Juggling the work/life balance

By Dionne Christian

Dionne Christian talks to a range of motivated New Zealanders for whom 'down time' is far from lazy time.

Bryan Caldwell is one of New Zealand's leading lighting and event designers, but is also doing post-doctoral research at SUNY's Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. Photo / Supplied
Bryan Caldwell is one of New Zealand's leading lighting and event designers, but is also doing post-doctoral research at SUNY's Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. Photo / Supplied

Bryan Caldwell
Lighting and event designer/space physiologist

When Bryan Caldwell was 28 he decided he was no longer content as one of New Zealand's leading lighting and event designers.

It was time to switch careers: he wanted to be an astronaut.

Caldwell discovered he would need a PhD, so he enrolled at the University of Auckland to study science and bioengineering - topics like physiology and physics, the right stuff for astronauts - and became intrigued by the electrical properties of the human heart.

Gradually his Plan B, to become a space physiologist, took flight. During the next 10 years, while continuing to freelance as a lighting designer, Caldwell completed his doctorate.

Now he and his wife, writer Shannon Huse, and their two children, Harper, 4, and Bruno, 2, live in New York State, where Caldwell does post-doctoral research at the State University of New York's Upstate Medical University in Syracuse.

Ultimately this move to the United States is intended to bring Caldwell, 42, closer to joining Nasa as a space physiologist, helping to rehabilitate astronauts who return to Earth after weeks and months out of this world. He's particularly interested in how the human body deals with long-term exposure to space on lengthy missions, such as those planned to Mars.

You would think being on the cutting edge of space medicine and parenting two young children would keep Caldwell busy enough but he continues to work, from time to time, as a theatre lighting designer.

"I do have a nagging suspicion that I should concentrate on one or the other, but I find it hard to imagine being exclusive."

Late last year Caldwell flew back to New Zealand so he could light Auckland Theatre Company's (ATC) Cabaret and there's every chance he'll be back later this year to work on a show or two.

He is one of a number of New Zealanders with an "other life". Rather than working multiple jobs because of financial necessity, they have a full-time profession alongside a secondary career, semi-professional hobby or active volunteer contribution because they want to.

The number of New Zealanders leading these "double lives" is unknown. Up-to-date information about how much time we spend on our work and pastimes is unavailable, but two Statistics New Zealand surveys underway should shed some light on this.

The first is the Time Use Survey: 2009-2010, which aims to find out more about New Zealanders' work-life balance. It asks questions about how people divide their time between paid and unpaid work, how paid work is scheduled and where it's done from, how socially connected we are with family and friends inside and outside our own households, the contribution of unpaid work to the economy and how we spend our leisure time.

Results will be released in June and should make interesting reading given the last Time Use Survey was 10 years ago, before the rise of social networking and the onset of the current recession.

The second survey concentrates specifically on our working lives. Called "The Survey of Working Life", it was last done in 2008 and is scheduled to be repeated this year.

Meanwhile, anecdotal evidence points to a number of us choosing - rather than having - to juggle multiple roles, paid or unpaid.

You could argue it's nothing new. After all, back in the day, didn't every All Black hold down a job as well as playing rugby for New Zealand? And haven't a large number of the country's community facilities been built on the back of the blood, sweat and tears of volunteers?

But technology is changing the way we work and play and the idea of one job for life has all but disappeared. If you can't pick between two careers, why not do both - like Caldwell?

He began his career at Tauranga's Baycourt Community and Arts Centre as a 17-year-old school leaver and fled to Auckland a year later when the employment scheme he was paid through ended.

"I was called into the Labour Department or Winz or whatever it was then and told they had a great job for me, which would utilise the skills I'd learnt during my year at Baycourt. It was as a supermarket shelf-stacker. I came up to the Mercury Theatre pretty much straight away and worked there for three years."

In 24 years, he has lit more than 200 productions for top theatre and event companies, including NBR NZ Opera, the ATC, the Watershed Theatre, NZ Actor's Company and Inside Out Theatre. His event designs have been seen in New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong (the 150th birthday parties for Louis Vuitton), and in San Francisco, Sydney and Paris.

