Mom Bliss is my regular feature, where I invite guest moms to sit down for a chat on how they are living their mom-lives to the full. My guest today is a fellow “glam guru” from Glam-O-Mamas, Christine Amour-Levar. Of French and Filipino descent, Christine is a self-described “Work-in-Progress” Mum, Wife, Writer, Editor and Marketing Consultant based in Singapore, where she lives with her husband and four children. This modern-day “Mama-preneur” juggles life as a busy mother, with a diverse and exciting career: Marketing Director at iRaceMedia; Consultant at Temasek Trust; Author of The Smart Girl’s Handbook to Being Mummylicious; and Co-Founder of Women on a Mission, a non-profit entity, that combines challenging expeditionary travel, with dynamic marketing campaigns, as a means to raise awareness and funds for humanitarian causes.
So, what have you been up to lately?
Well, I’ve been working on a few projects but there’s one in particular I’m very excited about! Our next Women on a Mission campaign involves a challenging trek to Jordan, an Arabian-themed fundraising event in October, here in Singapore, and a regional marketing campaign, which is about to kick off very soon.
12 of us women from Singapore will embark on a 10 day trek, on November 3, 2013, across a politically charged region of the Middle East, in an effort to raise awareness and funds for women survivors of war, victims of human trafficking, and rape.
Under the banner of Women on a Mission – the non-profit entity I co-founded in 2012 – we will be heading to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, in the mountainous region of Wadi Rum, to highlight the need to end violence against women.
It’s going to be a very exciting journey, and our event on October 18th, also promises to be unique. We have a fantastic presenter lined up: International Adventurer and TED speaker Thaddeus Lawrence, best known for being one of only 125 individuals in the world to have successfully raced 1,000 kilometres in the hottest, coldest, windiest and driest deserts on earth, including the Sahara, Gobi, Atacama and Antarctica. He will share his experience and recount his astonishing story, which embodies the spirit of ordinary people living extraordinary lives. Incidentally, Tickets for the event can be purchased via this link: http://woamjordantrek2013.eventbrite.sg and all funds will be donated to women victims of violence and war.
2. Please tell us a little bit about yourself, how you grew up, and your life as a mother.
I grew up between the tropical city of Manila, and near the picturesque town of Chantilly, just north of Paris. I was educated partly in the French schooling system and at an international school. Following this, I moved to fast-paced Tokyo for my university studies.
Armed with a BA in International Business and Economics, and a minor in Japanese language from Japan’s Sophia University, I then embarked on an exciting career that took me around the world, across four continents, working for McCann-Erickson, Philippe Starck, Nike and more recently for my own Brazilian fashion boutique, Beijaflor.
Today, I call Singapore home, and I feel fortunate to have found a way to bring together my love of adventure, with my desire to support women victims of violence via Women on a Mission.
Motherhood happened quite naturally for me along the way…. I had two children in my twenties and two in my thirties. My pregnancies and births were all very smooth. I think one of the advantages of having children at a relatively young age, is that you tend to adjust more easily to suddenly having this small person completely dependent on you, and whose basic needs have to come first. Your body bounces back faster, and you have more energy to focus on all the other things you still want to achieve in your life.
As cliché as it sounds, Motherhood is the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to me, and raising my four children is the greatest job I could ever undertake.
Nevertheless, I do manage to pack in quite a lot of other activities, projects, work, hobbies, passions, and because of this, I feel I am able to lead a fulfilling and meaningful life.
3. Please tell us the story behind your journey as a mom and mompreneur/careerwoman. What were some of the most important learning moments of your journey?
There have been, and there are still many moments in my life, when I feel I’m learning -and thankfully so! In terms of my journey as a woman and trying to balance the many facets of my life…. well, to be completely honest, I’m still struggling with this part.
I take each step in my life, and in my career, as an opportunity to learn more, and to hopeful become a little wiser.
For me personally, the point was never about trying to “have it all”, but rather about having more options and staying flexible with my career choices over the years, while still growing and constantly learning new things.
When I gave birth to my first child in New York City, I had just left a challenging marketing job at Nike, to pursue a creative dream. I was enrolled at the New York School of Interior Design, and during this time, I found a way to balance my course work and my time with my family.
