This week’s That Mama is Hulda Thorey, mum to four gorgeous children, registered Midwife, Director and Founder of Annerley, and the new Honorary Consul for Iceland. And we thought we were busy! Oh – and did we mention she lives on a boat in Sai Kung and rides a motorcycle? We’ve got the scoop on how this multi-talented mama juggles it all, her fave activities with kids (a family band!), how having kids has changed her view of work and “having it all”, and lots more.
How do you save time?
I multitask and have incredibly good staff both at home and in my office that help me out. I take meetings and phone calls while I drive, and my children help out with the business so we spend time together. They come after school and do the petty cash ledger, put the price tags on products, go to bank and post office and organize little things around the office that need organizing. And each week, my treat is having my hair blow-dried and if don’t fall asleep I answer my emails – which otherwise I have little time to do.
What are your organisational tricks and tips?
I like to have routines during the week and to make sure each week is similar in terms of certain things like shopping, washing etc. I also keep a diary where I arrange my week beforehand, including meals, the children’s activities, etc. I am a funny mixture of a very non-organized, all over the place person, and a very particular, anal, Virgo organizer! This means that regularly I will get everything around me super organized, but between these episodes things can get a little sloppy. And as backup, I tend to keep two sets of everything – one at home, and one in the office or in my car – including clothes, shoes, gym stuff, makeup, chargers, etc.
I always feel saner after….
A morning with my kids in bed, after my hair has been washed and head massaged, and I’ve had a good run. A birth will make my day even more perfect.
Do you have any tips for keeping the romance alive in your relationship?
My husband and I are not together all the time, so when we do spend time together it’s quality time. We also never try to change the other person – we both keep our own hobbies and have our own friends and don’t try to make the other person do things they don’t like to do. Being bossed around by your partner is the most un-romantic thing. I think that if you and your partner are happy and friends, it’s easy to keep the romance alive. And when it comes to time we spend together alone, there’s sexy lingerie involved.
Favourite date-night restaurants?
We end up in Hebe Haven Yacht club a lot as we live right nearby – we have small kids and want to get home not too late, so it is perfect. A glass of wine can be had without worrying about driving afterwards, as it’s just a dinghy ride to the boat.
Favourite activity with the kids in Hong Kong?
Our favourite activity is, undoubtedly, boating and water sports. We also have a family band and love to play music together. I play bass, my husband is on guitar, our daughter is on the keyboard and our son plays drums.
Favourite kid-friendly restaurant in Hong Kong?
I really haven’t found one! Possibly Jaspas in Sai Kung – they have a playground and very good food.
Can you talk us through your career pre and post babies? How did you get back into the swing of things after having children?
Pre-babies I worked for a youth association manager so I organized sports events which was great fun. Then I studied nursing, which took four years. Right in the middle of nursing I had my first child at 24. I worked as a nurse in a small country hospital in the surgical unit and did school nursing for school children and various other tasks. Then in 1999 I studied midwifery and graduated 2 year later, and shortly after that we came to Hong Kong. By that point I had two children. My sister lived with us and helped me babysit while I did my training. As soon as I came to HK I started to work with Annerely and I have been here ever since. So I guess I never really got out of the swing of things. With my last two children I didn’t really take a break in my career as I brought them with me to work where I had created an environment in which could join me. I hired an extra helper so the kids can be with me more, and I organize my schedule so I know where I need to be. My husband – when he’s home – does a lot with the children and he can sometimes work from home which helps. And most of my family lives in Hong Kong and it’s a small circle of people who all help each other out.
How has having kids changed the way you define work?
It makes me realise that some things are SO textbook and some things are SO NOT textbook. There are certain “rules” that are so obviously useful to have, almost like training a dog – you must have consistency, otherwise everything goes backwards. Similarly, you must be so flexible and adjust to each child, starting from pregnancy and through – each is unique. When you have your first child, you have all the time in the world and you read all the books, and make your choices, then realise that you cannot do it that way, and it still does not matter as you have time to change and arrange things differently. Then with your second one, you want to “fix” all the things you did “wrong” with the first one. WRONG again! So for me, although I enjoy raising all of them, it is only now, on children numbers three and four that I have really learned to lean back, relax and just watch and not be so annoyingly ‘correct’ all the time. Going to mummy groups and hearing some of the “YOU MUST” or “YOU SHOULD NEVER” drives me mildly insane. I don’t really do it but sometimes I want to just remind people to search a little more for what we call “common sense” as it gets lost quite often in parenting.
