This month’s That Mama Tiffany Okumu is a work from home pro who turned a desire to spend more time with her baby into a flourishing baby gift career
As we all continue to stay home during the Circuit Breaker, we thought it was the perfect time to introduce a mama who’s been working from home all along to share her top tips and insights. Tiffany Okumu is a mother of two with a background in graphic design who launched the stunning Singapore baby gift company Raph&Remy in 2019. Named for her two adorable sons, Raph&Remy has totally wowed us with its high-quality and sustainable products that are perfect for personalisation. They also happen to have possibly the world’s cutest Instagram! We caught up with Tiffany to find out more about how she launched her own business, along with her tips for managing work-life balance from home. Read on for a delightful and inspiring interview!
Can you tell us a little about yourself, your career and your family?
I’m a trained graphic designer of 13 years and before setting up RAPH&REMY I worked for well-known MNCs in the real estate, advertising and beauty industries.
I’ve lived here in Singapore for close to a decade now, but I’ve also lived in Brisbane (where I was born), Sydney and New York. I met my now-husband, who’s from the UK, while we were both in our very first year here in Singapore. We married in our dream destination, Santorini in Greece, and we’ve been fortunate enough to welcome two beautiful boys into this world – Raphael (3) and Remy (9 months). Both sons and our family business (named after our boys) were born right here in Singapore!
Can you talk us through your career pre- and post-baby?
After the birth of our first boy Raphael, I really struggled with the thought of returning to my corporate job, which was both demanding and required long hours in the office to meet key project/client deadlines.
I pushed through initially and returned to work after the birth of Raphael, but I always felt something was missing. I felt as if I was leaving my heart at home every time I left for the office and found myself forever living in fear of potentially missing out on all those magical moments between mother and child.
My husband and I decided that this just wasn’t sustainable and we made a firm commitment to each other that we had to do everything possible to find another way!
How did you get back into the swing of things after having kids?
I don’t think we ever did…life was never quite the same ever again!
We initially tried to just neatly dove-tail our baby boy into our existing lives, essentially just creating an extension onto our current lives as a couple, without having to take anything away.
But with every month that went by we came to realise that we were dealing with a force unlike anything we had ever dealt with before and something had to give. So we made the decision to completely reset and realign our lives based on our new priorities/responsibilities as parents and focus on finding our new normal.
From then it’s been a combination of:
- Listening to your instincts as parents and adapting as required
- Leaning on our support network and doing so as much as needed without seeing it as a weakness
- Taking the pressure off ourselves and each other, as even though we strive to be perfect we know this isn’t realistic and we can only ensure we’re doing our absolute very best, every single day, that we possibly can.
- Staying flexible about your approach and being open to change / adapting as necessary is critical not just through action but through mindset.
- Being kind to yourself and regularly practising self-care (even just 10 minutes a day) helped me out a lot. It’s definitely a mental game as much as it is a physical one.
I relied heavily on the emotional support from my husband, sister, and mum, telling me I’m ok, doing great, that this is all normal. Like my own little cheer squad I tapped into every single day, 10 times a day if I needed too. I am very fortunate to have such a good support network around me.
How do you maintain an identity separate from your children?
The thought / concept that my identity (along with all the ladies out there with kids) is to only be defined as a mother and that this is all we are / all we can be, is something that I am extremely resistant to and something we need to get better at fighting as a wider female community.
Yes of course motherhood has made up the most special / sacred moments in my life and something I’m both extremely proud and extremely grateful to be experiencing. This is also especially important to remember as I’m sure we all know women in our own personal networks who have longed for/are still longing for the opportunity to experience motherhood and for whatever reason this hasn’t yet been possible.
But this doesn’t mean that the ladies fortunate to have become mothers suddenly lose the right to all other parts of their identity outside of motherhood. In fact, I would argue that keeping a tight grip on your identity outside of motherhood and continuing to invest time and energy (no matter how small) in activities in line with whatever interests you have outside of motherhood, would in fact help to keep you recharged, mentally fresh and allow you to continue to grow both as a person and as a mother.
I am very passionate about running my business on a daily basis. It provides me with an incredible sense of independence and value, as I’m contributing to the community and engaging with other women / parents every day. I am able to be creative and in my element when I’m designing; it’s a very therapeutic outlet for me. Working isn’t on every mama’s agenda of course, but I do encourage others to maintain a hobby that you can fully own and embrace, that is separate from your children. It’s extremely healthy and important to take a little bit of “me time” every day.
I also love getting together with my friends over a few drinks and getting dressed up for date-nights, just to remind myself (and my husband) that us mamas still got it!
How has having children changed the way you define work?
Working from home while juggling that work/life balance act, especially as a mum, is never easy. In fact, at most times it’s just really hard.
But knowing that I’m able to work for myself while achieving personal fulfilment and success is worth it. Not to mention the satisfaction of knowing that all of the victories are my own. I’m very fortunate to be able to work from home and my priority since starting the business has always been to structure my working days around my kid’s needs.
Any tips to share with families trying to adapt to working from home?
Setting up a home office, having a great work/life balance AND feeling like you’re absolutely nailing it every day both as a parent and a working professional, is basically like trying to chase a unicorn. If you know anyone that has in fact caught this unicorn, please let me know, I’d love to steal their secrets!
Being a mum and running a business are both full time jobs and two of the most demanding there is! I take both very seriously so no matter what’s been achieved in the day, there’s often the feeling that I could be doing both jobs even better.
