Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and partner Clarke Gayford are being celebrated around the world for their modern approach to life. After the birth of daughter Neve, Gayford took the role of primary caregiver while Ardern went back to work. We recently spoke to three women in the fashion industry — Karen Walker, Kristine Crabb (Miss Crabb) and Rachael D’Alessandro (One Teaspoon) — how they balance being charge in the workplace and motherhood. In appreciation of inclusivity and at the suggestion of one of our readers, we asked three dads in the fashion industry — photographer Adam Bryce, Head of Menswear at The Iconic, Tom Simpson, and Not For You founder and designer, Jerome Taylor — on how being a dad has impacted their life, changing gender roles in society and how they unwind from it all.
TLFB: Clarke Gayford made global news when it was announced that he would be staying at home to raise baby Neve when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern went back to work. How do you feel about the changing landscape of gender roles in society today?
Adam Bryce: It’s great, it’s just a sign that we are making some (if small) inroads into gender equality. I do believe that there is a certain connection between a mother and a child that is unique, but I think the same can be said about a dad and his child, just in a different way. I think the fashion industry is interesting in terms of gender roles, its true that globally men dominate the positions of power, but I don’t know if that’s necessarily the case in New Zealand. Fashion is business after all, and in large corporate business, men still sit in those positions of power, but New Zealand’s fashion industry isn’t necessarily a large corporate one, its a growing group of independent (and often startup) companies; we tend to not suffer from the same issues.
Jerome Taylor: I think it’s amazing. As a parent, I try and have a part to play in every aspect of my child’s life so I think when it comes to the changing landscape it can only be a good thing. It’s not about gender it’s about being the best parents we can be for the next generation.
Tom Simpson: I am of course fortunate enough to be father to my gorgeous 3-year-old, Venice. I remember when she was born we had the situation where I was only allowed to have two weeks paternity leave – this was a standard amount for every dad in the UK at the time. Those two weeks flew past, not only because it was a short amount of time but I was massively sleep deprived the whole time and didn’t get to enjoy those moments as much as I would have liked. Over the past few years the rules have changed and now fathers have more rights which is a breath of fresh air. I would have given anything to have longer with her at those early stages. I am now fortunate enough to work for a company who really values “flexible working”. In my current role, I am free to work from home and leave early when needed to spend those precious moments with Venice.
How do you achieve your work/life balance of husband and father while maintaining business success?
Adam: Its tough, before you have a child you just have no idea of the impact it will have on the way you think and also your day to day lifestyle. My way of working is quite obsessive, so I tend to work always, I would rather spend the evening working than anything else. So when Axel came into my world, it was hard to figure out how I could maintain my work philosophy. In the first few years, I really questioned how it was possible and my work definitely suffered, it’s only been in the last few months, to be honest, that my work is back on track the way it was before. I don’t know if I can give advice on how to achieve that balance, but I do try to put time aside for being with Axel and separate my time into blocks. Axel will always be my priority over anything, and whilst it was hard to see work suffer, its back on track now, and I don’t have any regrets. The best thing about my job is it’s not 9-5 so I do have time to myself when other’s may not, I picked up Axel at 11 am yesterday and we went to the park and got some lunch, his face was priceless, and I’m in a unique position to be able to do that.
Jerome: I have always had big dreams and aspirations and ever since I found out I was a dad I knew I had to work even harder to show her that you can achieve anything you put your mind to. She is one of my key motivators in everything I do.
Tom: It may sound really bad, but I live by the mantra that we work to live, not live to work. When I am at work I give it everything, knowing that when I go home I can concentrate on my family rather than sit on my phone answering emails all day. I also try and separate my work and family life as much as possible. this means living on the northern beaches. That may sound silly, but it means that once I get on that ferry and cross the water I am leaving the city and work behind and can relax.
Have your career goals and aspirations altered since becoming a dad from that prior to your children?
Adam: Hugely. I had to pull out of working in Australia when things were going really well, I just couldn’t cope with the travel, being away from Axel, etc. But its more than the massive sacrifices you make to be successful are ok to make when they are your sacrifices, but they’re no longer just mine to make, they are now sacrifices for me and Axel, and he shouldn’t have to make those. The way I look at work now is that I will work my hardest, put everything into it, but I won’t do anything that affects Axel in any way but the best, if I am successful that’s great if I’m not then I would have been a good Dad either way. Before I had Axel work was everything, now Axel is everything.