Do you have any tips for any other aspiring “mamapreneurs”?
Make sure that you choose a career that you enjoy. Also, try to have a laugh every day and don’t take yourself too seriously. And know how to delegate and let other people do things that you’re not good at. Family and work can very easily go together.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
Give your children confidence and never break them. Give plenty of positive attention and encouragement, but too much cheering, attention and giving them everything that they want is equally as bad. My kids get dirty, go to the edge of stairs and play outside in the rain. They bump their heads and need to figure things out. My teenagers take public transport. But in between there is plenty of love and attention. They have as much access to my husband and me as we can possibly give and when we are all at home we tend to all cuddle up in small spaces together. They have all slept in our room and in fact our bed till the day they wanted to leave it. And they all did eventually. In fact, I don’t think I ever suffered one night of sleep deprivation.
What advice would you give a working mama in Hong Kong?
Breastfeeding has made my working time much more enjoyable. At least there is that one thing that I always do. It’s a moment that only me and my baby share. Also, try to work shorter days to begin with, if possible. Can you take a lunch break and meet your child? And don’t beat yourself up if you work – enjoy both.
As a mum I wish I were better at…
Time management! Despite all I’ve said above, I still find myself lacking time to do all the things I need to do with my kids, especially the older ones. But I’m working on this.
Activity that I do not love to do but do it anyway because my kids love it…
I should be saying things like going to sushi places, but I’m lucky because they are so considerate and let me out of it (and actually never ask) – they just go with their dad. With the little ones I will sometimes go to baby groups and similar activities although I really don’t enjoy them – aside from spending time with the little ones themselves, of course.
I wish I had more time for…
All the little things that need doing, such as organizing my photos, writing my diary, and simply coming home a little earlier in the day, but I tend to get too busy. And I do miss not being able to travel more, but I am almost always on call for births – and this is one thing that I don’t think is going to change easily!
My most humbling mama moment was…
At the birth of all of my kids. Nothing compares.
Give us your essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women.
1. Let them eat dirt.
2. A baby with you is a happy baby. Why always the separation? Get a sling and a wide bed.
3. Never change a nappy in the night (unless there’s a sore bottom).
4. Let them grow up with grandparents. Older people raise far better kids.
What’s your favourite family ritual?
Pyjamas, snack time with everyone’s favourite food, good music or our own instruments. Or traveling – with camping in Iceland being at the top of the list.
Bedtime is always smoother when…
It is not too late, not too early, and we read books. I have to admit, it is easier when one little one is put to bed and then the other one is. Two at the same time can get wild.
Even when my children have families of their own, I will…
Try to control myself. Have a glass of wine and let them do it their own way. But I’ll be there for them, as my parents always have and still are for me and my kids.
One thing I won’t sacrifice as a mama is…
Certain “me” things. I am actually very selfish and don’t have any regrets or a bad conscience about it. I believe that for me to be a good mum I also need other types of fuel that make me run better. So time with my husband alone is always there. Similarly each year I do at least one trip with a friend – without the kids. This being said, breastfeeding the last three and a half year has put this on hold!
My favourite moment of the day is…
Being woken up by Vaka, and the moments following. My eyes plucked out, huge smile. Priceless.
And finally, you’re the new Honorary Consul for Iceland (congrats!). Tell us a bit about this and what this entails.
Basically, I act on behalf of the Icelandic government, or rather the Icelandic Embassy in Beijing and in Hong Kong. This involves issuing emergency passports, assisting Icelandic travellers, aiding with legal issues that our citizens may face, helping with the issuance of driver’s licenses, translation, and in short be the connection between the two countries. This means I am also responsible for organizing and liaising visits between Hong Kong and Icelandic officials to either country. I have been fortunate enough to have an established network of contacts through my work at Annerley to help me with my new role as the honorary consul.