Packing a car is always hard work. Packing a car when you are a solo parent with a 3.5 month old, and when you live on level two of an apartment block in the inner city, is a complete nightmare. I was packing for a five to six month road trip, which meant I was packing for a 3.5 month old baby, a five month old baby, and a nine month old baby. I had to sort all the mountains of clothes we’d been given into bags—-these will fit the baby at five months, these at seven, these might be needed by the last month, and so on. Winter was slowly ebbing its way into Sydney, so we needed warm clothes to start the trip. Then we would be up north in the stinking hot humidity. However we were also scheduled to go to the UK midway through our trip, and although it would be summer there I’d need to take clothes for both hot and cold weather. Then there were the baby apparatuses. I don’t believe kids need much other than warm clothes and love, but there were some really useful things that I knew would make life much much easier. At the start of the trip I had a baby who couldn’t sit up on their own, so I took a bouncer to put them in when we were camping, to keep them up off the ground away from mud and insects, and so that they could look around a bit. At around five months when babies start to sit up on their own I knew I’d have to chuck that and bring out the inflatable toy ring, so that the baby could have soft support to sit up on the picnic rug. There were toys that would be fantastic once the baby could grab and hold objects, but that were pointless right now. All of this had to go into separate storage bags and get stowed away in cunning spots in the car. And then there were the nappies. Five packs of biodegradable bamboo nappies, two packets of wipes, and six rolls of liners that I’d bought online for when we weren’t near a laundry, a bag of oldskool terry-towelling cloth nappies, and about twenty modern cloth nappies, plus a nappy bucket. This was all before I’d even started on clothes for myself, and the camping gear, and my pink flamingo cushions to go with the pink and blue bunting, and the palm tree cushions to go with the flamingos, and the red and white gingham picnic rug to go with it all.
The last day of packing was such hard work that I very nearly packed it in and stayed put in Sydney. It was only the knowledge that I had someone arriving in a few weeks to sublet my apartment that spurred me on. Unfortunately the subletter also created more work for me. I had to pack up our personal belongings and store them in the cupboard, I had to defrost the frigging fridge, and I had to leave the house immaculate. I had to carry out several baby-related objects that were no longer needed, and leave them by the side of the road. But here lay a giant dilemma. Did I carry the baby in one arm, thereby leaving me with only one arm to carry the heavy objects? Or did I leave the baby unattended in the house while I raced downstairs, through the courtyard, out the gate, down the street to the corner where everyone dumps things, all the while hoping frantically that the baby was still ok? On one round I opted for leaving the baby in the bouncer while I quickly zipped downstairs. At 3.5 months most babies are incapable of independent movement, but of course my child chose this exact moment to learn about wriggling for the first ever time, and when I got back upstairs they were lying on the floor facedown and screaming. I felt like the worst mother in the world.
I ended up calling both my sister and my bestie in tears, begging them to help. I just needed someone to hold the baby for two minutes so I could take the last of our things down to the car. I just needed five minutes to wipe down the fridge and vacuum the floor. Three minutes to hitch the caravan up to the car. All things that are impossible to do with a crying baby in your arms, or even with a baby strapped to you. They both came to my rescue, despite being otherwise engaged, and then I felt guilty for needing help. The curse of a solo parent by choice is that you constantly feel like you should be managing ok on your own, because hell, you chose this, so you should be able to do everything all by yourself. It’s silly, but that’s how it feels.
[image: my amazing support team]