THE 10 BEST THINGS ABOUT TRAVELLING WITH KIDS

This time last year, Hoff and I were lucky enough to take a trip to the US….child-free.

We had the best time. And critically, we did all the things we knew we couldn’t get away with if our kids were in tow. We ate well, we drank a lot, we listened to music, went to museums, finished conversations. You name it, we did it.

So here we are again and it’s hard not to compare our child-free adventure last year with our child-full adventure this year.

With that in mind, here are the very best things about travelling with kids.

1. There is no grey.

Have you ever travelled with a group of friends and had that thing were you’re all falling over each other to make sure you’re not too bossy or controlling?

As in, “I don’t mind, what do you want to do?”, “no really, I don’t mind, what do you want to do?”, “no I insist, it’s up to you…”

This does not happen when you travel with your children. All decision-making is expedited because if they don’t want it, they are not having it.

And if you don’t heed their warning and go back to the hotel for a rest instead of getting milkshakes, for example, they will make you pay by falling asleep in the middle of a restaurant in Chelsea Market.

2. They have no shame.

We went to the Museum of Natural History and like any good parent I had dutifully showed the kids Night at the Museum in preparation for their visit. The idea was to instill a sense of excitement in the little tackers, so they could experience the thrill of seeing it in real life, which kind of happened.

But also, their biggest takeaway of the film seemed to be that the Easter Island statue referred to itself as ‘Dum Dum’, when it became bewitched after dark (sorry, spoiler alert) and consequently when we made our way to the Hall of Pacific Peoples, the relative museum serenity was interrupted by my two chanting “Dum Dum, Dum Dum, Dum Dum” at the top of their lungs on approach. Even when I tried to tell them that it’s actually called a Moai and has fascinating origins and tried to convert the whole thing into a Holiday Learning Opportunity™, they weren’t having it and carried on with their chanting.

And this is the story of this holiday. Although at times it’s embarrassing, it’s also pretty bloody funny too.

Like when we saw a life-size model of the Statue of Liberty’s face, and the Boy Child stood with his head half in her nostril as though he was…well…you know…a booger…I had to have a little chuckle. I’m only human. Classic.

3. They say hilarious things.

Trips to tiny plane toilets are a bit of a nightmare usually, particularly when both your children are terrified of the flush and insist you come in with them. Worst kind of mile high club ever.

But on one such trip, the Girl Child was chatting away as she was dutifully going about her business, when she said, “I like our toilet at home better, mum. It’s much less wiggly.”

She was referring to the mild turbulence being experienced at the time. (The actual turbulence. Not a euphemism for things that happen in the toilet.)

Again – classic.

4. Quiet nights spent in the hotel room

On our child-free trip last year, I have to admit, there was an element of ‘mums and dads on the loose’ for Hoff and me. We went out most nights, got home too late most nights, and just generally made very little use of the hard-earned money spent on hotel rooms.

Fast-forward to this year and a quiet night after the kids’ 7pm bedtime is mostly the order of the day.

I’ve really been enjoying having more time to write and share our adventures, and Hoff’s really enjoyed having more time to fall asleep in front of the telly and claim to just be resting his eyes.

5. Reduced going out/booze budget.

See above.

6. Blurring fantasy and reality.

To be perfectly honest, when we travel, a big chunk of our itinerary activities are driven by reliving our favourite pop cultural exploits in the location they took place or were set. I’d love to say that we’re driven by educating ourselves, or experiencing culture, or pleasing aesthetics, but full disclosure, we’re quite basic that way.

Case in point, the second stop on next week’s road trip itinerary is Scranton, Pennsylvania. Because of The Office. And if you need any further information than that then I implore you to stop reading right now and go and watch all nine seasons and also what have you been doing with your life?

The best thing about doing this sort of thing with the kids, though, is that their tiny minds haven’t quite grasped the concepts of fact and fiction as yet, so when you take them to see the Ghostbusters Firehouse, for example, their delight is palpable, (as is their terror as they strain their necks checking for an appearance of Slimer).

7. The value of incidental wildlife sightings

Obviously, kids lose their minds over animals.

