This month’s That Mama is oh-so glamorous mama of two Mollie Jean De Dieu, a luxury fashion powerhouse!
“That Mama” is one of our most popular ongoing features, and we receive suggestions and nominations from all corners. A few things stood out to us about Mollie Jean De Dieu when a friend suggested her: for one, she has a super interesting and high-powered job as the General Manager of Singapore and Malaysia for Longchamp, the French luxury leather goods company (their iconic Le Pliage bags are a godsend for mamas on the go!). For another, she lives in a an absolutely stunning landed house in Bukit Timah and we were keen to see it! But most of all, as Mollie’s friend told us, she is inspiringly disciplined and focused, rising at 5:30 each morning to practice meditation and visualisation. As Mollie details below when taking us through her daily routine, “I believe that we are a trinity (mind, body and soul) and this time early in the morning allows me to stay as peaceful, grounded and whole as possible.” Her philosophy shines through the entirety of her interview, whether discussing how she got back into the swing of things after having kids, how she attempts to achieve work-life balance, or maintaining her marriage. Read on for some of the most passionate and concrete advice we’ve ever received, mamas, and prepare to be wowed!
Can you tell us a little about yourself, your career and your family?
I am an American citizen who has lived internationally for as long as I can remember: starting with Africa (from the tender age of six weeks old), to Paris (for most of my formative years), to New York (where I started out my career), to Hong Kong (9 years) and onto Singapore (for the past 3 and a half years). I like to call myself a ‘citizen of the world’ whilst being ‘French at heart’, having married a Frenchman. I also still have a lot of immediate family in Paris and we have a country house in Brittany where I like to go to with the family when we need to cut off from the world and “just be.” It is a house that breathes history and it is my paternal grandfather, who worked for the CIA and was based in France, who fell in love with it.
Both my father and paternal grandfather are and were avid lovers of beautiful interiors and their passion for it rubbed off on me. I adore anything that is ‘home-interior-décor’ related and it has become a hobby of sorts over the years. I have been working for Longchamp for the past 12 years and was promoted three and a half years ago to open the latest two new subsidiaries in Asia Pacific for the brand: Singapore and Malaysia. Hence our move here. I used to manage the Asia Pacific wholesale business for the brand out of Hong Kong, which was such a fantastic experience in terms of getting to know this beautiful region. My husband is an entrepreneur and has a line of stitch-free sportswear that he has launched in Europe and will be introducing to the Asian market very soon. I love what he does and I know that people here will, too. He has his own factory in Dongguan and his offices have remained in Hong Kong which means that he travels quite a fair deal.
We have two children (Mia who is 5 and a half and Louis who just turned 4 in July) — they both go to the French School here in order for them to be fluent in both languages AND to speak decent French with their grandparents! We try to keep to the ‘home-rule’ of their father speaking to them exclusively in French and I in English. They are both very different souls: Mia being extremely creative and an artistic aficionado from very early on, and Louis being a bubbly “happy-go-lucky” charming little man, demanding for all things dinosaur-superman-candy and motorcycles-related. We try, as parents, to teach them integrity, respect and the understanding that anything in life is only impossible if you fail to try.
Can you talk us through your career pre- and post-baby?
I used to direct the wholesale APAC region for Longchamp and my years pre-baby were spent traveling and getting to know the area. It was a time where I was also building up the brand in the region and the business development angle of my job was simply thrilling to me. My husband and I got married in Phuket in a small and intimate close gathering of around 30 of our loved ones.
Post-baby, life of course got fuller and clearly more challenging; like any parent, I continue to strive for the so called ‘work-life balance.’ I have had to really take a hard look at slowing down and not having everything be as “perfect” as I want it to be. This continues to be a difficult exercise for me—I am a perfectionist and I push myself quite hard. When I catch myself in ‘autopilot JET mode’ I try and centre myself back and often think of Lao Tzu’s saying: “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished” — it just really resonates with me. But yes, it does take some (lots and lots of) reminding!
On the surface at least, you have an extremely glamorous job that any mama would envy. What’s the least glamorous aspect of it?
The long hours, being constantly ‘needed’, the feeling of utter exhaustion on weekends and yet having to keep up with being the best mom and wife I can be whilst remaining true to myself throughout. It’s a juggle.
How did you get back into the swing of things after having kids?
Discipline. I got a personal trainer, watched my eating habits and dove back into things. I just honestly didn’t give myself a choice. In retrospect, I could have perhaps been kinder to myself versus being so military about it. I have always had to work hard to stay fit and at my desired weight. My weight yo-yo’s here and there and that just makes me human, doesn’t it? I have learnt to accept my curves to some extent when they are there; we get so much freer and accepting of ourselves as we age, don’t we? Overall, to answer the question, I stayed very focused with my to-dos and didn’t procrastinate.
How do you maintain an identity separate from your children?
I wake up at 5:30am every morning to do my high intensity training for 15 minutes then I have my mediation time, which essentially is a time for prayer and my visualisation work. I believe that we are a trinity (mind, body and soul) and this time early in the morning allows me to stay as peaceful, grounded and whole as possible.
How has having children changed the way you define work?
