I can only imagine that the time I don’t spend with my child will result in them feeling unloved or unwanted. In our busy world, I get it’s hard to NOT be distracted. But I have to remind myself that any attention I don’t give them is attention they’ll seek elsewhere. Whether my child is 3 or 16, this will always be the case, so I make it a priority to remind myself daily. I like to believe that a parent is a child’s life coach. My children will constantly look to me for reassurance, love, and guidance.
As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Mimi Chan is, founder and CEO of Littlefund, @littlefund. She currently resides in San Francisco with her husband, their two startups, and two daughters, preschooler Liv and, baby Ivy. In her spare time (haha), she enjoys not spilling pumped milk and capturing Liv’s weird sleep positions on her Instagram stories.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?
I was born in the Philippines in a refugee camp after my family escaped from Vietnam. We eventually were sponsored to the United States and settled in Texas. When my parents first moved to the US, they barely had $10 to their name and couldn’t speak English. As a family of four we lived in one bedroom. My parents found jobs and worked to save enough to move us out of the bedroom and into our own apartment and then our first and only house. I knew how hard my parents worked to provide for us. Money was limited but valued.
When I graduated college, I was thankful for my parents’ biggest gift to me, starting the next chapter of my life debt-free. Continuously, my parents showed me the reward of saving. I guess I picked up on that work and savings ethic too. During college, I worked three jobs to save up enough to “see the world” after college. That for me was moving off to New York City where I began my career.
Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?
I was inspired to start Littlefund after my daughter Liv was born a few years ago.
Though I was appreciative of material gifts I received from family and friends, many went donated or unused. I wanted to find a way to better align their support with what mattered most for Liv.
After talking to family and friends, I realized the feeling was mutual from gifters and that our generation was lacking a simple and clear alternative to material gifting.
In the past, financially gifting savings bonds was a way to do that with close family members but those are no longer supported by banks. Our generation has become accustomed to cash apps like Venmo or Paypal, so it made sense to have something as simple when it came to gifting savings to children.
From there the wheels started turning for me. Littlefund takes the pain out of setting up a child’s financial foundation by including family and friends from birth and onward.
Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?
Before bed each night, I plan my next day by reviewing my goals, meetings, and deadlines. That helps me wake up ready to go and feeling in control.
Mornings start at 6:45 am to get the girls up, fed, and out the door. I lean a lot on my husband on shared parenting duties because they’re his children too and we both run startups, so he understands how demanding it is. I’m in the office by 9:30 am and out by 5:30 pm to pick up my daughter from preschool unless there’s a work event. Then at night, it’s clockwork for bedtime routines and dinner. I would compare watching us do parenting to an Olympic ping pong match. Back and forth, between the kids and what we’re doing, in a rhythm to never miss the ball. It’s rare we have a “chill” moment during week nights. Weekends I reserve as reset time where I put away the computer and work emails. I do my best to give my family and friends 100% of my attention and enjoy quality time then.
As a side note, I’d love to share that I’m one of the fastest eaters you’ll ever meet. My husband is surprised even to this day. I inhale my food. Before he can even take a second bite, I’m putting away my dishes. Having two kids and two startups in a home, I make up for time any way I can. The fast eating doesn’t apply when we’re out dining. I’ll enjoy my food then!
Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?
I can only imagine that the time I don’t spend with my child will result in them feeling unloved or unwanted. In our busy world, I get it’s hard to NOT be distracted. But I have to remind myself that any attention I don’t give them is attention they’ll seek elsewhere.
Whether my child is 3 or 16, this will always be the case, so I make it a priority to remind myself daily. I like to believe that a parent is a child’s life coach. My children will constantly look to me for reassurance, love, and guidance.
On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is important to make time to spend with your children?
Reading is one of the most important activities I do with our daughters. From the moment my first daughter was born, we have read at least one book to her every night. She now typically requests that the number of books for bedtime be equivalent to her age. It’s her favorite activity to do with us. She has an uncanny ability to memorize books, learn words, and focus. This was evident even before she turned three years old. I’m proud that our influence has encouraged her love of reading which ultimately expands her thinking and imagination.
According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?
