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That Mama: Spa Owner and Shoe Designer Norfasarie

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This month’s That Mama is shoe designer and mama-of-three, Norfasarie!

Take a glance through the debut shoe collection of TuMeet by Norfasarie and you’ll be able to tell that the designer’s style is all about glitz and glam! But behind the glamorous exterior (did we mention she’s also a former TV star?), this super mama of three (Mika, 8; Moza, 6; and Muaz, 17 months) has a myriad of talents and accolades under her belt.

Despite an often packed schedule, Norfasarie still has the time to be involved in the current The Best of You exhibition (where she talks about her daughter Moza’s journey with a rare diagnosis at birth) — a social movement that thrives on the empowering stories of people from all walks of life in Singapore. Read on as we chat with her about how she manages to do it all and still has the energy to tuck her kids into bed at night. Plus their fave family activities and where to go to keep your kids occupied indoors!

Can you tell us a little about yourself, your career and your family?

Spa-owner. Founded a shoe brand. Mother of three. Ex-actress. Ex-cabin crew member for Singapore Airlines!

Can you talk us through your career pre- and post-babies?

Before I got married I was an actress (I started when I was in secondary school), and I was also concurrently with Singapore Airlines for seven years. I was juggling between flying and acting, but when I got married [to Singaporean soccer superstar Baihakki Khaizan] I became a housewife for the first three years of our married life. We were residing in Indonesia (Jakarta, Bandung and Medan) because my husband was playing football for a few Indonesian teams. In that time I had my son Mika, and two years after I had my daughter Moza. During my second pregnancy I returned to Singapore to await the arrival of the baby, and that was when I decided to open up a spa.

In Indonesia we used to love spa-hopping, and I often thought, “How great would it be if we had all these services under one roof in Singapore?” and from there we had the idea to run a spa just for ladies. The spa was launched in April 2011, and just 14 days after the launch, my daughter Moza was born! I was actively overseeing all the setup and operations right up till the labour and I remember how the contractors were always trying to shoo me away because I was pregnant, and they didn’t want me to be around so much paintwork. I was even buying and carrying the railings for my spa’s curtains! It’s because the spa just felt like another baby to me.

How did you get back into the swing of things after having kids?

I’m so used to multi-tasking since secondary school – I was acting, singing and working on the weekends – so it came naturally. When I converted to becoming a full-time stewardess that’s when I knew I was a workaholic. I really love and enjoy working because I’ve been doing it for so long. When I stopped working and became a mother for the first time in Jakarta, it surprisingly wasn’t too bad. Honestly I didn’t feel at my best because I was away from home and I was all alone handling a baby, but I got used to juggling things again very easily. I’m very passionate about work. My husband always says I’m running on a battery that never needs to be charged!

Congratulations on the debut of your shoe label, TuMeet by Norfasarie! Can you tell us more about how it came to be what it is today?

Thank you! My sisters and I absolutely love shoes and we started planning some time last year. The whole process of branding and creating the first collection took about six to eight months. We designed the shoes and worked with a manufacturer on the choice of materials, from the insole to fabric. The feedback has been great so far, but we did have customers telling us that the heels are a little too high. Since this was a Hari Raya collection we definitely wanted it to be more exclusive-looking with glitter and all that but we’re currently working on a more casual collection for both mums and girls that include flats, wedges and flat forms. We still want to concentrate and develop the brand since it’s still pretty new in the market, so a boys’ collection may not come so soon but we’re definitely thinking about it.

How did you manage to conceive TuMeet by Norfasarie while juggling your spa business and family time?

My time is very limited so I’ve had to resort to rushing everywhere! But the good thing is I don’t bring my work home. Basically everything I do should be done right there and then, and even in terms of checking emails and communications I try to do it once the kids are asleep. The time before that is always spent with my kids whether it’s doing school revision, or putting them to bed. I don’t put my older kids in the transport service for school because I love spending those small bits of time together in the car to chat.

How do you maintain an identity separate from your children?

I’ve always wanted to be known as a mother first, and then as a businesswoman. It’s my responsibility as a mother to make sure I always put my three kids first, and in fact I’ve learned how to multitask well BECAUSE I’m a mother. Apart from that I do make sure I have some ‘me’ time, whether it’s simple supper outings with my husband, movie dates at night or couple’s massages. I don’t let the fact that I have kids stop me from doing what I want to do, as long as I’ve done everything I can for them at that point. Finding time for my husband and myself is so important – it’s when we can take the time to keep our marriage alive. Don’t think that because you have children you shouldn’t have time for your husband or yourself, even if it’s taking the time to look good. At the end of the day you have to love yourself first before you can love others.

How do you save time? What are your organisational tricks and tips?

Time spent has to be quality time, especially with the kids. I may not be there for them all the time but during bedtime, especially on the weekdays, I make sure I tuck them in. Even if I have things to get done I make sure to do that first, then leave them with my helper while I attend to something elsewhere. I try to have conversations with them in bed, discussing what’s been happening in school, because at night is when it’s easiest for us to interact. When I pick them up from school they’re usually a little too tired to talk! Plus I try to pack in most of their activities like extra lessons and enrichment programmes during the weekdays so they’ll have the entire weekend to play and chill with the family.

