Health & Fitness Kids Medical Parenting

Dear diary: How this mum balances work and family

By: Kate Farr

How do you balance family life and work while living in Hong Kong? We spoke to podiatrist and British expat Alexandra Duff about how she manages life as a mother while maintaining her career.

For British-born Alexandra Duff, the day begins at an eye-rubbing 5.30am. “Imogen, my six-year-old, has to be on the school bus by 6.55am, so I have to be up and ready to go before she is. We have our morning routine pretty sorted but it would not run smoothly if it weren’t for my helper Emeros.”

With her 21-year-old stepdaughter Alison currently at university in the US, and husband Andrew also working long hours, Alexandra swears by putting everything in her diary. She says, “It’s very boring, but life has to have a schedule, so for me everything is diarised. Emeros and I work as a team, and we have a joint household diary that we work from.” She continues, “I then also run a separate diary with my husband – our friends think this is hilarious as we even have diary meetings!” The last piece of the puzzle is menu planning, which happens weekly on a Sunday.

Podiatrists
Alexandra Duff. Picture: James Morley

Once Imogen is off to school, Alexandra heads from her Clearwater Bay home to London Medical Clinic on Duddell Street in Central where she works part-time. As a podiatrist, her day often begins at around 8am; something that she feels facilitates a healthy work-life balance.

When I ask how she first became interested in podiatry, Alexandra doesn’t hesitate. “I always knew I was going to go into medicine – I announced at the age of four that I was going to be a doctor and it never changed!” She continues, “As a dyslexic, I knew that I was going to struggle with the academic side of training to be a doctor as it takes me longer to do written work than my non-dyslexic peers. Podiatry appealed as it allowed me to do all the things a ‘doctor’ can do, but focused within one aspect of the body.”

So, what exactly does a podiatrist do? Alexandra explains: “Podiatry is an allied health profession; we are not medical doctors in the true sense of the word, but specialists in the foot and lower limb. Think of us like dentists … we do everything to do with that part of the body!”

Alexandra’s appointments run throughout day, and she aims to pack as much into her working week as possible. “At the beginning of the week, I have a 3pm dash back to Clearwater Bay to facilitate after-school activities and homework, and so I try and work out while my daughter is busy. On Thursdays and Fridays, I work in the clinic until 7pm, and then finish off any paperwork.” Her packed schedule necessitates early nights, with Alexandra admitting, “I’m normally asleep by 9.30pm as I just can’t function after 9pm.”

And what does this busy medical mum do in her downtime? “I play hockey for Hong Kong Vets, and I also paddle dragon boats for Smugz, plus kickboxing and running. Exercise is my time and it keeps me sane!”

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This article first appeared in the April/May 2018 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.