A heart-warming father’s day story about a dad who quit his high profile job to launch a new career that involved his children.
I was in the hospital when I quit my old life. I was holding my daughter in my arms only minutes after she had been born. My wife was in the adjacent room unconscious, having laboured through a challenging birth that ultimately ended in surgery. I remember how beautiful she looked. How delicate. How small. Then my phone buzzed yet again and I knew who it was: he had been at me since we were admitted some 12 hours earlier.
It was deadline week you see, and I was running one of the biggest magazines in the world. My US counterpart wasn’t happy with the direction I had taken on the latest cover and was hassling me for answers. I had already put in close to 100-hours on the magazine that week and I had had enough. I had had enough of putting my first born through those long deadlines. I had had enough of the frequent travel. I had had enough of all the calls and all the emails and all the nights working well into the early mornings.
I wasn’t going to put another child through that. I knew that as soon as I saw her, eyes wide open swaddled up tight. So as I looked into her eyes, standing there outside the theatre, I pulled my phone out of my pocket. I rang the publisher. And I quit.
That was that.
For 18-years I had been working in the media as a journalist and editor, running websites and magazines. I had learned a lot about that world and now I needed to find a new way to apply that knowledge to a career path that wasn’t as disruptive to my new life as a father. I wanted to work from home, where I could be with my family every day. But Sydney isn’t a cheap place to live, and with my wife intending to take extended maternity leave, I needed to make money.
During the following weeks I had been having quite a lot of fun making up stories to tell my eldest son. Usually it was to get him to sleep or keep him quiet on a long car drive. One such story really seemed to resonate with him. It’s about a little boy who goes down to the beach on a hot summer’s day with his family. Off exploring in the sand dunes, he stumbles on a little green boat. Intrigued, he jumps in, only to be washed way out to sea by a giant wave.
Resourceful as always, he enlists the help of some dolphins, who push the boat to a nearby deserted island. Lost, and growing hungrier by the second, the little boy finds a treasure map that leads to a chest high up in the hills. He braves the coconut throwing monkeys of the jungle, screeching bats of a cave and leaping crocodiles of a river to follow this map to its treasure. It is here he receives his reward – a yummy lunch – and discovers a way home.
My son loved the tale!
So I decided I should make it into a real thing. I wrote it down, located an artist, worked with them on the image creation and then designed it into a finished product. I then added interactive buttons, sound effects and animations. I even wrote a theme tune! Finally I packaged it all up into an ePub and released it on iTunes and on Kindle. Later I would release it as a print book, too, and build a series around its star, Willy Nilly – named in honour of my son’s imagination.
Best of all, in every step of the process I was able to involve my son. He would wander into the office and I would show him illustrations and read him stanzas. He would get excited and come up with ideas for new stories – many of which I would later use – and sit down to draw his own pictures. And each time my new career path became clearer: I was to become a children’s book publisher.
In the three years since, my “dad” life has shifted significantly. From long hours, many overseas trips and a working life quite removed from my children, I’m now working as much as possible around the kids. I create fantastic new worlds with them and we bring them to life. Plus I’m involved with school drop offs, pick-ups and sports activities. I’m present!
Of course the clan has grown alongside our library of books. My daughter and third child, a second boy, contribute. In addition, my wife has now also stepped away from corporate life to join our home based commute free business giving us vastly greater amounts of family time together. Together we now have six more children’s books on sale plus 10 more children’s books complete and waiting to be released. And we’ve branched out into sci-fi novels, cookbooks, comics and video game guides and more.
Perhaps this father’s day, we’ll all sit down together and come up with a new story. Something we can create together as a family. Look for it; it’ll be coming soon!