I've had some tough jobs in my time. I spent three months picking mangoes in the humidity of a Top End 'build-up' season. I have worked as a youth worker (enough said) and in remote Indigenous communities where alcohol-fuelled violence was an occupational hazard and an accepted part of day-to-day life.
Working in the media has its own set of challenges and pressures. I did a daily breakfast radio show for a while where I was required to be fully functioning, alert and witty at six o'clock in the morning. I've also worked for current affairs radio shows - hungry beasts that require feeding and filling every day and even my current role as editor of The Echo requires me to find enough interesting stuff to fill these pages week in, week out, which can be a challenge.
But I have never done anything as difficult as looking after two young girls on my own and getting them packed and ready for school/preschool by 9am.
My wife was away recently, so I was outnumbered by the devilish little munchkins by a ratio of two to one. And they seemed completely oblivious to the fact that we had deadlines to keep!
I would give them a simple instruction like "go and get dressed" and while I washed the dishes, made their lunches and hung out some washing, they would go and create another huge mess in another part of the house.
Then I would turn from 'sure you can have a cookie in your lunch today' dad into ranting, raving, shouting dad (which is no fun for anyone and ultimately counterproductive if you want to get things moving along).
The obstacles they can throw in front of you are endless; shoes (always an issue and you can never find the ones that they want), teeth (it's like a surprise to them every morning when you ask them to brush them), fairy wings (see shoes) and hair (see teeth).
The youngest, Jemma, is still prone to tantrums which can take hours to resolve.
But somehow I managed to beat the bell each morning and get myself to work with my sanity (mostly) intact. Then I would have to pick them up by 3pm and get Ruby to her dance class by 4pm. This involves more feeding, more searching for lost shoes and another drive into Lismore.
Whilst Ruby danced, Jemma and I did the shopping, then home again to make them dinner. (By now I think I should be wearing a cape.)
The whole experience has given me a renewed appreciation and respect for single parents, but also the realisation that although parenting is the most difficult job I've ever done, it's also the most important.
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