This is a family story from an old school friend of mine Philip (34) who lives with his partner Laura (37) and their two children, Leo (4) and Florence (2), as well as their rescue cat Mowgli (10 weeks) in Highgate Hill, an inner-city suburb of Brisbane, in Queensland, Australia.
Please explain your lifestyle and philosophy
As a family, we value our time together, above all else. We live as simply as possible in order to spend as much focused time together with the children. I guess our life would appear pretty conventional from the outside, but we have – kinda incidentally – established a few ‘house rules’ that allow us to prioritise our time, and our deepen family relationship. It’s just basic stuff really, such as: we don’t own a TV; we spend a least an hour a day reading with [philipbunting.com/blog/read-with-not-to] our children; we try to live outdoors wherever possible; we spend at least one day per week fully outdoors together (typically at the beach); we deliberately gear all actions and activities to benefit the children; and try to keep in sync with the natural order of things, wherever possible.
Do you work-from-home or are you a stay at home parent? Please tell us about it.
I (Philip) work from home. Through the week, I work full-time and then some for a brand I helped to launch in Australia almost 10 years ago (Time Out Sydney and Melbourne). On weekends I typically spend at least a day in the studio, working on picture books (my first picture book – Mopoke has just been published in Australia) and maintaining other sideline design projects (of these sidelines, Keswick General Store is the closest to my heart).
My better half Laura works far harder and longer hours than I do, she is a full-time dedicated mum. Way back before we had Leo, we made a very deliberate choice to save as much as we could, in order to allow Laura to spend as long as possible with the children, for the benefit of the children. Four years on we’re still working it out as we go, but we’re pretty made up with our little family and manage to balance the pressures of work and a single income with a very rich family life.
How do you make things work?
Laura and I understand each other’s roles, but also understand that change is the only constant. We allow each other space to carry out our responsibilities, and try to concentrate our efforts as much as possible, so that when we’re working, we’re really working, and when it’s time to play, we’re fully dedicated to fun.
Before we had Leo (our eldest), Laura and I were working full-time jobs in Sydney, and so with a little planning (and a lot of discipline!) we were able to save a small amount of money, that has helped us subsidise the single income, in the four years since. I know that’s not a very romantic answer, but having those savings to lean on has been the way we’ve been able to make things work. We don’t own our house and we don’t spend heaps on material stuff, but those things don’t mean a thing if you have to trade off family time to achieve them.
What inspired your lifestyle?
Fundamentally, a shared understanding that love for family is the best thing there is. Even before we had children, we knew that we would want to make the most of every single second of family life, and so we’ve done everything we can to maintain that vision, since.
What are your child/ children’s education options?
The kids will follow the same pattern, but as Leo is our eldest, I’ll use his path as an example:
- Baby: Time with mum, family, friends, and playgroups/mums groups. Never daycare.
- Preschool: Leo has just started at a Montessori preschool, 3 days a week. He lives barefoot, loves learning and even makes his own bed!
- Primary school: Next year, Leo will attend a regular state school, which will be secular and co-ed.
If you work from home what is the best bit of advice you could give other parents who want to work from home?
This is probably a bit of a cliché (but it’s a cliché for a reason!): create a defined space to work from, and make sure that work and play are clearly defined. When two blur, I find myself doing both things badly. When family and work can be separated, I can dedicate myself fully to each moment – whether work or play – and give each thing my best shot.
What is your favourite family activity?
Reading picture books together. There is no better vehicle for galvanizing your relationship with your children. Here’s a quick thing I wrote about how I fell for the magic of picture books, and another about the incidental benefits of reading with children.
What has been your biggest family adventure so far?
We’ve been around a bit as a family, to Iceland, Italy, and around Australia. But I think the biggest adventure for us was moving to Queensland.
In 2014 Laura, Leo and I were living in Sydney, in a beautiful part of town overlooking the harbour. Life was great. Within the span of about a week in the middle of the year, two big things happened: (i) we fell pregnant with our second child, Florence, and (ii) got the opportunity to move to New York.
These two things really focused our thinking, and brought our shared values to the fore. While NY would have been a hell of an adventure – and we almost took the gig – we would have been completely isolated from both of our families (mine are in the Lake District, UK, Laura’s are here in Brisbane) at a critical time in our children’s lives.
So we decided against the NY move because it would have deprived our children of exposure to their extended family, at the time when extended family would prove to be incredibly influential. And as an extension of the same thinking, we committed to moving closer to Laura’s family, here in Brisbane. We now live next door to Laura’s folks (both legends), and across the street from her sister and their beautiful family. We do miss Sydney, but all of Sydney’s attractions can’t compare to what we have now.
That said, living next to your in-laws is a daily ‘family adventure’… believe me 😉
What are you most grateful for (as a family or individually)?
Education and health are things I am most thankful for. Good education allows you to see the world how it is, and not how you are. It allows to you make the best of your situation and for those around you whatever the situation. Good health affords you the time to enjoy the privilege that is family life.
Three words to describe how you feel about your lifestyle?
Marvelously bloody lucky.
Find out more about Philip, his work and where to buy his book Mopoke at philipbunting.com