We’ve seen turtles in the lake Central Park, squirrels at the playground in Washington Square Park, and we’ve even had a few close brushes with that quintessential native inhabitant of the Upper West Side – the toy poodle.

All incidental, all free, and most importantly – all smiles from the rugrats every. darn. time.

8. Guilty pleasures.

Kids provide a great excuse/incessant nagging to indulge in what would normally be holiday guilty pleasures.

Need an afternoon nap? We’d better do that, you know. For the kids.

Want to buy that Statue of Liberty bobblehead? What a great idea.

Can we have donuts for breakfast? Yes. Yes we can.

What’s that kids? You’ve got a craving for hotel room Pringles? Sure, we can get some.

(Mum, we didn’t ask for those chips.)

(No, it’s fine kids. We’re on holidays, you can have them.)

(We’d really prefer a banana at this point mum, can we just get that?)

(There you go kids, Pringles for everyone.)

(….Mum, are these really for you?)

(You’re so welcome, kiddos.)

9. They’re easy pleased.

In case you haven’t got the sense already, Hoff and I tend to take somewhat of a holiday from parenting when we travel too. Nothing too drastic, just a general relaxing of what are usually some pretty hard and fast rules.

So the kids have been enjoying a little more sugar, a little more screentime, and a little less sleep than usual.

Which means that the phrases:

“Hey kids, who wants to go and have Froot Loops for breakfast then go to the Lego store and buy personalised mosaics in the design of your face then have a slice of pizza that’s bigger than your head today?”

and

“Hey kids, who wants to strip down to our undies and watch telly for more than an hour in the hotel room?”

are met with the same level of enthusiasm. Despite the epic chasms in planning, cost and general effort that goes into each.

10. They’re here.

I missed them when we went away last year. As much as we tried to plan a trip that they would’ve hated, there were things that crept in that we knew they would’ve loved. And every time we saw something, the pangs of separation felt a tiny little bit more acute.

Which is, hands down, the best things about our trip this year. We’re all here together.

BUCKET LIST CRASHING

In winter 2015, I was living in Auckland, pregnant with the Girl Child, and spending my days between playgroup, swimming, Little Kickers and generally wrangling the Boy Child who was two at the time.

So when my sister, Tara, came to visit, we decided to get out of Auckland and see a bit of New Zealand.

We headed south for Rotorua, and spent a few days down there riding the Skyline, visiting Te Puia and trying to explain the link between increased Geothermal activity, sulphur and the unique odor of Rotorua to a two-year-old with a keen sense of smell.

I also accidentally drove right through the middle of a traditional Māori village (due to an overzealous GPS) which is hands down the worst thing I’ve ever done while travelling and left me feeling more mortified than the time my entire primary school saw my undies at assembly (long story).

So it was maybe the work of karma for this incident that saw the speedy decline in the Boy Child’s behaviour that trip.

He was not napping. He was not going to bed on time. He suddenly, loudly and violently began to exercise his right to conscientiously object to bathing.

Karma.

Or maybe it was the fact that he was two. I guess we’ll never know.

On the way home from Rotorua, almost as an afterthought, we stopped by Matamata which is the home of the Hobbiton movie set, and a critical stop for NZ Lord of the Rings kitsch.

And it was during this movie set tour that the Boy Child’s behaviour hit peak ratty-ness. He screamed. He tantrumed. He didn’t want to walk and as it turns out, Hobbiton is not pram-friendly. It was cold. It was muddy. He sat in the cold mud. He wanted to go inside the fake Hobbit house facades.

And about half way through the tour, when we were too far in to turn back, I suddenly though to myself, what am I doing here?

I didn’t even particularly enjoy the Lord of the Rings movies.

At about the same time I took closer notice of our co-travellers in our tour group. So many accents. So many highly specific questions for our tour guide. So many Lord of the Rings t-shirts.

And then it dawned on me, these were not people who had stopped here in passing. These were people who had come a long way to visit here. These were actual fans. These were people who were maybe even ticking off critical items on their life’s bucket lists.

And holy crap, my kid was ruining it all. The horror. For all I knew these people may never get a chance to get this far south of the Equator again, let alone try Hobbiton again on a day without a tiny two-year-old Aussie screeching because I wouldn’t let him pick the fake set flowers.

