For this ColorCote Tradie Profile, plumber Sam Antunovich shares his advice on juggling work, family, and adventure.

Trying to get these words down on paper has been no easy feat. One minute you’re flat out working, scrambling to make it home for dinner, then the next you’re having a quiet spell where you sit down at home to knock out some paperwork only to have a toddler burst into the room, precipitating from the eyes and nose, stark naked and covered head to toe in felt tip pen… all while the better part of the house lies in chaos and ruin.

The tradie life often means work, clients, relationships, and young ones are eagerly craving your attention at once. There’s a lot to do and many people to please. Looking back to 2018, life was a little less complicated. I was working hard as a newly self-employed plumber gas fitter yet still finding the time and energy for adventure and travel. Trips away hiking, climbing, snowboarding, sleeping in the van, and cooking on the roadside were common. Having also bought my first home, I was often outdoors landscaping and tree felling into the darkness many nights after work.

At the same time, overseas travel had never been so cheap. With no one depending on me, trips to Queensland fishing for barramundi and mud crabs on the Proserpine River, snorkelling off the coast of Belize, and riding airboats through the Bayous of southern Louisiana were all possible.

However, later that year when my partner Mia and I discovered we were expecting our first child, I soon realised our circumstances were to change. Now when you start your time as a plumber you will almost certainly meet an older man, usually a builder, who considers himself a bit of a comedian. He’ll take one look at the young buck standing before him and proclaim, “You know there are only two things you need to know to be a plumber… shit doesn’t go uphill, and payday’s Thursday!”

Years later, when this same joker gets wind of you having a child or getting married he’ll straighten up on his upturned paint bucket at smoko, pour his milk into his cup of tea, and blurt out, “Oh well, you can’t have fun all your life.”

Fast forward five years and I can certainly see what the wannabe Ricky Gervais was alluding to. Yet the fun doesn’t have to come to a grinding halt. Still working hard with the business, now employing others to spread the load, training an apprentice, and recently celebrating the first birthday of our third child, it’s fair to say there’s been a bit going on. Mia and I have, however, been pragmatic in our approach to raising the kids with fun and adventure in mind. So how do you quench your thirst for adventure while keeping the wheels of business turning and doing the best for your young family?

You start looking at the world through the eyes of your pint-sized companions and let their imaginations be the blueprint for your next mission. Our two oldest boys, approaching three and five years old this winter, are all gas and no brakes. This means they need a mountain to climb as much as I do, and there’s plenty of them around. Keep it simple, prioritise what’s important, delegate within the business, and ensure you’re getting that much-needed quality time with your kids. With travel being restricted over the last few years and young ones to cater for there’s never been a better time to explore your backyard. We “climb” the Auckland volcanic cones, spelunk the caves of the West Coast beaches, and explore the islands of the Hauraki Gulf. We hunt for pheasant and duck eggs and comb the beaches and rock pools for crabs and sea glass.

We’ve had some great trips throughout the country, soaking in hot springs, hiking to lesser-known beaches, and searching for everything from glow worms in the Waikato and mighty sea lions on the Otago Peninsula. Last year we got away on our first trip overseas as a family of five to Vanuatu. The difference in flora and fauna was greeted with amazement by the kids. We climbed coconut trees to harvest our own and drink the fresh water, learned about coconut crabs and giant starfish, and spoke to friendly locals learning some of the native Bislama.

It’s these good times that make all the hard work well worth it. Whether they’re picking blackberries, chopping firewood, or running errands with Dad, it’s a good time in the making. As long as you’re prepared with snacks, drink bottles, and appropriate changes of clothes, you can make it work. The worst-case scenario is when the pressure’s on with work – however, you can take your kids on the odd job with you which gives them an appreciation of what it is you’re up to when you’re not around and it’s amazing how quickly they start learning. I was given a book on raising kids when our first was due and it stated that kids spell ‘love’ like this: T – I – M – E.

So, with that in mind, if you can allow yourself the time to engage with your kids and create the adventure then you’re halfway to becoming a good parent already – that’s a thrilling ride in itself.