Shentonista Families — No Place Like Home

They say that behind every great man there stands a great woman, but in the Perezes’ case the two of them stand side by side. This Mother’s Day, we caught up with Sharon and Javier—whose combined charm, business savvy, and warm hospitality have birthed a burgeoning food & beverage and nightlife business—as well as their daughter, Amelia. Enveloped in their cosy, laid-back one-storey bungalow, with the aroma of chicken soup cooking away on the stove, two cats padding quietly around the space, and the contented chatter of Javier’s mum and aunt visiting all the way from Florida, it was easy to imagine a typical day at home for the family—nothing extraordinary, but special all the same. We spoke to the pair about the lessons they’ve learnt two years into their new roles as parents, how they make sure they still have time for themselves, and the things that make a house a home.

We notice your parenting style is quite hands-off—you let Amelia run around on her own, without hovering over her shoulder. Did you decide beforehand the type of parents you would be? 

Sharon (S): We didn’t really set out with a defined style in mind. It’s difficult to determine what kind of parent you’re going to be, especially the first time around, because there’re so many factors involved, like your environment and your child’s personality. Amelia has a cautious personality—for example, when she sees steps, she stops and studies them before trying to go down, and that makes me comfortable with letting her run around. We only discovered what would work well with Amelia as she got older and could communicate better. Parenting has to be flexible to be effective. 

Javier (J): We just want to let her explore and engage with people and her surroundings. While she’s very observant and inquisitive about things, she shows that she thinks before acting, so we’re quite confident she’ll be safe in our home. As parents, of course we want to help our kids with everything, but you won’t be able to do that all the time. I’d like her to try most things herself, and although she might struggle and cry about it, the key is to encourage her and have her try again. Those are valuable lessons.

Was there anything new you learnt about yourselves when you became parents? Has parenting changed you in any way?

J: I don’t feel like I’ve changed much. When Amelia was born, people kept asking if I felt different and I think it took me over a year before I felt some difference. One thing that I’m learning now is how to guide her, and this morning was a good example. She was crying and yelling and throwing a bit of a tantrum. When that happens it’s very easy to lose your cool with her, but you just have to learn to talk to her patiently. It’s moments like these that are teaching me to become a parent.

S: I learned how important time management was! Being a working mother in my own company means that I have the flexibility to set my own hours, but that also means I can sometimes be up at night finishing emails or working on weekends. I try to consistently go to my fitness classes at 7AM and make sure I’m in the office between 9:30AM to 6PM daily, so staying on top of everything requires good time management skills.

Sharon, a lot has been said about working mums having to juggle careers with a family. What do you think it takes to be a modern working mum now? 

S: I’m still learning how to find a comfortable balance, and truthfully, I don’t think there is one! What works for me is to set a routine, so everyone around me knows what to expect. For example, I have designated evenings off every week where I can either work late or enjoy an evening out. When I’m at home with Amelia, I make it a point not to check my emails or look at my phone, to give her my full attention. Above all that, I’ve learned to say yes to help. 

Has your working life changed since having Amelia? How did you prepare for it, and how do you deal with it?

S: It’s changed a lot, but I am definitely much better at coping with it now! I try to complete as much as I can at the office, so as to not take work home. I strive to keep meetings short and precise, and I’ve learned to depend on my team a lot more now. 

J: It hasn’t changed completely as of yet, but I’m trying to carve out as much time as I can to enjoy our moments together.

Sharon, what’s something you wish someone had told you before you became a mother?

S: How challenging it is to breastfeed in public, or pump milk discreetly! (laughs)

How’s Amelia’s experience in school been? When we last photographed her (here) she was about a year old. 

J: You’ll have to ask her yourselves! (laughs) It’s been great, she talks up a storm now at home and is always asking questions about things she learns at school. She’ll bring up simple things—she talks more when she sees trucks or notices colours—but we enjoy it. She’s also become more social.

S: She loves it! She’s created her own little community there, she knows almost everyone at school and everyone seems to know her as well. There’re different activities for the kids daily, and I feel that school has helped her to open up more. 

You guys have such an incredibly warm home. How did you decide upon this place and what was it like walking into the space for the first time?

S: Javier was actually the one who came across the space. When we found out we were expecting, we decided that we needed a more conducive space for a growing family. Upon visiting the house, I knew I wanted to live here right when we pulled up into the driveway. There’s just something about the small garden and the open concept that we both love. We also loved the fact that the neighbourhood was older and that it was a quiet and safe street. 

