We found out about Helpex before leaving for our adventure and promised ourselves that if we have the opportunity, we would give it a go. The first opportunity arose before we left Perth when we answered an ad to help out a family of four over the school holidays. With the dad working long and irregular hours and the mum away for two weeks in Perth for university, the five year old girl and seven year old boy needed entertaining and the house needed to be maintained.
We spent the weekend with the house to ourselves while the family went to Perth to watch a footy match. This gave us an opportunity to settle in to our room and get to know Geraldton before we got busy Helpexing. The house was in a prime location about 3km from town with a fantastic view of Champion Bay.
The first week was a challenge. We didn’t know the kids very well – their routine, what they liked to eat, how to keep them occupied. We were lucky that they were great kids and easily found things to do like drawing, jumping on the trampoline and playing with toys. They were so well behaved, listened to instructions and spent more time learning to read and write than worrying about what was on TV. As they were so well behaved, by the Tuesday we were confident enough to head down to the marina with them to do some fishing.
Taking care of the house was easy. Wipe surfaces, sweep and mop the floors, clean the bathroom, load the dishwasher then put the dishes away, load the washing machine then hang out laundry and fold when dry.
The mum returned over the weekend and it was a great opportunity for us to reflect on the week that had past and what we could do better. We decided to make a plan for the week first thing on Monday.
The second week was much more organised and the kids were happier for it. They had play dates with other kids at the park and we took them to the movies and the museum, as well as to Greenough Wildlife & Bird Park. We even got to tuck them in a few times and read them bedtime stories, and when they got a bump or a scratch, we knew what to do or say to make them feel better.
On the days when we took the kids out in the morning, they were allowed to relax a bit in the afternoon with a DVD. The boy usually chose a nature documentary while the girl chose the same thing every time – Disney’s Robin Hood. We must’ve seen it five or six times in the two weeks we were there!
Juz was more confident at lunch and dinner time. Instead of experimenting with the kids’ palate, she just asked them what they wanted and noticed a pattern. They liked ham, cheese, honey on toast, chicken skewers and steamed vegetables in their original form, not pureed into an indistinguishable mash.
Dave helped out around the house – he repaired door knobs, fixed salt grinders, installed gutters and helped with the gardening, walking Henry the Labrador and feeding the chickens.
- We got to stay at a beautiful house that was clean and spacious with a beautiful view of the ocean
- We got to meet Jeremy – a young Frenchie who is also travelling around Australia. He was supposed to leave for a farm job when we arrived, but after a few days, he returned and we ended up being great pals. He helped with dinner, cleaning and other outdoor jobs and in the evenings we’d watch a movie or go on a pub crawl.
- Conversation was stimulating – our hosts were great conversationalists and we learnt a lot about farming, the environment, fishing, politics and raising kids. We felt comfortable with each other and weren’t afraid to get colloquial.
- We had to work around their schedule, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because kids thrive on routine, but we had to ditch plans to go to the Camping and Caravan Show in town because we needed to prepare a roast lunch for the family.
- Taking care of kids can be stressful – particularly when you’re tired or you want alone time. They can be fussy and it can be hard to not be offended when they reject the food you’ve cooked, and when it comes to discipline, you just don’t know how far to go.
As we drove away from Geraldton, we looked at each other and smiled. The two weeks we spent with our Helpex family taught us so much about living in a regional city, about living next to the ocean, about taking care of kids and a lot about ourselves and what we’re capable of.