No more sleeps until Christmas and I'm so proud to welcome to our third inspiring couple featured to support you through this crazy fun time of festivities. It was an honour to interview this extremely busy and successful couple. They’ve founded their business on a passion and embellishing the incredible talent of a local artist and husband team whom we get to call our own. They are the ultimate High School sweethearts, meeting in Echuca. 17 years of marriage later and now locals, they now proudly own and operate Sunshine Coast Art and Imagination School.
Jess, describe your journey to success in the world of art?
Since I was young, I have always been a bit of a dabbler, a creative, fairly messy and was always making something. At 17 I began to find art soothing and helpful for stress relief and I got hooked. I drew more and more to express myself but it wasn’t till I was a mother at 23 I really got into to the practice of art making. I was home with my baby and needed an outlet. 6 years ago, I decided to start entering my work in awards and found myself being a finalist in the Archibald Prize. From there I became more involved in our national art awards and exhibitions. I began thinking of my work as art that mattered and tried to imagine myself as a ‘real’ artist. That feeling has never landed for me, but I'm lucky enough to now make art every day and sometime people even buy it, which is amazing!
Jess, what has been a career highlight?
Well obviously, the Archibald Prize is a highlight because I dreamed about it since I was a teenager, but I think my biggest career highlight is actually not my work finaling in awards like I thought would be. A career highlight for me is my art school becoming a hub for local artists, a space where beginner and emerging artists gather to make art. This year over 700 people attended the opening night of our annual student exhibition and seeing that impact on a community is what really floats my boat. I have always believed that art can enrich our human experience, both making it and viewing it, so having an art school where people are using art to bring beauty & hope, that's the real highlight for me.
Dylan, tell us about your role in the business.
I manage the Art School Co. and everything to do with Jess’ artwork. Our school currently has over 300 weekly students and we also have a retail art shop where the public can purchase art supplies. I manage the day-to-day of business operations.
Dylan, what are highs and lows of working together in your important contribution behind the scenes?
The highs that come to mind are that we get to work for ourselves and build a business that suits our lifestyle. We get to see each other every day and spend a fair bit of time with the kids. We surprisingly work really well together but like any 'successful' partnership, it has taken time and lots of work. We have an understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses and complement each other well. I would rather be behind the scenes and Jess has no issue with being in the spotlight! The lows that come to mind are that because we do so much business and family together, we sometimes take each other of granted, we get snappy and short with each other and often forget that we’re lovers. Coming back to that simple fact every day is a good practice.
How do you make it work as a team at home and in the business world?
Jess: There is no easy formula or answer and what may work for us might not work for others but being joyful in the seemingly mundane is a big help. If we can laugh together and practice gratitude, that is so good for the soul and sets you on a good path for your day. Knowing what fills each other’s love tank helps too. I know Dylan requires quality time and for me to just be with him without accomplishing anything!
Dylan: I know Jess requires words of encouragement or affirmation for her tank to be filled.
Do you follow a traditional style of partnership or equally share roles and responsibilities at home?
Dylan: We equally share roles and responsibilities at home and there is even more of a traditional role reversal, where I will spend more time at home with the kids than Jess on a week to week basis. This only changed five years ago and has been so good for our family as well as challenging for both of us.
With four children between the ages of 15 and 8 years old, what has been the most challenging aspect of juggling the work/life balance?
Dylan: It is challenging to come home from work and be truly present with the kids. I want to relax and check out, but I need to do the opposite with the kids, I know I need to engage and check-in.
Jess: I guess I didn’t realise how much I loved having a man provide for me whilst I played with the kids. I was always dreaming of being a painter. When it happened, and Dylan needed to give up his job to allow me to follow mine, I felt incredible pressure to succeed. To keep up and that responsibility is tough man!
Do you think Australian society engenders flexibility in the workplace for men as much as women to manage family alongside their working woman? Any other comments here?
Jess: I assume more Dad's would be at home with the kids if their egos didn’t have such an issue with the Mum earning more money than them or seeing raising kids as ‘the woman’s job’. I think as a society need to be more flexible in the workplace with regard to Dads staying home with the kids and Mums going back to work. Dads need to be supported if their choice is to be at home managing the house and kids while Mum works. It is not a ‘lesser’ role. In fact, what could be more important than raising incredible kids?
Do you both find time for self-compassion and if so, what do you do?
