When I was thirty-one and living in London, I had a potential suitor who told me that when I got married and had kids, there would be “no more” of the things that I enjoyed. He said there would be “no more time for parties, having fun, playing tennis, going out.” He went on to say that it would be important that I stay home to look after the kids and be a good mother. Playing along with this fatuous argument, I looked at him with barely-disguised-contempt and said, “And my career?” My expression caught him off-guard. “That would be my responsibility?” He responded shakily. Clearly, he had been expecting compliance and submission.
As my husband has said in situations where my displeasure is aroused and I have nothing to lose, I burn my bridges. With this unsuitable candidate, I enacted a “scorched earth policy” and also detonated a thermonuclear device. I said, “Who do you think you are? You’re ruining my dinner with this conversation.” We were having dinner at one of the few good Korean restaurants in Central London. He unsuccessfully tried to restart the conversation. I finished dinner in silence. He tried to walk me home. He seemed to realise that something was amiss. I stated my position on how I wanted to live my life as a woman, a wife and a mother. My words were hurled at him with the force of a rocket launcher. My final parting words were, “And I will live my life the way that I want, not because someone tells me that I have to do it a certain way. I will die trying to enjoy my life the way that I see fit.”
Fast forward thirteen years, to my husband Justin and our life with two kids in inner-city Sydney. Certainly, I don’t go out as much as I used to and less alcohol is involved. (It’s scary drinking and riding.) Tennis is difficult as it requires time and a partner, both of which are in short supply with two small kids, household to manage and husband who doesn’t play. But I still manage to go out for work events which I always make fun for myself. Going out a few nights a week for work events and bicycling there and home is pretty awesome. My kids and I enjoy our time together usually going somewhere by bicycle. My husband and I go out for drinks and dinner by bicycle together when we can. I find that I have more energy now than in my twenties and thirties when I was stuck behind a desk plying my trade as an investment banker.
The question that I am often asked now is: “How do you manage to do so much?” I suspect it is because we don’t own a car. I know that when you have a car, you find ways to use it. But from what I hear from my car-driving friends, everyone agrees that traffic is terrible now in Sydney. And when I have unusually been in a car, the congestion is a shock. My daily commute is a 10 minute ride to the city and to return home, the same. It’s a 25 minutes to ride from the city to Paddington for my kids piano and violin lessons. When we used to ride to Earlwood from Surry Hills for my daughter’s violin lessons on Fridays, the journey was always 75 minutes. The battery charger would come along and I would top-up the battery during her lesson.
There is a cheerful regularity to our journeys which makes it easy to plan for what needs to be done. We generally arrive at our destinations relaxed and happy. The same is the case for the journey home. My kids and I chat easily during our journeys because we are all facing the same way.
And by design, we intentionally leave Sunday free for whatever strikes our fancy. Yum cha. Playground. CX races in winter. Beach in the summer. A little grocery shopping in the morning to Aldi on Oxford Street and back takes about a hour including putting food away. Going to a friends house for lunch by bicycle doesn’t take long. When we go over the Sydney Harbour Bridge via Kent Street Cycleway, the kids hold hands and walk down the stairs while my husband and I walk the bikes down. To go to the inner-west, we go via Wilson Street.
I’m fortunate that my husband introduced me to the bicycle when he did.I’m still trying to live my life the way that I want. It’s going not too badly, I think.