Anita Kwan Yi-tung’s youthfulness and playful demeanour make it difficult to imagine she is already a young mother of two: Marina is three and Eleena is just six months old. “I used to be thinner,” Kwan says – another thing that is hard to believe. “My husband says I am happier now, which is why I am not so thin. Actually, a lot of people in my industry notice a change in me: they say I’m more emotional and softer, but I think a fuller face just makes me look more approachable,” she jokes. Humble beginnings It doesn’t take long to discover how active and inquisitive Kwan is – she chose to become an actress because she cannot sit still, especially behind a desk, for long – so it would be understandable if she found being a mother somewhat limiting. But it seems that since her switch to HKTV and her marriage to Andre Lam Siu Fui, Kwan has evolved. She began her career as an actress with local terrestrial channel, TVB. Kwan describes her typical roles as the tough, bad girl. “I wasn’t a regular actress, so if I had a series I would work and when I didn’t, I would be busy playing sports, swimming and watching movies.” If it wasn’t for her active disposition, she might never have met her husband: with Kwan being an actress and Lam an anchor, they worked in different buildings – but met through a weekly company darts league competition. Around 2009, Kwan stopped working with TVB because she couldn’t get the right balance she wanted for her career. “I felt the pay was not very high and I wanted to be able to shoot outside Hong Kong – or do movies – but the schedules I had made that very difficult,” she explains. With some of her friends and colleagues already working at HKTV, Kwan believed she could make the move. It is one she does not regret. “The feeling is very different – and I’ve had the chance to work with my husband, too, which was a good experience for us.” Family time It’s not just her work that is more balanced, however. The schedules offer actors more rest between shoots instead of filming both day and night. Now that she’s a mother, she can manage family more easily, too. “When my daughter was in hospital, the crew were very understanding and let me stop filming until she was better,” she recalls. They also allow her to take time out to host a weekly radio show on Metro Radio on Thursdays. Kwan’s first daughter, Marina, was born in 2012. “We didn’t have any extra help at that time, so I took time off to take care for her and bond with her properly. I would take her to playgroup or teach her things at home,” she explains, talking of the somewhat rigorous “interviews” that even one year-olds go through in order to be accepted into a nursery. “I had to teach her colours, shapes and things like that. They sometimes even ask the child to say their parents’ names – but really, they can hardly talk at that age,” Lam adds. “It’s too much pressure for them.” Knowing that the nurseries might reject their application, the family applied to five and Marina was accepted at three. Kwan doesn’t see this as a particular achievement, but instead more as an example of the rigmarole of the Hong Kong system. She and Lam also agree that there is little point in spending too much on education at this age. “I care about how the school teaches them, but I want them to learn to socialise, to share, or tie their shoes,” Kwan says. The family chose the nursery closest to home so that their daughter would not have to travel too far. Although they now have help at home, it was a practical decision because Lam travels a lot for work. “We try to balance things,” he explains. “If Anita is busy, I am with the kids, and vice-versa. We try not to be out at the same time, although I travel outside Hong Kong more.” Kwan admits to turning jobs down when her husband is away. “There are always opportunities but you have to balance work and family. I don’t worry too much about turning down work, no one thing is better, but you get more from your family – and I believe in destiny,” she quips. Marriage & motherhood As inquisitive as ever, Kwan hates missing out and says she feels young at heart, although she finds it harder to leave her children at home when she wants to try new activities. Before her marriage, Kwan says she was quite impatient – and can still find herself feeling impatient if she is trying to teach the children something. “My marriage has taught me about patience and understanding emotions, even mine. I am learning to be less rash and more thoughtful,” she says. Meanwhile, Lam jokes that the children are learning about impatience from Kwan, but with regard their marriage, both agree that there is more balance: Lam has learned to say no, more often. “We both feel our hearts are really focused on our children,” Lam says. Kwan adds that she has different boundaries now and that being a mother has changed her approach to situations. On top of this, a few simple jobs, such as advertisements that include her children, mean Kwan has learned more about working with children. She has also picked up some practical motherly tasks, such as organising parties. “I went to a cooking class to learn how to make a cake for Marina’s third birthday.” Global future Despite these changes, as a parental team, the couple is still discovering how to make time for all four family members together. “I do business with South America so during the week, I might work until 2am and be asleep when the girls wake,” Lam says. “But my favourite time is before bed or in the morning because we are all together.” For Kwan, the best family time is when they are away in a remote place without the internet. “We don’t have rules about the phone because we both need to be available, so even dinner is easily interrupted,” she says. She knows that later, however, they may need stricter rules. For now, they don’t worry too much about screen time where Marina is concerned. “She knows she has to eat at the table and spend time with us, even if she asks to watch something on the iPad,” Kwan explains. “I learned English from TV and no-one told us not to watch too much. I think kids really can learn a lot from the internet and TV but you have to balance that with spending time together. And we worry about their tone of voice,” she adds. This is a concern for Lam too. “Kids grow up so fast now; they learn too much, they are like small adults instead of kids, especially when they speak.” Children’s television shows echoes of this. He jokes that milk formula, with all its added nutrients, is too strong, making children grow up too fast, with brains that are too powerful. The couple’s future isn’t yet clear. With Lam having grown up in Brazil before attending university in Taiwan – and speaking Portuguese, Spanish, English, Cantonese and Putonghua – Hong Kong might not be his ideal place for his children’s education or lifestyle. “Outside Asia, kids learn by playing, they spend time outdoors. No matter where you go, there is still pollution here. And if you have seen how heavy a kindergarten student’s school bag is, you know how hard they work,” he says. While his parents have suggested Brazil as an option, the couple think it has more potential for long summer holidays. “I would love my kids to learn European languages too,” Kwan says. But both want their children to live with them until university, so boarding school is out of the question. Although the Hong Kong education system has changed since Kwan attended high school, she has concerns about what the children will learn. “Some of it isn’t so important, like memorising dates. Something more practical can help the kids to learn what they enjoy and what they are good at,” she says. Attending an event hosted by one of Kwan’s colleagues gave her the chance to realise how much her own daughter loves to dance on stage. “She is very comfortable performing, so I want to find her those kinds of opportunities. I hope that school will also give her a lot of activities to try out,” Kwan says.