In a quiet street in central Hamilton live a busy family who make the most of every 24 hours. The day we travelled south to visit them, the rain was so heavy that flooding was rising disconcertingly close to the Waikato expressway. Yet eldest son Asher was stoically donning his rugby kit and heading out to training with mum Anna. Anna swapped her shoes for gumboots before heading off, a wise and practical decision – which neatly reflects the family’s attitude to life in general, come to think of it.
Ipu and Anna Hapi have known each other since they were kids, as they were family friends and went to college together. Family support has been key to this couple from the beginning, in fact. “Ipu is my brother’s very good friend so we hung out a bit and started dating while I was at university, then got married several months later” remembers Anna. The couple now have two sons – seven-year-old Asher and four-year-old Isaac.
A typical weekday includes both parents working, school for Asher and daycare for Isaac. Ipu is a plant manager for Fonterra at their Waitoa site and Anna is an injury prevention and management consultant at ACC.
Weekends mean sport. “Our son Asher plays rugby so you will find us down at the field supporting him” says Anna. “We also spend our weekends visiting family, going to the park, hunting for Pokemon and doing jobs around the house together.”
The Waikato lifestyle suits the Hapi family perfectly. Anna’s office is just five minutes away and Hamilton's 10 minutes of ‘peak’ traffic is easily avoided. Ipu’s work is a 40-minute scenic country drive away. The sports stadium, a frequent haunt for this team, is just down the road from their house. Raglan surf is an easy weekend day trip, as are Mount Maunganui, Rotorua and Auckland. Anna’s brothers live nearby which means Isaac and Asher have close relationships with their cousins.
Ipu has also made good use of Waikato University, spending the last two and a half years studying towards a Master of Business Administration. Taking on further study meant night classes were fitted in around full-time work and family commitments. Ipu humbly waves off his MBA achievement, but Anna is quick to point out he gained this notable qualification with distinction and top marks.
Living in Hamilton also means Anna and Ipu can work in their chosen careers, and still be close enough to their parents, both sets of whom live rurally in the Gisborne area. “My parents are all about the grandkids now" says Anna. "They will drop everything to help us.” And Ipu’s parents live on the family farm where Ipu grew up, in Nuhaka – a small settlement between Wairoa and Gisborne. Asher and Isaac spend a lot of the school holidays with both sets of grandparents.
“We both grew up on farms and didn’t have iPads and technology like kids do today, so our childhoods were full of good happy memories where we spent most of our time outside. We’d be riding motorbikes, driving tractors, helping with the animals, building huts and working on the farm. We’d hang out with the kids who lived nearby, playing games like bullrush and climbing trees”, Anna reminisces. “While we live in the city now, both our parents still live on farms so we’re lucky that our boys can still have the same experiences we did”.
Town and country
Ipu’s role at Fonterra sees him managing ‘Dryer 3’, the infant formula division. Ipu oversees 76 people, from manufacturing staff to the specialised formulation team. Together they process 1.2 million litres of milk per day. Ipu loves his work, especially the human connection the role requires. “Our products are considered ‘susceptible population' products, which is a technical way of saying they are made for customers who can’t complain or provide any feedback – babies! Therefore it is our responsibility to be extra careful about processing” says Ipu. The entire team on Dryer 3 take their job very seriously. As you enter the plant, the wall in the entranceway features framed photos of young kids – the children and grandchildren of Dryer 3 staff. A plaque introduces them as ‘Dryer 3’s newest customers’. “There is a strong connection here between babies, families and the future. This impacts on how we run the business. We make products as if we are feeding our own children and this sentiment drives the behaviour we need in the plant. Everyone has to care, not just the manager – everyone takes responsibility” says Ipu.
Ipu’s role involves connection with farmers and customers too. With an engineering background and the recent addition of an MBA to his CV, Ipu’s approachable, genuine and warm personality makes him a great brand ambassador. “I was on the Anmum stand at the Fieldays chatting with farmers. They were really excited to talk about the product. I end up at the baby shows too — parents like to ask the tough questions about manufacturing, and I’m happy to connect with them on that level” says Ipu.
