How was your morning?
I ask, because mine is usually rubbish. My family of four is always in a hurry and always running 20 minutes behind.
Someone’s usually crying because someone else pulled their hair/punched them/called them a poo.
Someone’s usually refusing to eat something. Someone else can’t find a singular shoe (very often, that’s me).
I complain about it a lot.
Trish Scott doesn’t complain about her mornings. She just spells her routine out to me, matter of factly.
Her family – Trish, husband Rob and their three daughters Ruby, Heidi and Eliza – gets up around 4am.
They go out in the dark to load hay into their ute. The girls know how to do it with ropes, because they don’t have one of those forklifts on their truck. If Rob is out shearing – work which is getting scarcer as the sheep keep dying – then Eliza, who’s 10, will drive. Ruby, 13, will deal with spreading the feed off the back. Trish and Heidi are up the front, trying to move the starving stock away from the truck so they can keep feeding, keep moving.
“Then we get back home,” says Trish. “Into their school uniforms, I put a piece of toast in their mouths, grab the school bags and catch the school bus at 8.30am.”
Trish and her family live on a property in Yeoval, in New South Wales’ central west. It’s sort of between Dubbo and Orange, in as much as anywhere is near anywhere else out there.
Trish says her kids aren't the only ones who are turning up for school after a full day's work.
"I'm seeing kids that are turning up to school really tired and kids who are saying, 'I really want to stay home to help Mum and Dad'," she says. "These kids are as worried as the parents are and as much as we try to protect them... We don't talk about [what will happen] when the hay and the grain runs out."
You've probably been reading about 'The Drought' online. You've probably been seeing pictures on the television. But if you're a city person - as I am, born and bred - you probably can't really grasp all the things that can go wrong when the rain just... stops.
I heard it though, in Trish's voice, as she told Andrew Daddo and I the things that are really breaking her about what her family are having to do to survive in this Dry.
It's exhaustion. It's worry. It's guilt. And even shame. It's motherhood.
Listen to Trish's interview on our family podcast, This Glorious Mess. Post continues after.
"My big concern is that I am missing out on so much of their childhood because I'm not here with them," says Trish, as her voice cracked. "Ruby is 13 and she is doing my job as a mother. She's packing the lunches, cooking the dinner and reading her sister a story at night. And I'm coming in at twenty-past nine and she's saying, 'Mum, is there anything else I can do?'"
And Trish worries that they're growing up too fast. She marvels that, somehow, they seem to be dealing with it all better than she is.
"There aren't many 13-year-olds who would do it all... They're so self-obsessed with social media and whether they've got enough data on their phone and they won't make their bed, and these kids are doing as much - if not more - than us some days."
She's rightly fiercely proud of her girls, and credits them with keeping her together as she wrestles with the constant waves of anxiety and dread.
"I keep falling apart and these kids keep putting me back together. I'm 38 and they're nine, 10 and 13 and so positive and level-headed. They just keep saying, 'It can't stay dry for ever Mummy, it will rain, Mummy.'
"[The other day], we'd pulled dead twins out of one of our ewes. Then the ewe died and I just fell on my knees and started crying, I said to my girls, 'I'm so sorry that you have to keep seeing this'. And they say, 'You did everything you could, you did a good job Mummy, now we'll take her into the wool shed and Daddy can shear her'."
Trish tells us that her community have her family's back. They have each other's backs. A generous friend donated water (the Scotts' property is not on 'town water'). An old, almost-forgotten mate just turned up one day with tools to do whatever jobs were desperate. He stayed for three days. Groceries turn up, gifted by someone who gets it.
So there is good to be found in the Big Dry, but it's getting harder and harder to hold on to for Trish.
Not so her girls, who tell her, "It can't stay dry for ever Mummy. It will rain, Mummy."
The other day, it did. Just the tiniest bit, and for Trish, there was a moment when family life was back to what it was, back to what she dreams they'll get back to, one day.
"We ended up getting 11mm a couple of days ago," Trish told us. "And I woke up and it was still dark and I could hear my husband singing in the kitchen, and the girls giggling and the rain on the roof. And I thought, 'Far out, that's all I want to hear'."
You can donate to Drought Angels, here.
Right now, 100% of New South Wales is in drought. Farmers are doing it tough so we're taking Mamamia Out Loud on the road with a series of live shows for drought relief. We'll be in Tamworth on Friday 17th August and Dubbo on the 20th of September and all profits raised go back into local communities, thanks to our partner charity, DroughtAngels. Grab your tickets and support our farmers here, and if you'd like to sponsor someone to attend email [email protected]