Our newest That Mama is Christy Cheung of RockABaby, a breath of fresh air in the often-staid world of extra-curricular activities! As well as caring for her little boy, Christy runs her own thriving business, a fab, funky and educational music programme that helps children develop their creativity through music and movement. Christy shares her tips for keeping her to-do list manageable; her passion for music and her fave sushi spot in Hong Kong.
How do you save time? What are your organisational tricks and tips?
Every night, just after I close my eyes and before falling asleep, I go through what I’ve completed that day, and remind myself to get the unfinished tasks done the next day. I do the same thing each morning while I’m still struggling to get out of bed! Planning the schedule in my head means that once I am on my feet, I know exactly what to do first and what last.
I cannot live without my driver! Since I travel back and forth between home, my son’s school and extracurricular classes and RockAbaby every day, a driver saves me lots of time on catching taxis or finding parking spaces. Whenever I set a reminder or add something to my to-do list, I set it for my staff as well as myself, so that everyone knows exactly what I’m up to and can help me get ahead of things.
I wish I had more time for…
Spa visits and sport!
I always feel saner after….
Reading a good book and doing yoga.
Favourite activity with the kids in Hong Kong?
I love taking my son to the park in Sheung Wan. We play soccer on the field, enjoy the sea breeze, count the birds, aeroplanes and boats and have fun together. A place like this is so rare in HK, but so convenient as it’s only 10 minutes drive from our home.
Favourite kid-friendly restaurant in Hong Kong?
As Hong Kong restaurants can be so packed, choices of kid-friendly restaurants can be quite limited! Besides, I am quite strict with my son’s diet, as I insist on cooking all 3 meals for him every day. This way I can make sure that all the ingredients are properly washed, his meals are balanced and that he’s eating organic food as much as possible. So even if my husband and I want to eat out, we’ll bring my son’s homemade meal with us most of the time. We’ll usually take him to the Jockey Club or Pacific Club where he can play in the playroom while we enjoy our meal.
Favourite family-friendly holiday spot in Asia?
Sydney has nice weather and I like the way it has nice parks, museums, beaches and the zoo right in the city; it doesn’t take too long to drive from one place to another.
Activity that I do not love to do but do it anyway because my kids love it…
I honestly enjoy doing everything with my son! But if I really had to choose one, it would be watching TV together, just because I don’t really want him to be too into TV. That said, he is always begging me to watch Elmo together!
Do you have any tips for keeping the romance alive in your relationship?
Date night, followed by a movie if there’s anything good showing. Watching a movie was one of our favourite things to do when we were first dating. Recently I have moved my son’s bedtime a little earlier so it is still not too late for dinner after he’s gone to bed!
Favourite date-night restaurants?
Etsu Sushi in Tin Hau is our favourite restaurant – their sushi is the freshest in Hong Kong. My husband and I used to go to Japan every year to eat fresh sushi, but we go much less often now!
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’ve been interested in Economics ever since I was in high school, so naturally I chose that as my major in college and went straight into banking after graduation. At the time, I thought my career was all about doing what my boss asked me to do to the best of my ability, and my job satisfaction came mainly from how much I earned.
While I was pregnant, I assumed I would just go back to my old job after maternity leave. However, once I held my son in my arms, I thought about my own childhood and how quickly time flies by! Childhood is so precious yet so short, so I felt strongly that I couldn’t spend most of my son’s early years in the office.
Tell us about your music background. What led you to set up Rockababy?
Ironically, despite founding RockAbaby, I don’t have much of a music background! But that is also one of the reasons that I set up the company.
I started learning the piano when I was very small. I remember people telling me that I had long fingers that would be perfect for playing piano. So year after year, I practiced the piano and passed the exams, until one day I just quit. I clearly remember the turning point, which was when I wanted to play a song that I heard and really liked, but couldn’t, because I couldn’t find the sheet music for it. I thought to myself, “After years of practising, if I can’t even play a song I like, what is the point?” Fast-forward to when my son was just a few months old, and I got so stressed by people telling me I should apply for this or that class for my son otherwise he wouldn’t get into good kindergarten. It sometimes feels like letting kids play freely is frowned upon here in Hong Kong, it just reminded me of being put in piano class without really knowing why I was there and ending up regretting it.
Parents have to realise that their kids need to play and explore and give them enough space for their own imagination before they can find where their passion lies and pursue it. Not being able to get into a top school is not the end of the world, just as memorising the answers for an interview doesn’t make kids any smarter. I believe the important thing is that children need to be able to think for themselves and be flexible and creative. I wanted to share this view with other parents and have a place where children can learn through play whilst being encouraged to express themselves; that’s how RockAbaby started life!
In what ways do you think kids benefit from music classes?
Everyone is born musical. For example, it’s far easier to remember lyrics from a song than words in a newspaper. Melody and rhythm work like magic in every one of us. Before they can learn, children have to love their learning environment first; with music, children fall in love with classes instantly.
Of course, music is more than nice sounds; it helps achieve other non-musical aims, the most important of which are creativity and self-expression. RockAbaby has its own music production in which songs and raps are designed to teach young children expression and practice oral motor. For older kids who can speak fluently and have their own dictionary, our songs encourage them to improvise and create their own music.
I also believe that music should work with dance and movement. Ours are designed by our dance and movement therapist according to children’s developmental milestones, and we make sure we leave enough space for children’s own non-verbal expression.
How has having kids changed the way you define work?
Work used to shape my life; the firm basically decided the next step for me and I just followed. Now I realise work is only one part of your life and I have learned how to balance work, family and time for myself.
Do you have any tips for aspiring “mamapreneurs” and working other mamas in Hong Kong?
With family and work already taking up 99% of my time, sometimes I can feel disconnected from the rest of the world. Make sure you find time to keep yourself up to date with what’s happening around you and what’s changing the world, as this can often be a great source of inspiration.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
Try to think and act from the point of view of your child, and not yourself.
Give us your essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women.
Take your time to really understand your kids; not everything that you need to waitlist for is worthwhile; and what’s good for your friend’s kid might not be suitable for yours.
As a mama I wish I were better at…
Drawing! My son always asks me to draw everything he sees, but usually they don’t come out right…
My most humbling mama moment was…
The urgent delivery of my son.
What’s your favourite family ritual?
The bedtime story. My son assigns reading duty to either daddy or mommy, and the other person has to sit and listen to the story too!
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about….
I don’t usually wake up in the middle of the night, except when my son is sick.
Bedtime is always smoother when…
We have read a story that he chose and had a little talk about his day.
Even when my child has a family of his/her own, I’ll still…
Hug and kiss him on the cheek every time I see him, and be there for him.
One thing I won’t sacrifice as a mama is…
My spending on clothes, bags and shoes! Whenever I feel stressed, I feel the need to buy beautiful things…
My favourite moment of the day is…
Picking up my son from school. I just love the way he shouts “Mommy!” and runs towards me for a big hug!