This week’s That Mama is Kate Choyce, managing director of both the eponymously-titled CHOYCE secretarial recruitment agency and HR recruiter, HKHR; founder of the brand new Hong Kong Toy Library, and mum to two gorgeous little ones! We (gently) grill her on managing her workload, her mama top tips and where she heads for a night off and a G&T!
How do you save time? What are your organisational tricks and tips?
I try to achieve more than one thing at one time. I will always do my calls (handsfree, of course!) whilst driving. I run the Toy Library out of the same office as CHOYCE so I can keep an eye on both, and pool the support resources. I’ll get two of my staff to evaluate each other whilst I sit in, which means I am training them and managing them at the same time.
I also have an amazing P.A. – which is just as well, considering one of the companies I run is a recruitment agency dedicated to P.A.s!
I wish I had more time for…
Like all working mothers I wish I had more time with my children. But I remind myself that if I work hard enough now, I will be able to slow down when they are older and be there for them when they get home from school.
I always feel saner after….
Laughing with my sisters on Skype, a really productive day at work and a large glass of wine!
Favourite activity with the kids in Hong Kong?
I love taking Charlie to RugBees, It’s just Charlie and mama time – he loves it, and I love watching him and we both laugh a lot. I love getting in the car with him, driving to Pok Fu Lam, making him listen to my singing, playing I spy – just the two of us.
Favourite kid-friendly restaurant in Hong Kong?
I am extremely lucky in that both my children are really well behaved so I never worry if a restaurant is child friendly or not. My favourite is probably Café Causette where I always go with Charlie after he has had his hair cut at the Mandarin Barber.
Favourite family-friendly holiday spot in Asia?
I can’t actually remember my last holiday – so I have yet to discover my favourite holiday destination, which is quite an exciting thought!
Activity that I do not love to do but do it anyway because my kids love it…
I’m basically very selfish and don’t do things I don’t want to do with the children, for example I find playgrounds deathly boring and leave that one to my helper! Everything else I genuinely love, because I get such little time with them – crafts, outings, baking, painting, picnics… love, love, love!
Do you have any tips for keeping friendships alive when everyone is so busy with children and work.
Yes! Get yourself on a WhatsApp group with your best buddies, it’s amazing how much chit-chat you can keep up with if you do that, not to mention sharing videos and photos, it really works. And save your time – only see the people you really like, the peripheral friends can wait!
Favourite girls -night restaurants?
If it’s a girl’s night with my best friends, I couldn’t care less where I am. But I always feel very comfortable in hotel bars – so civilised. I had a great night at the Blue Bar at the Four Seasons recently, such fun.
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 in London with fairly high profile business leaders. I took it for granted at the time, but looking back at the private jets, the skiing holidays, the restaurants, the money, the polo games, it was a reasonably glamorous life for a 20 something. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of myself with my three year old on my shoulders, my hair covering my face, my 4 month old strapped to my chest, one of my three dogs running around my legs whilst checking my Blackberry, trying to deal with a staff emergency and I laugh my head off! I would choose this life every time, it is so much more fun, and I’m never lonely.
I didn’t really take a break with either of the children, I would have loved to but it has not been possible with running CHOYCE and HKHR, so with both children I was working again within a week. I took them to the office with me. My team found it a bit of an eye-opener !
How has having kids changed the way you define work?
I have become more ambitious since having my children. I always imagined I would be a stay at home mother; it was a real surprise to realise that I’m actually a much better mother to them when I can also work.
Do you have any tips for aspiring “mamapreneurs” and working other mamas in Hong Kong?
I’m not sure I’m qualified to give advice, but I guess I would say it is very easy to start a business in H.K. so do it, and do it on your own. Whatever it is you think you will need from a business partner you will be able to obtain from outsiders – consultants, coaches, specialists – and it won’t cost you half the company to get it.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
My mother is very sensible with her advice. One that sticks in my mind, (and that I repeat whenever I’m having to discipline my kids) “it’s not good enough that we love them, we must raise them so that they will be loved by others”.
Give us your essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women.
Don’t stress about vaccine schedules – do your reading and see what works for your family. Also, there is not one person in the world who knows your baby as well as you do, so listen to yourself above everyone else.
As a mama I wish I were better at…
Getting up before the children in the morning, if I can do that consistently, everyone is happier.
My most humbling mama moment was…
Oh, that’s easy! That’s when I was in the final stages of labour with my second child. Claire – my best friend – was with me in the car doing five things at once; looking at a map (we were lost!), counting me through the contractions, directing my husband who was driving, holding my hand and also talking to Hulda from Annerley on the phone.
Without her, baby Indie would have been born in the car. Oh, and she was 8 months pregnant at the time! She was very calm and I don’t think she cursed once.
What’s your favourite family ritual?
Friday night picnics on the roof in summer time. The sun is going down, it’s still warm, we have all our favourite food, and I’m normally taking photos. Maybe my best friend will come over with her little girls, the view is wonderful and I know I have a whole weekend ahead with my gorgeous babies.
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about….
Everything! How to promote the Toy Library, how to get the processes and systems at CHOYCE even smoother, where I’m going to move my most talented staff to next to keep them motivated, the past, the future, how Katie Holmes is coping post Tom Cruise…
Even when my child has a family of his/her own, I’ll still…
Make sure we all go on holiday together. I am so jealous of extended families who rent country houses and hang out for a few weeks, with all the generations together. Fun!
One thing I won’t sacrifice as a mama is…
I won’t sacrifice anything. If there is something I want to do, I’ll figure out a way to do it. So far, I haven’t wanted to do anything too unusual…
My favourite moment of the day is…
When I walk through the door at about 7pm to get big cuddles from the babies and the puppies. That, and G&T o’clock!