This week’s That Mama is Cheung Chau resident (and food blogger extraordinaire!) Sharon Maloney. Mum to gorgeous Jonah, Sharon is a teacher by day and serious foodie by night, and she’s sharing her passion for tasty treats, how to be a creative mama and her love of hats with Sassy Mama!
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I was born and raised in HK, and after spending almost ten years abroad, I returned a few years ago and now live on Cheung Chau. I am a single mother, working as an English teacher full-time in a local school. In my spare time, I blog about food and island life at Jasmine and Ginger. I love eating, cooking, reading, crafts and cocktails!
How do you save time? What are your organisational tricks and tips?
My mornings are very rushed as we are up at dawn to take the early ferry. I make lunches and breakfasts the night before and have everything ready to go first thing, even down to my wardrobe! At weekends I often cook up a big pot of soup, stew or bolognaise sauce to turn into various meals throughout the week. I would also say if you can, get a helper. It is a massive weight off your shoulders, especially if you are doing it alone. My helper is invaluable and does all the chores and shopping so I can focus on my son after work.
I wish I had more time for…
Besides sleep, I would love to blog and exercise more but I have to content myself with living on top of a hill and walking everywhere! I have a big dog that helps me get out of the house everyday, whatever the weather.
I always feel saner after…
Any of the following – a massage, a walk with our dog or a night out with girlfriends. From the moment I wake up, I’m on high alert and buzz like a mosquito all day. My body gets into awful knots and my mind can’t switch off.
Favourite activity with the kids in Hong Kong?
My son and I love the Science Museum in Tsim Sha Tsui. It’s great for kids and there are so many interactive things to do. We also love our island. We go to the beach when the weather is good or stay at home if it rains and paint, draw and craft together. He’s inspired me to try doing more artistic stuff as I want our house to be as colourful and inspirational as possible.
Favourite kid-friendly restaurant in Hong Kong?
We tend to go to places where we know someone so we like the windsurfing centre in Cheung Chau as we’ve known the family who run it since we moved to the island. It’s very family-friendly and casual, so we can take our dog and hang out. We had a great experience at The Salted Pig not so long ago – it was still early and most of the waiters and waitresses came over to say hi and talked to my son and gave him toy pigs to play with!
Favourite family-friendly holiday spot in Asia?
As a teacher, I am limited as to when I can take my holidays and it’s always peak season when I travel, making it very expensive! My son’s father lives in the UK so I make sure my son goes there every summer while I go travelling by myself. We do a lot of staycations, which I secretly love and Cheung Chau is a great family spot, even for the smallest kids. The beaches are safe, the water is clean, the hills are not too steep and the walking is fun. I love visiting friends, having BBQs or hanging out in the garden or the roof.
Activity that I do not love to do but do it anyway because my kids love it…
Doing jigsaw puzzles. I am terribly impatient and my son has just started getting into more complicated puzzles that I find mind-numbingly dull!
Can you talk us through your life pre and post babies? How did you get back into the swing of things after having children?
My life was very quiet pre-baby. I was living in the UK and away from city hustle and bustle. Having a child shook things up in a big way – he was a very happy accident and it opened my eyes to what I really wanted in life. I wanted to be close to my family and friends and do something more exciting with my career. I started my blog when I was on maternity leave in the UK as a way of making sense of my world and keeping me sane!
How has having kids changed your life on a day-to-day basis?
Apart from the lack of sleep, it has (more often than not!) been marvellous. Every day has a sense of purpose and excitement. It’s true what they say – having a child makes you see the world as a child. I get excited about the same stuff my kid does, though being a teacher of similar-age children makes this very easy. There is a lot of colour and laughter and silliness. I try not to take things too seriously and focus on being a good parent.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
When I was pregnant, I was bombarded with conflicting advice from everyone. It was overwhelming and frustrating. Then a good friend told me to just stop listening, tune out and listen to my gut instinct, and that when the time came, I would know what to do. Whenever I feel a little overwhelmed, I always remember this.
Give us your essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women.
Follow your passions so your children are inspired all the time. Engage them and empower them – let them do things for themselves. It will make them inquisitive and want to learn about everything. Read to your children every day. They are only small for a short time and this is the time they absorb everything – passions, behaviour, rules and how to learn and lead – so do not let anyone else do this for your child. You are their parent, not their friend. Be there to show them this.
As a mama I wish I were better at…
Patience. Being around small children all day long for work and at home can be exhausting, physically and mentally. Sometimes it is hard to switch off and just be a parent, instead of a teacher. I struggle with keeping my cool and when my son throws the odd tantrum – I feel like throwing things around too! It happens to every parent but I wish I could have a button to play it cool.
My most humbling mama moment was…
When the nurse handed me my son. It was a huge moment, stilled in time and I will always remember holding this tiny bundle with his little scrunched up face and suddenly I was a mother with all this responsibility. I was completely overwhelmed and I still haven’t lost that sense of wonder. I often wake up and think ‘Oh God! I’m a mum!’.
What’s your favourite family ritual?
Weekend morning cuddles in bed, pancake dinners when I’m too tired to cook much, reading bedtime stories, arts and crafts on a Sunday afternoon, baking – there are too many to name.
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about…
Everything! I am worrier by nature and find it difficult to stop thinking about stuff. I have made a much more conscious effort to curb this, but financial security is still the thing that breaks me out in a cold sweat.
Bedtime is always smoother when…
There is a clear and calm bedtime routine. Dinner, warm bath, stories and ‘talk time’, where we have a good cuddle and talk about what made us feel good or bad. He’s now at the age where he can rationalise and reason, so this is the time I might bring up something that has been giving him trouble. I talk to him calmly without judgement and it works better than shouting in the heat of the moment.
Even when my child has a family of his/her own, I’ll still…
Give him cuddles and make him food, like my own parents!
One thing I won’t sacrifice as a mama is…
Time to myself. Whether it’s an after work drink with friends, a massage or haircut, a night out on the town, or following a passion – right now it’s hats! Keeping your identity is so hard in the first year or so of your child’s life. It becomes all too easy to lose yourself in your child and only see yourself as a mother / drudge.
My favourite moment of the day is…
The moment I finish school and pick my son up. I love going to and from work with him as we are in the same school this year. I sometimes go and peek into his classroom and see what he’s up to which just makes my day that little bit brighter.