Emma Husar is running for Labor in one of the most marginal seats in the country, the federal electorate of Lindsay. She also happens to be a single mum with three kids, one of whom is autistic. This is her account of a day on the campaign trail.
I’m uber quiet as I roll out of bed. At some point a tiny human joined me in the night. No mother wants to wake a sleeping child. And every mother secretly enjoys several early hours of quiet solitude.
As I enjoy the first hit of coffee for the day, I unpack the dishwasher, make school lunches, throw on a load of laundry and take something from the freezer for dinner.
Hair and makeup is done as the iPad balances precariously on the vanity, streaming the morning news. I’m headed to Emu Plains train station to meet voters and the last thing I want is to be stumped on the news of the day.
Madeleine West is also a busy mum. Here are some tips she has given to working mums. (Post continues after video.)
As I dash out the door, my two youngest children have woken and we catch a quick snuggle. It’s hard to shake off maternal guilt – something I regularly discuss with other working mums around Penrith. I call them the Wonder Women; the single and married mums who have to balance guilt with the need to earn an income. I am lucky to have terrific support from family and friends.
At Emu Plains railway station at 6am, it’s dark, two degrees and people are cranky. The trains are delayed and commuters are lined up, freezing and waiting in the dark for updates. A would-be pollie, thrusting campaign brochures, is the last thing they want. So I let them know their train is late and strike up conversation about public transport.
Next stop is the local primary school to talk to mums and dads at the school gates. I recognise the weariness in their eyes – their morning has been an epic battle of hair brushes, negotiations about lunch boxes, reminders – the oh-so-constant-reminders – homework, books, library bags, hats on and the “have you brushed your teeth?” Today the principal pops down to say hi and have a chat about the additional funding Labor is allocating with the needs based funding model.
My own kids arrive shortly after 8:30. I kiss my daughter and then leave with my son, Mitch. We are off to Wahroonga to see the paediatrician. Mitch has a range of other conditions as well as his autism. He has managed to overcome some of these conditions, but others remain. As we drive, we sing Army by Ellie Golding and he replaces "army" with "mummy”. Music is a huge part of his therapy and is helpful when stuff gets really tough. Kitchen dancing in our socks and music up loud is a regular feature.
Driving this route reminds me how far we have to go to get my son treatment. His doctor is fabulous, specialises in this area and has always provided exceptional care. But I worry about the families who don't have access to someone like our doctor. I get less than half the fee back from Medicare, and I know many parents simply can’t afford it, especially single parents.
While I am waiting I get a call that Channel Nine want to interview me. I AM IN WAHROONGA. How? I cannot leave! Cue the mother guilt loading up. I make the call, I can do it, but later. Everyone is happy. And we've balanced it. Just.
The appointment goes well, but Mitch needs an operation. He has a phobia of hospitals, needles and people impinging on his body in general. Even the suggestion has him curled up in a foetal position. This is going to require a trip to familiarise him with the hospital, a social story mapping out the steps and loads of confidence in the surgeon who is to operate. Not to mention coordinating school, sport, my daughters and the cost - it isn't covered under public health and I will be out of pocket.
After dropping my son at school, I race home, hang out the washing, re-dress and re-do hair and makeup suitable for the TV and the six local journos I am meeting after that.
I get through the Channel Nine TV interview unscathed. The next stop is to meet the local journos, with a senator, a local pharmacist and doctor. It’s extraordinary to see the anger in the medical profession about Medicare funding. They know first-hand the damage of the cuts to bulk billing and the threat to the pharmaceutical benefits scheme.
The interviews go over time, meaning I will miss school pick up. I do, however, manage to get to Aldi. Before I know it, I have done a full shop in 15 minutes. It won’t go to waste - no child has ever eaten as much as my son. His sensory issues lead him to crunchy food. This isn't a problem because carrots, apples, cucumber and celery are all crunchy and healthy. It’s the quantity that astounds me - he will easily demolish a kilo of this stuff each day.
I arrive home to a rock star reception and hear about the sticker my daughter is proudly wearing for solving a maths problem. They help unload the shopping, checking off the shopping list my daughter sent me. I am as surprised as they are that I got everything.
Dinner is already sorted, leftover spag bol, meatballs and veggies. As the kids are eating, I am cooking another three meals, two for freezing and one for tomorrow. Being organised is the Key. To. All. Of. This!
Tonight is soccer, and thankfully, my aspiring Leo Messi is getting a lift. It gives me an hour one-on-one with my daughter. I wash her hair, blow dry it and plait it. We plan our Friday night which will involve home manicures, board games, and popcorn.
Next, I hit the phones. I have a list of people to talk to, voters who have expressed a desire to talk to me. The calls go well, including a young voter who completely impressed me with her deep knowledge of TAFE. It’s refreshing to hear someone this young so engaged. This keeps me going.
Mitch has a meltdown after being asked to pick up after himself. This one is an overreaction and disproportionate to the request. I have no idea what just happened and it will take a few days for whatever is upsetting him to float to the surface. For now it’s a shower, a hug and express train to bed. We've been working on appropriate reactions with his occupational therapist - it’s clear there is still room for improvement.
Later it is approaching midnight and the 4:30 am alarm is set. There are emails to answer, a kitchen to clean and some other random chores to tend to.
The electorate I am contesting this election – Lindsay in Sydney’s Western suburbs - is the place I have called home all my life and I love this community. However the reality of living far from the city is that many mums and dads have to travel further to work. Their day starts earlier and finishes later. When you add anxiety about job security, more expensive medical care and the need for quality education into the mix, it’s no surprise people some of my ‘wonder women’ friends feel the odds are against them.
We are all working, raising children and supporting each other and I’d like a government that reflects those values. For me, policies such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme, a strong Medicare and a first class school system reflect the values of our community. Some things are worth going the extra mile.