The fortnight of our discontent is over. I’ve been waiting to say this for two months, ever since it appeared in our calendars in the first place.
Actually, it was a week and a half of our discontent, and that made it even worse.
I had been planning to go to Skudcamp in Ballarat last weekend for a few months. So far so good. I’d even planned it to be a family holiday in which Andrew and the kids would come down and he’d look after them during the day in a chill way (very chill, actually, since maximums there were around 16° last weekend, but never mind) while I was at Skud’s place, and it would otherwise be reminiscent of some of our better working-mother setups. Perhaps time has softened the memories, but I enjoyed linux.conf.au in Brisbane in 2011, with Andrew missing the conference to wander around parks with toddler V while I attended the conf and launched a business. Annabel Crabb is not wrong about the wife (duty) drought.
But I have no wife in that sense (or others), as we discovered when Andrew received the dates for a training he wanted to go to, in fact a training he’d already missed when it was held last year and I was heavily pregnant. The location of the training? Tokyo. The time of the training? The weekdays before Skudcamp.
It got even worse, because the week after Skudcamp was his internal work conference in Sydney, generally expected to be a 9am to 9pm affair.
So it went like this: on Tuesday, Andrew left at 7am to fly to Tokyo. On Wednesday and Thursday he went to his training, finishing too late (and too far to the west) to make it to Narita for the evening flights back to Sydney. So I was still alone with the kids on Friday.
But Skudcamp was to begin at 9am Saturday morning. Working backwards, this means being on the 6:50am bus to Ballarat from Melbourne airport. Which would mean an arrival in Melbourne by plane no later than 6am Saturday. There are no flights from Sydney that arrive earlier than 7:30am, so clearly I had to travel down on Friday instead.
But at the other end, Andrew wasn’t back in Sydney until Saturday morning, and I didn’t want to haul both children to Ballarat, so we asked Julia and Barry to have V on Friday night instead, while I took A for the weekend. And this meant constraints on the Friday end: they couldn’t get home until after 6:30pm, which meant I couldn’t get to Melbourne before about 9pm, much too close for the final 9:15pm bus to Ballarat.
So on Friday I packed my big bags — I had had a totally unrealistic dream that I might be able to avoid checking luggage, note to future self, not when you’re taking a baby — and took V and A on the bus to Central. We then walked across Central because that’s just what that connection requires, caught a train to Julia and Barry, walked all my bags and V’s bag to their place, and I left him there for a fun Halloween mini-party. To his credit, he was really good about the walking. Perhaps better than I was. Especially good of him when it was over 30°.
I then walked back to the train station, caught the train to the airport, checked in, and had an unusually good airport security experience. Airport security with a baby goes one of two ways: either extra irritating because it’s the normal experience only with added baby (especially in Australia, where they do not allow baby carriers to go through the metal detector, so you must always haul the baby out of the carrier, walk through with the baby in your arms, and then put the baby back in the carrier), or they’re horrified at the very idea of you travelling alone with a baby and eager to assist in all ways.
Friday at Sydney was the latter. They bought me a chair so I could take my (metal-containing) shoes off. They took all my gear to the X-Ray machine. On the other side, they showed me to a table, brought over a change pad for A to lie on safely while I reassembled everything, and schlepped all my bags over to me. Amazing.
Because I was arriving in Melbourne too late for the bus to Ballarat, I had booked into the ibis budget hotel there, which meant a ten minute walk in the dark in order to collapse into bed.
Meanwhile, Andrew was on an overnight back from Tokyo to pick V up from Julia’s and spend the weekend with him.
In the morning I woke up at terrible o’clock for the 6:50 bus to Ballarat. Nice to see Molly and meet baby Spud though and probably our lengthy birth and parenting nerdery was memorable for the rest of the bus.
Once we got to Ballarat, we were to get a taxi, which had shown up without the baby car seats I’d ordered in advance and also without room for two adults’ luggage. Apparently “everyone knows” you’re supposed to specify that you’re bringing luggage when you book a taxi. Well, now I know I guess. It emerged that, unlike in NSW, in Victoria baby seats are not absolutely required in taxis even for young infants and so “everyone knows” that they’re never used. (I didn’t catch a taxi for the foot journey from hell through sweltering Sydney on the Friday for that reason: baby seats are required by law, and apparently it’s most common to book one and be stranded for hours until someone can be bothered.)
And so I was there.
The weekend was gentle and relaxing, mostly. The goal was to build something of the communities Skud and I have access to in the US, only not in the US because we don’t live there. I think when that’s so, what happened right there is less interesting than what comes after and I don’t yet know what comes after.
My trip back on Monday was much more straightforward. Melbourne airport was on “ignore the person struggling with bags and a baby” mode. They’re in the middle of reconstruction and don’t even have chairs or tables where you can reassemble the disarray of your belongings really. I ended up padding halfway to my gate in sock feet before I found a chair. But otherwise all was smooth and the entire trip was only five and a half hours door-to-door. We caught a bus to Melbourne airport and then a plane to Sydney and Andrew and V met us at the airport with a car.
Then there was the long work week for Andrew. He actually came home on Tuesday to have dinner with two visiting friends of mine, so really it was just a few days of barely seeing him. But on top of two trips it wasn’t fun.
For once though, it seems like the end of the year won’t be a huge crunch. (2009: I was heavily pregnant. 2010: a friend died and my grandmother had a stroke. 2011: we were about to move house. 2012: we were both coming out of surgery and illness. 2013: I was heavily pregnant.) I have a one week trip (with A in tow again) to Wellington for Kiwicon. Otherwise, for the first time in six years, maybe I can think about solstice and Christmas more than a couple of days in advance. That doesn’t mean I have plans. But I could!