This week was International Men's Day and the Global Institute for Women's Leadership...read more
Christopher Lewer was working full time as a consulting engineer up until two years ago, when he decided to take time out of his career to be a full-time dad.
Christopher has two older children by his first wife who are now 23 and 22. He says: “I was working full time when they were young. I always said if I had children a second time I would want to be in a position to enjoy parenting more.
I was 24 when my first son was born and there was a lot of pressure at the time. There wasn’t very much money and I was working long hours to build up my career.
These days, being financially secure, more mature and more confident, I am able to focus on and appreciate parenting far more.”
Another thing that has changed is social attitudes. When Christopher was a first-time dad, it was accepted practice that fathers worked full time and mothers, if they worked, had part-time jobs.
His second wife is an environmental scientist with a good career and salary. “Attitudes to shared parenting have also changed”, he says.
Christopher started his career break in June 2011 when his children were two and four. “My wife and I were both working full time and struggling to manage our lives around the children, with only part-time daycare available.
We had to constantly juggle who would go into work late, or leave early. It was very stressful and both our jobs were beginning to suffer,” he says. “It got to the point where neither of us could focus fully on our careers and enjoy parenting as much as we would like.
Something had to give and one of us had to make a compromise so the other could focus on their career. My wife was more passionate about her work, being very focused on the environment and green issues. I did get some satisfaction from my career, but for me it was more about earning money.”
The children continued going to daycare two days a week which gave Christopher some time to himself, although he also enjoyed helping out at the daycare once a week, but for the rest of the week he was looking after them full time. “It was a wake-up call for me,” he says. “and I gained a renewed respect for parents who look after children full time.”
Christopher attended parent groups and swimming lessons where all the other adults were women. He says he felt a bit uncomfortable at first, “a little bit exposed”, but he adds that everyone was very friendly and welcoming.
The most challenging thing he found was realising that looking after two small children meant he could do nothing else some days. “The minute I tried to check my emails they wanted my attention,” he says. “I spent a while trying to multi-task, but eventually gave up and resigned myself to the fact that looking after the children was literally a full-time job.”
Sometimes his wife had to travel for work. She would normally be away for a couple of days, but sometimes her trips would last two weeks. “That was exhausting,” says Christopher.
“There were no breaks at all and it gave me an insight into what it must be like for single parents. I have no idea how single parents manage to take care of their children and work.”
When his career break started, Christopher did not put a timeframe on it. He always intended to go back to work, but he found he got a lot of satisfaction from being with the children.
He had been looking for an online business he could develop part time from home. A friend who was a web designer ran internet-based businesses and suggested he start one up using social media as a marketing tool.
His friend helped him build a website and he worked on the business during the two days the children were at daycare and in the evenings.
Two years down the line Christopher draws on the success of his own profitable online business to help others set up their own businesses easily and with very little cost.
As Christopher’s business is online he has a global presence and works with people all over the English-speaking world via email and Skype. Before he started the business he had bought a house in Australia and the income from his marketing business allowed him to pay off the mortgage.
Christopher now mentors others, but he is not interested so much in people who want to make lots of money. “My interest is in people who want to create a better lifestyle for their families,” he says.
“They don’t want to worry about paying the bills and they primarily want to have more quality time, more flexibility and be able to choose the hours and work location that suits them.” He says some of his clients are new to running a business and often lack confidence initially.
They find it all too daunting, but once they get started they see it is relatively easy using the tools and training available. Other clients are already small business owners and use online marketing as a sideline, learning new skills which can have a positive impact on their existing business.
Christopher still does the school run and works around the children. In the summer holidays he will typically be getting up early, doing a little work while the house is still quiet, look after the children in the day and then work a bit more into the evenings.
“It’s really important to me to be around for the children and this type of flexible business model allows me to choose the hours I work so I get the best of both worlds.”