Then a few years later, back in Paris, with my new degree in hand, I was fortunate to find work with the celebrated interior designer, and enfant terrible of the design world, Philippe Starck. The schedule was intense, but the projects were just amazing, and I had a wonderful nanny looking after my firstborn, so things were manageable.
I had a second child soon after, and decided at that point to leave Starck’s agency to represent a family friend’s hand-woven textiles company called, Silk Cocoon, who were looking for an agent based in Paris. This turned out to be a fantastic opportunity, and as a result, I was able to meet all of Paris’ top architects and interior designers, while enjoying more time to care for my two young children.
The toughest time I had trying to manage work-life-balance was when I went back to work full time for Nike, running their marketing department in Singapore. Additionally, as part of my job, I was expected to travel within the region, and oversee marketing operations with our distributors in Vietnam. At the time, my children were three and five years old, and even though they were enrolled at the Lycée Français of Singapore, it was tough missing some of those important parent-teacher meetings and juggling work dinners with bedtime stories, and weekend sporting and marketing events with my role as a mother….
As much as I enjoyed my job, I felt that working in a corporate environment – even at a company as fun as NIKE – ultimately was too rigid and didn’t allow enough flexibility and quality time for the children and me. No matter how organized I was, or how much I tried to juggle it all, I felt I lacked time for myself, and more important, I was not spending enough quality time with my young children.
I soon realized that I had to think creatively to find other career options, because ultimately working for a big company was not going to make me happy in the long term.
This led me down a very different, and even more fulfilling career path…
With a heavy heart, I left Nike for a second time, and decided to combine my love of fashion, with my passion for the country that gave us football – my favourite sport! – and the world’s sexiest swimwear: Brazil. I opened Singapore’s first ever Brazilian boutique on Orchard Road’s busy shopping strip, and simultaneously gave birth to two more children, 22 months apart. So one could say I went from maternity wear, to having to sell itsy bitsy tiny bikinis in a very short space of time. No wonder I had lots of material to write my Mummylicous handbook soon after that!
I learnt a lot about retail and managing a small business….but despite the flexible schedule, I actually ended up working harder than ever before. I was in the store every single day for a few hours at a time, weekends included, managing five full time staff and many part-timers. We were open seven days a week from 10am to 10pm, and only ever closed two days a year during Chinese New Year.
I would often take my babies to the store, while I was still breastfeeding, and I worked out of the boutique’s little storage room, which literally became my office and makeshift nursery. My two older children would come in on occasion after school or on weekends, and help me tag the clothing – in exchange for some pocket money of course- and if I was on a deadline, or had an event coming up, we would sometimes have to do homework at the shop itself.
The fashion shows, events and trips to Brazil for Rio and Sao Paolo fashion week were exciting and glamorous, but once again the travel took a toll on our family, with a husband, and four young children missing me, while I was away for two weeks at a time, three or four times a year. Consequently, after about three and a half years of running my boutique, I realized it was time to switch gears once again, and look to new horizons.
I got into writing by accident, when my editor girlfriend, asked me to contribute pieces to Harper’s Bazaar Magazine Singapore. I enjoyed it very much, and found it to be a very creative outlet.
I then managed to sell my boutique lock, stock, and barrel, for a modest profit, to a local group looking for a foothold in retail, and I started to focus on my writing. I took on many freelance writing projects on a multitude of topics, while also working part time as the Marketing Director and Sports Editor of iRaceMedia, a company that specializes in sports, and horse racing in particular.
I published my first book, The Smart Girl’s Handbook to Being Mummylicous, in May 2012 and soon after that, after a chance encounter with a beautiful Everest summiteer, I trekked to Everest Base Camp with her, and seven other fabulous women, raising awareness and funds for women survivors of war.
I am a great believer that you attract people and projects in your life that you are genuinely interested in and that you have a passion for. Of course, ultimately it’s up to you to take the chance, and turn these opportunities into a real success. Women on a Mission, was one such opportunity, which evolved naturally into something bigger and more meaningful, soon after our team’s return from Everest….
Today, my life as a working mother of four children is very busy indeed, but incredibly rewarding. The wonderful thing is that I usually am able to decide how busy I want to be, and on what projects I want to focus on. This means I have more control over my schedule, and it has allowed me to have enough time to raise my children, while staying mentally stimulated and free to pursue many other interesting projects. Having this balance is incredibly important to me.
