A Day in the Life of a Working Mother

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I wanted to whinge about this crazy week but ended up penning down a story instead. I plan to slow down but here I’m 1am and still going. One day. Soon.

“Kids get your bags and get in the car.”
Amelia recites this phrase every morning, except the days she works in the office. Those days her husband deals with the morning chaos.

“Being late is a bad habit.” She says running upstairs, two steps at a time, almost tripping over the last step. Steadying herself she glances over her room, looking for her bag. It must be in the wardrobe. Amelia notices the kids’ flannelette pyjamas still on the floor and squints. They never pick up their clothes. She wonders if it’s worth yelling again asking them to come clean the mess. Why bother, we will be even later. This is just an irritation, a minor irritation. Her spacious bedroom looks small with all the clutter. She walks over the jumble of clothes and stops in front of the sliding mirrored doors of her robe. Before she slides the door open she notices the face starring back at her. Her eyebrows climb, there is no spark in those eyes. She looks tired and her hair hasn’t seen a brush yet. Amelia pulls an elastic band from the pocket of her blue Nike jumper and quickly ties her short, unruly hair, into a ponytail. That will do.

Amelia races downstairs, this time holding the rails.

“Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.” She instructs the kids, who don’t seem to hear, they are totally absorbed in their game of Pokemon cards. Amelia always repeats ‘let’s go’ three times. A single ‘let’s go’ doesn’t express her sense of urgency.

“There is no canteen money if we are late.” She warns them and this time the kids get moving.

They drive to school talking about Pokemon and the upcoming birthday party that she hasn’t started planning yet. She printed extra copy of the invitations to send to their family overseas but unknowingly to her Steve distributed every single invitation to his friends at school. She is uncertain of who or how many kids have been invited.

“Mum can you pick us up early?” asks Steve.
Her heart feels heavy every time she hears this question. She wonders if she is giving her children enough quality time. Is car time quality time? She read somewhere psychologists saying that car time is part of the equation. She finds this reassuring. She is focusing on the traffic ahead but notices Steve is still staring at her.
“I’ll try.” Amelia says unconvincingly, she knows she won’t be able to.

She finds a spot in front of the school.
“This is our lucky day!” Amelia cheers up.
“A school day is never a lucky day.” Steve mumbles.
“Common, you enjoy playing with your friends, don’t you?”
“Mum, no child likes going to school. We just go because we have to.”
“Ok but you have to hurry now, the bell will ring in a few seconds.” Steve’s mouth is a horizontal line now. She immediately regrets saying the word hurry and gets out of the car to kiss them good bye and straighten their hats.
“I love you.” She shouts as she watches them climb the fence. Her boys never use the school gate.

Amelia drives off waving at some parents chit-chatting at the gate. She sighs. She doesn’t want to be a stay at home mother but she wishes she had time to chit-chat sometimes. Her days start early and are full. Here she is, not quite nine in the morning and has already done one hour of work, before the kids got up.

The school traffic steals a couple of minutes from her morning. As she waits at the pedestrian crossing, she notices the blue sky dotted with a few specks of fluffy clouds. The thermometer in the car’s dashboard displays 18C. The perfect weather for a run. But she has so much on at the moment, she has to resist. She is hopeful that she will have a break for a run later in the day. That’s why she is wearing active wear and her GPS sports watch.

But the day doesn’t go as smoothly as planned. There were no pit stops. The only break she’s had was to scramble some eggs for lunch. She spent the whole day staring at the screen in her computer. It’s already time to pick up the kids and she still has emails to reply. She will have to return to the computer at night. Her eyes are red and sting. Amelia puts her elbows on the desk in front of her, holds her head with her hands and massages her temples with the tips of her long middle fingers. I’m working too hard.

On the way to school she sights runners pounding the pavement and wonders how they find the time. Don’t these people have mortgages to pay? For a moment she wishes her life was different. Amelia stops at a set of red lights and spots her birds. The common birds that are always there performing a synchronised dance across the sky, in perfect harmony. Amelia thinks they are pigeons but she isn’t certain. It doesn’t matter what they are and it doesn’t bother her that she has to stop at these lights for two whole minutes. She enjoys the show. She tries to count them, 25, 30, more. More than a messy sum of birds. This is a self-organised dynamic system showing cohesion and movement of a group without a leader. A show of competence and cooperation among birds, qualities she admires.

She arrives at after school care and from a distance she spots the boys playing soccer. Amelia worries that her kids don’t spend as much time at home as they would like to but she is watching them play in the soft rubber field, they tackle, they dribble and they don’t seem in a hurry to leave. This makes her feel better.