And this is hands-down the hardest thing about travelling with kids.

It’s not the jetlag. It’s not the constant demands for snacks as though our pantry has somehow grown sentient and accompanied us to the US. It’s the spectre of ruining someone else’s once in a lifetime experience with your kids’ unpredictable behaviour.

On that note, yesterday the kids and I went to see Aladdin on Broadway.

I suggested Hoff have the afternoon off (which was a decision driven by fiscal responsibility as much as it was marital compromise) and I was so excited to book the kids their first musical theatre tickets. And on Broadway, of all places.

I was nervous that they’d be too young, but I took precautions.

I planned a late morning snack during our stop at the beautiful Grand Central Terminal that morning to head off hangry-ness. I booked a matinee as opposed to an evening performance to mitigate tiredness. I booked the front row of a balcony to eliminate incidental seat kicking. I booked seats on the aisle in case I had to drag them out of the theatre by their ears and read them the riot act. I planned to bribe them with interval M&Ms.

But as the day drew closer and particularly when the kids woke up at 5am, the Boy Child with a blocked nose and headache, and it was raining, I started to have post-traumatic flashbacks to Hobbiton.

What if they’re noisy? What if they can’t sit still? What if they put their feet on the railings and drop their shoes over the balcony and brain some poor pensioner in the stalls? What if they don’t appreciate the shining, shimmering, splendidness of it all and completely lose it?!

Simply put – what if they ruin someone’s once in a lifetime Broadway experience?

Even worse – what if that someone whose once in a lifetime is ruined is me?!

As it turns out, they did none of those things. They sat (relatively) still and watched the show. They laughed at the appropriate times. The gasped in awe at the appropriate times. They peed their pants when there were unexpected pyrotechnics (not literally, thankfully, as that was one of the few doomsday scenarios I had not anticipated).

In the end, the Boy Child leaned over about ten minutes into the show and said, “mum, this is the best thing ever.”

And the Girl Child was so sold on the narrative that she queried why we were all clapping the bad guys in the curtain calls.

As for me, I shed a quiet tear during “Friend Like Me”, because I was so darn happy to share this experience with my kids, and to tick something off my own bucket list in the process.

And maybe a teensy bit in relief because this time we didn’t seem to be crashing anyone else’s bucket list ticking in the process.  

TRY HARD

Wasn’t that just the insult of the mid-1990s?

Look at her in her ripped jeans and her Doc Martens. I bet she doesn’t even listen to Nirvana. What a try hard.

(They were right. I didn’t listen to Nirvana. But I still wear Doc Martens to this day. Because screw you 90s grunge kids; warm, comfortable footwear is for everyone.)

But who knew that as a mum, being a Try Hard would actually be a badge of honour?

What, me? A try hard? Your damn right I am. Or I do.

(Like right now I’m trying hard to understand the grammar.)

I write this from a silent Upper West Side hotel room as I wait for my kids to wake up after our arrival here last night.

New York City might be the city that never sleeps, but my kids sure do. Especially after we subjected them to a 28-hour door-to-door, long haul, cross hemisphere, international travel experience.

(Which is how I sold it to them in the first place, incidentally. The trick is in the marketing.)

And boy did I try hard in my preparations for this flight.

I did a trial suitcase pack three weeks prior to the flight to ensure I could cover all manner of social/meteorological situations in which we might find ourselves.

I bought those packing cells which I was worried might be a bit of a scam to convince highly strung family travel coordinators to part with their cash, but actually they’ve turned out to be my favourite things in life after my wedding ring and children.

I pre-selected our seating positions and meal choices.

I packed snacks, medications, fresh clothes and sleeping aids (comforters and eye-masks obviously, not medicinal – settle down Internet.)

Critically, I worked long and hard on packing things to entertain the kids during the flight.

In the days before we left, I was chatting to the Girl Child’s kindy teacher about our trip. She regaled me with stories of the effort she went to for carry on entertainment during a trip she took when her kids were similar ages to ours.

