Just a helpful reminder: Father’s Day is Sunday, 16 June
We agree! Dad hugs and dad jokes deserve an appreciation day of their own, so we were pretty excited to catch up with Fergus Macdonald, the co-founder and co-parent behind TBCo. in celebration of Father’s Day. We asked him about the chaos and joy of growing both a business and a family. And not just any family. We’re talking “3 under 3”, with a pair of one year old twin daughters, Mara and Amabel (unavailable to comment as they haven’t started speaking yet), and a two year old daughter, Aila (who has claimed her role as the TBCo. office sweetheart). Accompanied on the everyday adventure by fellow co-founder and wife, Emma, he shed some light on the good, the bad and the funny that make up the daily family life of the Macdonald clan.
What was your response when you found out you and Emma would be having twins?
Holy crap! We’ll need a new buggy, we’ll need another cot, we’ll need another car seat, we’ll need another car, we’ll need another bedroom, we’ll need another house!
A few moments after that had passed I felt incredibly lucky and blessed that we’d get to have twins. I think twins are really special - they’re the closest any siblings can be and so to have them in our family is really lucky.
And when that moment passed, oh my god, this is going to be so hard! My supportive brothers all took turns in laughing about how when one would stop crying, the other would start.
What’s been the most challenging thing about being a father? The most rewarding?
The most challenging thing for me is meeting my own expectations of what type of father I want to be. I’ve always imagined having kids and being a great father and so when I fall short of my own expectations I find that really hard. I’ve been working on that and realise that I’m not going to be perfect, but I still struggle with it. The lack of sleep isn’t easy either, nor the sheer logistics of 3 under 3.
The most rewarding is that one of my main jobs is to make my girls laugh and every time I get a giggle, I love it!
What’s the biggest thing you hope your girls will learn from you?
I think our main job as a parent is to teach our kids about the world. Rather than thinking about how to get my kids to ‘behave’, I try and think about how I can teach them about a particular situation. A small example would be if we’re in a shop, rather than giving them a row for touching something I explain that if we touch things in a shop and damage them, then we have to buy them. Obviously I don’t always have the patience for that, but I try!
I’m also getting better at expressing my feelings so that if I’m tired or getting impatient about something, I try to express it so that the kids know why I might not be acting my best.
You come across as an exceptionally patient father who always takes time to answer Aila’s questions and invite her in on everything from furniture building to sitting in your lap during meetings. Where did you learn this? What is your approach to parenting?
Thank you! It doesn’t always feel like that but I try. I’m not sure where I learned this but I look at my kids as people and so I try to give them the same level of respect that I would give an adult. That means I speak to them with respect and where appropriate let them make decisions. A small example is that our eldest daughter often helps to make the dinner and we talk about all the ingredients and how to prepare them, what they taste like, what they feel like and how we cook them. It can be a fun time to spend together and our daughter is learning to have her own tastes and desires with food (she loves anything pickled apparently and would quite happily eat a jar of gherkins if left unsupervised!).
Any funny stories that you can't wait to remind your kids about when they grow up?
Hundreds! One thing I love about having a smartphone is that I always have a great camera in my pocket and we try and take photos and videos of things which make us laugh so that we’ll be able to look back on them in 50 years time and laugh. I only have a few photos from my childhood but our children will have thousands and that’s quite special.
If one of the girls hurts themselves we kiss it better. A couple of months ago Aila fell over and landed on her bum. After she finished crying she was very keen for one of us to kiss it better. Even though she was with Emma at the time, apparently this was a job for dad and she ran around the house after me shouting for me to kiss her bum!
Not only are you running a successful business, but you are also a dad to three wonderful little girls and husband to Emma. What does your concept of work-life balance look like?
Both of us love to work. We like to be building something or working towards a goal and so often we don’t see work as a chore but something we want to do so our main aim is how we can manage our time effectively to get a healthy amount of work and family.
We’ve recently implemented a new routine and it’s working well for us. We both work 3 days a week while our kids are in playgroup, with a granny or being looked after in our office with a nanny. Compared to the last 10 months, when we were really struggling to have enough time to work, having 3 full days in the office with no kids to look after seems like a dream! However, I struggle to get my job done in 3 days so I tend to work in the evenings or early mornings if I have things to catch up on. Both Emma and I try to separate work and children. We find that if we try and do some work while we’re looking after the kids, we just get stressed. Sometimes on our days at home we split the roles so I’ll look after the kids for a few hours while Emma gets some work done, or vice-a-versa. That being said, I’m writing this before 7am while one of the twins roams around the floor of the living room!
What advice to other husband/wife teams looking to start a business would you share?
There are 2 things I think are crucial to a good working relationship with your spouse. Firstly, it really helps if you have complementary skills - if you’re both good and bad at the same things, then you will struggle to give your partner the space to do their job. You’ll also benefit enormously if you have different skill sets as your business will get the benefit of both. Secondly, plan your roles. I mean, sit down and write out what each one of you is responsible for and let that person make decisions in that area. It’s easy for couples to keep things more fluid, much like how you do at home. Sometimes one of you might do this, next time the other might. In business I’ve found that can lead to stepping on each other’s toes and having clearly defined roles really helps with that.
Lastly, the main thing we really value about working together is the flexibility with work/life balance and ultimately that was one of the main reasons we set out on this path together.
Lastly, what gifts are on your recommended Father's Day gift list this year?
Honest answer is that we don’t really do gifts for father’s/mother’s day! Emma and I are both quite hard to buy gifts for, and so we try and give each other experiences rather than material gifts.
An example is my last birthday. I love pasta and Emma found this little cafe that turns into a pasta restaurant in the evenings, so we went there for a lovely dinner. Or we might book a night away somewhere, or organise a family trip to a country house for a walk and lunch. Now that I think about it, most of our ‘experiences’ revolve around eating! As Father’s Day falls in June, and not just to brag about our picnic blankets, but organising a picnic for dad would go down very well! Bring along a coolbox with some craft beers, ensure that he doesn’t need to drive home, maybe a deckchair to relax in, a ball to play with the kids and some tasty food - bread, nice cheeses, some crisps. Dads love to be pampered just as much as mums!
Colsie Father's Day Gift Guide:
Since Colsie is all about spending time with the ones you love, we couldn’t have said it better ourselves. And we didn’t even prep Fergus to say that, pinky promise! We believe spending time on the ones you love goes even further than only spending money, so we’ve put together a list of experience focussed Colsie Father’s Day suggestions. Cheers to you, dad!
- Have a family picnic at “your spot” with a Recycled Wool Picnic Blanket in Navy Stripe.
- We have it on good credit that no father has ever complained about a gift card to his favourite restaurant. One of our favourite local dining experiences is The Free Company.
- Check out Groupon for some local deals or crazy experiences you might have never thought of (did someone say salsa dance class?).
- Fancy some nature time? Canopy and Stars is a great platform for browsing alternative accommodations with a focus on the great outdoors! (Pssst, our Adventurer Gift Box makes a pretty great companion gift!)
- From photo walks to a baking class, be a tourist in your own home with AirBnb Experiences.
(best paired with a craft brew)