Each year, in honour of Mother’s Day in Thailand—which is celebrated on August 12th—we profile a local mom. This year we meet Napat ‘Joy’ Sonto, a work-from-home mother who, along with her husband, is juggling a busy professional schedule along with raising a tri lingual toddler.
As Managing Director for Le Petit Journal—an online media news source for Thailand’s French community that she operates together with her French husband Pierre—Napat ‘Joy’ Sonto certainly leads a busy life. But after the arrival of her first child, her hectic lifestyle slowed down considerably. Opening night parties were replaced with baby birthday parties, and homemade chocolate chip cookies are now preferred over canapés and fancy hors d’oeuvres.
Did you grow up in Bangkok?
I was born in Lampang and moved to Bangkok to attend university. After I graduated, I started working in a travel magazine called Paradise Thailand, which closed down after the 5th issue. After that I helped my family run a small stationery shop in Chatuchak market for a while, and then I was back to a full-time job at the Children’s Discovery Museum. I met my husband when I worked as a PR rep for House of Indy, an event organizer.
What are some of your favourite hangout spots in Bangkok?
When I was a teenager I liked to go to Khao San Road. But once I started working, and earning money, I would often go to Thong Lor and explore the new places in the Sukhumvit area. Oskar (on Sukhumvit Soi 11) is one of my favourites.
What was life like before you became a mother?
I used to have a really busy schedule, since one of my tasks at Le Petit Journal is to go networking—to get more advertisers—and there are opening parties or launching events almost every single day in Bangkok. I kept to my busy schedule, as usual, until I was eight months pregnant.
Is Bangkok a kid-friendly city? How could it improve?
I don’t think the city provides enough space for kids to learn and explore. Of course, many kid-friendly spots— such Kidzania, Siam Ocean World, and Funarium—do a great job of creating fun and attractive learning environments for kids. However, these places normally have quite an expensive entrance fee, so accessibility is limited to only certain groups of kids. Government agencies should really provide more learning spaces with an affordable price… or without any entrance fee.
What are your favourite family spots in Bangkok?
My family likes to go to Lumpini Park. Hugo, my son, is a lively boy who loves to run around and explore nature.
You are raising your child to be trilingual. Tell us about that.
My son is almost three years old now and is being raised to be tri-lingual. His dad speaks French to him, I speak Thai to him, and he learns English from nursery school (and by listening to his parents speak to each other). He understands three languages, but for speaking he tends to use English the most. In some situations, he will choose the easiest language to pronounce for certain words.
Is there a large French-speaking community in Bangkok?
Yes, there is. The number has been increasing in recent years due to some economic issues occurring in Europe. French people are moving to Bangkok, settling into the community, and starting work in many fields of expertise. I have two French interns in my team, helping with the online tasks.
How do you and your husband juggle family life and business life?
The perk of having a cozy home office, like we do, is that I can stay close to my son while working. I have a maid, but I’d rather babysit Hugo by myself. My husband and I agreed to take on less work for four or five years after our son was born. I think it is important for parents to spend time with their kids during this stage. Money is what we can earn anytime, but family time is what you cannot get back. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. I’d like to stay as close as possible to my son during these first important years.
Now that you’re a mother, what do you appreciate the most about the way your mother raised you?
Tolerance. I am amazed how my mother raised me and other two siblings on her own. I feel like a mother is someone who can handle tolerance like no other can.