Jess: We know each other well enough to know when we need some self-care. We try and get away for a date each week, even if it’s just for coffee or a meal together at home. We also need time alone so we can recharge away from people - including each other and our kids!
Who do you rely on as a support network when things get tough?
Jess: We have surrounded ourselves with great people. Some are local, some are overseas. The best friendships are the ones where you can be totally yourself whilst at the same time, being totally accepted and loved for who you are. Friends that know the best parts of you and the worst parts of you and still choose to love you are a real gift.
In the lead up to Christmas, how do you manage the demands of this hectic season whilst trying to maintain a connected and attentive relationship?
Jess: Ah yes the silly season of dragging your kids through the plaza for hours looking for those perfect gifts! Having a larger family means we need to plan ahead, and stay on top of our schedule. During hectic seasons we still choose to prioritise each other. Our relationship is more important that our relationship with our kids. If we are healthy, we will be healthy parents. Scheduling time together helps, we find if we don’t plan or put it in the diary, it will get replaced with the busyness of life.
Any additional tips for our readers on this?
-Coffee & quality Gin!
-Staying Active: Whether that being gym, yoga, walking, getting amongst nature. Just start moving!
-Eating Well: We try to eat as much whole food as possible and limiting our intake of sugar. It’s amazing how much nutrition is a factor not only for our physical health but also our mental health.
-Self-Care: This includes meditation, better understanding our own personalities (the tool we use is the Enneagram but there are other modalities out there like Myers-Briggs or Disc etc).
-The Disney Channel!
-Getting the kids out in nature… Mt Ngungun or Mt Coolum are weekly practices + the beach!
-Laughter, as much as possible.
Check out more on Jess and her amazing art at https://jess.art/
My very best for a connected and relational joyous Christmas! Thank you to all who’ve loyally followed my contribution in this column and on radio Salt106.5.
This season can also be very tough for some, so be courageous to reach out to friends or family, call Lifeline and use my relationship tips and tools found at www.relationshiprejuvenator.com.
Joanne Wilson is a neuropsychotherapist, relationship specialist, workshop facilitator and guest speaker.
Congratulations on surviving the first week of December! Hold on tight as it’s usually a jam-packed month of frivolity, well-meaning friends and family keen to catch up all at once. You might be experiencing the accompanying stressful work pressures like no other time of the year?
Enjoy my second couple in this current series of admirable trail blazing couples on the Sunshine Coast featured to inspire us with how they manage to stay cohesive and most importantly, sane during the festive season.
This week features, the high-profile radio announcer, Caroline Hutchinson and her husband, John. Whilst she’s been rocking our air waves, John also worked in the industry and in his own business whilst raising a family. Read on to find out how they did it.
How did you meet and how long have you been married?
Caroline: We have been married 30 years. We met at radio school (AFTRS) in 1988. It was just after my dad died and I was immediately attracted to John’s gentle nature and kindness. He’s also really smart and did most of my assignments.
Caroline: Describe your journey to success in your current role as an announcer at MixFM?
I started out in TV (reporter), then moved into radio after I had my second child. I did an overnight show called Truck Radio and then got the offer to come to Mix FM!
Caroline: Are you content with where you're at in your career right now? Why or Why not?
I love it. I would sit with Mark and drink tea, talking rubbish and doing stuff for the community for free. I am just really lucky to get paid for it.
John: What are highs and lows of being the partner of a high profile wife in the community?
Caroline has made an art form of letting her listeners into her life every day. For me, and our kids, there are practically no secrets kept from the audience that she loves so much. The upside of that is that I can go to work and not have to explain my weekend DIY disasters; they’re generally well publicised before I get there. On a more serious note, Caroline openly discusses on-air issues that are important to both of us, and that can help start conversations in my circles that otherwise mightn’t be had.
John: Tell us about "Kook" and your role there.
Kook is what’s now known as a digital agency. We manage the various parts of where businesses need to be online, whether that’s your website, your social media, or your entire online marketing strategy. I’m one of three owners of Kook. We all work in the business, as part of a team of 17 people. My role gravitates mainly towards sales and marketing. Because web can be overwhelming, it’s our focus to actually talk to our customers, and I really love that interaction with our customers.
How do you make it work as a team at home and in the business world?
Caroline: We write a lot of emails during the day…John runs our life on Outlook …and we are both pretty keen on each other, so it’s generally drama free.