It hasn’t really all that much, to be honest, apart for the obvious fact that Mia and Louis are of course my top priority now. I also travel less and make my trips shorter and ‘to the point.’ Largely, I want to teach my children that having a career or a life calling does not mean that you need to sacrifice your family life or happiness in the process. It does not mean you have to shove your needs aside for devotion’s sake, either (i.e. mom guilt). And it certainly does not mean that you are required to be the perfect parent at all costs. Because the truth is, there really is no ‘perfect parent’, no matter what appearances lead us to sometimes think; we are all just doing the best we can. I know it sounds very straightforward but still, it’s worth repeating it to ourselves from time to time. And to me, this really isn’t unicorn and rainbow fluff.
What does your daily routine look like?
I wake up at 5:30am, to work out and meditate, at 7am I wake Mia up (as Louis is clocked to an unshakable 6:00m ‘rise and shine’), followed by breakfast with the children, shower, bidding the kids ‘goodbye’ as I put them on the school bus, then off I go to work. Lunch is spent having a quick salad on the go (usually in front of my computer) and then running off to tick away all my to-dos such as buying anything the children might need, or going to the doctor/dentist etc. I get home around 7:30-8pm and read a bedtime story to Louis (followed by two lullabies that he always requests) before putting him to bed; I then repeat the same routine with Mia. I like to eat my dinner early (6pm) so I generally have it at work (dinners with hubby over the weekends, though!). I like to go to bed early, generally by 10pm at the latest.
How do you save time? What are your organisational tricks and tips?
I get my to-dos done at lunchtime and I grocery shop for the week on Friday evenings (so that I don’t have to do it on Saturday). I write everything down in my Evernote application whenever I am given a good address to explore, or whenever I have an inspirational thought or an errand to tick away, and I plan well in advance on just about everything.
I wish I had more time for…
I wish I had more time to devote to the personal life projects of mine which I am currently working on.
I always feel saner after….
A bath, a good night’s sleep, a massage, my first cup of coffee in the morning, my early morning workout and prayer time.
What part of Singapore do you live in? What do you like about it?
Bukit Timah. Everything, frankly — but mostly being at walking distance from all the shops I like to go to, the Botanic Gardens and the short commute to work. I also have the loveliest neighbours.
Favourite kid-friendly activity in Singapore?
Going to Sentosa for some beach time, cycling on the East Coast, going out for Sunday brunch, and going for long walks (kids on their scooters) in the Botanic Gardens.
Favourite kid-friendly restaurants in Singapore?
This is a hard question as there are so many good choices, I wouldn’t want to be biased!
Favourite family-friendly holiday spot in Asia?
Do you have any tips for keeping the romance alive in your relationship?
Going out for dinner on Saturday evenings is “our time” to reconnect. We always plan a getaway trip just the two of us to celebrate our wedding anniversary (even if that means a staycation on occasion). I try not to take my husband for granted and to focus as much as possible on his qualities versus the parts of him that make me mad or irritated or sad. It is for sure easier said than done on certain days, but the most important, is to stay consistent in trying. Marriage is tough and my husband and I have certainly seen our fair share of difficult times; I think here what matters at the end of the day is to talk, talk, talk. And the harder it is to talk about a said topic, the more healing and beneficial I have found it to be. And be honest with yourself first, no matter the outcome—this is a sacred rule for me.
Do you have any tips for working mamas in Singapore?
Be kind to yourselves and know your limits. Let go of any mom guilt you might have as it does not serve you in any way — the present moment is all we have so make every second count when you are with your children. Please also do not compare yourselves to any other working mama because you are uniquely you for a reason. If there is something you want to accomplish or do, go spend time with someone who has already achieved it. Accept to sometimes be vulnerable, even if that means letting go of the “superwoman”/”businesswoman” image we all try to hold onto to some degree. Stand united and empower other women any chance you get. And never forget that the only person you are really competing with is YOURSELF.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
“Self-honesty without self-love is nothing but self-abuse”
Give us your essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women.
1. Cut yourself some slack and take in being in the “now” with your little one, as much as your exhausted-self will let you. I often look back at baby pictures and I just wish I had not fretted the small stuff as much (losing the extra baby weight, ticking off my to dos etc.) and had enjoyed my babies more.
2. When you feel down and depleted, that means you need sleep mama, so slip yourself under your sheets and get your Zzz’s (no matter the means it takes for you to actually do this, i.e. giving baby to hubby, mom, helper, night nurse etc.) or sink yourself into a warm soothing bath for some well-deserved ‘water therapy’ (and yes, with the bar of chocolate or the glass of wine if that’s what you are in the mood for. There is no judging here.)
As a mama I wish I were better at…
Art — I cannot draw for the life of me.
What’s your favourite family ritual?
Going to church if we make it out the door for the 10am service on time. Sunday brunch with my family.
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about….
I am too exhausted when I hit my pillow to wake up in the middle of the night to be quite frank. But when I do, it is always linked to a fear of mine that I haven’t been able to release yet. Fear to me is our mind measuring what we will lose, versus what we will gain. It is also the absence of faith — in God, the Universe, the Tao (i.e. the Way)…whatever you call it. I was once told “when fear knocks on the door, let faith answer the door” — I love this. So the times when I do wake up in the middle of the night with fears and anxiety, I pray.
My favourite moment of the day is…
Early in the morning when I have my “me time,” and in the evenings when I read good night stories to my little ones even if I am utterly drained. Oh yes, and the moment I slip in bed and never fail to think how much I love it…