I wish I had more time for…

Scratch the ‘for’, I wish I had more time in my day! I wish I had longer hours for me to do things for my children because I always feel anything I do for them is never enough.

I always feel saner after….

A good sleep! I’m always sleep-deprived. And maybe a good massage at my spa, which I have to make an appointment for even though it’s my own spa! I try to squeeze at least one massage in every month.

What part of Singapore do you live in? What do you like about it?

I live in the east and I really love my estate. There’s a strong kampung feeling about it where everybody knows everyone – and I’ve only been here for over a year! During Ramadan we exchanged food almost everyday, and frequently had the neighbours over. My children are so friendly with the other kids in the neighbourhood that on Hari Raya Eve, they all disappeared to play with sparklers in the street but I wasn’t worried because I knew my neighbours would keep an eye on them.

Favourite kid-friendly activity in Singapore?

Definitely indoor playgrounds. Recently my kids have been loving BOUNCE! Singapore, otherwise we usually head to Amazonia or The Polliwogs. Other places we love to frequent include the Singapore Zoo, and nearby East Coast Park to play ball or cycle.

Favourite kid-friendly restaurant in Singapore?

My children love going to the usual joints like Fish & Co., Pizza Hut and Arnold’s once in a while.

Favourite family-friendly holiday spot in Asia?

We love Bali! We’ve been about thrice with the kids. They love the water sports there (Mika and Moza can both swim) and even in the open waters they’ll get a boat out to swim in the shallow areas. We also love Krabi; there’s so much halal food you can find and everything’s within walking distance.

Favourite date night restaurants?

My husband and I really love Japanese food and sometimes we crave for it quite badly. We love heading to The Ramen Stall at North Bridge Road, which opens till as late as 4am so it’s a great place to chill.

Do you have any tips for aspiring “mamapreneurs” and other working mamas in Singapore?

I have to admit it’s not easy, but you’ve got to find your own balance in whatever you do. You shouldn’t be concentrating on your business so much that you don’t check up on your kids at the end of the day. Find a good work-life balance and eventually everything should work itself out.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?

It’s not a piece of advice I received, but I really believe in the importance of time over toys or technology. It’s better that you spend time with your children, whether it’s going for a holiday where they can experience something different and bond with you rather than making them happy with toys and leaving them to play and figure things out on their own.

I’m very firm with my two older kids on their gadget time on weekdays – strictly no phones and minimum TV time. On the weekends I understand they love checking out YouTube since they have that free time, but by Sunday morning I scale it all back so we can get ready for the new week.

Give us your essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women.

I would tell new mamas to take it easy! Because I think mothers always put so much pressure on themselves. They’re always so affected by what other people have said to them on their parenting skills and that’s when they start asking themselves, “Why is my son/daughter like this?” and they may resort to Google, looking for answers to questions like whether their child is autistic, things like that. I think mums should really enjoy being mums, and not let other people stress them out. So just relax, take care of yourself and have that ‘me’ time. Go for your breaks and leave your children behind (with people you trust of course), because you deserve it. When you come back you’ll be an even better mother. If you are at home 24/7 and devote your life to your children… Your life doesn’t stop there. You still need to have other things in your life  to balance out. So I believe that if you’re not working, you’re allowed to be more lenient on yourself.

Social media definitely has a part to play in all this because it only portrays what goes on at the surface, and most people don’t know what goes on behind the scenes. It’s pretty hard to go, “Oh wow what a happy family!” when you know there’s a lot of work happening. There are times when we don’t get to see each other, there are times when I’m all alone handling the children by myself and people don’t see that. You set the standard for yourself, not for other people. As a mother, you cannot start comparing your children to other kids because every child is different. It’s okay if your little one doesn’t do well in school, because there’s always a next time. Don’t let other people pressure you for no reason. If someone has something to say just listen and thank them, but go ahead and do what you would, in your own time and your own way.

As a mama I wish I were better at…

Controlling my temper. As a mother of three the stress does comes hard once in a while, and I tend to scold my children and let things get out of hand so I wish I could tone it down. I’m the disciplinarian and my husband does the talking. I want to learn to be more patient with my little ones.

What’s your favourite family ritual?

We love doing things together, like going to makan (‘eat’ in Malay) and watching football – it’s a must-do, especially when Daddy’s playing. We also love to sing! We do karaoke as a family actually and we’ll take turns singing (my youngest, Muaz will just be there looking a little blur) since it’s just us in a room and we can let loose.

I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about….

“Am I late?! What time is it?!” because I always think I’m late to send the kids to school!

My favourite moment of the day is…

The late afternoon to evening, where the kids have more or less settled by taking a nap, taken a shower, eaten, and are chilling before they start on their homework at about 6 – 7pm.

Thanks so much to Norfasarie and her kids for welcoming us into their beautiful home. And a huge thank you to Kerry of Red Bus Photography for the absolutely stunning snaps!

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