Amelia signs them off and they walk to the car talking about Pokemon and the homework that still needs to be done. But not tonight. They are now heading to music lessons and she will be there replying to emails while she waits at reception for thirty minutes. If the lessons were longer she would go for a run instead. She is still in active wear and wearing the GPS watch. She is not the only mother waiting in the tiny reception at the music school but she is the only one working on a laptop. The others are reading Women’s Weekly and those types of magazines. She wanted to reach out for one too, just for a bit of entertainment but she knows her night will be even longer if she doesn’t deal with the emails now.

Thirty minutes go by and the boys are back at reception before she sends the second email. “Just a minute boys.”
“Mum I’m hungry.” Whinges Jack.
“Just pressing the send button… now.”
She looks at them. “Ready to go.”
“Mum, can we stop for hot chips, I’m starving.” Jacks insists.
Stop? Stop? Who has time to stop. “We’ll have dinner shortly at home.”

They are walking across the footpath of the quiet shopping village. By now a cafe and a take away shop are the only stores open.

“But mum I am hungry now!” Jack doesn’t give up.
Amelia raises her arm to check the time and calculate how long it will take to whip up dinner, quickly read the kids a story, have a shower and go back to the computer. She feels a drop of sweat running down her back.

“My stomach is grumbling mum, please?”

Amelia stops walking and stares at the trees at the end of the road soaking up on what’s left of the sun in this gorgeous spring day. Even trees do a better job of looking after themselves. She wonders if she will ever finish reading the book she started last month. Amelia doesn’t give her kids junk food very often, she thinks this is lazy parenting. But she is too tired today.

“I just had an idea.” She says putting her arms around the kids’ shoulders. How about we go to Macas and grab a take-away dinner and you can eat in the crèche at the gym while I do my exercise?”

The boys don’t like going to the crèche. They say creches are for pre-schoolers.

“Only if I get a milkshake with my meal.” Jack tries to negotiate a deal.

“Ok, you choose your dinner tonight.”

The kids arrive at the gym carrying a brown bag in one hand and a clear plastic cup with a cold drink in the other.

“I’m sorry but the creche no longer opens on Thursday nights.”

Amelia gave the receptionist a blank stare, she could not believe it. Maybe she didn’t hear the girl properly with the thumping sound coming from the treadmills behind her. The girl showed Amelia a copy of the gym’s timetable, circling the creche’s opening times.

“Really? I rushed so much.” She didn’t mean to say that, the words just came out of her mouth, she could not hide her frustration. It was her fault, this is what happens when you are too busy, sooner or later you make mistakes. Why am I cramming in so much? Why do I have to be so productive?

She turns back to look at her boys and they smile.
“Mum, now this is a lucky day for us. Can we go home?”
“Ok, let’s go.” This time she only said it once.

Sydney is a privilege

Getting out of bed at 5:30AM on a Sunday may not sound like a privilege to many people but I felt really lucky this morning. I went with the kids to the Spring Cycle to cross the bridge and explore the centre of Sydney with our bikes. I was joined by a friend from Croatia and another from Iran and we were there enjoying every moment of our expedition with the blue sky above our heads and in awe to be living in such a beautiful, safe and multicultural city.

I’ve been living in Sydney for 18 years and am now used to such high standards of living but having grown up in Brazil I’m all too aware that the way we live our lives in Australia is a privilege denied to most of the seven billion people that share this planet with us.

I’m not talking about wealth accumulation—although I’m sure that there are plenty of opportunity for this to those that seek financial riches—for me it’s the little things in life that make Australia so attractive. For instance, today I was able to catch a train at 6am with my bike without feeling threatened that I could be mugged or had my bike stolen. Then during the race my children took off and I only met them again at the finishing line and it didn’t worry me that they were out of sight for a little bit.

When you grow up in a country that has a decent welfare system and public infra structure that makes live more enjoyable it’s easy to complain when Sydney trains are running five minutes late. Sometimes when I hear friends whinging about minor irritations in essential services I wonder how they would cope in a country that offers very limited resources to their citizens.

Of course Australia has problems too, we just have to look at the inequality in the Aboriginal communities and we have to raise our voices to fix what’s not working. I think if we show gratitude for what we have and remind ourselves that many of our privileges are often determined by your geographical location we may become more generous as human beings.

