This is devoted to busy people everywhere and most especially to parents. I believe that we all under-estimate the destructive nature of ‘busy’.
Like most parents of school age children, I wore ‘busy’ as a badge of honour through my children’s formative years. I remember well the school pick-up conversations about the number of activities, the distances travelled, the times of day and night experienced, all in pursuit of the perfect upbringing for our children. I remember the feelings of inadequacy, “Are we doing enough? Are we being supportive enough? Are we being overbearing, pushy parents?” I don’t think that we ever sat back and asked, “Are we doing too much?” and wondered whether we were thwarting our children’s growth as individuals by never allowing them the pure pleasure of ‘doing nothing’, smelling the flowers, watching birds, listening to the sounds of nature…
I certainly believe without doubt that regardless of impact on our children, these years stretch our souls to breaking point. We become the junior coordinator of this sport, the selector for that sport, the coach for another. I remember cricket when the bowler’s balls rarely made it to the other end of the pitch, rugby when my heart broke for S’s skinny frame and the possibility of injury and music concerts, long, long events in those early years. That is not to say, FOR ONE MOMENT, that I resent any time spent in the company of those wonderful small people who were/are my children. I question only the frenetic pace and never questioning whether it is really necessary for children to experience EVERYTHING before their 10th birthday.
Now, I need to digress here a little and tell you a little of my personal circumstance. I was born and raised in Tasmania, a small city girl. Launceston has around 75 000 people. From edge to edge, the drive would be around 40 minutes. I grew up with an appreciation of a life where I would walk into ‘town’ as we called the city centre and fully expect to run into people that I knew. I felt a strong sense of belonging and attachment. I had a group of firm friends, though at the time, I am sure that I did not value them as much as I could have and did not have the confidence to accept that I had a firm place in their hearts and lives. It is only since (about 10 years ago) we started going back to Tassie for 50th birthdays that I began to feel the strength of that bond and the love and the support that comes from a strong feeling of belonging. I now try to make the journey at least a couple of times a year. I love Tasmania, the people, most especially my friends, the place, the atmosphere, the pace. I am not sure whether I will ever call Tasmania home again. As my children make their own way in this world, my tie to them is even stronger than my ties to Tasmania and so long as they make the choice to stay where I chose to bring them up (Queensland), that is where I will be.
In 1991 circumstances brought our family to a point where a decision had to be made as to whether staying in Tasmania was the best decision for us. At the time we made the decision to move to the middle east, leaving Tasmania in early 1992. We spent 3 ½ years living in Khamis Mushayt and working for the Saudi military in a hospital there. We had an unreal life. I choose the word unreal or two reasons. Life there was far removed from reality of any ‘normal’ life and it was also unreal as in very, very good. We enjoyed a super-social life and as no one had family to call on, we became each others’ family. L & S, at 4 and 6 had a compound of approximately 100 houses that became their back yard and a trusted group of adults who always looked out for them. Now, I guess that for the first time in my life, I actually felt that I belonged somewhere. I felt respected by most, loved by some and accepted by all. (That time was another (time) when I wrote, this time letters that I sent to various people back home. I wish I had kept those letters. I’d really like to re-read them now!)
Life went on there quite idyllically for us. We worked 48 hours weeks, which was a lot but had sufficient help at home that every minute apart from that time was spent enjoying ourselves and our children. L & S were welcomed everywhere. Many of the Asian ex-pats had left their children home in their own country so the opportunity to bring love and joy to our children was taken with glee. If G & I wanted to have a night to ourselves, there was a line-up waiting to perform the baby sitting duties. We spent our weekends diving in the Red Sea. At this time there were no organised activities for children. We spent our time making our own lives and our own fun. I remember wadi-walks, fossicking for Saudi diamonds, visiting souks and the Hanging Village, shallow dives with one or other child under my arm on my octopus regulator. I remember peace.
1996 and L was growing into a beautiful young lady. As a 10 year old, in a western society she was a child. The leers and jeers of Saudi men indicated to us that in their culture she was fast becoming a young woman. We did not want that for her and when the possibility that we would be expected to pay for the children’s education (which would have taken most of my salary) was mooted, we made the decision to come home.
Now, on the way home we stopped off in Queensland to catch up with a friend who had left Tassie, been briefly in Saudi and now called Brisbane home. The prospect of returning to Tasmania, work-wise was bleak. While in Brisbane I had two interviews and was offered two jobs. So again, we allowed fate to determine our destinies and moved our worldly possessions from Launceston to Brisbane.
From the start Brisbane was challenging. There was a person at my first workplace who clearly did not want me there and caused problems for me by talking about me behind my back. I was unaware of this for a time until I realised that people had perceptions of me and my attitudes that were clearly incongruous with the truth. In my life, this was the first time I had significant issues with someone I had worked with. This impacted my confidence and definitely my mental health but not to the extent that I explored doing anything about it. He moved on and I settled in to that work place for an extended period of time and mostly thoroughly enjoyed it. At this time I was working full time days and G took on several part time night roles so that we could be there for our children. I did resent at times that he was the only father at the ‘Mother’s Help Christmas Lunch’. At that time dad’s participation, though welcomed, was rare.
G got a job as a department head at the hospital I was working at and we moved on to having to juggle children, school hours and holidays and all of the balls that any other parents have to juggle. I dropped back to working four days a week at this stage and we found a degree of balance that worked for a while. As the children grew, their activities grew – in time spent, in distances travelled and commitments required. I remember trips to Warwick for school sport which were rare but trips to Southport and other journeys of 50+ kilometres were quite frequent. Both L & S represented Queensland in their chosen sport at under 14 level and managing the five sessions each of early morning or after school training regimented our lives to within an inch of what was possible. We live about 15 kilometres from the centre of Brisbane. The sessions could be anywhere from near us (rare) to about 20 kilometres on the other side of Brisbane (fortunately also rare) but most were close to the CBD. We did not live near any other parents with children participating in the same sessions so we had no extended support network. Bear in mind that at this time our families were still all resident in Tasmania so there was no extended support in that area either. We used to take in various children from far flung reaches – Mackay, Ballina and Toowoomba so that they could be afforded the opportunities that they might otherwise miss. Our commitment to our children and their activities was unwaivering.
I think that this in part is why I feel strongly that I want to be here for L & S despite the fact that they are adults. Should they choose to leave, I will wish them nothing but the best, but should they choose to stay, I want to be here for them.

3 thoughts on “Busy

  1. I sincerely admire your commitment to your kids Annie. Busy and balance will always be out shone by the love for our children! Thats why after a difficult marriage breakup I always longed to move back to Perth to be with my kids and after 7years I came back. That was the best thing I ever did in life after meeting my new wife. Re-establishing the bond, trust and love with my children and now grand daughther has given me a real sense of home!

    • That is awesome Dave. I imagine that you lament the 7 lost years. Don’t waste time on that. Look forward and cherish your time with them especially your grand daughter, you deserve the very best!

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