This week’s That Mama is high-flying Alia Eyres, CEO of fantastic Hong Kong charity Mother’s Choice, founder of MC Links (a platform that connects the professional community to the charity), former lawyer and mum to 18-month old Paxton!
We chat to Alia about how she balanced her career and newborn, how to keep romance alive in a relationship and what we can do to help Mother’s Choice.
Where do you buy your clothes? How do you stay stylish as a mum?
I would not consider myself to be a stylish mum at all, but I do love Hong Kong for shopping. Even when I worked in New York I would buy my staple work clothes here. I love G2000 for suits, Giordano Ladies and Drex Fable for work separates and Zara for everything else. I mix in more high-end pieces I’ve inherited or borrowed from my mom. I have size 42 feet and I am very tall, so I have to buy my shoes, jeans and trousers when I visit my sisters and brothers in London, New York or Los Angeles.
What are your organizational tricks and tips?
As a working mum, time is my most precious commodity! I keep my closet colour-coded to save time in the morning because that is my quality time with my son. I pack away my winter clothes in the summer and my summer clothes in the winter by type of clothing and even size so that I don’t have to spend lots of time sifting through clothes that don’t suit the season or fit.
What is your beauty must-have product?
Good hair conditioner and a Japanese straightening treatment once every three months! I have long, thick, curly hair that is absolutely uncontrollable in the heat and humidity without serious help.
How do you stay sane?
Making sure that I spend time with girlfriends! I attend a lunchtime women’s Bible study in Central once a week and the women have been so supportive of me through all of the life and career changes I have made since returning to Hong Kong. I also have some other amazing women in my life who are always willing to meet me for a coffee or a glass of wine or two, and I do not know what I would do without them!
Favourite activity with the kids in Hong Kong?
Taking our dog and our son to run around Cyberport Park.
Favourite child-friendly restaurant in Hong Kong?
We have two favourite restaurants where we have regularly taken our son since he was just a few weeks’ old: MO Bar in the Landmark Mandarin for brunch (a family ritual after church on Sundays), and Posto Pubblico for dinner. We love both restaurants because the staff are so kind and patient with our son and they treat us like family.
Why did you decide to move to HK after living in NYC?
I always knew that I wanted to come back to Hong Kong one day, but honestly it was my husband that inspired our return three years ago – I brought him for his first visit when we were engaged and he fell in love with Hong Kong at first sight. We moved here just a few months after we got married.
How do you keep the romance alive in your relationship?
We try to have regular dates without baby – even a cheeky cocktail after work or a short walk together to grab a coffee on the weekend makes a difference. Time to enjoy each other and catch up without one of us chasing after a toddler!
Can you talk us through your career pre and post babies? How did you get back into the swing of things after having children?
I was working as an M&A lawyer both pre and post baby, and I returned to work when my son was only 4 months old. I was still breastfeeding and working long hours, so it was a challenge! I’m thankful that my parents live here and I also have incredible help. My helper brought my son to work so that I could feed him in the lobby at all hours of the day and night and my mum would take my son to the baby activities I just couldn’t take time away from work to attend. Gina Ford and keeping a (flexible) schedule also helped to make it possible for me to work so hard and be a hands-on mom.
What inspired you to get involved with Mother’s Choice?
I grew up with Mother’s Choice and that has shaped who I am today. My parents and the Stephens family co-founded Mother’s Choice together when I was just 9 years old. Watching my parents and their friends make generosity and service a priority inspired me to want my life to make a difference to the lives of others. Even though Hong Kong is a beautiful and amazing city, there are so many who are in need in our community. Becoming a mother has only made my desire to help young women in crisis and children without families even stronger. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to work full time in serving women and children through Mother’s Choice.
Can you tell us more about MC Links and how our readers can get involved?
I believe that you do not need to have a lot of money or even a lot of time to be able to give back to the community! Everyone has something to offer, whether it is professional skills, connections, ideas or even just a short amount of time on the weekends. MC Links is a network for young professionals who are interested in helping Mother’s Choice. We organise events, volunteer opportunities and connect people with specific skills to needs at Mother’s Choice. If you are interested you can email [email protected] to join our list.
How has it been adjusting from being a full-time lawyer to now becoming the CEO of Mother’s Choice?
Well, for one thing I have had a major wardrobe change! I was used to wearing suits and high heels every day, so I think I’ll need to start investing in some more casual clothes. I am also getting used to being responsible for so many people and the terrifying realisation that my decisions will impact lives. This job is much busier than I expected and there is so much to do – but I have to say that I absolutely love doing it!
Any tips on achieving the work/family life balance?
I’m still working on achieving work/family life balance! It is definitely a challenge for me, but one thing I do is make my mornings sacred. I try not to take calls or schedule meetings before 9:00 in the morning. I have breakfast and spend an hour or two playing with my son. I also try to come home for my son’s dinner and bedtime as much as possible, even if I have to go back to the office to work late or go out in the evening.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
Tell your children that you love them every day, and focus on building their character rather than their résumé.
Check out the rest of our That Mama articles here.