It isn’t an uncommon sight to catch ravenous kids swiping an after-school snack (or two) from the Love, Bonito office pantry in the afternoon. Women expressing breastmilk while fully engaged in a brainstorm meeting. Or staff opting to work from home during “that time of the month” or when a child is ill.
It shouldn’t be surprising, to some extent, that this well-loved local brand has created such a woman-centric work environment, allowing mothers to flourish at the workplace while fulfilling parenting duties.
After all, it is a brand founded by women for women; and its Co-Founder Rachel Lim, being a mum to a toddler, is only too familiar with the superhuman multitasking skills required to be both effective at work and at home.
And it appears empathy and empowerment have been well-baked organisation-wide— Love, Bonito even brought on a Chief People Officer earlier this year to further support employees’ wellness and happiness and groom future leaders.
But the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Two long-time employees Shereen Koh and Yilyn Tan share with us how working at Love, Bonito has allowed them to smoothly transit to motherhood and stay present with their children while doing their best at a job they enjoy.
Hi Shereen and Yilyn, tell us about yourself.
S: I’m 34 years old and the lead designer at Love, Bonito—I actually took on this role after my maternity leave. I started out as a design assistant in 2014 before progressing to senior designer and head of design. I actually got married while working here. Today I’m a proud mother of two boys, aged four and nine months.
Y: Hi I’m 33 this year and the VP of retail and country director (Singapore) at Love, Bonito. I joined the company in 2017 to help set up offline stores and was presented with the opportunity to lead the country business, so I grabbed this amazing opportunity. Oh, and my husband and I welcomed a baby boy into our lives six months ago!
What do your days look like?
S: I design for the Woman, Kids and Embrace (maternity) lines. I work with many people including external stakeholders and colleagues to bring the collections to life. My team is physically in the office more than the rest because we have to handle physical samples and do fitting sessions with models. However, we schedule “deep work days” at home where we do ideation, strategy and project management.
Y: I oversee business growth in Singapore and help to manage and develop offline stores. Leading the global offline strategy for Love, Bonito is also one of my responsibilities. I can choose to work from home, the office or any of our retail stores when I visit the teams. Official hours are 10am to 7pm but this is flexible if we need to say pick children up from school or collaborate with overseas counterparts. Most women in the retail industry don’t get to have such arrangements tailored for them.
Both of you had your children while being employed by Love, Bonito. Were you able to continue your breastfeeding journey after your maternity leave?
S: Absolutely! We have a nursing room and dedicated fridge to store breastmilk for hygiene purposes—this is something we definitely appreciate. And with hands-free pumps available in recent years, I have been able to pop them on and jump right into fitting sessions or meetings with no awkward stares or restrictions. That is really cool.
Y: Over here, mummies are not penalised for taking time off to express milk, and people openly use their breast pumps. Shoutout to the men in Love, Bonito for normalising breastfeeding too! When I went through my first mastitis episode during my breastfeeding journey, our co-founder Rachel quickly set up a tight-knit support group to help me get through the emotional uncertainty. What sets this company apart is that the people really care and check in on your constantly pre- and post-partum. No one tells them to do it; they just do because they know it can be hard and they truly care.
Surely, it’s not a smooth sailing ride? How have you been able to get through some difficult times?
S: Transiting back to work was especially tough after having my second child. Somehow it felt exponentially [challenging] juggling two kids and my job. My manager was gracious enough to offer an arrangement to ease me back into work. Also, as with most families, the kids would take turns to fall sick. Thankfully my team has been very kind and understanding and filled in the gaps whenever I had to take childcare leave.
Y: When I took urgent childcare leave for the first time because my son fell ill, I felt really bad for not showing up to meetings we had scheduled. But I’m thankful that I have an awesome, driven and independent team that managed fine without me. Although I had to take some calls, 90 per cent of the day was spent caring for my child with peace of mind.
Do you think it is really possible for women to have it all—a thriving career, happy family and self-care?
S: I feel this is dependent on the resources she has and how supportive her village and workplace are. Mums feel the pressure to juggle everything well and look effortless while doing so. We have to define what a thriving career and happy family mean to us personally.
Y: Sometimes I see famous mums who seem to have magically been gifted another 24 hours in a day—to fit in work, family time, a 4km run, cooking, housekeeping, laundry, and walking the dog, all the while looking Instagram-worthy. I’m personally humanly incapable of that, and that’s perfectly fine. I think it’s much healthier if we let mums know that they don’t have to hustle every day. A wise woman once told me that we have glass and rubber balls to juggle in life. We must have the wisdom to know which balls to prioritise and which never to drop.
How would you encourage mummies who are struggling with achieving work-life harmony?
S: Don’t let the expectations and pressures of society dictate what you do. Success and growth are defined on our own terms. It is important to be with the right company to journey through this incredible season with you, and support and celebrate you in your role as a mum!
Y: Find an employer with supportive pro-family policies, and that’s half the battle won!