Given the busy schedules we both have in running our own companies that aren’t yet running themselves (I know, you get the point), the ability to turn off at home is challenging for both my husband and myself. I have to create rules for myself in order to be better at quality time with my children. Because of this, I practice the rule, no screen time, very seriously. I don’t want to use screen time in place of the time that I could be spending with them since it’s limited time in comparison to many other families. That’s our reality. It’s a rule that helps my husband and I check ourselves on the quality time meter.
Reading books is an important part of our quality time together. That’s actually the backup versus screen time. Reading requires my full attention and participation with our children.
Another specific activity I like to do is art time. I noticed how well my daughter Liv held her pencil at 2 years old, so I started to encourage her to draw and write with different activities and supplies. We do a fun family activity by using her easel to take turns drawing with her a scene or idea from a book.
Then birthdays are special for us. It’s their day and my way to thank them for choosing me to be their mama. So, no matter how busy my schedule is, I take time to plan something to celebrate them. It doesn’t need to be big, but it does need to be that this day is a day of my full attention. The best gift I can give them.
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?
- put the phone away
- put the phone away
- put the phone away
- put the phone away
- weekends are 100% for them (and us to reset). We make an effort to find activities and experiences where we’re spending time together. Without work or school being a wedge in our time together, we want to make the most of it.
- did I mention- put the phone away!
How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?
A good parent is a parent that cares and tries their best at keeping their child safe, loved, growing, and learning.
This is a story that happened the other night. My daughter woke up crying and said her stomach hurt and needed water. My husband woke and went to get her water in the middle of the night. Yes, it’s that simple sometimes but it means a lot in many ways. But wait, I’m going to outshine him on the good parent award. Then while he went to get her water, I started to notice she was about to vomit. For some reason, I had the reflex to reach out with my hands to catch it and I did. All of it at least until my husband ran back into the room with paper towels to help me clean up.
So, a good also parent has ninja reflexes to catch vomit with their bare hands.
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
My eldest daughter is about to turn 4 so I’m not sure she understands what dream big means yet. There have been a few occasions where she said she “can’t” do something to which I immediately respond, “Yes you can. You just have to try and ask for help if you need it.” I want her to know that she can and trying is a big part of the “can”.
How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?
Success is finding happiness in the things that you do and sharing it with the ones you love.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
- My sleep bible is The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems by Tracy Hogg. It’s the secret to how we run 2 startups and manage to have babies who sleep. It was the only “parenting” book I ever read as a first time parent when I had Liv. It taught me many valuable lessons on baby sleep and how to win at it. The results? Liv slept by 9.5 weeks and Ivy by 7.5 weeks from 7:30 pm to 7 am.
- I consider every children’s book a parenting book too. It’s a reminder of important lessons our children need to learn.
- Other resources that inspire me to be a good parent are my own family and friends that lead by example.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Marry right. It determines 99% of your happiness. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do and have the time to spend with my children if it wasn’t for an insanely selfless partner that has co-signed my dreams. He’s there for me and our children by showing up and pitching in to keep this ship moving north.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Littlefund! We’re inspiring families to save more together. The compounding result (pun intended) is great for the next generation given the social impact, financial capability and freedom provides.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!
Dr. Ely Weinschneider is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist based in New Jersey. Dr. Ely specializes in adolescent and adult psychotherapy, parenting, couples therapy, geriatric therapy, and mood and anxiety disorders. He also has a strong clinical interest in Positive Psychology and Personal Growth and Achievement, and often makes that an integral focus of treatment.
An authority on how to have successful relationships, Dr. Ely has written, lectured and presented nationally to audiences of parents, couples, educators, mental health professionals, clergy, businesses, physicians and healthcare policymakers on subjects such as: effective parenting, raising emotionally intelligent children, motivation, bullying prevention and education, managing loss and grief, spirituality, relationship building, stress management, and developing healthy living habits.
Dr. Ely also writes a regular, nationally syndicated column about the importance of “being present with your children”.
When not busy with all of the above, Dr. Ely works hard at practicing what he preaches, raising his adorable brood (which includes a set of twins and a set of triplets!) together with his wife in Toms River, New Jersey.