"I can intellectualise why I wanted to be an astronaut, but really I got a romantic idea in my head and just pursued it. I think it has broadened my mind and made me a better designer, because you can get quite insular living in one world."

He says inhabiting the arts and sciences provides balance but both are exacting and creative in their own ways, offering the excitement of discovery. He prefers the less regimented hours of theatre and admits to struggling with a more routine 9am - 5pm sort of day.

Caldwell acknowledges the ATC has been fantastic in embracing technology like Skype video conferencing, which allows him to attend production meetings and rehearsals from the living room of his New York home.

While his scientific colleagues are intrigued by his other life in the theatre, Caldwell says those in the arts are accepting because it's the norm in that world to double-job. Just ask Michael Adams.

Michael Adams
Marketing and communications manager/semi-professional orienteer

In his native Christchurch, Adams, who has an Honours Degree in Theatre and Film, worked as a freelance dance and theatre producer, in marketing and promotions for community and public health, at student radio station RDU as well as training for his "other life" - more on that soon.

"I pretty much worked or trained from 5am to 1am most days of the week for about five years to be able to earn a living and get myself established in the professional arts sector. When you're applying your work in the service of an art form, passion drives you and the hours don't feel hard. I just got used to going from one thing to the next to the next, so you can habituate yourself to having long days."

Five years ago he moved to become marketing and communications manager for the ATC, where he works 45-50 hours per week. But most days, he's up around 5am.

The 34-year-old combines his career with a semi-professional sporting interest every bit as demanding as his day job. He runs a mix of trail and road races and represents New Zealand in the sport of orienteering.

Adams runs 25kms on Tuesday and Thursday mornings but aims for 35kms on Saturdays and anywhere up to 50kms on Sundays. After morning training, he cycles to work where he puts in a full day before a second, faster-paced run, gym work-out and, to wind down, 45 minutes or so of aqua jogging in the evening.

Then it's home for dinner and bed by 10pm, unless it's opening night for one of ATC's productions, subscriber evenings or the opera which he also enjoys. His is a sociable job, which is just as well.

On easy training or rest days - Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays - and on Saturdays, he coaches runners, orienteerers, a group of triathletes and lately a couple of young tennis players who want to do strength, conditioning and agility training.

Adams treats his diet, sleep and every other aspect of his life as part of his training routine. He can't imagine life without the intensity of his exercise regime. He says training is anything that improves your performance or drives you towards your goals, not just the work-outs that put your body under stress.

"It gives me a sense of balance and running provides quite good down time. It's my thinking time. It's often the only chance I get to be by myself and recharge out of the extremely social and extroverted world of theatre. It's an outlet that's not work. I get a different kind of reward and fulfilment from running than I do to my job."

He says his parents, guidance counsellor Kath and mathematician James, always role-modelled combining work with sports and running the family farm.

It became the norm to Adams and his older sisters, Jenni who's a quantum physicist, was a provincial representative hockey player and national representative orienteerer and mum to two young children and Niki, a maths and technology teacher who kayaks and refurbishes old houses on the South Island's West Coast.

"And I don't watch television. You can get so much done when you're not spending three to four hours a night in front of the TV."

He admits it helps that he doesn't have a family, which would mean some drastic re-prioritising - something dressage trainer, judge and rider Jacqui Winspear understands.

Jacqui Winspear
Accountant and teacher/dressage trainer, judge, rider

In her 40s, Winspear is married to Tony, with two sons, Nathan, 11, and William, 8. She's a qualified accountant and teacher who has ridden and competed in equestrian events since she was 7 or 8 years old.

"I was just so competitive and I always wanted to be the best," she says.

"Most girls stop riding in their teenage years when boys come along, but I was never interested in boys or running round the mall doing teenage stuff.

"I think my parents probably encouraged me to keep riding because it was a safe way to get me to adulthood without encountering undesirable activities."

