Work life balance could be Joe’s greatest battle
If Joe Hockey wins the leadership of the federal Liberal Party, the biggest loser will not be Malcolm Turnbull.
Nor will it be the government’s Emissions Trading Scheme.
It will be five-week-old Ignatius Theodore Babbage-Hockey.
Sure – he has more names than most newborns – but that hardly compensates for the time he, two-year-old Adelaide and four-year-old Xavier will lose with their father.
Or perhaps that should be the other way around.
Inches of column space and hours of talkback time are devoted to the importance of women bonding with their newborns, from natural birth to breastfeeding and when to go back to work.
But several new studies indicate that time with the father – whether it’s cuddling, eye contact or bottle-feeding – can be just as important.
Many men from Gen X and Gen Y, who had absent workaholic fathers, crave quality time with their own children.
Twelve years ago, Daniel Petre quit his job as Microsoft’s chief Australian executive to spend more time with his wife and three small daughters.
His book, Father Time, was a wake-up call.
“From my experience, the chief executives of these companies are workaholics who’ve long ago lost their soul to the company. They’ve long ago lost contact with their children. They’ve lost contact with their wife. So they’ve become soulless people whose only thing in life is their work,” he told the ABC.
For someone like Joe Hockey, it’s a conundrum.
He’s known as a ‘family man’, flying home from a joint parties meeting on the ETS to be there for the birth of Ignatius.
“Finally I told Malcolm, ‘The wrath of my colleagues is nothing compared to the wrath of my wife if I miss the birth. See ya!’” he said in the Australian Women’s Weekly.
When he walked the Kokoda Track, Hockey kept a photo of then-baby Xavier in a pouch under his hat.
And he’s spoken of his own feeling of separation from much-older siblings and hard-working parents.
“That age gap, and the fact both my parents worked seven days a week, meant there were moments when I was very lonely,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Equally, he feels duty-bound to serve in public office.
More than a decade ago, he turned down a high-powered job in New York for the “unfinished business” of politics and to fulfill a lifelong destiny as a “warrior for the Australian people”.
“I want my kids to be able to say to their kids, ‘Your grandfather made Australia a better place’.”
Perhaps it’s the schooling in selflessness, taught by the Jesuit priests. Or burning ambition.
Whatever the reason, if Joe Hockey wants to be leader, he has to be prepared to sacrifice his family life, as the SMH’s political editor Peter Hartcher wrote on the weekend.
He has three children under the age of five and his wife, Melissa Babbage, is committed to a demanding job of her own: head of foreign exchange trading at Deutsche Bank.
“It’s not an ideal moment to move to an all-consuming, travel-heavy, sleep-destroying job with towering expectations and minimal resources,” Hartcher wrote.
As an aside, can you imagine the outcry if a female politician with a five-week-old baby considered running for such a demanding job?
Corporate warrior turned doting Dad Daniel Petre has some advice for high-flyers choosing between work and family.
“I thought, well, what will people say at my funeral? And it was like, ‘Well, he was a vice president of Microsoft, he made a lot of money’, and I thought what a pathetic shallow statement of a life,” he told ABC radio.
“I wanted people to say, ‘He was a good father.’”
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