Anna’s work in injury prevention for ACC involves her auditing employers' health and safety systems. We were curious as to how that translates to life at home with two boisterous boys! Anna laughs, “I do drum on to my Dad about safety on the farm. I’m always saying things like ‘Do you realise the claims we’ve had relating to that?’. I’ve actually noticed his behaviour shift with relation to safety – I’ve seen ‘little wins’!”. Anna tactfully navigates around the difference between mums and dads when it comes to safety. “Mothers are always scanning, I think, while in general, dads are a bit different and let stuff slide more. But then I also think it is about learning. Scissors at daycare used to freak me out but then I realised that the children were actually learning how to use them safely. With supervision, kids learn. I have to step back and let the boys figure it out.”
There is some travel involved in Anna’s job, but she can generally finish in time to pick up the boys from school (or after- school care) and daycare each day. “Life is different from when we grew up, with Mum always at home. Now the domestic roles are shared as so many mums go out to work as well – we’ve had to figure out a good balance.” And life has to be organised! Obviously there are the standard meals, lunchbox prep, housework and homework to factor in, but Anna also finds the energy to be at the gym at 4.30am every day. Then she swaps with Ipu who does his gym session for an hour from 5.30am. If, like us, you feel tired just reading that, Anna insists that it works well for them. “We’ve planned our days like this so we get to spend more time together. Evenings are our family time where we might play a game with the boys or go get a treat. We also set aside Monday evenings to do family stuff together and plan out the week ahead."
Juggle and balance
So what is the secret to harmonious and successful Hapi days? A calendar. “We have a calendar on the fridge that schedules everything for the month — after-school tuition, rugby practice, school activities, when Mum is out of town or Dad has evening meetings etc. The calendar is great and that helps keep the family on track and up to date with what’s going on” says Anna. “I also do a lot of preparation in the evening so that makes the mornings easier. And I plan the meals for the week at the weekend, so I don’t get caught out having to buy takeaways.”
Anna and Ipu clearly are organised, but their determination to make the most of what they have is also evident. Their busy lifestyle is a challenge, Anna admits, but this just adds to their pragmatism. “We’re kind of like the modern family where both parents work full-time, so as a husband and wife, we make our family unit the priority. It can be difficult, especially if I have to go away for work. Ipu and I like to ‘divide and conquer’ as a team — we communicate the needs of the family and then get on and do it.”
Both Anna and Ipu come from Maori families who have worked the land in horticulture and farming for generations. While the more rural lifestyle appeals, the couple admit that it is harder to find jobs in their hometowns, and the bigger centres tend to provide more opportunities for their children. “It is important for us to be settled for the boys. We haven’t moved around. Isaac starts school next year, so we’ve been trying to prepare him well. He’s semi-interested in ABCs, but has a pretty short attention span unless it’s aimed at sports or tractors” says Anna.
Parenting sons is not 'one size fits all', say Anna and Ipu. Asher is sensitive and needs a different approach. Younger brother Isaac is the more independent and strong-minded son.
Ipu and Anna both agree that what matters most is quite simple — “that our boys are happy, safe and loved”. Anna adds “I think for us as a couple, it’s all about leading by example. If you want your child to be kind, honest and caring, then you need to demonstrate those behaviours yourself”.
Communication is notably important too. “We’ve seen the benefit of spending time talking together — when the kids have done something wrong, for example, but also when they do something good” says Anna.
And their advice to other families?"Prioritise what is important to you, your partner and your kids. Make yourself a priority and have some ‘me’ time" says Anna, who gives the humble calendar another endorsement at this point too. “Get a schedule in place as this will help with organisation in the home. And remember to laugh! Laughter and making it fun definitely help too."
You've got this!
"One of the more challenging issues I've faced as a mum was probably letting go of the guilt. I went back to work six months after giving birth to my first son and worked part time for six months before returning to full-time hours. With my second son, I took a year off before working back up to full-time hours. There definitely were moments of guilt when I was working. I would feel that I needed to be at home with my kids, and that I needed to be teaching them — not the daycare staff. But our boys would come home saying how much they loved it. I know they have actually really thrived at daycare. They had great teachers - including some male teachers who have been amazing role models. If it didn’t suit our boys, they wouldn’t have gone to daycare. I've realised that no one solution fits all, you figure out what suits your family."
Photography: Sam Mothersole, sammothersole.com