This week’s That Mama is Jo Soo, Head of Marketing at Jones Lang LaSalle. This mum-of-three has not only her high-profile day job to keep her occupied, but is also Chairman of the Adventist Hospital Foundation and plans to get involved with even more voluntary organisations this year. Phew! She fills us in on educating her children about the importance of charity, finding your own career niche and her out-of-control essential oil obsession!
How do you save time? What are your organisational tricks and tips?
I wake up extremely early and don’t sleep until around midnight, meaning my Sunday lie-in is a must! I also nap in my children’s room when putting them to bed – it’s a great way to catch up with my elder kids, and I love watching them doze off! There’s an army of people to help make my day-to-day smoother, and my Chinese nanny speaks to my children in both Mandarin and Cantonese so the kids are truly trilingual. I have my iPhone and iPad for personal purposes and my Blackberry for work, ensuring work and home life are kept completely separate.
I ask my favourite stores to open early for me, then shop really quickly to avoid the crowds. I always schedule dinners with friends after 8:30pm, so that I have enough time to get ready and get to the restaurant without losing the plot completely! And as a big believer in homeopathy, I literally live at Integrated Medicine Institute – Dr. Sonal is on my speed dial – and I spend a fortune on vitamins for the whole family at Healthquest in Happy Valley each month. I always carry perfume with me and cannot survive without my essential oils! Young Living essential oil products are amazing and at any one time I usually have at least lavender, lemon, purification and peppermint oil roll-ons in my makeup bag!
I wish I had more time for…
My friends, so I can organise weekend mini-getaways with them! That is definitely a New Year’s resolution!
I always feel saner after….
I’ve had my hair cut, coloured and styled by my hairdresser. Otherwise it’s a wavy mess.
Favourite activity with the kids in Hong Kong?
Feeding the fish at Tai Tam Reservoir in February or March when the weather is still quite nice and going to the children’s playground along Coombe Road.
Favourite kid-friendly restaurant in Hong Kong?
Quite a few! The 3rd Floor of the HK Jockey Club, Portside at The Aberdeen Marina Club, Spices at Repulse Bay, Saffron in Stanley, Café Too at Island Shangri-La Hotel, Jimmy’s Kitchen in Central, Ming Yuen at Parkview and Pizza Express in Wan Chai.
Favourite family-friendly holiday spot in Asia?
Cebu or Kota Kinabalu for a long weekend– quick, easy short trips from Hong Kong – and Phuket if you have a little longer.
What are your favourite recipes to guarantee a sure-fire hit with the kids?
Macaroni and cheese or spaghetti Bolognese.
Do you have any tips for keeping the romance alive in your relationship?
Holidays, conversations to share your points of view, foot massages at Fun Feet and spontaneous lunches.
Favourite date-night restaurants?
Uno Duo Trio, Mistral, Domani, Sushi Hiro, Sushi Shin or the Intercontinental Steak House.
How has having kids changed the way you define work?
I am so much more patient now and I’m a better listener. I try to take it all in and put myself in other people’s shoes as much as possible. I am learning every single day and I am lucky to be surrounded by really good mentors.
Tell us about your charity work and how that fits in to your busy schedule.
I have volunteered for The Adventist Hospital Foundation for over 15 years, and am currently Chairman of the Board. I work closely with a range of doctors, specialists and surgeons, speaking to donors and corporations all the time. I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to help families with life-changing operations such as cochlear implants, heart transplants and cancer-related cases.
I was taught to give back to society whenever I have the chance, and I share my volunteering experiences and stories with my children, as I want it to be a part of their lives too. I hope I can devote some more time next year to a sustainability organisation, for example working on rooftop gardens, as well as helping the elderly refurbish their homes. Sometimes I wonder exactly how I manage to fit my charity work it into my schedule, but somehow it all gets accomplished! If I ever feel overwhelmed, I remind myself that I work with some of the city’s most in-demand paediatricians and surgeons who are on-call 24/7. My schedule is nothing compared with theirs!
Do you have any tips for aspiring “mamapreneurs” and other working mamas in Hong Kong?
It can take time to find your own career niche, but you should never give up believing in what you can achieve. Listen to your heart and strive to maintain a balance with your personal life – you will be a better parent this way! Be creative and think outside the box as it is important to be able to adapt to change. I treasure my time in the office, because I get to utilise my brain. I have achieved a good balance of time with my children, appreciate my 3.5 day work-week and have a lot of passion for what I do.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
You cannot do it all… so figure out what you can do today and go for it!
Give us your essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women.
You are now a woman of modern society, which means you are a mother, an employee, a mentor, a wife and also a friend to many. It’s not easy to multi-task and it zaps you out! But remember to cut yourself tons of slack, breathe and pamper yourself when you can!
As a mama I wish I were better at…
Baking, icing cakes and knitting!
My most humbling mama moment was…
I have experienced so many humbling moments with the most recent one involving my oldest daughter teaching me about life! I am looking forward to my other two children telling me off at some point… ouch!
What’s your favourite family ritual?
Fridays are a bit chaotic, as the children are allowed to stay up until 9pm! My eldest daughter often has play-dates on a Friday, so we are completely off-schedule and normal weekday routines go down the drain! The children get to watch TV and dance to music. We cook our favourite foods, laugh really loud and get to be very silly!
Bedtime is always smoother when…
My husband is around to help with story time and the children are tucked in before 7pm – yes, super early!
Even when my child has a family of his/her own, I’ll still…
Make them come home for dinner at least once a week if they live nearby and fill their Christmas stockings with childish, fun knick-knacks!
One thing I won’t sacrifice as a mama is…
There are a few! Make-up, well-tailored suits, different types of handbags (no nappy bags, thank you!), long hair, nice Shellac nails, two weekly massages at home and perfume!
My favourite moment of the day is…
9pm every night when I finally have time to myself. I can take a long hot bath, put on a facemask, listen to music and decompress with my iPad!