But here are some tips that I live by daily that have gotten me this far:
- Planning and time management is so critical to success. I always set daily goals on paper and am forever making lists. Why? Because what the mind can see, the mind can believe – and also, I am old school like that and take great pleasure in crossing daily tasks off the list! We all have the same amount of time in the day, it’s what we do with that time that counts!
- Knowing when to ask for help and when to take breaks is also extremely important – so you don’t run yourself straight into the ground.
- Working from home takes a bit of getting used to, but when you have a strong enough reason behind something and it runs deep to your core – excuses tend to go out the door and you’re far more likely to push through any rough patches / hurdles.
Know your ‘why,’ and you can handle almost any ‘how’!
How do you save time? What are your organisational tricks and tips?
As a self-employed mother of a toddler and baby, the biggest help I can give myself is simply to plan ahead. I plan my days and weeks carefully to include time for my family, business, and self-care. This allows me to create a clear path for myself. When I have a plan to follow, I am efficient and extremely productive. If I try to wing it, I get easily distracted and end up achieving very little in my day.
I also always keep a clean desk and organised computer data! It’s incredible how just these two things alone grants you more focus, peace of mind and productivity. It contributes greatly to my daily happiness and sense of well-being as well as helps to reclaim time for what matters most.
Read more: Work-from-home organisation tips
You have one of the most gorgeous Instagram feeds we’ve ever seen! How do you manage to have your kids not only sit still, but pose so adorably?
Wow, thank you so much! It’s honestly quite a lot of work to maintain and it’s amazing how effortless things appear on the ‘gram 😉
I always keep the setting as un-staged and natural as possible, helping to capture those authentic moments as they occur. Also, I’ve usually taken about 200 of nearly the same photo, just to get that 1 magical angle.
Apart from that, as annoying as it may sound to some, I’ve been blessed with kids who are SO quick to smile and really quite enjoy being in front of the camera! Until they don’t, then a bit of good old fashioned bribery also seems to do the trick, ha!
Any wisdom or tips you can share for making it through the Circuit Breaker with your kids?
Ever heard the saying, an idle mind is a devils playground? We keep our boys BUSY! We have loads of activities going on all day every day. We are, however, also quite fortunate to now be living in a house, so there is space to run around and different rooms to explore, that helps to mix things up a bit. Not having access to the parks/playgrounds has been the biggest challenge. I am definitely looking forward to those reopening soon, so Raph can see his friends and burn that extra energy off with them.
I have to say though, for me, this is the norm! Nothing has really changed that much as I have been working from home for a couple of years now. I’m already in a pretty good routine with managing work and the kids from home. The difference now is we get to share the house with Daddy during the day, which has had a positive impact on our whole family.
Sharing the responsibility among those under your roof is really important. No one person can do everything. We all chip in. We have been blessed with hands-down the greatest helper of all time (not biased at all), and we each break up the day between work, rest and play so that the kids are receiving a variety of attention at different times and no-one is burning out.
Showering the kids with positive affirmations and love, constantly, is also important. I can’t even count how many times a day I tell the boys how much I love them and what good boys they are being for us and to each other. Positive affirmations usually lead to positive actions. We talk to the boys like adults and express our expectations and reward good behaviour.
And lastly, wine. With your hubs at the end of a long day, reminding each other of what a great job the other is doing #teamworkmakesthedreamwork
Read more: Wine Shops & Wine Delivery in Singapore
I wish I had more time for…
Massages. I think about them constantly.
I always feel saner after….
Getting some fresh air! And sanest after a swim in the ocean.
What part of Singapore do you live in? What do you like about it?
We’ve just moved to East Coast! And although we loved living in Bukit Timah, I feel like this area is so great for young families! We are within walking distance to playgrounds, schools, shops & restaurants and of course, East Coast Park!
Read more: Guide to Tanjong Katong and East Coast Road
Favourite family-friendly holiday spot in Asia?
Bali! Specifically, The Seminyak Beach Resort & Spa. The hotel grounds & rooms are beautiful and overlooking the extremely decent sized kids pool, is uninterrupted beach! The food is always good and the staff are so friendly and inclusive – always going the extra mile to put fun and special events on for the kids. We’ve chosen to head over there for Babymoon, CNY & Christmas and hoping we can return again very soon. It’s an absolute winner.
Do you have any tips for keeping the romance alive in your relationship?
Date nights and staycations! Also, we’re not big on gifting each other on the days you’re typically supposed to. So we like to surprise each other randomly throughout the year with unexpected things!
Favourite date night restaurants?
Never the same one twice.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
Put down the baby books. It’s important to parent in a way that feels natural and authentic to you. No two babies are the same.
Give us your essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women:
Never tell another mother how to mother. Offer advice if asked but remember it’s more important to support and empower each mother to make her own decisions as there’s rarely only one way to do things and/or only one right answer to the million questions you’ll ask yourself!
As a mama I wish I were better at…
With all my drive, passion and a brain that lives in constant motion I’m guilty of sometimes forgetting to be present in the moment.
What’s your favourite family ritual?
Dance-offs. Our whole family loves music – we are always playing music around the house. Raph has made it his duty to ensure we’re all dancing together.
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about….
Whether I will ever have another full night’s sleep again…
My favourite moment of the day is…
Thank you to Tiffany and her family for sharing their wonderful story and gorgeous photos with us!
All images courtesy Raph&Remy