This post is part of a series called “How do you do it?” I asked readers to share how they manage a typical day in their family life. Of course we all know there is really no such thing as a typical day in family life, but this gives us a sneak peak into how others are doing it and hopefully you will find some tips that can help you in your day. You can read other posts in the series by clicking here. Thank you so much to the women who generously shared their stories!
What is your name?
Where do you live?
The Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Tell me a little bit about your family
I have been married to my park ranger husband for 18 years and lived in several stunning national parks. We have 2 energetic kids 8 and 11 years old who have grown up exploring some of Australia’s most beautiful protected places. We pretty much spend most of our holidays camping in or near National Parks and last year we travelled Australia for 6 mths on our Two Kids and camper adventure.
My mum life with kids revolves around soccer, music, dance, Little Aths, Little Tackers sailing, Junior Rangers, running club, boogey boarding and lots of community events.
We live opposite the beautiful wild ocean of the Mornington Peninsula National Park. Our kids can literally wander across the sand dunes and enjoy unplugged playtime. Our kids attend the local school and our local community is pretty in tune with the stunning and sensitive coastal environment surrounding us.
I have my own copywriting and PR business working with coastal businesses and not-for-profit organisations. My kids interact with my work wonderfully and I make sure I plan my business life around their expanding diaries.
My husband manages an amazing stretch of national parks. He is often called to emergencies and is away at floods and fires for extended periods. From November – April every year our life revolves around emergency response issues, peak season in the national park, and fire management rosters.
We’ve had endless Christmases and family events with him absent at bushfires and disasters, or taking calls at odd hours for emergency issues. Over the years he’s been involved with numerous search and rescues and fatalities which require his knowledge and skill. When he’s home after fire or back from an emergency issue we give him a wide berth to let him catch up on sleep and regroup after the intensity of it all.
We also often take calls from friends who have injured wildlife questions, or concerns about something they‘ve seen in a national park. This can get a bit draining on your day off, especially when you are trying to enjoy family time, but it’s a way of life for us.
When all the ranger families all get together we do like to swap ‘war stories’ about the busy times and the family stress of fire periods.
What do your mornings look like?
It’s usually a cruisy start to the day with breakfast and last minute school bag checks. We don’t have TV on in the mornings and the kids get their own breakfast. My husband leaves early and I take the kids to school just a short drive away.
I try to walk on the beach listening to a podcast twice a week after school drop-off. I’m at my own desk by 9:15 am ready to start the day.
Because I manage my own business I try to schedule as much writing time as I can during school hours – I am very regimented. I try to save special stuff for Fridays so I don’t miss all the action with friends. When my husband isn’t available I can call on neighbours and friends to help with kid logistics for sports and after-school activities if I have a meeting.
What does your after school time look like? (eg 3.30pm – 5.30pm)
I usually look up from my desk at 3:10pm in alarm and jump in the car for the school run. Like most families there’s the usual after-school commitments. We also try to do walk or ride across to the beach several times a week. There’s something very calming about ‘checking out the surf’ and keeping our eyes peeled for wildlife (we saw an echidna yesterday), it’s like our transition space before we get home.
If we don’t have after-school commitments, while the kids chill out I finish emails and copy projects from 4:00 – 5:30pm. The kids also know that this is a ‘no chat to mum’ time and that they must unpack school bags, place notes in a dedicated space and refill drink bottles before they can get their TV fix.
If it’s a warm night the school-mums plan a beach meet-up straight after pickup– it’s kids paradise with surfing, boogey boarding, kayaking or Stand Up paddle boarding. Those nights all routine is out the window. It’s extremely social and fun.
I know these kids will treasure this idyllic coastal life when they get older. For many of us parents, it’s also something we treasure as we connect beyond the school gate and casual greeting.
What does dinner time look like? (eg 5.30pm – 8.00pm)
Never in front of the TV. Always at the table. We try to eat together most nights if my husband is home. Homework is my husband’s domain, he has more patience than I do. Being a park ranger I also found he’s the natural teacher for the science, geography and biology subjects. I’m the English tutor and project helper. We try to get this done just before or after dinner.
