Your first reaction when you found out you were going to be a Father?
Celeste and I were told not to expect children due to her endometriosis. So we were super excited. Unfortunately a miscarriage was awaiting us. But soon after we had three little boys in almost three years. It was awesome and unexpected.
What has Fatherhood taught you?
Don't sweat the small things. You've got such an amazing team, that love you and will be with you through thick and thin. Everyday I walk in the door, I'm thankful - even when there's three little boys screaming and wrestling on the ground fighting over a toy, two in their jocks and one dressed as Yoda (it's a bit of a mad house).
Did you grow up always wanting to have kids someday?
Yes. For me friendship, brotherhood (I have three brothers) and family are such an important part of my life. We grew up in a busy house and with busy community lives.
Tell us about a time when you felt you had no idea what you were doing as a Father? Were you scared?
I think through the 'sleep deprivation' years it's so hard and you can sympathise with new parents. It's really tough, and sometimes hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
What is the best thing you have achieved as a Father?
Learning patience. In a busy world, it's natural to want your child to 'be the best they can be', to have all the experiences you didn't have and to give them the world. Just patience in letting them discover their own world.
What does having kids make you think differently about?
The world in general feels different. Particularly in my role, I find myself thinking about children that don't have all the opportunity and safety of my boys. Kids that are the same age, that don't have parents or someone to look after them and love them. That plays on my mind a lot.
What do you miss about the time before you were a Father?
Independence. Adventure. Although, I love the fact that it's a different adventure now. You can be more of a child too - get down to their level and see the world through their eyes.
Tell us about the work of the Cotton On Foundation and how you came to be involved?
Since 2007, Cotton On Foundation has raised funds in all Cotton On Group stores and used those funds to develop communities across the globe, primarily focusing on children's education.
Our work is quite unique. Global retailers don't usually start their own NGO, but we also run our development work with a direct focus on relationships. Knowing and understanding the communities and people we work with is essential. We started off raising around $150,000 in our first year, we now raise around $10m globally - and apply those funds to eradicating poverty.
We also have a host of local projects in Australia through our 'Community Projects' arm. I've been a part of the business since 2006, but really by chance. Nigel, the owner of Cotton On Group was kind enough to give me a go back then and things have worked out.
Having travelled regularly to Uganda and Africa, what has it taught you about life?
Be grateful - we're privileged where we live and the opportunities that we have. And have no judgement. It's easy for us in life to judge without knowing or understanding people's circumstances.
What impact do the local Men and Fathers have on communities in Uganda?
They have a huge impact - often with negative results such as family violence, lack of motivation, substance abuse and infidelity. That was really evident through our early years.
We've since seen amazing progression from local Fathers, setting great examples, starting new businesses, farm production has increased, they take HIV awareness classes and adult literacy classes and they're more proactive in their children's education. The new group of young men emerging show great potential of being more active, and engaging family members.
We really can’t underplay the role of men in the community, particularly the example they set. When we look at Uganda being a country of children (48% aged 16 & under), we’re working with an influential and important generation that will bring the country out of poverty.
Having kids of your own, how do you handle the emotional side of what your work exposes you to?
It's really hard. I know what it takes to raise three children, but when I see a ten year old boy having to look after his little brother and sister - that's hard. His parents lost to HIV, lack of clean water, not knowing where the next meal will come from... That's a common story in Uganda and whilst it's tough to witness time and time again - it's also an incredible motivator. No child deserves to live like that.
You have taken your Kids to Mannya (Uganda) before- how do you think this has helped shape their worldview?
Honestly, I think they're too young to actually fathom it. But what I believe is that the experience will stay with them and help shape their personalities. Just seeing firsthand how other children live over there has given them knowledge and understanding that they never had. They also now know where Daddy goes when he has to leave home.
Tell us about the type of life you want to create for your family?
Live simply. Encourage adventure and follow your dreams
Where do you find inspiration?
My work is inspiring, on a daily basis - I get to work with and meet some amazing individuals. My wife is incredible, and my family really rounds out my life - I couldn't do my work without them.
What are your strongest memories of your own Father from when you were a kid?
He was hard but fair. Strong willed, incredible businessman, hard worker. Whilst he was busy, he was always there for me, and he showed me the importance of family. Times get tough, there'll be ups and downs, but work on it and stick together.
He's also the most generous person I've met.
Do you think he did a good job?
He did. It was a different era too, back then, bringing up four boys, it was so much different to today. He also really changed as he got older - showing more affection, emotion, and talking openly about the important things in life - that helped my growth as a young man.
As a Father, what do you see as your biggest challenge ahead?
Bringing up confident, self respecting and genuine young men. I think it's the same challenges as every parent - and it's a strange, shifting environment with worldly access now (internet and social media), the impact of drugs, expectations, and social politics for young people. It's a big challenge.
What is your Fatherhood philosophy?
I love to teach through experiences, interact with my kids through activity. Tell stories, create adventure and just try and have fun.
How do you want your kids to remember you?
That I truly love them.
What do you think is the most important role of Fathers in today’s world?
I can't nail one and I constantly work at these to be a better dad:
- Give them time and be involved
- Listen to them
- Praise them and show affection
- Be great to their mother
- They're always watching - set an example
Support the work of the Cotton On Foundation by purchasing any Foundation product in Cotton On Group stores or check out www.cottononfoundation.org
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