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4 Waiheke Weekender
comment Mark Turner has heard quite often, although not yet on
Waiheke, where a few fathers are usually to be found amongst the
multitude of mothers and nanas.
“Everyone just naturally assumes that mum’s doing it all,” he
The father of two and a half year old Isla and seven-month-old
Holly is with Isla today for the first time at the Waiheke Playgroup
at old Blackpool School.
Isla is happily pottering about on a little car in the playground
and the heat of the spring sun has encouraged lots of parents and
There is an atmosphere of busy engagement from the children,
who are scattered between swings and sandpits, art tables and dress
And meanwhile the parents are able to do that blissful thing,
talk to other adults, while their children are gainfully – and safely
Recently arrived back in New Zealand after two years at home in
the UK – “where we had our two children” – Mark and his partner
Sarah’s worldly possessions are still quarantined and jet lag is just
starting to wear off.
The couple are sharing the care of their children between them,
with Sarah currently at home trying to catch up on a bit of sleep.
“Life changes a lot when you are averaging about three hours a
night,” he says, “and last night, I think I got the lion’s share of the
We talk about life before and after children.
“You can go to work and switch off while you get on with things
but as a parent at home, you can’t take a day off, it’s vastly differ-
“When you look back, you had so
much time before children. And while I
wouldn’t ever change anything, I think
it’s probably better not to know before-
hand how much sleep you’re not going
to get,” he laughs.
Working in property renovation and
landscaping, with his partner looking for
work as a primary school teacher, they
are both in the transition phase while
their lives settle down.
Meanwhile, Mark hopes to get involved with whatever is going
on for children on the island.
“I want to get out and be part of these things for Isla’s sake, she is
so curious and into everything; she loves drawing.”
And it would be nice, I imagine, not to feel like the odd one out?
“Yes, I think it would be easier if it was considered as normal
for fathers to be looking after their children as mothers. It would
definitely be easier for us when we are in these [playgroup] sorts of
London, the couple decided, was not the place they wanted to
bring up their children.
“We were looking for a small enough place with lots of commu-
nity involvement; and it’s so beautiful here.”
So it seems like Waiheke might fit the bill; there’s occasionally
even some surf that, while not challenging, would be better than
none at all.
“Onetangi doesn’t have the kind of waves you get at Piha,” Mark
admits, “but it’s definitely warmer than
surfing in Cornwall and I’ve got a few
good waves at Palm Beach before.”
Another Waiheke Playgroup regular
and British ex-pat is Lee Catlin, father
to four-year-old Charlie, and two-year-
old Bayla, who is happily finding every
puddle left over from last night’s rain
and splashing into it.
Having lived in New Zealand since
2003, their move to Waiheke has been
happening in stages, prompted by
the birth of Bayla and their house in
Onehunga being too small for a family
of four and a large Dalmation cross
Up to that point, Lee had shared the
parenting of both children pretty much
“We knew we didn’t both want to
commute to town if we came to live on
Waiheke –we’d been here on weekend trips and liked it – so when
my partner Emma got a promotion in her advertising agency we
decided that it would make sense for me to take care of Charlie and
Bayla (and Ringo the dog) while she commuted.”
He says Emma really looks forward to her regular Friday off with
the children as well as the weekends.
“I think it’s worked out well because Emma adores the chil-
dren but she wasn’t sure she wanted to be a full time mother.
“You can go to
work and switch
off, but as a
parent at home,
you can’t take a
day off, it’s vast-
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