Aged 20, Winspear was told to quit because she had detached retinas and required surgery. She compromised and gave up eventing and showjumping for dressage, where a horse performs a series of precise and graceful movements under the control of its rider.

Since then, she has competed around the world and still hopes to represent New Zealand at Olympic level, saying age is no barrier in a sport like dressage. She also trains para-dressage riders such as Jayne Craike, who won the individual gold at the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney, and Rachel Stock, who will compete in the 2012 Paralympics in London.

Winspear spends about four hours a day with her own three horses, juggling this with two jobs - one which involves working late nights and early mornings setting up computing systems for people in Britain to trade foreign currency - and caring for her family.

While she might occasionally contemplate a "lazy life", riding along the beach with the wind in her hair puts an end to those thoughts.

"I love doing it. It's for the love of the animals and the sport - and you need something in your life other than the mundane world of 9am-5pm work and household chores."

But she acknowledges priorities have changed since her sons were born. She no longer attends as many dressage events and those she goes to are organised well in advance.

"My family is now just as important to me and the horses have taken a bit of a back seat and that's the way it has to be for now. My boys aren't riders, but they are interested in other sports and activities, so I want to give them the opportunities I had to find something they are passionate about."

Darjeeling, the horse she is training to be a champion, won't be ready to compete on the Olympic or world stage for another four or five years and Winspear is happy to wait. By then, her boys will be in their teens. "And it will be my time again."

Simon Gault
Chef/pilot

If celebrity chef Simon Gault and his wife, Katrina, have children, he'll need a bigger aeroplane.

As executive chef of the Nourish Group, Gault, 46, is part-owner and responsible for the day-to-day running of Euro Restaurant and the Jervois Steak House in Auckland, Bistro Lago in Taupo and Shed 5 and Pravda restaurants in Wellington.

He's also one of the judges on TVNZ's MasterChef and recently appeared in an episode of the Intrepid Journeys series, travelling to eastern Turkey and Iran, places the well-travelled and internationally respected chef hadn't previously visited.

When not cooking or, more likely devising new dishes and sitting at his computer designing menus for each of his restaurants, Gault has his head in the clouds. He flies a vintage military Thunder Mustang, the only one of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and one of only 14 in the world still flying.

"I always wanted to fly and cook and I did consider becoming a professional pilot. I talked to my dad, Bryan, who was an Air New Zealand pilot and he said I would always be subject to annual medicals. If I failed one of those, I'd lose my job.

"He suggested I pick the thing I love most as a hobby and my next greatest love as my job, so that's what I did. I started work when I was about 16 and saved every spare cent to fly gliders down at Drury in south Auckland.

"I love the discipline of flying, which is so completely different from being in a kitchen."

Gault qualified as a glider pilot with the Auckland Gliding Club and became an instructor but power flying was to follow after he "conned" his dad into teaching him to fly. He is now rated for acrobatic flying and holds a Formation and Safety Team rating.

At Easter, he and his Kiwi Thunder team will take to the skies at the Classic Fighters Airshow in Omaka, Marlborough. He says good time management - and an understanding wife - are the keys to maintaining his double life.

"It was even in my wife's wedding vows that I could keep going flying on a Sunday. But if we do have kids, I might have to get a four-seater plane."

While Gault's interest in vintage aeroplanes takes him back into the not-so-distant past, Jane Holm steps further back in history, to the Middle Ages.

Jane Holm
Engineer and mother/medieval jouster

Holm, 55, regularly dons a 40kg suit of polished spring steel armour, suits up Merlin, one of the Spanish horses she breeds and trains, and arms herself with a shield and lance to go jousting.

The engineer and mother-of-two is a founding member of The Company of the Lance, a full-contact jousting group set up six years ago in South Auckland. Members aim to keep their armour, period costumes, weaponry and equestrian equipment as historically accurate as possible.

While Holm rode as a child, she gave up to study and kickstart her career at a time when you could count on your fingers the number of women pursuing engineering careers in New Zealand.

