The see-saw

I haven’t written for a long time. I know. But I do have three very good excuses. The first is that we’ve been busy getting to know Baby. The second is that we had school holidays – a very full-on, action-and-friend-packed five weeks in Sydney with three kids, no childcare and practically no breaks…phew! Exhausting! The last is that I have been working on finishing the next draft of my novel. I completed it on Friday and sent it off, so all fingers crossed everything proceeds well from here. Will keep you posted!

In any case, we’re back in Arnhem Land for 2014. J’s position was confirmed late last year – eventually – and we were both happy to know we could stay. Yet despite our enthusiasm for returning, the year has gotten off to an exhausting and draining start for J. The recent teacher cutbacks have coincided with a community push to get more kids to school. A team of Yolngu adults now round up kids each morning and get them into the classroom, which is great. The student numbers are at least a third higher than last year, if not double. The problem is that some kids may not have attended school in a long time, and need extra help, and in the meantime there is less staff and less support. Already hard-worked teachers are being asked to do more with less.

Given that J and I seem to be on a constant see-saw of emotions living up north, it therefore comes as no surprise to us that, while he is down, I have swung up. Completing the book feels like a huge achievement. To do this, I spent the start of this year hunting down extra stories and community people to talk to. The process has been both terrifying and exciting, but I feel that this second draft is much stronger than the first.

I am also loving my time with N. She is our last baby, so I’m savoring every moment. It helps, of course, that she is very easy going – a character trait I’m told applies to many third children. I’m also more relaxed than I was with our other kids. L, being the first, was a steep learning curve, then R came just eighteen months after so everything got a bit blurry. But with N I have the benefit of experience along with the space of having the older kids in childcare and preschool. I also think Arnhem Land is more baby-friendly than Sydney. There is no pressure to race around, or meet people at certain times, or make long trips in the car with a screaming baby. I work when she sleeps and fit in with her needs when she’s awake. I am more adaptive, reflexive, responsive and happy. It feels like this is how motherhood should be.

Despite this, us staying up north very much hinges on J enjoying his work, and feeling like he is growing and learning professionally. So here’s hoping that things improves for him and all the other teachers soon…

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