John: Give and take. When we had a house of young kids, we were actually thankful that I could get the day started, and Caroline could generally be home by the end of the school day. That trained us into juggling home and work pretty well, and as the kids grew up, that balancing act seemed to get easier. I know the radio business well, so understand Caroline’s work demands. The time she puts into work beyond just being on-air is a lot of what everyone, including me, loves her for. So between us we’ve just always made it happen.
Do you follow a more traditional style of partnership or equally share roles and responsibilities at home?
Caroline: We are incredibly traditional. I run the kitchen, the inside organisation and the social calendar. John runs the home maintenance and the money.
John: Caroline jokes about being a “50’s housewife” when it comes to managing money and technology. On the other hand, I don’t expect I’ll ever have to prepare a meal or organise a dinner party in my life. We arrived at a comfortable division of duties sort of organically. We’ve never checked on whether it’s an even split; if we were worried about that, we’d have a different issue.
What ages are your children and what stage has been the most challenging?
Caroline: Our kids are all grown up, 28, 24 and 22. They are really easy now obviously!! I think the toddler years are challenging, simply because they are unrelenting. You have a terrorist in your house who is capable of tearing the joint apart with no idea why they shouldn’t. Thank goodness they’re cute!! As they get older, the challenges are more psychological but I found that stage easier to navigate.
John: Gabe is 28 and just started his own law practice Clutch Legal. Milli is 25 shortly and is a media officer for RACQ LifeFlight, the rescue helicopters. Jemima will be 23 on Boxing Day. She’s working as a paramedic in the UK. The teens were the hardest part for me working out kids, although ours were far from “problem children”. I think it’s about that twilight zone in between childhood and adulthood; they’re not quite either, and there are simply some behaviours that comes with working it out.
Do you think Australian society allows flexibility in the workplace for men as much as women to manage family alongside their working woman?
Caroline: I have been really lucky to work for an extremely family friendly employer. I have always been able to have my kids at work (they were raised in the radio station) and because I work shift work I could be home in the afternoons, which was a blessing. I don’t know how parents who work 9-5 do it, to be honest. Rushing home for homework, cooking, washing, baths and bed without a moment to yourself, sounds a lot harder than my lot.
John: I think tradition has meant that blokes haven’t been afforded the same freedoms that women have when it comes to balancing work with parenting. But like so many “norms” that’s changing rapidly. I’d like to think Kook gives all our team the leeway when needed on these things, but we’re far from being radical in that area. The transition will be different for every business, but change is happening.
Do you find time for self-compassion and if so, what do you do?
Caroline: I wasn’t good at it when the kids were little, simply because I always felt too busy (I know other women do it, I just never managed it very well) But I have a lot more time now and do yoga at least three times a week and walk my dogs on the days I don’t namaste.
John: I’m OK at getting alone time away from the white noise that a hectic life can generate. Working in the yard is a good place to start for me. And while Caroline is better at exercising our dogs than I am, a long walk with the hounds puts me in a good headspace too. I have a theory that we’ve lost the important art of doing nothing.
Who do you rely on as a support network when things get tough?
Caroline: John has always been my go to person, along with my mum, whom I am really close to. But I am incredibly lucky. John and I have a group of friends that is like family and now our kids are adults I would say they are our support network too. Grown up kids are a beautiful thing.
John: Caroline is one of the greatest fans of Christmas. In some circles, she may be described as manic, but I remember to love what she loves about it; family being home, seeing friends, food, and general festivity! It’s a year-long process for her, and our relationship survives the seasonal stress because of her planning.
In the lead up to Christmas, how do you manage the demands of this hectic season whilst maintaining a connected and attentive relationship?
Caroline: John runs Outlook like a boss. We make a rule to go to things together (which is probably tougher on John because he gets dragged to my things when he could be home watching TV!) But we love the silly season. It’s a great reason to get together with people you don’t see often and toast the year.
John: Ultimately, I rely on Caroline. I now have kids who can reason out things as well as any of my adult friends. I also have a couple of very close mates whose ear I can bend.
My takeaways? Traditional family values shine through again, attend more functions together than apart and appreciate each other's passions.
Joanne Wilson is a neuropsychotherapist, relationship specialist, workshop facilitator, guest speaker and weekly columnist for the Sunshine Coast Daily. Don’t miss more on this in her “Is This Love” Podcast and download your FREE Spouse It Up Guide at www.relationshiprejuvenator.com
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Relationship Specialist for Individuals and Couples servicing areas including Caloundra, Noosa, Noosaville, Buderim, Mountain Creek, Gympie.