Many parts of Australia are experiencing a heat wave over the coming days. But 40+ temperatures are the summer-norm for some and is just one of the many challenges living in outback Australia… Being a new first-time mother with limited support and resources is another, and today on the blog my good friend shares her story (which never ceases to blow me away everytime I think about it!)…
Eighty-ish people live in my town, and I know them all; by name, occupation and preferred drink. When I had my first child they knew all about it too. We called my partner’s father the morning after my daughter was born, and by 7:45am all members of the community knew the weight, length and name of our little girl… with slight variations on the spelling.
I moved here in true ‘Farmer Wants a Wife’ style.
I came to the bush from Brisbane to complete a practical placement for university and to tick ‘the outback’ off my list. I was used to the good life in my inner city rental. But the placement was only for 5 weeks, and I was told I’d be boarding with one of the most hospitable families in town, so I figured it couldn’t be that bad.
And then it happened… I fell for the family’s eldest son and, would you believe… I left cafes, supermarkets, restaurants, movie theatres, and not to mention my friends and family, for this ‘tree change’.
Flash forward 7 years, and my partner and I have just brought our baby daughter home to the outback.
I had my baby ‘down below’ (that’s a geographical term not anatomical) in the city – in a hospital near where my mum lives. We spent a few days with mum, got the feeding somewhat under control and headed home. It was in the middle of the mustering season, and one new-dad-chopper-pilot was being beckoned back to the land and his work.
Our drive home was long, and no, not long like a trip to the coast. It took 3 full days. With regular breaks for breastfeeding and stops to collect a few supplies (fruit and veges, bread, a part for the grader, and enough baby supplies to open our own baby shop) it was one of the hardest drives of my life.
Bar a few tears shed by all, we survived the drive.
Thankfully our daughter is becoming more used to the car, which is essential for where we live. Our closest shops are over 300km away, a quick bite atis 700km away and my mum is over 1200km away. We don’t have mobile coverage and I must admit, I don’t get many visitors from away.
Why the hell do you live there, you might ask?
If you ask my partner, born and bred here, he says there are many advantages to living in the bush. Advantages… I have often referred to them as ‘challenges’…? However, with a little organisation and some creative thinking, I am blooming in this next phase of my life. I am breastfeeding, which is now starting to become second nature, I buy everything in bulk, online shopping is handy, and all the essential people are only a phone call away – mum, sister, bestie.
We don’t have a doctor in town, but the nurse is on call 24/7. A child health nurse visits with the Royal Flying Doctor Service every 2 weeks, and a regional airline flies out of town every week, an essential service to get away if our town is isolated when our river is in flood.
My daughter is now 11 months old. Without a structured mother’s group, or any form of childcare, we fill in our days in other ways. Today we attended our local Playgroup, of which I am now on the committee. We swim in the river when it is a little warmer and we’ve had 2 plane trips to Brisbane. We often visit our friends out of town who had a little bub 2 months younger than my daughter. We make house calls for ‘smoko’ and a pram trip to the Post Office to collect our mail always fills in an hour or so.
It’s funny how you have an image in your mind about how your life will be. I didn’t picture it here… in the middle of nowhere… but I also didn’t picture a tight family-like community, the most amazing untouched scenery and visits to Brisbane that you appreciate like no other – I can almost taste‘s Mango Magic smoothie now.
I know my daughter will not have the same upbringing as I had. I am already preparing myself for when she has to go away to boarding school (high school) and I know at one point she might want to participate in a variety of motorbike / horse / cattle type dangerous pursuits. My partner is of the philosophy that ‘a bit of dirt is good for the immunity’, and I was told only yesterday that ‘cow shit never hurt anyone’. At first my heart skipped a beat on hearing these comments, but as my healthy little girl grows I think it is inevitable that there will be parts of her childhood that will be far removed from mine.
I must admit, it’s not all bad. We live in a place where we don’t lock our doors, where we talk to everyone we meet and we wave at passing motorists. In time, my daughter will be able to ride the streets under the watchful eye of our community and she will be able to play with friends ‘til dark. And hopefully, with regular trips away to see where Mummy is from, and with the additional influence of her friends and family from beyond the town fence, her outlook on life will be balanced by the fact that she appreciates a variety of food, she isn’t scared of sharks getting her at the beach (they are all scared of that here!) and she will be understanding to a variety of issues that affect the greater planet.
I think she’ll get the best of both worlds.
Thanks so much to Peta for sharing her story with the sorella-hood ~ anna
Do you live in a rural or remote community and have had similar challenges with raising your family?