to maintain your own identity by having other aspects in your life — could be work, friends, hobbies and simply taking some alone time.
For me I try to have a balance of family, work, social and some time alone (can be exercising, shopping, taking a class or even watching a movie alone).
How has having a child changed the way you define work?
Before my kids, work was more of a fixed timetable of 9-till-late. After kids, work revolves around my kids’ schedule, which sometimes entails jumping on the computer in the middle of the night or taking a call while waiting for their dance/Taekwondo class to end.
How do you save time? What are your organisational tricks and tips?
I’m in love with this app called Wunderlist that organises all my lists for work, home, and kids, in which you can allocate due dates to them. So I can see on my Today’s List only the items I need to get done for the day.
Another tip I have is that I’ve made a list on excel of all the items I need to pack so I just print it off before each trip and tick them off as I go. I’m also trying to get my kids involved with their packing – which they love to do – so it’s a win-win.
I wish I had more time for…
My kids. I feel that there is probably never enough time for the kids, especially having three. I do wish I had more quality time for them individually.
I always feel saner after….
A drink with some girlfriends. I suppose I’m the type who re-boots after an evening out. Plus it’s also great to know that my girlfriends are similar in that way and totally understand that we need time away from home now and then.
What part of Singapore do you live in? What do you like about it?
Alexandra / Tanglin Area. I like being a bit out of the hustle and bustle of Orchard area but still close enough to drop by when I want to.
Favourite kid-friendly restaurant in Singapore?
Probably Rider’s Café; the kids love the watching the horses and we love the food there.
Favourite family-friendly holiday spot in Asia?
Taiwan is a wonderful holiday destination with the kids. Taiwanese people are so friendly and helpful, there are many kid-friendly activities, the street food is amazing, plus it’s such an affordable destination.
Do you have any tips for keeping the romance alive in your relationship?
Lingerie! It doesn’t always have to be sexy, but a little lace sometimes is more than enough to ignite romance for the evening.
Favourite date night restaurants?
We try to discover new places most of the time. The last one we went to was SPRMRKT in Robertson Quay which we really enjoyed. It had great food, casual ambiance and is conveniently located near us.
Do you have any tips for aspiring “mamapreneurs” and other working mamas in Singapore?
Connect with other mamapreneurs. Especially if you’re working alone most of the time, we miss out on the socialising that most other jobs have whether it’s staff meetings, lunches or even commuting. I love chatting with other entrepreneurs, especially ones who are mummies because I always pick up at least one helpful tip which could be an app, or business contact, or a great kid’s playground.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
Don’t spoonfeed them, literally! Let them be able to explore, make a mess and practice feeding themselves.
I don’t think my son picked up a spoon himself until he was like 4 years old and to this day we still have to feed him at times. So with my baby girl I would leave the plate in front of her and now her motor skills and eating habits are great.
Give us your essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women.
It’s ok to have a breakdown and you shouldn’t feel embarrassed or ashamed. A new baby is extremely overwhelming (plus being sleep deprived and hyper-hormonal), and it is common for new mamas to break down in tears. We just don’t hear enough about how tough it can be.
As a mama I wish I were better at…
Cooking. I have the passion for food and eating but unfortunately don’t have the passion or talent to cook.
What’s your favourite family ritual?
Making homemade popsicles with the kids. They love trying new flavours, mixing and of course eating them.
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about….
Going back to sleep, it’s such a luxury I don’t want to miss.
My favourite moment of the day is…
Seeing my kids after school or picking my baby up from school because they are so excited to be home and see me. I love that moment.