Father's Day in the Luxon household is usually a celebratory affair, with brunch, homemade cards and phone calls to the grandparents. This year, however, the day will look a little different, with National Party leader and dad-of-two Christopher Luxon taking to the stage to launch the party's official election campaign, kickstarting what will be some of the biggest weeks of his life.
With the pressure mounting, the 53-year-old would be forgiven for feeling a little stressed. Yet when Woman's Day arrives at his doorstep on a Saturday afternoon, he's a picture of calm as he welcomes us into the immaculate Auckland home he shares with his wife Amanda, 54, and son William, 24. Their younger daughter Olivia, 21, lives in Melbourne, but she's delighted to join the family photoshoot during a quick visit home.
"Yes, it is a busy time, but you've got to give it everything you've got," says Christopher, sitting down to chat alongside his family, who are his biggest cheerleaders. Entering politics three years ago has meant a lot of "change and pressure", but 30 years in the corporate world has set him up well for this latest challenge. And as someone who doesn't need much sleep, he is quite happy burning the candle at both ends.
"We've always been a family that has a lot on the go and we found a way to make it work for us," tells Christopher. "Everyone's got 24 hours in a day, right? It's a question of what you do with that time."
As a former CEO of Air New Zealand and, before that, president and CEO of Unilever Canada, Christopher's career achievements have been well-documented, but a recurring theme from his time in politics is that some voters don't yet know or trust the man who wants to be our next prime minister.
It's something Christopher is very aware of and keen to change by lifting the lid on his home life. Politics might be his focus right now, but family always comes first for this dedicated dad. Of his kids, he says, "No matter where I've been in the world, they've always known I would drop everything if they needed me. They're always the first priority."
The Luxons are a close-knit family, which they attribute to their years living overseas, with stints in Sydney, London, Chicago and Toronto, before settling back in Aotearoa 12 years ago.
"It's quite a unique thing when you live overseas without any family support," reflects Amanda, 54, a teacher-turned-education consultant. "The four of us became this close nuclear group and as the kids have grown up, it hasn't changed."
Christopher and Amanda, who will celebrate 30 years of marriage in January, are incredibly proud of their children. William worked as an international flight attendant for Air NZ for several years, but he's taken a break to finish a degree in marketing and international business, while Olivia recently completed her studies in criminology and sociology, and is working at an ad agency as a social media manager. Next year, she'll join L'Oréal in the cosmetic giant's graduate programme.
Christopher has loved every stage of parenting, but this new era with grown-up children feels particularly special. "If you've done your job right and you've built strong emotional connections with your kids, this is a really rewarding stage," explains Christopher, who says he learnt the importance of being a good dad from his own father, Graham, 75.
"He was a very intentional, very present father. I remember writing him a letter on my 30th birthday, just thanking him for being such a great dad. He was such a good role model for how I wanted to be with my kids."
While they're not quite empty nesters, Amanda says they're in that lovely "pop-in, pop-out phase" and she loves having William at home, especially with Christopher away so much during the week. Asked if they miss the cuddly years of raising young children, Amanda and Christopher laugh, pointing out that their eldest son is still a big hugger.
"I go and find Mum every morning for a cuddle," says William, who, like his sister, speaks with a strong American accent, a reminder of their childhood abroad. They're both totally supportive of Christopher's move into politics.
"Dad's great at this stuff," says William. "I don't think there's anyone in the country better than him at it. These guys have always taught us to put ourselves in positions to use your skills for the betterment of everyone around you and that's exactly what Dad's doing."
Olivia says that while the public see his serious, hard-working side, she wants people to know he is "warm, humorous and funny" too. His favourite TV programmes are British shows The Repair Shop and Long Lost Family, and the father-daughter duo share a love of music. "We're both obsessed with Taylor Swift and have a lot of dance parties at 11pm."
On late nights after parliamentary sittings, Christopher will often return to his Wellington flat and video call Olivia in Melbourne. He grins, "I know everyone else will be fast asleep, but Olivia is two hours behind, so I'll sit in bed chatting to her and her flatmates. We have some great late-night conversations."
Amanda laughs as she recalls Christopher's relentless enthusiasm for parenting. From the moment she discovered she was expecting William almost 25 years ago, he threw himself into the task with his characteristic gusto, researching every aspect of pregnancy and birth, joining a support group at work and typing up a six-page birth plan for his wife!
"There were about 10 women and I was the only guy who went along," he chuckles. "I remember discussing stretch- mark creams! I got so involved. I was so amped and excited to be having a baby. I had the hospital bag packed for months."
Avid self-help book reader Christopher says he's learnt over the years there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to raising children. "In a Myers-Briggs personality type sense, William is a big feeler and Olivia is a big thinker, which means they need slightly different things."
The children were always encouraged to be curious and form opinions on the issues of the day. When visitors joined the family around the table, the kids were expected to ask three questions of the guest, and in the car, they would listen to "serious" radio stations such as BBC and CNN.
They've been questioned in the media about owning seven properties amid a housing crisis, but Christopher and Amanda say they've made a conscious effort to ensure their children understand their privilege.
The kids had part-time jobs as teens and were expected to manage their pocket money wisely, deciding whether to save, spend, invest or donate. Olivia has also been deeply involved with Tear Fund as a youth ambassador in the fight against human trafficking.
While politics can be bruising, Amanda, William and Olivia have learnt to ignore negative comments about Christopher on social media. "That doesn't mean I don't have an opinion, though," Amanda points out, adding that continued interest in their Christian faith has been "a distraction".
She insists her husband has always been a progressive thinker and an advocate for women, and the family firmly rejects assertions Christopher's views on abortion mean he doesn't represent everyday New Zealanders, with the politician reiterating that he has no interest in revisiting Aotearoa's abortion laws.
"As I've said really clearly, I have a personal pro-life position, but it's a conscience vote and, frankly, our abortion laws are well settled and I'm not going to change our laws or our access or our funding at all. I'd actually resign over it if it changed."
Christopher says he's tried to be upfront about his faith, which is "never judgemental", and has simply taught him how to treat others.
Christopher uses the word "intentional" a lot – he wants to be an "intentional husband", "intentional father" and if the election results go his way on 14 October, an "intentional prime minister". He is convinced the country has huge untapped potential.
"My job is to make sure I build New Zealand into a place of opportunity, where my kids and ultimately my grandkids will actually choose to stay because they think this is a place they can get ahead in."
Yet at the end of all this, Christopher says it won't be his work or political achievements that define him – it will be the family bonds he's forged along the way.
"It would be a tremendous privilege to help form the history of New Zealand, but at some point, it will come to an end as well, and I'll still be Chris Luxon the dad and Chris Luxon the husband. Those relationships are the enduring things that I'll be remembered for. In the end, that's what it's all about."
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