7 AM to 7 PM: How Eva Chen Balances Designer Clothing With Diapers on Instagram

Eva Chen

Verywell / Photo Illustration by Christian Alzate / Getty Images / Edward Berthelot

Parents don’t work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.—we work 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., from the moment our kids wake up until they go to sleep. This is an unfiltered look at a day in the life of Instagram's Director of Fashion Partnerships and children's book author Eva Chen.

If you spend hours each day scrolling on your phone, there is a good chance you’ve come across Eva Chen’s Instagram page. The mom of three is in charge of fashion and shopping at the company, and her personal page, which boasts nearly 2 million followers, is the epitome of good content. Not only does she share her view from the front row at the best fashion shows around the world, but she gives her followers a truly intimate look of her life at home with her husband Tom, and their children Ren, 7, Tao, 5, and River, 8 months.

“I have three kids, which boggles my mind, truly,” Chen says. “It’s been quite an adventure. I love being a mom. I love being a parent. I could not have imagined the infinite, heart-burst ways that I love these children.”

I love being a mom. I love being a parent. I could not have imagined the infinite, heart-burst ways that I love these children.

In addition to working her 9-to-5 and being a wife and mother, she’s also an author who co-designed a collection with Janie and Jack inspired by her newest book, "I Am Golden." The book was inspired by her life as a first-generation American. Her parents moved from China and Taiwan to the United States in the 70s. “I wrote this book during COVID-19,” explains Chen. “It has been an incredibly challenging time for every community, frankly, but I do feel like it was particularly trying for the Asian-American Community. There was a huge spike in hate crimes against Asians, probably in part due to like terms like 'China Virus.'"

After Chen heard the term for the first time, she called her parents and told them to wear hats, scarfs, and glasses outside, and advised them not to speak Chinese on the street.

"In two years of COVID-19, I’ve been thinking a lot about my identity and talking to my kids about it," she says. "I had to explain why mommy was worried to go outside. It's really sad as someone who has always been proud to be Chinese to feel like I've had to hide that part of myself."

Her mission was to teach kids about what makes people different and unique, and that those qualities should be celebrated. "It’s my most personal book," Chen reveals. "I'm incredibly proud. I love writing children's books because it feels like a memento. I hope this book is a lasting love letter to my family’s experience and something for my kids and a lot of kids to hold onto, to remind them that they are beautiful and special just as they are."

Writing her books and helping to design clothing are “side jobs” for Chen, which she mostly completes late at night. "I do most of this work from 9 p.m. to midnight, which is so depressing," she says. "But it's that magic time when the whole apartment is quiet. I spend half an hour getting organized and then I'm able to work. I wrote all of my books between the hours of 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. I try to keep my two jobs pretty separate—I take my [Instagram] vacation days for book tours, for instance."

As much as she loves being a mom, she’s open and frank about the fact that she doesn’t get much downtime, especially at the moment. "I think they call it the second shift, right?" Chen says. "It's really so hard for women and for moms. People always say moms are superheroes. Well, superheroes need a break too. Superheroes get burnt out, and superheroes need to take care of themselves. Caretakers need care, too." She used the analogy of a person on a plane, putting their oxygen mask on first, before assisting others.

People always say moms are superheroes. Well, superheroes need a break too. Superheroes get burnt out, and superheroes need to take care of themselves. Caretakers need care, too.

Despite the fact that she sleeps less than she wants to, she is relishing this time with her new baby. “River is eight-months-old and he's got that baby smell," she gushes. "You forget it! When you have a 5-year-old, you forget that heavenly baby smell and the cuddles."

Since River is probably her last child, she’s soaking in the moments. “I’m really delighting in every experience with River," Chen says. "Just because I know—my husband would say definitely the last—and I would say it’s probably, definitely the last time, and so, I'm trying to extra enjoy it."

Keep reading to see how Chen balances three kids, shares her life on Instagram, and her busy mom lunch hack.