Jerome:No not at all, I just have more drive to be and do everything I set out to achieve. I am one of the people she is looking up to and I want to be the best that I can be.
Tom:I think since becoming a dad it has actually made me more ambitious. It makes you want to work harder to give your family the best life possible. A lot of things change when you have a child, you kind of lose your freedom and that’s the sacrifice you make, but if you can balance your life so you work your arse off 9-5, and strive to make work gains in that time then you can sit back at the end of the day and know you have done all you can.
How about your personal style?
Adam: To be honest, it wasn’t great before Axel came about, now its just got more stains! I think about fashion far too much, so when it comes to my own style, I try to just simplify it as much as possible. The last thing I want to do is think about what I’m wearing, my job is to make others look good and to tell stories, and sell women’s clothes, how I look isn’t going to help any of those things.
Jerome: My personal style is forever evolving, however, I dress with confidence and I like to feel empowered so I always aim to do that with the clothes I wear.
Tom: I wouldn’t say my personal style has changed due to having a child, it’s down to growing old! You have to realise that at some stage you cannot experiment forever! You have to find your own personal style. With age also comes the knowledge of your limitations! At the ripe old age of 32, I now know my style, what works for me, how far I can push it. I will always strive to be the “cool dad” but cool means something different to me at 32 then it did at 22.
If you had the power to change one thing for working parents, what would you change?
Adam: I don’t know a lot about the laws around maternity and paternity leave, but one thing I would suggest if I could, was that it seems as though the way the system works is that parents are allowed a period of time off work to look after a newborn, but then that’s it, it would be interesting to see if that time spent at work could be staggered someway to enable parents to spend more time with growing and developing pre-schoolers.
I’m in a position like I said, where I can take Axel to work sometimes and spend time with him during the day, its a real blessing to be able to do this, I would love for everyone to be able to do this. Axel loves being on set, he just got his first camera, it’s so much fun to watch.
Jerome: I wish more people could do what they love because it is definitely possible to have children and achieve your goals.
Tom: On a recent holiday to Fiji, I got talking to a fellow dad from Holland. He was an airline pilot and his wife was a paramedic. They were coming to the end of a 10-week break, seeing NZ, Fiji, Bali. He explained that in Holland after a few years of service and before the children get to a certain age, parents are given the right to take off up to 10 weeks holiday (unpaid). This amazed me and got me thinking what I would do with my 10 weeks and all the places I could take Venice to see. I would love it if this could be rolled out worldwide.
What tools do you use to unwind and relax?
Adam: I love TV. Everyone hates TV, but I love it, it makes me think of being a kid. It’s a simple distraction, there’s nothing on TV that makes you think its just easy, and a genuine indulgence of time.
Jerome: Reading and listening to audio books.
Tom: I go to the gym a lot! In that hour I’m in the gym I forget about everything and concentrate on that moment. It helps me relaxed while still remaining fit and healthy to make sure I’m around for a long time to see Venice grow old! I have also recently got into photography. This is another way to capture moments in my life and Venice’s childhood that my wife and I can look back on! We also email all the pictures to Venice’s own email account so she can see them all when she grows up.
Do you have any advice for those who are embarking on the modern journey of “Doing It All”?
Adam: Be under no illusion that it will be easy and don’t expect that your work will not be affected. It could take time to adjust in terms of finding the balance and the level of organisation needed to be able to work on the same level you did prior. That said, having a child is the most amazing thing – the fact it changes your priorities and makes you realise the world isn’t about you, but others – is one of the biggest lessons anyone can learn.
Jerome: You have to believe in yourself and back yourself 100%, you can achieve anything if you just believe and really put your mind to it. Persistence is the key!
Tom: Never take any of it too seriously. I hate the “YOLO” term, but it’s so true! Work hard but always remember its just a job. If you can leave on time each day and know you gave it all then you will not only be happy at work but give yourself the freedom and downtime you need at home.
Thanks to the dads for their honest answers, and to all the hard-working dads out there.