A room of one’s own… what every mama dreams about, right? It also inspired enterprising Kiwi mama Michaela Anchan to establish the super-cool Joo Chiat coworking space, Woolf Works. “Dedicated to nurturing passionate businesswomen”, Woolf Works is all about helping women make new connections and feel like part of a community while getting a bit of separation between work and home life. We sat down with Michaela, a mum to a 6-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son, to find out how she herself achieves this sometimes-difficult balance…
Can you tell us a little about yourself, your career and your family?
I’m from New Zealand originally but have tripped around a bit since leaving 12 years ago. My husband is from Mumbai and we moved to Singapore from there in 2011. I was a SAHM for about five years, during which time I studied Creative Writing and had a few short stories published. After my second was born, I realised the frustration and loneliness of working from home with kids was a universal pain point and launched my women’s coworking space, Woolf Works, in mid-2014.
Can you talk us through your career pre- and post-baby?
Pre-babies I was a project and operations manager for a shipping company and had just left to launch a new business when pregnancy left me throwing up for five months straight. Post-second baby, I’m very happy to be back in the entrepreneur world after a few years of frustration and insecurity. I always had this dream of the beautiful, calm, quiet office space I would have, with no kids and no distractions – and through Woolf Works that dream is finally a reality!
How do you maintain an identity separate from your children?
It took me a good few years to learn this lesson – and with my first baby I was a full on baby-wearing, attachment mum without much of a separate identity at all. After my second kid I’ve learnt I can still be that mum and I can also prioritise my own needs of professional fulfilment, self-care and exercise – and my kids get a better mum for it! I’m going on quality over quantity now.
Has having a child changed the way you define work? How so?
Definitely. Time is a precious commodity. It’s stopped me from overbooking myself – I have to keep to just one weeknight out a week or else everyone gets cranky with me. So for me, having kids has forced me to really define my boundaries and commit to that.
How do you save time? What are your organisational tricks and tips?
I basically couldn’t survive without my Google calendar. Everything goes in there. I also have a part-time virtual assistant who is pretty great at helping me admin jobs for the business.
I wish I had more time for…SLEEP! My little one is 2 now so at least there is some light at the end of the tunnel!
I always feel saner after…. Taking time out for myself. I’ve recently started a new regime of a “Me” Day – once a month I start with lunch at Wild Honey or Providore, eyebrows at Browhaus, waxing at Strip, facial at L’Espace, nails at Snails and a bit of wander through the shops listening to my favourite podcasts. I seriously look forward to that afternoon all month!
What part of Singapore do you live in? What do you like about it?
I have been an East Coast fan since we first moved here – I love the coastal feel, I adore Joo Chiat where Woolf Works is located, and there is so much happening right now with new restaurants and bars opening up all the time.
I do feel like a bit of a traitor though – we have actually just moved to Newton! Trying out life in the centre of the island and it will be a helpful location when I open the second branch of Woolf Works in early 2016!
Favourite kid-friendly activity in Singapore?
I’m in my element with a picnic blanket, a bag of sand toys and some snacks on the beach down at East Coast Park. We’ve also enjoyed Amped, the trampoline park recently – great for all ages and a good workout for Mama too!
We also love the public swimming pools at Katong – old school and simple and great for the kids, plus it’s never too busy.
Favourite kid-friendly restaurant in Singapore?
Café Melba on Sunday evenings is a regular for us – my husband and I get a chance to catch up before the week starts while the kids enjoy the bouncy castle and grass field.
We also love Din Tai Fung at I12 and Sushi Tei.
Favourite family-friendly holiday spot in Asia?
Great beaches are always sure winners and we just had a great holiday with a couple of other families in Koh Samui – we rented a villa for a week and hardly left once. Pure relaxation, great Thai food, and non-stop swimming for the kids.
We also had an amazing trip to Japan this past Christmas – so much to do! I fell in love with Tokyo and we enjoyed our second ever ski season up in Hokkaido.
Do you have any tips for keeping the romance alive in your relationship?
This is a struggle for us to be honest, as my husband works late night hours and travels a fair bit. We need to make a real effort to book in our date nights (see aforementioned Google Calendar!). We’ve also done a couple of staycations on Sentosa, which is such a great way to reconnect – and only 20 minutes away from home.
Do you have any tips for aspiring “mamapreneurs” and other working mamas in Singapore?
Don’t be scared to put yourself first! We mamas get very used to prioritising everyone else’s needs before our own – but you deserve to be number one, too. Our kids are hardy creatures and I really believe good quality time with a fulfilled, happy mama is far superior to a lot of time with a frustrated mama.
And work outside the home! Woolf Works was created because I know how hard it is to try to work at home – even if the kids are in school there are a million things (the laundry! the fridge!) that distract us. Investing in a coworking space membership gives you space to do really productive, focused work – and increase your networks and opportunities at the same time.
Give us your essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women.
It’s all a phase – seriously, don’t sweat the small stuff. It all goes so quickly.
You don’t need to be a perfect Mama – you just need to be the best ‘you’ and you’ll achieve that by taking good care of yourself and making yourself top priority in the family.
My favourite moment of the day is…
When the kids are asleep and I go to bed with a cup of tea and a good book.
Thanks Michaela! And thanks to the wonderfully talented photographer (and Woolf Works tenant herself!) Gunilla of Sugarlight Photography for taking these lovely photos of Michaela and her children.