Eva Chen and her children

Eva Chen

Thursday

7 a.m. My daughter Ren wakes up really early, usually before 7 a.m. to be totally honest. Her favorite expression is, "When the sun's up, I'm up." So she is an early riser. She takes after her dad that way. Ren is usually up by 6 a.m. She loves to read; I’m very lucky. So thankfully, when she gets up, she'll kind of sit and quietly read until someone else gets up.

She is an early riser and an early eater. She's at that age, 7, where she has opinions on everything and she's very particular about what she wants to eat in the morning. Sometimes it’s cereal, sometimes it's a bagel or, very rarely, it's eggs. Sometimes it's French toast—it all depends. I try to give my kids choices. I’ll ask Ren what fruit she wants and she chooses it herself.

I'm still nursing River. I'm still pumping and so I usually do that next, at 8 a.m.

8 a.m. We are really fortunate and have a nanny helping us. Tom and I both work several jobs. He works in advertising, but he also has a granola business. I work at Instagram but obviously write these books as well. The only way we're able to do it is with a lot of support. So our nanny will come and try to help get the kids ready for school.

Ren goes to school around 8 a.m. Tao goes to school at around 8:15 a.m. We kind of divide and conquer. Between the three kids and three adults, in terms of who goes where, all depends on the schedule of the day.

8:30 a.m. We start getting River ready for his nap. I do try to squeeze in breakfast because it’s my favorite meal of the day. I’m still eating ridiculous amounts of oatmeal to try to help with the nursing. I usually eat a hurried breakfast at around 8:45 or 9 a.m. I just discovered overnight oats. Like, how was I sleeping on overnight oats? They're so easy. I don't know why I was paying $12 for a bowl of them. I will do overnight oats or I'll quickly fry two eggs and have some avocado, but I have to eat breakfast to set up my whole day.

River naps from around 8:30 a.m. or 9 a.m. until about 11:00 a.m. It's this glorious two-hour window where everything that needs to get done needs to get done.

River naps from around 8:30 a.m. or 9 a.m. until about 11:00 a.m. It's this glorious two-hour window where everything that needs to get done needs to get done. Whether it is work calls, whether it's a doctor appointment, whether it is Zoom meetings, whatever it is—that's really the window there.

11 a.m. River wakes up and it’s divide-and-conquer mode again. He eats at 7 a.m., 11 a.m., 3 p.m., and 7 p.m. It's very collaborative. We'll see whoever is able to make his lunch and has the time to feed him.

My days are really boring—way more boring than they look. I mean, it looks kind of boring on Instagram too, actually. I'm on conference calls from like 9 a.m. to 6 p.m, every day.

12 p.m. Usually by like 12 p.m. I've had like four cups of diluted green tea or matcha and then I try to drink water throughout the day as well. I will usually eat a quick lunch around noon.

I once did an interview with Jenna Lyons, the former creative director of J.Crew, and I remember interviewing her and asking her what she eats for lunch. She told me that soup is the best meal for busy women. I thought that was brilliant. She said you could put it in a cup and hold it with one hand and do something else with the other. And thought that was genius. This was like 15 years ago and I always give people that advice.

Recently when I saw her, I said, remember when you told me about soup and she had no idea what I was talking about. I've literally been repeating this advice for a decade and she didn’t remember!

All of this is to say, I love soup. We live near the Union Square Greenmarket in New York. There's a farm stand there called Lani’s Farm and they do a really good frozen soup. It's full of veggies. I want to say someone who works at the farm is Korean. There's always kimchi and spices in it and it's just really simple and delicious and it's $5. Once a week I'll buy like three of those soups, just so I always have something.

There's also this place called Rainbow Falafel on 17th Street. It's literally a hole in the wall—it’s the size of a doorway—but they have really good, really yummy falafel sandwiches. You can see the guy making them every day and so if I'm able to, I will hop out and buy that.

One of my New Year's resolutions last year, and again this year, was to take at least one walk during the day. Even if it's just around the block or to the bank.