Why I keep writing

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Fellow writers publishing North Shore Pieces


I have always written a bit of copy as part of my marketing jobs but I never saw myself as a writer. I used to think of writers as eccentrics endowed with a genetic ability and immense creative power. They sat in somber rooms with a pen and a notepad with bent corners or a rusty Remington typewriter and popped out words for hours, inspired by some supernatural force. And in my mind the end result of their creative process would always be an original story in which the depth of their talent shined through.

Then one day I realised that writers are grown not born. I started to write about my observations of life and its many transitions and the things I don’t quite understand. I wasn’t confident in my ability as a writer and was only using the mighty pen to make sense of life in times of trouble and awe. But little by little I noticed my writing getting stronger and the words flowing more naturally.

You see, I was using writing as therapy. My thoughts often travel at the speed of light and they pass through my brain without giving me the chance to fully interpret and reflect on them. Sometimes I only notice that they touched me when it’s too late and I’m there covered with the cosmic dust of anxiety. In these moments the pen can be my best friend as it helps me watch as the stars collide and particles of reason evaporate from my awareness. With a notepad in hand many times I’ve been able to translate the sensorial explosion into emotions and rational thought and bring myself safely back to earth. I don’t think I was particularly good at writing but it became a habit, and like it is with any passion or hobby, I wanted to learn more and improve at it. So I decided to take my writing more seriously and joined a writers group (WPG – Write Publish, Grow).

When I joined the group I thought I’d only have the capacity to write about things that existed in the real world so non-fiction was a genre that made sense to me. I’m naturally drawn to facts, reason and reality as these elements save me from the tricks my mind plays on me. But being exposed to the group helped me appreciate other genres too and now I’m starting to explore life in short stories, combining fiction and reality in my narratives.

My journey with the mighty pen has been an amazing experience. Not in my weirdest dreams I contemplated the idea of writing a book, let alone a book in English, my second language, but here I am less than a year from joining WPG publishing an anthology with my fellow group members. The book will be available in November and it’s a testament that writers are a product of hard work, passion and practice. I feel confident my writing will continue to improve and I hope my stories will encourage others to have a go at sharing theirs. We are all storytellers capable to inspiring and challenging our fellow human beings and the more with write the more beautiful and impactful our stories become. All we have to do is write. Just keep writing.

The mountain and the passion

It’s 6pm and we’re driving back to the city after a few days in the mountains. I watch the tired looking drivers going in the opposite direction, the corner of their mouths pointing down, their cars bumper to bumper in the rush hour traffic- I wish we had stayed in the country a bit longer. All the space, the fresh air, the orange sunset and the simple life… No rush to get anywhere.

Nature always does this to me. It makes me slow down and appreciate more what I have. It makes me have romantic dreams of moving to a cute little cottage in the mountains with views of the bush, a colourful garden and wallabies greeting us in the morning. But then I walk to the nearest village and all shops are closed on a Tuesday afternoon. There is no where to eat. We walk to a local park and my kids are attached by magpies. There is blood. I see overweight teenagers walking aimlessly around the streets with a cigarette in their hands. The country is no paradise.

As we got closer to home the traffic got heavier in all directions. It’s easy to think that just by moving to a different area we can make our lives better. But the problem I see is not so much the area, it’s the way we are living our lives, always too busy doing things without passion and for many people that includes even work.

As we waited in traffic I got thinking of the free-range humans that quit their corporate jobs and become self-employed. There is a growing number of people leaving the 9-5 working world, lured by a life of freedom and flexibility or simply by necessity as full-time permanent work becomes more scarce. Instead of jobs they have gigs. Sometimes when I get too busy with my life I feel like joining them too, with the hope that I’ll be working less hours per week.

But when I really look into it I feel this promise of freedom is no different from the romantic dream of a peaceful country life. How much freedom is there in a life without a steady stream of income, sick leave, super?  How about fair pay? I’ve recently seen an advertisement for freelance writers offering to pay 3 cents per word. The pay situation with the raise of technology platforms that allow workers to easily find short-term gigs seems to be similar to many types of work. How can you have a decent income with such low rates?

You have to get several gigs at the same time to maintain a good life-style so you end up working more than you would in a 9-5 job. That defeats the purpose of leaving the corporate world in my view. I guess to become a free-range human you need to be prepared to live a life that lacks the comforts of the consumption economy.

By the time we parked the car in the garage, I was thinking that the key is always passion and purpose. If you enjoy your work your 9-5 job ins’t a drag.  Or if you have other passions outside work, as long as you can find time to cultivate them, even the most mundane 9-5 job can enable your passions. I think the same principle applies if you are self-employed. If your life lacks passion you will continue to feel unfulfilled regardless of the type of work arrangements you have.