“By the time the twins arrived, we were battle-hardened!”

In Australia, the average number of children per family is just 1.7^. So when you meet a couple with five children aged ten and under, it’s perhaps not unusual to feel a sense of awe and intrigue at their achievement.

Marketing executive Peter Hionis and his wife have just welcomed two more babies into their brood. With no extended family support nearby, how do they manage career and home life? Peter shares his insights with Circle In.

Can you tell us a bit about your career and your current role?
I’ve worked in professional services in various marketing roles in both Australia and the UK for almost 15 years. In my current role, I am the Head of Marketing for Consulting at PwC Australia.

Your wife recently gave birth to twins. Congratulations! How many children in your family now?
We had our twin girls in June this year, they are now just over two months old. I also have a 10-year-old girl and eight- and six-year-old boys. That makes it five children in total… gulp!

With a large family, how do you manage the work/family juggle?
My wife and I take it a day at a time, with some enthusiastic (yet not always helpful) assistance from our older kids. There is no other help in the form of a nanny or grandparents, in-laws, family etc. Outsourcing cleaning and mowing would be nice—I hope to make this happen soon. 

My wife and I are both born and bred in Sydney, however took the opportunity to move to Brisbane almost three years ago. It was a bit of a seachange, more relaxed lifestyle and a city that is much more affordable for a larger and growing family. The move also allowed us to entertain the notion of having a fourth child… we got two for the price of one! I am lucky to have great flexibility with my job which allows us to ‘make it work’, however ‘the juggle’ is often comical at times! 

What are your top tips for other parents managing the juggle?
My advice would be to lower your expectations around a number of things i.e. having display-home neatness in your house or being able to go out as a family swiftly and at the last moment. Getting the kids to do chores and basic jobs like packing their lunch and/or school bags also helps. 

I am very focused and selective in what I do and don’t commit to outside of family life. From a work perspective, everything I do must be purposeful, effective and aligned to achieving a commercial outcome. 

The pure logistics of getting three kids to school, whilst nursing twin babies and also doing what is quite a demanding job well, demands a high level of organisation, patience and an attitude where you don’t sweat the small stuff. 

Raising children is a long-term play that can give a parent the highest of highs but can also be a grind when you are tired, sleep-deprived and can’t see an end to cleaning up after them. It gets easier though, and for me, is the most fulfilling part of my life.  

Have you found your approach to parenting has changed over time, or with each child?
We have become a lot more relaxed about everything. You live and you learn and, having had the experience of three children under four-and-a-half years old with only ourselves to rely on, my wife and I became a very good team. We went through the stress and anxiety of kids getting sick, trips to the emergency department of the local hospital and all of the teething pains associated with growing babies. By the time the twins arrived, we were battle-hardened and equipped for the challenge! If we had had twins first, it would have been a tough initiation to parenthood… it is another level of care.

How do you handle tough days in the office?
When you have five young kids, including two-month-old twins, the office is like a day spa! I love my job and appreciate the flexibility that my employer offers. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t have many tough days at the office… it is just business.

What has been your general experience as a working dad?
I don’t remember not being a working dad, must be all the sleep deprivation! My life before kids was very different. It feels like it was a thousand years ago. 

I feel like I constantly have to return the favour to my employer for giving me flexibility—hence I tend to work a bit too hard. I definitely feel like I own the role but there is also a level of judgement you get about being a father of a large family… a lot of thoughtless comments and pre-judgement of your ability to handle the juggle. I enjoy proving the doubters wrong. 

What is your approach to health and wellbeing?
This is an area of development for me. Time for me is very rare at this stage of life. I enjoy getting up early and going for an 8km walk (via the local coffee shop on the home straight) but more recently I’m only making it as far as the front room of the house at 5am to help feed one of the twins. 

I try to include some active time for me in my kids’ schedule of activities. For example I coach my daughter’s under 10s soccer team. This gives me some opportunities to be active at training sessions and before games.

Favourite time of the day is…first thing in the morning

I’m happiest when…I am doing something fun with my kids

I’m addicted to…coffee

Working parents are…going through their own very different journeys. The experience and cards you’re dealt vary significantly. Just do your best and try to enjoy it!

Source: ^Australian Institute of Family Studies

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