Fern & Rose meets:

“I’m really privileged that I’ve been able to be home for so much”

Fern & Rose meets: Hayden Hockly

Ambrose Hockly looks at the giraffes at Wellington Zoo. Photo: Hayden Hockly.

Since leaving music school a decade ago, musician and photographer Hayden Hockly has worked a flexible week – which came in pretty handy when his son Ambrose was born. He talks about working from home, launching his photography business and fitting work around parenting and family life.

Fern & Rose (F&R): Hello Hayden! Tell me about your son Ambrose and becoming a parent.

Hayden Hockly (HH): Ambrose is so much fun. He’s just over two now and we’re in the stage where he’s loud and constantly babbling words. Being a parent is relentless; lots of fun but also lots of challenges, not least of all because they keep on changing. Just as you’ve figured out the phase they’re in, they move on to the next one. Ambrose has been obsessed with his toy animals for quite a while now. We ask him “what are you going to do today Ambrose?” The answer: “animals”.

My wife Emily and I were planning to have children and it didn’t take long at all so we were really fortunate. It was pretty much a trouble-free pregnancy; a few aches and pains, a bit of nausea in the first trimester – I did all the cooking and everything had too much flavour!

I went really reluctantly to our first antenatal class, but it turned out be a great bunch of people and so much good, helpful information. I took notes like crazy. At Birthwise, they have a ‘natural is best’ starting point, but made it clear that if intervention is needed then that’s what you do. And that’s what we needed.

Ambrose’s head was ‘too big’ so, in the end, we had an attempted ventouse and then an emergency c-section. It was pretty stressful – but we ended up with a healthy, happy baby and a healthy mumma. It’s amazing how all these wonderful, kind and skilled people seem to materialise just when you need them. We’re so grateful for the care we received at Wellington Hospital.

F&R: What does your workweek look like?

HH: I am really lucky to have some regular music work – in the Air Force Band and also as the music coordinator at St Michael’s Church in Kelburn, Wellington. I used to do a lot more teaching privately and at schools but I’ve been happy to drop that to make room for the photography.

My workweek is spread out. I work at home in the mornings when Ambrose is at Playspace in Newtown and then Sunday mornings at church, Air Force Band rehearsals on Thursday nights and sometimes other rehearsals in the week. So it’s not 9 to 5 at all; more like 9 to 1, then 2 or 2.30 to 4 and then evenings. I like that variety; it means I can fit my work around parenting and family duties.

I don’t tend to call myself a homemaker as I’m still working, but I guess I probably do fit that description as I do a lot of the cooking, cleaning and folding washing. I definitely pick up a bit more of the responsibilities than I could if I was working 9 to 5.

My wife, Emily, is a lawyer at Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children. She went back to work part time at her old job at the Ministry for the Environment. They were really supportive. She’s full time at her new job and has been there about five months.

She’s the breadwinner; she always has been. She’s a lawyer, I’m a musician and a photographer – so she’s got the greater earning power. And Emily’s really loves her work. We’re happy with the balance we have, fitting work around parenting and homemaking.

I’ve really appreciated the flexibility to find our own balance as a family. And that flexibility is key. I had time to give if I needed to, and gave up certain things. I did fewer gigs, but it didn’t have a huge impact on my income because so much of that is rehearsing for the gig, promotion and marketing, hustling for gigs – and all of that is pro bono work. I also dropped my school day of commuting to Kapiti to teach out there. It was quite surprising how little my income changed! Emily was like, ‘what were you doing?’!

I was managing a couple of my own bands and I just didn’t have the energy for it – and kind of wanted a break anyway. I’m ten years out of music school and I’ve been teaching and gigging for that time, so I was ready for something else, but I didn’t know what until late last year.

F&R: What did the new creative project turn out to be?

HH: We went to Nelson to catch up with friends and family. I’ve got an old high school friend there, Tim Williams, who’s a really great photographer. It just kind of occurred to me the week before we went to Nelson that I could do photography. It’s something I’m already good at and I wouldn’t need to re-train.

I hadn’t really taken photos for a couple of years until Ambrose was born and then the bug kind of bit again! Catching up with Tim was really encouraging. I had rustled together a bit of a portfolio and said “what do you reckon?”

We chatted about how he got into it, how he got a break as a wedding photographer, about his workflow, gear… we talked about everything. His encouragement really kickstarted things. I needed someone to say, “you can do it!” I spent the next couple of months tidying up my portfolio and putting together a website.

I launched Hayden Hockly Photography late last year.

F&R: What’s your style of photography?

HH: I really enjoy different kinds of photography but the photos that really grab me and seem to mean the most to me have people in them. So it’s a mix of portraits, street or candid photos, and I love a good landscape too. Needless to say, I have taken thousands of photos of Ambrose since he was born.

It’s hard to choose a favourite photo, but I love the candid stuff. There’s one image of Ambrose at the zoo gazing at the huge giraffe, holding his little toy giraffe, Jeeba, in his hand. For a while Jeeba went with him everywhere. It reminds me about the stage where Ambrose loves his toy animals.

Another photo I love is from my brother’s wedding; they’ve just cut the cake and he got cake on his elbow and they’re having a great laugh. It looks so timeless in black and white, too.

F&R: What advice would you give me and other parents who are slightly behind you guys on the journey?

HH: That’s hard because there are so many things. I guess ‘find your balance’. And lower your expectations about how productive you’ll be.

It’s really easy when you are so exhausted to not connect and communicate properly with each other as a couple, so you need to make a priority of getting quality time together. Heck, even some loving occasionally is a good idea!

But, they grow up so fast. They really do. So do whatever you can to not miss that. Whether that means working less if you can, or just planning to do more stuff together as a family than you normally would. I’m really privileged that I’ve been able to be home for so much. There are lots of beautiful moments that I’m thrilled I didn’t miss.

Take a look at Hayden’s work at Hayden Hockly Photography. Hayden’s also part of the Air Force Band, who I have seen and they are awesome! Check them out here for concerts and tour dates.



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