On the nights when we are on the go I make sure we have ‘build-your-own’ meals that I can get on the table easily – baked potatoes, wraps, slow cooker meals, noodles, veggie stick platters, home-made sausage rolls, pasta, lamb koftas, kebabs, fried rice and tacos get the thumbs up from me. Friday nights are always a cheese platter and home-made pizzas for all. My husband is the pizza chef and I get the night off dinner. In summer time dinner is on the deck so we can hear the surf before shower and bedtime.
There’s often times when we have family plans or dinner on the table and my husband takes a string of calls or head out the door – usually this involves accidents with tragic outcomes. When this happens my role is to play it down in front of the kids. It may be a distressing situation – we’ve got a pretty practised code after all these years – sometimes it occurs nearby and the kids are aware of helicopters or sirens. I just make sure I keep things ticking along while he steps into his emergency role.
What does the kids’ bedtime process look like?
Bedtime books are my area of expertise. I love reading to my kids and my 8yo still loves that time together especially with classic books I loved as a kid. Right now we are working our way through the Aussie book Dot and the Kangaroo.
My 11yo son reads his own books. But bed time is often when he starts processing his day and need a check in with a parent on things he’s been processing. This year we’ve been trialling the Smiling Minds app for mindfulness and meditation approaches for kids.
I’m not a big fan of devices in the bedroom but these apps have proven to be great facilitators of conversation with him.
What happens once the kids go to bed? (eg 8.00pm – 10.30pm)
It’s often a race to finish dishes and flop on the couch, or both of us are tossing a coin for desk space and computer time. Often I feel that I’m limping through to the end of the day, but I still need to get lunch boxes and school clothes ready, catch up with someone on the phone or out the door to a committee meeting.
I like to use the after dinner hours to catch up on emails and my own social media platforms. It’s a nice window to get things done and to write up my To Do list for the next day. I always hit the bed with a book, and my bedroom is a device free zone.
Do you do any preparation for the week on weekends and if so what?
I always bake on Sunday – I love baking. And it makes me feel as though I’m on top of things for the week. After sports commitments I try to shop for our veggies at a local weekly market while my husband does the rest of the groceries.
Having my own business, I often I try and squeeze in a little more work if I’m on deadline but our weekend is about getting outdoors for beach and bike riding or boogey boarding time.
My kids also get their screen time fix on weekends. We let them have their weekend games fix but we’re pretty determined about directing them towards learning about relevant stuff when they are online. Because we spent a lot of time travelling Australia last year the kids like to check in on the travel app that we used boundround.com, and outback and Aussie sites like flyingdoctor.org.au and splash.abc.net.au. They don’t know they are actually learning stuff while they are online – I’m sneaky like that!
Anything else you would like to share?
Being the partner of a person in an emergency services / environmental management role means things change on the home front daily. I just prepare myself for that in summer, he may not make it to the concerts and I’m careful when planning meetings. Sometimes they are just not there when you are hoping they would be – and your own business commitments and family milestones suffer a bit. For most of us in the situation, we have to just keep the balls in the air, and ensure our partners get that time later to either download or have some quiet space to process things. Sometimes what they are involved with is at complete odds with the day-to-day home life. It’s my job to keep things as normal as possible, to be positive when he calls back in, and to ensure the kids don’t pick upon any distressing messages. That’s easier said than done sometimes, and I do find that I allow my kids the chance to watch the news and talk about ‘what dad is up to’ when he’s away. That way they can feel connected and informed, and not be too concerned about what’s happening. That works for us.
I think my husband has an enormous responsibility in his role. But that doesn’t mean that when he steps back in the door I don’t hand him the washing basket (or the kids) and take time out myself. We treasure our big trip around Australia last year, as it made up for a lot of family time we’ve missed out on, and it planted the seed for new adventures.
Andrea Rowe lives and breathes community connections and creative content as the owner of Your Coastal Connection which offers PR, copywriting and digital communications services to coastal business and not-for-profit organisations. Andrea is addicted to sand, surf and stinky cheese and she shares her coastal and Aussie adventures with her ‘squids’ regularly on her instagram and facebook page.
With a partner who has just started doing more travel for work, I have much better appreciation for the juggling Andrea must have to do! I also love the apps she recommended and will test them out on a couple of my kids who I think will benefit from their use.