For ‘That Mama’ Michelle Tham, everything is a learning experience!
Children’s education specialist Michelle Tham has dedicated her life to caring for children, but has discovered that parenthood is a whole other ballgame since her adorable son Pico (named for famous travel writer Pico Iyer!) was born last year. One thing is for sure: she knows the importance of shared responsibilities – one mama cannot do it alone! – and has discovered the joys of family in all sorts of new ways since becoming a mama.
Can you tell us a little about yourself, your career and your family?
I am a new mummy who’s finding out what happens when all the years of working with children and studying theories related to children development meets the realities that life with a little boy brings in mummyhood.
I am a speech language therapist and a specialist in the area of children’s learning and development, and an avid volunteer leading teams to support the progress of speech therapy in countries around us like Cambodia and Vietnam. My “first” baby, my company, Leapfrogs, a children’s therapy clinic, just celebrated 10 years of working with children and families and I have to say that the way a child grows and changes continues to amaze me, even more so now that I have my very own.
My husband and I are a tight unit and we work hard to be involved with each other’s lives, Pico, and support our busy and intense personalities, work schedules, and volunteer desires. Pico gets up in the wee hours at night and I couldn’t be more grateful for a husband that is happy to work with me and take an extra shift at night.
Can you talk us through your career pre- and post-baby?
Pre-baby, “workaholic” would be an accurate adjective I would’ve gladly used to describe myself. Schedules and commitments are easier to plan and make. Post-baby, the balance between career and mummy /wife duties and life is an ever changing moving dynamic. I am more balanced on some days and less on others.
However, I am currently in the midst of setting up a new company, which is exciting and wonderful! The vision and hope of the new company is to impact more and more children so it jives well with the newfound love and deeper realisation about how important children are that Pico has brought into my life. Making this new company work will be a huge feat and working with a partner that is not only a mummy, but a mummy of 6 kids, has been great! We’re doing our best to create family-friendly values, attitudes, and environment that support us and our future team.
How did you get back into the swing of things after giving birth?
Small steps at a time and deep end leaps at others. I literally inched into things like going back into a workout routine when I could, and jumped into the deep end with others such as taking new projects at work and supporting new volunteer initiatives.
How do you maintain an identity separate from your child?
It’s hard! I love my new identity! It’s fun, fulfilling and has helped me grow in ways unimaginable (like being able to function with less sleep), and having Pico has made me let go of being a “perfectionist” more effectively than anything I have tried. Having a participative and happy-to-be-involved partnership with my husband has helped so much; he encourages, supports, reminds, and even nags me to make sure I have “me” time and I take care of the identity that allows me to give back to my other roles as a daughter, volunteer, leader, and wife.
How has having a child changed the way you define work?
Work is now more than ever not bound to a space, and I can see that having a supportive work space and policies both from a smaller personal scale and a larger scale like economic policies will make huge differences to how both mums and dads “work” and see their contribution from that angle. I have found that since having Pico, I am even more passionate and feel more deeply about ensuring that kids have the opportunity to develop well.
How do you save time? What are your organisational tricks and tips?
Focused activity! Picking a few key areas and tasks that I will accomplish a day a week and letting the rest go has been pivotal.
I wish I had more time for…
Movies and holidays!
I always feel saner after…
A good meet up with friends and family, hanging out with the love of my life, and Yoga!
What part of Singapore do you live in? What do you like about it?
We live in Newton, near town! It’s convenient and we love that there’s a lot of green around us despite that we are close to town.
Favourite kid-friendly activity in Singapore?
Taking walks in the Botanical Gardens and East Coast Park!
Favourite family-friendly holiday spot in Asia?
We haven’t traveled within Asia much, the States was our recent destination. We were in San Francisco over Christmas and it was so easy to be with Pico there! We walked in parks, hung out in cafes, took the train into the city, and went shopping. It was mostly kid friendly, though it would be great to have more bathrooms that were family-ready!
Do you have any tips for keeping the romance alive in your relationship?
Lots of small moments to hold hands, talk, and laugh.
Do you have any tips for aspiring “mamapreneurs” and other working mamas in Singapore?
Roll with the punches, mamas! It’s going to be a messy, crazy, unbelievable ride that’s like no other! Mamapreneurs have been among the most creative, resourceful and efficient people I have worked with and their ideas and businesses have provided such great colour and value to the business landscape, so keep it rolling.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
Kids change and will change so don’t worry too much about it. The best thing you can do is trust that you can figure it out! (A combination of a few best advice to date)
Give us your essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women.
A good snug wrap-around-waistband to sleep at night (post baby for a few months after) helps tighten the mama’s tummy, our internal organs find their spot, and supports the back!
As a mama I wish I were better at…
Managing money and finding space for the stuff that Pico grows out of so quickly! It’s hard to know what is of the best value, and when I need what!
What’s your favourite family ritual?
Sometimes, when Pico wakes up at night and needs comfort, both daddy and I pick him up, sit with him quietly, hold his hands, and each other’s on a small sofa in his room.
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about….
Yikes, embarrassingly, how full my breasts are after a traumatic blocked ducts episode before.
My favourite moment of the day is…
When Pico smiles and laughs uncontrollably with me and/or daddy.
Thank you so much, Michelle! And thank you to the ever fabulous Gunilla of Sugarlight Photography for the gorgeous photos of Michelle and Pico!