Kōrero with Kaiora: Sometimes, finding mahi-life balance means relaxing the rules

Kaiora Tipene hugging son Mikae

Sometimes, finding a balance between mahi and whānau demands unconventional compromises and a bending of norms.

I thought I was going to have some time with the kids over Christmas and New Year but it didn’t happen. So we’re doing something a bit sneaky because we didn’t have a decent holiday in January – we’re all taking the first week of the new school year off.

We did go on our holiday at Christmas but three days in we were called by our embalmer, who was struggling. She had eight bodies to embalm and she wasn’t going to be able to deliver them to the families in time. Our other embalmer was on leave, so Francis said, “Book me on the flight back right now.” We were all moaning and groaning and then I realised that we own that business and we both can’t be here while we know there’s work up there. So we all packed up and headed home.

The kids were so grumpy. Mihaka kept saying, “You’re so kino [bad],” which was just ugly. “You’ve killed my buzz,” he said.

All of our staff worked Christmas and New Year, which turned out to be our busiest holiday period ever, and then a lot of them took their holidays in late January. So Francis and I have carried on working until they all come back, which happens to be the first week of school.

I said to Francis, “We’ve got to take these kids away at some point.” Moronai starts college this year, so there is an interview that needs to happen. Mikae and Mihaka just need stationery, which is always complicated.

I was thinking that surely Warehouse Stationery had a box already prepared for parents for your kids’ school, so you could just pick your box up and go, but no.

All four boys need new uniforms because somehow they’ve grown two sizes since Christmas and can’t fit their shorts. I’ve tried passing some shorts down to Mikae but he can tell they’re not new: “Mum, they’re a different colour.” Mikae is seven and very particular about how he dresses, right down to the correct way to tie his shoelaces – they have to be a certain way or his day is ruined, and his hair has to be just so. He gets that from his father.

So we’re heading to Hawke’s Bay and we’ll probably get in trouble with the schools. We always get texts when one of the kids doesn’t go to school, which is fine, but I often feel like the school is my boss when I get those texts. I feel like we’re breaking the law but then I remember: hold on, this is my son and I can do what I want with him!

Last year, all five boys went to five different schools, which made our morning drop-offs full on. But this year we have two at the same college, two at the same primary and little Francis Jnr at daycare.

He used to love daycare but now he’s had some time at home with us, he’s not happy about it and I have to do that working mum thing and remember I have mahi to do and just walk away. Francis will never drop baby Francis at daycare, because he can’t handle it. If I’m not there he makes our eldest, Nikora, do it. Otherwise baby Francis will be taken back in the van and spend the day at work with us.

He taonga te mokopuna, kia whāngaia, kia tipu, kia rea – A child is a treasure, to be nurtured, to grow, to flourish.

Kaiora Tipene works with her husband, Francis, as a funeral director. Their humour and knowledge of tikanga is featured in their Netflix show, The Casketeers.

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