I inwardly beamed with pride when she starting listing an almost carbon copy of the contents of my kids’ backpacks – colouring books, educational worksheets, the makings of a comprehensive travel journal, meticulously crafted but critically lightweight travel games.

I mean, this woman is an actual qualified early childhood educator so maybe I’m was doing something right?

Then she dissolved into laughter and further recalled how once her kids were on the plane and had their seatback screen/personal entertainment devices in hand, they were totally happy and content to get on with the process of flying long-haul, and the only thing her hours of hard work really achieved was to create extra weight in their bags, which ended up being left – largely untouched – at their holiday destination as a result.

And now, having come through the other side of child-friendly, long-haul travel ourselves, I can concur that yep, I probably didn’t need to try so hard with all that stuff either.

The only thing I really should have done was learn how to play Minecraft, which we diligently installed on the Boy Child’s iPad before we left.

(Seriously though, send help. Like are you meant to eat the sheep or domesticate them? I’m so confused.)

That said, the lengths that I went to in preparing for our flight was nothing compared to the planning that has gone into our itinerary from here on in. There may or may not have been multiple spreadsheet tabs and graphic-based brainstorming maps. There were definitely multiple travel guides involved. Both online and hard copy.

My point is, I’ll never stop trying hard in my dogged pursuit of the creation of magical childhood travel memories for my children through our travel. It is my favourite incarnation of myself as a try hard so far.

(Take that, Stussy hat and overall wearing 1992 me).

THE TAIL WAGGING THE DOG & INSTAGRAM

You know that thing when you’re aware things are bad, but you had no idea just how bad?

Like when you take your car for a service and you’re reasonably sure it’s $1000+ bad, but it’s actually http://www.carsales.com.au bad?

Or like when you’re worried that you left the front door unlocked bad but actually you left the oven on and your whole house has burned down bad?

Or like when you think you might’ve forgotten to pack your kid’s lunchbox bad but actually you’ve dropped him off at school on a Saturday, alone and with no lunch, bad?

That’s what it was like when I sat down to write this blog post.

I wanted to write a post about how the use of the word “Instagrammable” annoys me, because it’s a brand, not an adjective.

But before I mouthed off about this English-language interloper, I thought I’d better get my facts straight and do a bit of research via Google. (Also a brand, not a verb).

How long have people been saying this? Am I the only one with a problem with it? What does Urban Dictionary have to say about it?

Imagine my horror, when not only did my search yield no such etymological results, but before I even had the chance to execute the search, the following appeared:

See? So much worse than I thought. Am I feeling lucky, Google? No. No I’m not. I’m feeling really quite depressed about the whole thing.

So apparently ‘Instagrammable’ is a thing and we’re not even debating it anymore.

But these ongoing corporate ambushes on the English language are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the social media behemoth’s impact on the way we live our lives.

What’s truly troubling me is the way that life seems to be shaping itself to be appealing for the sake of Instagram, and not the other way around.

New restaurants and cafes are opening seemingly with the express purpose of looking good with the X-Pro II filter. It’s not even clear whether they serve food.

Tourism websites are providing links to the addresses of all the best street art for the masses to ‘stumble on’ during their travels. Meanwhile, the subversive forefathers of the guerilla art form are turning in their graves.

Bars everywhere are going out of business as the cost of glasses broken by patrons trying to capture that elusive perfect drinking/cheers/Boomerang becomes too prohibitive to go on.

And in the ultimate kick in the teeth, just as the world seems to be cottoning on to these troubling trends, the influencers who were wildly culpable in starting it all, are now making bank by creating content that extols the virtues of the ‘social media detox’ and the benefits of being present and not just ‘doing it for the ‘Gram’.

It’s endlessly frustrating.

Riddle me this: you know how generations before us all smoked, and now with the benefit of hindsight and all our new knowledge we can sit in judgment and say, “How can they not have known how bad it was for them? Tut, tut.”

Is that how my kids are going to feel in fifty years time when they scroll through my Instagram feed? All 18,000 pictures worth?

Meanwhile I’m pacing the nursing home, unable to sit still or focus on my knitting for more than thirty seconds because my mind has been conditioned to expect new content every 4.5 seconds, pausing only to post hilarious Boomerangs with my false teeth?

