Canberra Dad - tales from the front line of new parenthood

When Emma went on maternity leave, we had our next ten months all nicely planned out. We’d renovate upstairs, finish a Masters degree, run two businesses from home — and travel. Lots of travel. Trips up the coast to see family, with laptop and baby in tow. And one big road trip before Emma went back to the office job.

Life had other plans.

This may shock you to hear, but looking after a baby and running two businesses is actually rather time-consuming. Jack’s a sunny nugget of wonder, but he does have this magical ability to absorb every inch of spare space in our lives.

Jack’s just turned six months old. Em and I stop, look around and realise two things:

1) We’re dog-tired.

2) What with my teaching work, and Em’s return to her office job, our 10–month window for a leisurely road trip has shrunk to just three weeks.

There’s also the small question of ‘Can we afford it?’ We’ve saved up, but we haven’t kept track of all the different things we were putting money aside for. It’s all gone into the one bucket. We can probably afford a road-trip, as long as the car engine doesn’t explode half-way there.

Plan A

Our first-choice destination is Tasmania. Yes, Tasmania is about as freezing as Canberra, and more likely to rain, but it’s the one state neither of us have seen, and it’s highly likely to have warm, spiced apple cider. Plus, if we’re going to drive for 10 hours, we’d rather do it when Jack lacks the verbal skills to ask ‘Are we there yet?’ every five kilometres.

At nights, after we put him to bed, we sit down with our laptops and google options. Here’s our plan: Drive in stages, catch the ferry, stay in the Tamar Valley and hit the wineries. I feel good. Like just agreeing on a plan means the holiday is all sorted.

The next day, we jump back on the website. The ferry is booked out.

Plan B

My aunt has a timeshare on the Gold Coast. She’d always said we could go there if we wanted a break. As an added attraction, a friend has just opened a French café up there. Sunshine and croissants: a very acceptable solution.

‘If only you’d rung three days earlier,’ my aunt says when we call. She’d just decided that no-one needed her spot, so she’s forfeited it. She calls up the timeshare company to see if something can be done. No deal.

There is another option, though — find another timeshare place in the company’s network.

Plan C

Hit Byron Bay for some chai and free-range tribal drumming. We see a timeshare free, feel good about ourselves, and go to sleep.

The next day it’s booked out.

Plan D

By now, I’m ready to collapse our dream holiday into ‘Find a cheap Apartment in Bateman’s Bay and binge on fish and chips.’ When you run up against so many obstacles, you start to think that the universe doesn’t want you to have a holiday. Or if you’re less cosmically-inclined, maybe we should have set time aside to plan our holiday instead of squeezing it in around Jack’s bedtime and My House Rules.

I’m slumped in the couch when my aunt calls. ‘It’s funny how some people will help you out and some people won’t,’ she says. She’d rung the timeshare company back and this time, they can do something for us. We’re booked in for one week on the Gold Coast.

There will be sunshine. There will be croissants.

Canberra Dad Aug 2014