Hanis Shotton is a modern-day multi-hyphenate, regularly switching hats between the roles of a fine arts educator, event stylist, and running her bakery business Shots by Hanis Shotton. Hanis was in her dream job as a full-time performing artiste specialising in hosting and dancing. However, things took a turn when she was diagnosed with a rare heart condition which needed her to slow down.
After an open heart surgery, the mother of two (age 4 and 6) decided to focus on her bakery business which gained 5k followers in over just 2 years since its inception. With a strong background in the Fine Arts and a flair for creativity, it was instinctive for Hanis to begin professional event styling as a natural extension to her bakery business, as well as return to her roots in teaching drama on a freelance basis.
Hanis shares with us her journey, how her motivation and positive mindset, and willingness to set healthy boundaries allowed her to overcome and thrive despite her chronic heart condition to be a great mom, business owner, and creative artiste.
Being a mum really sucks out all the energy that you have, especially if you’re a working mum without a helper. I left my job as a speech and drama teacher at 22, moving to England and starting my family there. After two years, our family of four moved back to Singapore where I landed a full-time job as a performance artiste in hosting and dancing. Before kids, I had tons of time to unwind after a draining day of teaching. After kids, I found that I would still have plenty of responsibilities to fulfill no matter how tired I was. My pockets of free time are now for power naps, quick bites or quick updates on my social media platform.
Things took a turn when I was diagnosed with a rare heart condition that forced me to slow down. I felt like my world had fallen apart as I resigned from my dream job to stay home and rest. Finding myself slipping into depression, I took my first baking class that led to me baking for friends and family. It quickly turned into a business as friends started promoting my baked goods, and I began receiving enquiries on it. Although starting a business was not easy, I found myself enjoying the work, and importantly, how it distracted me from my heart condition. However, my condition progressively worsened, and I had to have an open heart surgery.
The surgery took a toll on me in many ways. I discovered upon restarting my business that going back into the kitchen to bake was harder than I expected. My usual business activities like lifting kitchen equipment, walking too much and getting stress would result in random chest pains and discomfort. So, I cut my orders to half of what it was before to cope better between my work and caring for my family.
However, I still felt driven to accomplish more after recovering from my surgery because I am only turning 30. Despite my condition, I seek out additional opportunities that would allow me to challenge myself in different environments, and work with other people. Although it has not been easy given my condition and a visible scar left from surgery, I managed to land several freelance stints which allows me to have the flexibility to juggle work, my family, as well as my health. With my background and experience, I am able to freelance as an event stylist, commercial artiste, and teaching drama in an international school.
A common misconception I received as a working mom was that I would be less dedicated to my work. I recall instances where I had to apply for childcare leave whenever I had to take my daughter for her immunisations. My manager would constantly remark "the other performers are going to be ahead of you since you won't be in today". Those comments always made me feel conflicted because while it made me feel guilty, the thought of not being able to be there for my kids made me ill to my stomach. I always put in the extra hour of work just to keep up and be responsible enough to find out what I missed during my absence. The lack of understanding from my manager left a bitter taste - a constant reminder that I was easily replaceable, no matter how hard I worked for a company.
As I run my own business now, and an employer myself, I am more sympathetic and understanding when my employees (also working mothers) need to take urgent leave to attend to his or her kids. There would be no questions asked and I would assess if I could handle the situation myself or I would seek help. I am also mindful of my own work practices since I tend to work around the clock. I do not want to set unrealistic expectations that my employees do not achieve work-life balance.
Over the years, the things that I’ve grown to learn that being an employee is replaceable, while being a mother isn’t. I would take the courage and leave a job that does not trust my professional instincts to juggle both work and the needs for my children. At the moment, I found freelance work where I am surrounded with working mothers which helps tremendously especially when we display kindness and understanding to one another, and offering help to ease the load when needed.
I am thankful for my husband as he has been my pillar of strength since day one. Having gone through a major surgery, he stepped up and took on both the role of being a mum and dad for our kids and I can never thank him enough.
Next would be my mum as she is always ready to help whenever I need her, even at this age. Although our parenting styles oftenly clash, I am grateful to know that I can always depend on her. She's also the reason why we haven't hired extra help because she is always ready to step in when both my husband and myself are working.
Lastly, it would be my circle of friends who keep my sanity in check. They have been my core support since school days, my transition to becoming a mother as well as the launch of my business. They also readily invite me over to their place or babysit for an hour or two just so that I can get my me-time.
Juggling several projects meant that I often found myself working around the clock, responding to enquiries for my own business even after hours. However, I ensure I schedule some me-time which I believe is really important as a mum. I would try to schedule at least a day off once a week to decompress - I either go out and do a bit of shopping or rest in for the day and read a book or netflix. I also go for a facial once a month to treat myself!
I still enjoy my fair share of trendy clothes while being comfortable. As long as it's nothing too revealing or impractical since my job consists of a lot of movements. I look for clothes that don't restrict my movements and with pockets to place my phone. Especially with active kids, I really need clothes that can make me move easier to keep up with them.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Photos c/o Sabrina Wee
This series is part of our International Women’s Month where we catch up with amazing women who live, as intended. With many amazing women in our community, As Intended will be celebrating an entire month to feature amazing women to #breakthebias of Working Mothers.
As part of this celebration, As Intended will be donating 10% of proceeds from purchases made in the month of March to Daughters of Tomorrow (DOT), to help raise funds for low-income working women in need of child minding support.
Daughters of Tomorrow is a registered charity organization with IPC status in Singapore whose mission is to facilitate livelihood opportunities for underprivileged women, and support them in achieving financial independence and social mobility for their families.
The lack of childminding support can be one of the biggest factors preventing a woman from being gainfully employed. Singapore Tote Board will match dollar for dollar for donations made and Tax Deduction Receipts (TDR) will also be issued for donations above $10. You may like to learn more, and choose to donate directly to: https://www.giving.sg/campaigns/as-intended