GLOBETROTTER MOM VICTORIA CHANG TALKS TO US ABOUT CULTURAL DIFFERENCES ON MOTHERHOOD, BREASTFEEDING AND MORE
Victoria Chang, a successful career woman and mother, shares her views on motherhood & breastfeeding in different cultures, advice on how to maintain ones sense of self after children, how she accepted her new post baby body, plus much more.
1) Tell me a bit about your career & family and how you manage to juggle everything. I work at my company's headquarters in Hong Kong as Senior Communications Manager for the Global Store Design & Development Department at DFS (luxury travel retailer under the LVMH group). My department designs and builds all of our stores globally. This year is my 10th wedding anniversary with my husband, who just launched his own creative agency; so it’s a big year for us. We have two children, Amélia, aged 7 and Kian, aged 4. But being married to an Italian, I always joke I have 2.5 kids, my husband being the 0.5 kid. I wish I knew the secret of juggling different responsibilities and roles, but I think having a husband who supports my career and helps out with kids helps. I’ve also learned to give myself a break and not push myself too hard on doing everything perfectly, but sometimes my friends still think I am an overachiever. I can fall into the trap of being a super-mom, thinking I can successfully multi-task.
2) You've lived in Paris, Milan and now Hong Kong. You speak Chinese, Japanese, English and Italian and have a multi-cultural family with whom you travel often; you are the definition of a globetrotting mom. How have you been influenced by and what have you taken from Asian and European cultures once you became a mom? (e.g. look, habits, traditions, etc.) When I was a new mom I used my language background to do a lot of research and read many parenting books or magazines from Japan, Taiwan, Italy/France and the UK/US. I also watched TV shows and documentaries on parenting; I was hungry for information. Now, having been a mom for 7 years, I can conclude that my parenting style is half Japanese and half Kiwi. My family culture is heavily Japanese influenced; my parents were very strict with manners and how I behaved, but I was educated in New Zealand and lived with a Kiwi family for many years so my mindset is very laid back. So now, as parent, I am still strict with my children regarding their manners and being respectful, but at the same time, I am quite hands off, allowing them to express themselves and do things on their own.
3) What differences have you found regarding the style of breastfeeding mothers & how is breastfeeding viewed in the different cultures & countries you know well? For Chinese people, there are many superstitions about pregnant woman; Hong Kong, in particular, is quite traditional compared to Taiwan, and I think it still affects how pregnant woman dress; they tend to wear heavy fabric to cover their pregnant body’s changing shape. In Japan there are some stylish maternity wear brands, but I find them too ‘kawaii’: too much lace and frill. Personally, I prefer maternity styles from the UK & the US, which focus on comfortable clothes for every day. I’m glad you ask the question about breastfeeding because I breastfed both my kids for only a few months. I feel women nowadays are being made to feel awkward about something that is very natural and mothers shouldn’t be scared to breastfeed in public. Sadly, this has nothing to do with culture; in both the West and East there are still mothers being rudely told to breastfeed in the toilet or elsewhere.
4) In which of these cultures is it more important to retain one’s femininity and individuality once becoming a mother? I think Asian cultures expect women who become mothers to be ‘motherly’. Even husbands start to address their wife as ‘mommy,’ even when the children are not around. Most Asian women are still expected to give everything to their families. In Japan, only recently has society started to embrace ‘working moms’. In the past most married women were expected to quit their jobs to take care of their families and children. And those who chose to work were considered selfish. In Hong Kong instead, it is more common that women continue to work, usually leaving their children in the care of their parents or in-laws. But very often these HK working moms still feel guilty about not spending enough time with their children. Whereas in places like New Zealand or Europe, being a mom is separate from being a woman. I’ve never heard any of my friends in New Zealand or Europe calling their partner mommy or daddy. Whether they are a working or stay-at-home mom, they still carry on doing what they like.
5) Being both a mother and a successful career woman, what advice would you give a new mom who doesn't want to lose her femininity or sense of self? Women should be confident and embrace their new role as a mother. They should believe in themselves and not compare themselves to other moms. It took me a long time to feel confident that I could perform well at my job and still be there for my children, and like many mothers, I still felt guilty about working long hours, but I’ve now realized it is not the hours I spend with my children that makes the difference, but the quality time I spend with them. I also think making ‘child-free’ time with your partner is important. Because my husband and I work long hours regular dates nights are difficult for us, so once a year we take a holiday just the two of us. This may sound normal in Europe or the US, but it is still rare in Asia. The first time we took a trip alone together my son was only few months old. I received so many comments on my Facebook asking ‘what happened to your children?’, ‘who is taking care of them?’ and ‘don’t I miss my children?’
6) What key styles or pieces should a stylish mom have in her wardrobe? Unless you're a supermodel, most of our bodies change after giving birth, so I think it is important that we learn to love our ‘new’ post-natal body. Everything I used to own before having my children, I had to donate to charity because it didn't fit my body anymore. I had to struggle for a very long time to understand how to work with my new body. I had to accept the fact that I no longer fit into a size M and was now a size L. I had to figure out what styles and cuts fit and flattered my new body, hiding my problem areas such as my arms and belly. It’s hard to say what key pieces stylish moms must have in their wardrobe because everyone is different, but I think it is important for new moms to accept their new body.
7) What are the 3 pieces you wore most when you first became a mother?
1. Maternity skinny jeans. I am still wearing them after 8years. They were quite expensive but so comfortable, worth every penny!
2. Pencil skirt. I work in the corporate world and I found that a pencil skirt flattered my post-natal body while being both professional and stylish.
3. Good shoes. Whether it was my 3 inch heels or sneakers, having good quality shoes was very important to me. More important than a designer bag!
8) While you breastfed your children, what was the most challenging part when it came to clothing and how did you overcome it? I breastfed both my kids for a few months and I avoided buying nursing or maternity tops because most brands only offered styles and fabrics that shouted ‘MOTHER’, so I ended up wearing a lot of button down shirts. Having worked in retail, I am glad to see fashion is starting to catch up with the demand for breastfeeding and maternity clothing. Maternity clothing nowadays is also starting to look less ‘motherly’ and more chic.