Tom Watkins uses humour and date nights to keep his family going strong
We originally met this month’s That Papa, Tom Watkins, while enjoying cocktails at one of our favourite rooftop bars, CÉ LA VI, where he was the Head of PR and Marketing. Despite his amazing new gig as the Global Marketing Lead at Halo Creative & Design (Timothy Oulton’s lifestyle brand), Tom doesn’t take life too seriously (and has got a great sense of humour!). And because we’re low-key obsessed with his Instagram account, we noticed he always makes time for his kids (and fur baby), even with his hectic schedule. We chatted with Tom about his life here in Hong Kong, his beautiful family and why getting a good night’s sleep is underrated!
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m originally from the UK but spent eight years living in Sydney where I graduated and worked for a few years. A move back to London came after Sydney, and then Hong Kong after that. I’ve lived in Hong Kong for nearly nine years now – I’m one of those expat clichés where I only came for a year and the rest is history!
How did you meet your wife? And how long after you were married did you have kids?
I met my wife working together in Sydney back in 2003. We married in Sydney in 2010 and our daughter was born three years after.
What are your children’s names? How old are they?
My daughter is Saskia, and she’ll be 5 in October, and my son is Rafferty, and he’ll be 2 in September.
Your Instagram account is filled with great photos of your adorable kids and your gorgeous wife. What are your favourite things to do at the weekend?
Our weekends are quite programmed which we like – I do swimming classes with the kids on Saturday mornings in Repulse Bay. This is normally followed by lunch somewhere – Sen Reyo is popular with us, as Saskia in particular loves sushi.
The afternoons are normally spent hanging out with other friends who have kids, and everyone burning off as much energy as possible – ideally somewhere outdoors if it’s not too hot and humid – Cyberport and The Pulse are great.
We try and get up to The Peak on a Sunday morning and do a lap with the kids and our dog, Coco (who we adopted from Hong Kong Dog Rescue over seven years ago) – Saskia tries to outrun Coco and unfortunately loses every single time – after all Coco does have four legs!
In the evenings we normally are out for dinner with friends trying out new haunts or revisiting our favourite spots.
What has being a father taught you so far?
You don’t realise until you have kids how wrapped up you become in your world – kids absolutely ground and level you, and I really appreciate that now. To have something other than ourselves to care for is both exhilarating and daunting at the same time! It’s taught me to focus on these little humans as I am 100 percent responsible for them and they are 100 percent reliant on me.
What do you find the biggest struggle being a parent?
The lack of sleep was tough at first but it’s amazing how little sleep you can live without! With kids you’re constantly aware of what’s going on around you and in the world in general – the parental urge to protect your kids from harm is an instinctive one. In Hong Kong we live in a wonderful bubble in many ways but we are also very aware of the sensitivities of the world we live in, so coping with that and preparing our kids is also front of mind.
People always say mums need a break. Do you think that’s true? What about dad’s time? Do you have any special ‘me’ time carved out? If so, what do you do?
I absolutely agree – my wife works full time and travels extensively, and I’m constantly amazed how she balances her time so effectively.
For me my special “me” time is jumping onto Netflix and trying to figure out what to watch (the choice is mind blowing!), trying to catch the latest band, comedian or theatre production coming through Hong Kong, or reading – my wife just bought me a Kindle (I’m very behind the times, I know) so I’m reading books for the first time in years!
What’s your favourite game to play with the kids? Favourite sport?
Not sure they’re all considered games but swimming, riding scooters, throwing a ball around, building and dismantling train tracks, [playing] dress-up (my daughter loves doing this) – basically whatever they want to do!
Read more: Water Sports To Try In Hong Kong This Summer
How do you keep romance alive when you’ve got young children?
For me it’s about communication and laughter – I always remind myself that long before kids, the dog, Hong Kong, London or Sydney it was just us; it’s important to remind yourself that the “team” was just two [of us] back in the day. Spending time together, laughing, talking and looking ahead to the future nicely integrates a balance into the family dynamic, and that in itself I think is a form of romance.
Are you settled here in Hong Kong or do you eventually hope to return to your home country?
We love Hong Kong – it’s a great place and we love our social network here. The ability to travel to such varied places in hugely appealing as well, and we get a reasonable rotation of friends coming to visit as well. I don’t think we will stay in Hong Kong forever, but we are not planning on jumping on a plane this evening and making a mad exit, either!
How often do you and your wife have a “date night”?
We consider date nights something as simple as going to the movies, which we tend to do a couple of times a month, or popping out to try a new eatery – essentially anytime we spend together alone. You can make as much or as little of it as you like.
What are your favourite date night restaurants and bars?
The great thing about Hong Kong is the choice – there is always somewhere new to try, so we don’t really tend to go back to the same place over and over again. That being said, we love Otto e Mezza Bombana – whilst it’s not a regular thing, we like going there for special occasions. Other places we like, which might not be perceived as date night restaurants, include La Brata, Punjab Club, Café Gray Deluxe, just to name a few. There is always something we haven’t tried that is on our endless list.
We love Gough’s on Gough – everything about this restaurant is beautiful – a true experience from start to finish. And CÉ LA VI without a doubt has the best rooftop bar in Hong Kong (plus the food in the restaurant is excellent as well!).