My name is Mick Hughes and I’m a physiotherapist and exercise physiologist. I’m also a husband and father to a three year old daughter and nine month old son, and am very proud to say that I work three days per week so I can spend more time with my family.
I read with interest last week that a young Australian politician resigned from his job to spend more time with his wife & three young kids. It’s really opened up the conversation about father’s being the primary carer for their children. Here is my story. Hopefully it allows more men to do the same.
Full disclosure: As a sub-contractor physio I get paid inconsistently, which depends purely on how busy the week is. Unashamedly, my wife earns consistently more money than what I do, and this plays a big role in allowing me to do this.
I’ve always held family in high regard, even before I had my own. Because of my affiliation to family, I was very keen to be very present when our daughter was born, and I was lucky enough to be in a position that I could be a stay at home dad when my wife went back to work six months after our daughter was born.
I performed the primary care giver role for six months and I firmly believe that this was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. It taught me many life lessons and challenged me in me ways that I had never imagined, but I loved it and firmly believe that both my relationships with my wife and daughter grew stronger because of it. You can read my first blog about being a stay at home Dad physio here.
Little did I know at the time, but the life skills that I developed by being at home with my daughter – excellent time management, multi-tasking, communication skills & negotiating skills – would help me incredibly in every facet of my job as a physio.
After six months at home with my daughter, we moved to Melbourne for my wife’s work and we decided that we couldn’t afford the higher cost of living and daycare costs in Melbourne on one wage, so reluctantly I went back to full-time work. On the way to work my first day, I said to my wife I want to do it all again for our next child.
About six months into full-time work, I was given the amazing opportunity to be the head physiotherapist for a national sporting club. The team had a star-studded roster and the club was rich in tradition and resources.
For me, this position was one that I had been working toward for a number years after commencing a masters of sports physio a few years earlier and playing assistant physio roles at other clubs; and the excitement of potential championship titles had me very eager to start. The beauty of the job was that the hours worked for the club were such that I could also keep my current clinical job in a part time capacity.
At the time, my goals were to play a role in championship winning team, stay in the position for at least three years (provided that they wanted me) and then reassess. Not long after we started pre-season training, my wife and I found out that we were having a second baby, due one month after the grand final.
Well that season didn’t exactly go to plan, as we were inconsistent throughout the season and lost in the semi-finals. I really struggled at times travelling away from my pregnant wife and daughter every two weeks for two to three days at a time, not to mention having to be at night training sessions three times per week and be available 24/7 on the phone from players, coaches and medical/support staff.
Even though I was providing financially very well for my family, I really felt that I was missing out on my daughter’s growth & development and making my wife’s life harder by not being able to share our family responsibilities.
A month after the season finished our son was born; another of life’s great achievements!
Soon after, I met with the general manager and head coach to discuss my contract and map out what we can do as a club to win the championship the following year.
In this meeting, I made it very clear that I still wanted to be head physio but I was conscious of the fact that it was going to be a longer pre-season & there would be more pressure than last year to succeed, and I wanted to share the role with another part time junior physio so that I didn’t have to attend every training session and game. A decision I felt strongly about so that I could be more present with my young family.
They saw it a bit differently. They wanted me to be the head physio still, and were going to increase the contracted hours to full time, but only wanted one person to do the job so that there was consistency in the management of the high performance of the players. I said that I completely understand their position, and we came to a mutual decision that I wouldn’t be able to do the job to the best of my ability.
So fast forward a few months and our son is now six months old, and my wife goes back to work to finish off the last year of her career pathway. I get my wish of going back to stay at home Dad duties, albeit in a reduced capacity compared to last time. And I couldn’t be happier; but it’s not without its challenges either.
This time I’m currently working Mon/Wed/Fri also doing daycare drop-off and pickups on these days, and staying at home with the kids Tues and Thurs. The biggest challenge Ive encountered – like many other part time mums and dads – surrounds the fact that although I’m working, I’m also still very responsible for my children when they are sick.
As we have no family support here in Melbourne, this means that I have to drop everything and leave work (or not come in at all) which makes for a difficult & inconvenient day for my work to reschedule patients.
This certainly has proven difficult at times, and I don’t particularly have the best answer around this issue, but it’s very important to know your self worth and what skills you bring to a company (and don’t forget to let your employer know about it too) so that you can stay the course and do what’s best for you and your family.
At the end of the day, being a stay at home Dad or part time employee isn’t for everyone and every family dynamic.
But it works for us. And as much as I try to convince myself otherwise – and my wife – I know that I won’t be able to work part time forever and I will have to go back to full time work next year: as we want to buy a house. But for the time being, I’m going to savour the nights and weekends at home, rather than being at training sessions and games, and make the most of this rare opportunity as a father to watch my little kids do their thing.
Please visit my website Mick Hughes: Physiotherapist & Exercise Physiologist to find out more about my professional pursuits.