I can say that today, I feel truly fulfilled as a woman, wife and mother. In the end, the key for me is to keep growing and learning new things, while striving to become a wiser and more compassionate person. But most important, I believe in my heart, that we must never give up our dreams when we become mothers.
4. We love to know how moms like you manage their busy days! Tell us: What is a typical day is like for you as a mom?
Up at 7, I see the children off to school. Next comes breakfast, and I read the International Herald Tribune from cover to cover. I get dressed and attend to all my correspondence, emails, writing assignments, social network pages, projects; most of my work appointments are in the mornings. I sometimes need to go to the iRaceMedia or the Temasek Trust office, but I’ve negotiated to do most of my consultancy work from home.
Then on most days, I work out during lunch time around 12:30-ish, followed by a light lunch. Then more emailing, appointments or errands.
I pick up my two youngest from the French School most afternoons, while my two older children take the bus home from the United World College of Singapore. I then attend to their homework and activities.
We have a very busy afternoon schedule with tennis, football, piano, Chinese, taekwondo, rugby, etc.. Dinner is at 7pm in our household, and my husband rarely comes home late from work. 8pm is bedtime story or reading time for the children, and then they are off to bed at 8:30pm.
More work, emailing, correspondence for me till 9:30 or 10pm, past that time, my husband and I watch a movie, a TV show, or maybe read books.
We eat out at least two or three times a week and enjoy having our friends over for dinner parties on occasion. There’s never a dull moment, and we love living and working in this vibrant city of Singapore.
5. In a few words (or even a sentence), define what you believe is “mom bliss.”
“Mummy Bliss,” or “Supermummyhood” – as I sometimes like to refer to it – is a state of fulfillment, which arises when everything seems to be in the right place and at the right balance in your life.
I’ve actually just started writing my second book, a sort of “Part II” to my Mummylicious handbook, about this very topic. It will be a motivational and practical survival guide to balancing love, learning, fitness, work & dreams, with raising delightful children – without losing your mind! Tall order if you ask me, but a very interesting and hotly debated topic, nevertheless.
Without claiming to have all the answers, it’s a subject that fascinates me, and I plan to devote part of my book to this matter. Furthermore, there are many different ways to determine what “mummy bliss,” or what success really equates to for us women. Of course, it means different things to different people. I would certainly consider a top CEO woman to be successful. Yet I also believe that success does not always have to be measured by how much money can be stockpiled in the bank account, or how high on the corporate ladder one manages to climb, but rather in terms of balance, creativity and fulfilment.
Jackie Kennedy once said, “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.” and I agree with this viewpoint completely. This being said, bringing up children is only one side of the coin, and a woman’s happiness and contentment vis-à-vis how she sees her life evolving is as important, in my opinion, as her role as a mother and wife. The more satisfied, fulfilled and confident she feels, the better a mother, wife, boss or employee, and even friend she will be. But getting to this state of “Supermummyhood” or “Mummy Bliss” if you will, is an uphill battle that all of us struggle with continuously as women. How we should best manage the many important aspects of our lives has been put into question and debated around the world, and during the last 100 years especially….
6. What advice would you give to a busy mom who is trying to find her “bliss”, based on your own experiences?
You have to look at your life’s many important facets carefully. To put it very simply, you need to evaluate your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. I believe that you must absolutely find a way to balance those interconnected parts of your life to be truly happy.
Ask yourself these questions:
1. How is my physical fitness? What could I change in my life to improve it?
- Being physically fit makes you mentally and emotionally stronger.
2. Am I mentally stimulated and learning new things in my current job, or in my day-to-day activities?
- If the answer is “NO” or just “So-So,” take steps to change this situation. Don’t get stuck in a rut. Novelty has a way of emerging; you only need to take baby steps towards making those important changes in your life, and this will ultimately lead you to feel more fulfilled and to have a more interesting life.
3. Am I happy about the kind of relationship I have with my partner? What could be improved? What qualities of his should I appreciate more, and not take for granted?
4. Lastly, am I “feeding” my inner Goddess, in other words am I addressing my spiritual needs?
You don’t have to be a religious person to do this. Finding spirituality in your life is as important as being healthy and satisfied with how your career is evolving, and it can take many forms. For some people it comes from a particular faith or religion, for others from their relationship with nature, some individuals spend time meditating or practicing yoga, and sometimes one can find balance spiritually through the experience of creativity, music or by helping other people.
Connect with Christine