J: We were looking for a larger space once Sharon became pregnant, so I began searching. I found the house online, but when I saw it in person it exceeded my expectations and it seemed like a beautiful canvas to build upon. Usually with these older houses, there are some parts that are a little off, like the tiles in the kitchen would be yellow and the bathrooms are green, but here it was airy and white, and just in need of some love and colour. We also liked that there was a yard for her to enjoy. I was actually surprised that the house was still available!

What changes did you make to the space? What did you keep?

S: We really didn’t do too much as we’re renting the space. The things we added on were more of decorative aesthetics and furniture. The house itself is simple and bright, which was exactly what we were looking for.

J: That was the beauty of it. We took all the grills off of the windows and doors, and we filled the house with our art and personal items, but we didn’t change much else.

If there’s one thing you could change about your home, what would it be?

J: It’s definitely out of our budget, but I wish I could purchase it and build upon some already great foundations. I’d like to build another storey on it and make it more open.

S: I don’t think there’s anything I’d want to change, really. 

Describe your dream home:

S: I love homes that are bright and airy, with lots of windows. I need a view of nature around me, but I’m not the type to live in a high-rise or condo, so definitely something with a garden is perfect! 

J: I’d say my dream home isn’t just about the house’s interior or structure, but also what’s around it. I see a dream home with a good amount of land, landscape, and topography. There are certain things I want, like certain stones from stone makers, architecture points and so on.

Favourite spot in the house, and favourite time of the day:

J: It’d be the space between the patio and living room. I could spend afternoons there, just as the sun sets.

S: For me, it’s probably after dinner, after Amelia goes to sleep. I can sit on the patio out front with a glass of wine and just enjoy the quiet.

Describe a perfect weekend with your family:

S: I love when we take Amelia to the zoo or the water park as she enjoys it so much! Or we could just be riding bikes somewhere—usually to the park—and exploring the neighbourhood. Javier will usually cook a simple dinner, and we’ll just hang out at home. 

J: It’ll be waking up early and enjoying a bike ride—really just having a plan and having something to look forward to. It’s about enjoying life, keeping it safe, and being present in the moment and free from distractions.

Your favourite memory in this home:

J: I think one of my favourite memories was when we invited a bunch of friends over and we made full use of the house. We had people everywhere—playing games in the house, outside on the grill, cooking in the kitchen, resting on the blankets we put out on the lawn; we even had a badminton net set up. There were 20 to 25 people, and they were all finding their groove and enjoying themselves.

S I’d say it was Amelia’s 1st month birthday party! We had so many family members and friends over that day, and there was so much love.

The first thing you do when you get home:

S: When she hears the car pull up, Amelia normally runs out and gives me a big hug! 

J: I take off my shoes! (laughs)

How many years have you been in Singapore now? What makes this place home to you?

J: I’ve been here for 11 years, so that’s been a quarter of my life. I have so much history and made so many memories here. It’s all the roots that I’ve built up, the relationships and friendships, and all the things I’ve accomplished that makes Singapore home for me.

S: I’ve been back for about 12 years now. My entire family is here, and now that I have Javier and Amelia, it’s home to me.

Have you ever thought about moving away? What keeps you here?

J: Oh, definitely. Right now, the company (Series Of Intentions) and our pursuit of creating an institution are what keeps me here, but Sharon and I have definitely talked about moving. As Amelia grows up, we’d love for her to experience living in a few more different places, at least one or two by the time she’s in her teens. As we grow our company, we also have our sights on expanding internationally, and we’ll have to live overseas when the opportunity comes.

S: Yes, of course! I spent most of my life in other countries, and I’d like the same for our family as well. Right now, we’re here because of the business and also the comforts and resources that we need to start a new family, but we’re aiming to live elsewhere, hopefully in the next few years. 

With the rest of your family living overseas, how do you stay in touch and keep each other updated about your lives?

S: A lot of FaceTime and Skype calls, and bombarding chat groups with pictures! 

J: We speak constantly via Skype, WhatsApp, and good old fashioned phone calls. Also, my family visits quite often so we’re frequently in touch.

Favourite family activity, whenever Javier’s mum is in town:

J: Drinking great wine and taking her around to amazing restaurants. We love to have wine, sit in the living room and just talk till 3AM.

S: It’s really the simple things, like riding bikes to the park, feeding the fish, and hanging out at home.

If you could run a family business, it would entail…

S: Winemaking—maybe a vineyard! (laughs)

J: We already have a family business!

What’s the best lesson your parents have taught you?

J: Enjoy the process of life. My mum always tells me to slow down and enjoy things, and not to overthink. Think twice and act once.

S: Live simply, and enjoy the small moments. 

Javier was previously seen here and here.

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