I have an Apple watch, and I would say that I look at my Apple watch approximately 694 times a day. This is not an ad or sponsored content, although I wish Apple would sponsor me! One of the great things about the Apple watch is that I'm able to like glance when messages or texts come in without fully taking my attention away from my kids. I'm trying to be present!

I’m also tracking my steps every day and I'm trying to hit—this is a really sad number—like 3,000 steps a day. You gotta build! Some people are doing 20,000 steps. I'm aiming to hit like 3,000 to 5,000 to start, and eventually build up to 10,000.


1 p.m. Tao is the first school pick-up—he gets out of school at 1 p.m. Once he comes back from school, if he doesn't have a playdate, that's when the apartment gets busy and loud and “festive” again. He's such a happy, joyful, expressive kid—in other words, noisy. And so meetings from 1 p.m. onwards usually are punctuated with Tao’s laughter or running in to show me something he built with LEGOs.

3 p.m. Ren gets out of school at 2:30 or 3 p.m. and she usually is back by 4 p.m. I feel like I'm her social secretary; she has a packed social calendar. Every day, it's like, 'Can Ren do this? Can Ren do that? We would like to invite her to this place, can she go ice skating?' My head is spinning from organizing Ren’s schedule. Sometimes she comes back a little later if she has a play date or something like that.

You might notice that in this 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., there's no workout. This is not a mistake. It is because I did not yet re-incorporate exercise into my daily schedule. I would like to say at 5 p.m. that I do half an hour of yoga, but that would be a lie.

5 p.m. The kids are hungry. I would love one day to be one of those families where we all sit down to a big family dinner at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. But right now, when the kids are so young, it's just really hard. They are starving by 5 p.m. and tired by 5 p.m. and then they want some time to play with each other. So between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., it’s family time. Tao is still in nursery school, so they don't go to the same school. Tom is usually playing hide-and-seek or the kids are building LEGO. They're obsessed with Lego, LEGO everywhere.

I would love one day to be one of those families where we all sit down to a big family dinner at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. But right now, when the kids are so young, it's just really hard.

River is almost about to crawl, but he has one of those scooter-walker things. And so we put him in that, and he chases after Ren and Tao in his scooter, which is really cute.

I always wanted to have three kids. I have an older brother, who I wish I saw more often. I always wanted a sister too, to tell you the truth. I always thought I would end up with three girls because I grew up reading books like “Little Women” and “Pride and Prejudice.”

7 p.m. River’s nighttime routine begins, and he has a bath. Then, knock on wood—not lately because his top teeth are coming in and I think it's bothering him—but usually he goes to sleep at around 8 p.m. until 6 a.m.

Ren and Tao share a room and they are in their room by 8 p.m. Ren will be like, “Turn off the lights, I want to go to sleep.” She’s very aware of her tiredness, which is a new thing. That developed around 6 years old. She wasn't such a great sleeper from the ages of 3 to 5, and then suddenly something shifted and she will be like, 'I’m tired, I want to go to sleep,' which is great.

8:30 p.m. Tao goes to sleep somewhere between 8:30 p.m. and 10 p.m—don't judge me! I think that he still has energy, and he is a night owl like me. Ren is on Tom’s schedule and Tao is on my schedule. He stays up late and then just wants to hang out and ask questions about the Golden Gate Bridge or the Empire State Building or the Titanic. They tend to come at around 9 p.m. No joke.

I try to do 30 minutes of self-care and that's why my day goes so late. Sometimes I'll take a hot bath at 11 p.m. with Epsom salts for my bad lower back.

Every single night, a ritual I have to do is that I have to read at least a page of a physical print book before I go to sleep. Even if I'm so tired and I read one paragraph. It's something that is very important to me. I spend a lot of time in digital, right? I’m thinking so much about the metaverse—Instagram on my phone, a kajillion email, or Zooms. Reading something grounding like a printed page really helps me to root myself.

Eva Chen's son

Eva Chen

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  1. Npr. More than 9,000 anti-Asian incidents have been reported since the pandemic began.