"But I got back into horses as an adult and started learning all over again. I've always loved everything to do with horses and riding and I did do a lot of competitions over the years, but I found myself getting bored. I thought, 'there must be more than I can do'. That's when I heard about jousting."

She joined to give her horses different experiences and to learn more about the training of warhorses and classical dressage. A serious accident three years ago meant Holm had to take an enforced six-month break. She is still dealing with the consequences of the fall and building up enough strength in her arm to carry a lance again.

"I was very lucky, but it was just one of those things that can happen. I've taken steps to make sure it doesn't happen again but I couldn't just give up. I enjoy it too much."

Describing herself as a practical person who likes to be busy, Holm travels to jousting tournaments and displays throughout the North Island. Her armour, based on a 15th century gothic design was handmade by fellow company member Graham Nixon, but she sews her own medieval costumes.

She is also a certified Kiaido Ryu Martial Arts Instructor and instructs at a club in Hunua. Holm took son Marius, now 17, along and thought it looked like fun so she joined, trained and eventually became an instructor.

As well as her involvement with martial arts and medieval warhorse training, as part of her involvement with Spanish horse-breeding, Holm is also the studbook keeper and registrar for the NZ Iberian Horse Association.

"The reason why I do so much is that I like to keep fit and busy but hopefully it also allows me to make a difference in other people's lives."

And she knows the importance of having people who will make a difference in your life. She and husband Mark, who run the industrial engineering firm IPSCO (part of the Wellington based Windsor Engineering Group), are also parents of daughter Harmony, 15, who lives with cerebral palsy, is wheelchair-bound and fully tube-fed.

While Marius prefers kart-racing to horses, Harmony rides at Ambury Park Riding for the Disabled and loves spending time with her mother's five horses.

Raising a disabled child has made her realise the importance of having time out and one's own interests to manage stress and re-charge. "It gives me a break from everything and sometimes I really need that, because it's not easy."

Leanne Wise
Human resources manager/Ardmore School BoT chairwoman and parent group secretary

Human resources manager Leanne Wise also switched to part-time work when her children were born.

Married to Chris, the couple have three daughters - Kate, 8, Laura, 7, and Hannah, 4 - and Wise combines her part-time HR manager role for CSP Coating Systems, a business within Fletcher Building, with chairing the Ardmore School Board of Trustees and being secretary of its Parents Support Group.

It is the board's job to employ all of a school's staff, work with parents, staff and pupils to set the school's strategic direction, and to provide a safe and secure environment that provides quality education for all pupils while complying with legal and policy requirements. It means overseeing the management of personnel, curriculum, property, finance and administration.

Once the HR manager for Air New Zealand's Airport Services division, responsible for 1500 staff, Wise says her training and work experience assists her as BoT chairperson.

As a result, she better understands health and safety issues, building relationships, leading and managing people, allocating duties accordingly and the all-important time management.

Ardmore School's biggest event of the year is Agricultural Day, which draws crowds from the surrounding districts to watch animal judging sections which include lambs, calves, goats, dogs and small animals, see pupils' artwork and mini-gardens, shop at the stalls and take part in raffles, competitions such as gumboot tossing and silent auctions.

It's a mammoth organisational effort, starting nearly six months before the actual day, but one the school and its supporters are justifiably proud of. Last year, Ag Day raised $25,000 towards a new adventure playground.

More importantly, Wise says it gave pupils the opportunity to participate in a range of activities which helps their learning at a practical level and caters for different learning styles and methods.

"I want every child to experience success in the school environment, because if children get a taste of success at an early age and they feel like they are succeeding, it motivates them.

"I think it helps to encourage your children if they feel you are interested enough in what they're doing to be actively involved in their school and activities, so it's partly about being a role model.

"Do I want my children to see me sitting back and letting the world go by or putting myself forward and getting involved? If parents don't role-model this type of behaviour, then who else will?"

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf02 at 26 Oct 2014 20:19:35 Processing Time: 523ms