To celebrate Father's Day, we sat down with Dan, a man with many roles, namely NMJ Director, Natalie's husband and of course, father to their daughter Willa. We wanted to know more about his favourite moments as a father and how he and Natalie work together to run their business with Willa by their side...
Can you tell us a bit about Willa?
Willa is a very bright, sensitive, kind and very funny little pickle.
Her favourite things are dinosaurs and strawberries, she is careful and particular but with a big side of silly. She loves to dance anywhere and everywhere she can. She loves to talk about her day and tell you if she bumped her head and that she is ok. She asks to hold hands when she’s scared and when we get home, she puts her little hands on our cheeks and asks if we had ‘goo days?’. When you come home from work she will run as fast as she can right into your arms for the biggest hug. She insists on making us leave the room when she uses the potty and finds it hilarious when she farts, she will tell you she just ‘fluffed’. She has a wicked sense of humour and a dirty, dirty laugh, which I hope she never loses. She adores her mum and calls for her most of the time, but I do love it when she calls for me.
Has anything surprised you since becoming a Dad?
I think what has surprised me the most is how much more I have fallen in love with Natalie and how much more I respect her. Being a dad is one thing but being a mother is something to be admired. I always knew Natalie would be an amazing mother but her dedication to educating us both on how to be mindful parents, raising a healthy and happy child while juggling the demands of the rollercoaster ride that is our business, and the willpower to put Willa first despite how exhausted, unwell and overwhelmed she may be. She is truly a brilliant mother, but I guess I am actually not surprised by that, just in awe of it.
Who does Willa most remind you of at the moment, Natalie or yourself?
Mostly Natalie. She has all the most beautiful aspects and mannerisms of Natalie and all my cheekiness.
What morals and values do you wish to install in Willa?
Oh so many… but mostly, to be patient, humble and kind.
How has fatherhood changed you?
In every possible way, while at the same time not really. My perspective on things has changed the most. I feel like I’ve slowed down a lot to be present with not just Willa and Natalie, but with others too. While I also feel so much more energised and hungry for business growth because of her.
Willa is a very sensitive girl and so aware of our behaviour and energy. You quickly realise that she is picking up on everything we do and how we interact with each other as well, so it’s mostly changed me from being a very selfish person and not realising my actions and behaviour to becoming hyper aware of them. She has made me want to be a better person to set an example.
How do you and Nat work together to run your business with Willa by your side?
We are figuring that out every day. There is no handbook on handling that juggle but each day we take it as it comes. You are forced to learn patience when you have a child. Or realise how little you had before you had a child. We have learnt and continue to learn every day how to be flexible and adapt to what she is going through to be present and understanding and not dismissive because it doesn’t fit in with our schedule. Communication with each other is so important. Natalie and I are often like ships passing in the night so when we get time together, we have realised how important it is to be present and navigate our time so that when we are with Willa we are conscious with her and not thinking and dealing with work issues. However, a few times we have been bathing Will all together, discussing work, staff members, supplier issues, cash flow and finances, marketing strategy and logistics of supply chain, all while little Will is telling us about her day and demanding our attention. So we try out best to stop, focus on her, until she is down for the night and then pick the conversation back up and then we find its midnight. To be truthful, owning and running a business of any size is not for everyone. It requires relentless dedication and more energy than you knew you had. And having a child is about a trillion times harder. But for both Natalie and I, we wouldn’t change a single thing. Our little girl, our business and our team are our world.
To you, what is the most rewarding part of being a Dad?
Every day is a gift. Even if it's a bad day and she is not a happy camper, it’s still so rewarding to see her grow and learn. I think the biggest reward is that you relinquish the selfish life you led for so many years and realise that life is so much more rewarding when you give everything you can to the family that you have created. I feel like I have become a better version of myself because of her. Watching her grow and develop her own little character while becoming a mini version of both Natalie and I is incredible. Until you are a parent it’s hard to comprehend that every moment with her is rewarding.
What are your biggest hopes and dreams for Willa as she grows up?
Simply, that she is happy with whatever path she chooses in life. I hope she has a strong sense of her own character and belief in herself to do whatever she puts her mind to. I hope in time, that when she does find love, her partner holds her up as high as her father does and continues to comfort, encourage and inspire her in the same way as I’ll try to everyday.
All my hopes and dreams for my little girl would never fit on a blog post…
Is there anything you wish someone had told you about being a father before Willa was born?
I wish… but unfortunately there are no words to prepare you for being a parent. We had a lot of brilliant advice from friends and family in the lead up to Willa being born. But the truth is, every child is different and what worked for one, may not work for another. And more importantly, words really can’t express how much your world changes once you create a living, breathing little human.
Can you tell us one of your favourite memories of being a kid with your Dad?
One of my favourite memories is from when I was about 10 or 11 years old. I was playing basketball for our local team and we didn’t have a coach. Dad had no training, nor did he properly know the sport and rules. But he stepped in. I remember during a timeout we were down by a few points and it was getting close to the final minutes. Dad called us over and didn’t tell us a play, or how to win. He simply told us, ‘We need to WANT the ball’. In the moment we all looked super confused and I was most likely embarrassed by his coaching style. But it worked, we weren’t focused on winning, we were focused on getting the ball first and then getting to the basket.
I always think of that and I feel it’s played a strong part in my life as I’ve grown. You need to really WANT the ball in life, not to win at life. Don’t look at the mountain ahead of your decisions and goals but focus on the first steps. The first steps are what get you going to climbing the mountain.