I am… Ben, father of Reuben, aged four, and Albie, aged two. I live in the Oxfordshire countryside in the UK with the boys and my wife Lianne. We relocated here a year ago, having spent 14 years in London. It feels like we’re on holiday, it’s good for the soul. 

I work as… Founder and creative partner of Magpie Studio. We’re based in Brick Lane, London, so I commute four days a week, which is challenging, but definitely worth it. I really feel like I get the best of both worlds. I love what I do, and I want to stay connected to London, but country life is great for us as a family. One thing inspires the other. Kids have such great imaginations, and keeping them happy and entertained is the ultimate creative challenge. In turn that helps me to be more playful in my work.

My role with looking after the kids is… Largely physical. Having two boys is a lot like having dogs. They love to wrestle and they’re much happier when they’ve had a good run out. Dad days always involve a game of ‘crazy fun’ – a concentrated hit of extreme physical play, often involving running, jumping, swinging, shouting, loud music, dressing up (and down) and as many soft furnishings as you can grab hold of. Pretty much anything goes – it’s a great release for both toddler testosterone and adult stress. Aside from that, it’s pretty much 50 / 50 parenting. Lianne and I are generally completely aligned on how we want to bring the boys up and talk about it lots. 

Do you worry about work-life balance? Constantly, but in a healthy way, I think. We want the boys to be happy and secure but also interesting, rounded individuals that have their eyes open and know how to look after themselves in the modern world. Part of that is leading by example. As a parent it’s easy to leave nothing for yourself. Or compromise too much of your identity. I’m a big believer in working my arse off to ensure a happy balanced life (if that makes sense). My business partner is also a dad, so supporting family life is a big priority for the business. We both work four days a week to have one day at home with our boys, but we still have big ambitions for the company. It’s work hard / play hard, turned up to 11.

I’m the kind of dad that… Will prioritise fun, happiness and well-being over pretty much everything else. I love making stuff with them, chatting to them, fuelling their imagination, winding them up, teaching them how to have fun and think creatively. There’s also lots of cuddling and wisecracks. My two-year-old’s latest is to hold my cheeks and tell me “you are so cute”. 

As a family we… Get out lots. Seek adventure. Dick around constantly. We try to stay strong as a family and that means all four individuals being fulfilled, in whatever way that might be. It’s a constant challenge to keep all the plates spinning. But it’s a team effort. 

Parenthood is… By far the most incredible, humbling, challenging, exhausting, inspiring and rewarding thing I’ve ever done. 

The biggest challenges are… The relentless effort. Like most parents, we have constant ups and downs, it’s tiring and it’s often stressful. And it never stops. But remembering you’re all on the same team makes you stronger. And there’s nothing like the feeling when you’re all aligned and properly belly laughing together.

My hopes for my kids… That they’ll remain as happy and healthy as they are now. That they’ll find something they’re truly passionate about, whatever it is, and be able to make a living doing it.

The biggest surprise of fatherhood… Is how it just keeps getting better. I’m not at all ashamed to admit to new dads that it gets way better after that first six months / the first year. I think a lot of it is accepting you’re a parent. Things get so much easier when you embrace that instead of battling against it. Family first. Besides, as much as we in ‘the club’ like to share woes, avoidance tactics, survival techniques, my life just wouldn’t be the same without discussing whether Spiderman wears Spiderman pyjamas or Batman pyjamas, attempting to describe what noise a giraffe makes, or being challenged to a ’trousers down’ race at 6am with a hangover. 

For more about Ben follow @christieboys on Instagram

More in Features

Researching Edith and Kim

By , 17th November 2021
From a compendium of stories about life at the Bauhaus to a Modernist memoir by the founder of the iconic Isokon, here are some of the books that inspired my forthcoming novel

Book festivals 2021

By , 19th August 2021
From a celebration of the life of John le Carré at Cheltenham to an exploration of women and crime in Chiswick, please join me at one of the following events, across the country (and the internet!)