Last week was difficult. In addition to being a bicycliste, writer, woman and wife, I’m a mother. Why was it especially difficult? My husband Justin went overseas for work for the week. He left on Sunday morning and returned on Friday afternoon. As the week is usually a scramble of “who is able to drop off the kids at daycare and school” and “who can meet the nanny at 7pm,” doing everything on my own, was going to require a strategy. My strategy for the week included two goals. The first was to get enough sleep (to not get sick) and the second was to have a little time for myself. Time spent working is not time for myself. It’s work. I know that it would have been harder though, without our bicycles.
We rely on childcare, nanny, a vast network of trusted babysitters we’ve accumulated in the past eight years and our bicycles, especially the Nihola cargo tricycle. I would be dropping the kids every day in the Nihola this week. Justin and I also try to teach our children the importance of self-reliance. It works, most of the time. Ofelia has agency to walk alone to our friends’ house, which is halfway up the hill to school. It’s good exercise for her and also an exercise in independence. I follow her in the Nihola with Julius in the cabin.
However, the week started with a bang. My daughter is eight. I know that she is formulating her own world view. She has become argumentative as a result. During the week, if she is left unchecked, she will take two hours to get dressed and ready for school. This glacial pace will result in no time for homework, practicing violin, and being late for school. As a result, I did a lot of shouting early in the week. It started on Sunday afternoon. The talking back. The tears. The accusation that “you love Julius (our four-year old son) more than you love me.” We had a conversation about this for several hours. We salvaged the day by going into the city for afternoon tea. We stopped by the Giant store to have a look at the Liv collection for women.
Then we went to Uniqlo to have a look around.
And pizza at home for dinner, everyone’s favourite!
Day Two Without Justin was on Monday. It was more of the same. We made it to school by 10am. I had to threaten cancellation of my daughter’s birthday party which was planned for the following Sunday. We try to use the “carrot and the stick” to encourage good behaviour and to foster good decision-making for our children. I wasn’t feeling very effective.
A friend of mine told me about a book that encourages putting aside emotion when dealing with your misbehaving children. I told him that it was written for robots. Yes, it’s an ideal but how possible is it really in the day-to-day? Our daughter is very much like me, I must admit. She and I are both very wilful and stubborn. I confirmed with my mother-in-law years ago that my husband was never this way. My daughter has his long legs, sweaty hands and sociability and that difficult part of my personality.
As a result, I asked our nanny to stay late on Monday evening. She also rides the tricycle to pick up our kids from school and childcare. I worked late and went out to dinner alone. I sat at the bar and a drink later, I felt more like myself. I had a delicious dinner and ended up chatting to some nice people next to me with whom I laughed uproariously. I cycled home on the Gazelle in the crisp evening air, lights on, and went to bed, not too late.
Tuesday was a bit better after the disaster of Monday. I snapped awake at 6am before the alarm. I dressed, prepared breakfast and Ofelia’s lunch for the day. I managed to get to work at a reasonable time and produce something. I came home and met the nanny. I made dinner for myself which would be dinner for the kids the next day. The nanny would just need to reheat it. Another strategy for the week was having written down a weekly menu of meals and done the shopping before Justin left. I usually made dinner in the mornings or the night before with the slow cooker as my friend in the winter.
I could feel myself slipping into “ultimate control mode” with Justin away. It reminded me of my earlier days of being a control freak. I had little tolerance for variation in the routine. Things had to be done properly. I became a habitual key checker to ensure I had my house keys in my bag. I had my phone with me at all times, in the event something should happen to the kids at school or childcare. I was woefully behind schedule in my list of things to do for work and otherwise. There would be no opportunity to drop off some dresses that needed alterations or even Julius’ shoes that needed to be fixed. But I realised that I was ruthlessly prioritising what was important. Firstly, the kids health and safety. They needed to be fed and looked after properly. Our nanny is lovely. She is exceptionally warm to my children and they love her for it. Secondly, my own health, safety and well-being.
Wednesday was an early start because of Ofelia’s string’s group which starts at 8am and school. After dropping Julius off at daycare, I worked from home and did the-ever-multiplying laundry. I had lunch at home and went to the office in the afternoon. Home at the usual time of 6:45pm. Chatted with a friend on the phone. Early to bed.
On Thursday, I had a meeting at Bondi Beach with a digital media friend to discuss a strategy for this blog. I felt justified in taking my eZee Sprint because the journey was far enough away. I would also be riding back to the city later in the afternoon, a return journey of about twenty kilometres, in dress and heels. It was a great meeting and a beautiful day. The only thing to mar the trip home was a fat woman driving a blue people mover. She was driving too fast on Bourke Road. She kept indicating that I needed to be in the bicycle lane which was in the door zone. When I caught up with her at the stop sign, I shouted “You need more sex!” over her exhortations. It was clear that she needed more in her life. I had drinks and dinner with a friend planned for Thursday evening. Our nanny would be staying late with the kids. We had a great time and I felt like myself again. Not too late to bed again.
Friday morning arrived. Julius and I dropped Ofelia at school and we went to his swimming lesson. Things had become a little easier as the week passed. Ofelia and I managed to practice violin three times during the week. We had no other conflicts during the week. After swimming, Julius and I went to the airport by train to pick up Justin. We had some overpriced sushi rolls and had the best seat in the food court to watch the planes. We would catch a taxi together to come home.