Full disclosure: I love Instagram. I love the window into my friends’ lives it occasionally provides when I don’t get to see them all the time. I love the fashion/art/food inspiration it can provide when it comes from a place of authenticity. I love the voyeurism allowed by peeping into the lives of famous people whose actual bathroom I’ll likely never have the opportunity to use because of actual organic friendship. I love when someone advertises something to me and I really do want said thing and I wouldn’t have known about it otherwise.

(I dislike the inspirational quotes, though. They can beat it.)

The point is, I don’t want Instagram to go away. I do still want to be able to use it to post pictures of me and future my mates at Sherry O’Clock in the nursing home. #nannasgonewild

I just really detest this all-pervasive, existence-altering, manipulation machine it seems to be fast becoming today. The thing that is compelling marketers to engineer unique ‘Instagrammable’ experiences that really only serve to remind us of how nothing is unique and everyone is cynical and also all these things do is create queues and queues are the worst.

Would it be too much to ask Instagram to go back to being that thing we used on the odd occasion when our lives and thoughts were so unique and fabulous that we just couldn’t help but share them?

I want to go back to that time when our actual lives were all the content we needed because frankly, life was pretty good without trying.

THE WISDOM OF WAGS

Help! I’ve been following the recent media coverage of NRL WAGs providing ‘advice’ on childhood vaccinations and I rolled my eyes so hard that my eyeballs broke. Anyone know the Instagram handle of a WAG I can consult for this serious medical condition?

Prior to the broken eyeballs, I watched with interest as two NRL partners – Taylor Winterstein and Shanelle Cartwright – made recent headlines for their public anti-vaccination stance. The media damnation has been vocal and swift with Winterstein in particular being singled out for charging $200 for her ‘seminars’ on the subject.

Any time an anti-vaxxer finds their way out of the wholefoods aisle and into the mainstream media, the frustration and emotion around the topic is almost palpable. What’s interesting in this particular case, is the intersection between this oft-maligned stereotype, and our other stereotypical preoccupation – the Wives and Girlfriends of professional sportsmen.

Many point to the 2006 soccer World Cup as the genesis of our interest in WAGs. Lead by Victoria Beckham and Cheryl Cole, the English partners set fashion trends from their seats in the stands and made headlines from the bars afterwards. They provided a concurrent narrative to the actual game, and to those of us who’ve never quite understood the low-scoring code, it was a welcome enhancement to the tournament.

Fast-forward to 2019, and an interest in the activities of WAGs is not so much a novelty, but a reluctant norm. We even have a shorthand for quantifying a WAGs’ news value through a handy reference to her Instagram followers.

But far from making headlines for drinking Veuve Cliquot straight from the bottle through a straw, WAGs are now using their platform to broadcast their opinions on a broad range of topics – not just the appropriate sunglass lens diameter for this season.

I should know, as a former-NRL-player partner myself I have been particularly mouthy in the past few months about the off-field issues facing the rugby league community at the moment.

I don’t mention my own exploits to give them a subtle plug (though, please, by all means, do have a read), but to make the case for an interest in the activities of those closest to our sporting elite.

The fact is, our sportspeople occupy an elevated position in our shared public consciousness, and in this current culture of encouraged voyeurism, it stands to reason that those adjacent to the famous and infamous will be the subject of some interest too.

I would further argue that in some cases, these opinions could actually be valuable. As WAGs we do develop a very specific almost Neeson-esque set of skills, and it would be foolish to dismiss us all as mere tabloid fodder.

For example, if you want some thoughts on the link between a player’s convoluted pre-game rituals and their actual performance – we can enlighten you. (Spoiler alert, I can assure you, through years of data collection, there is no link between a pre-game beef stroganoff and an increased tackle count.)

Want to know the best way to plan a family holiday for the off-season when you’re not sure if your partner will bomb out of the finals in the first round or go all the way through to the big one and subsequently disappear for a six-week international representative tour at a day’s notice? We’ve got a solution for that.

We can give tips on surviving weekend after weekend on your own with your kids because your partner has a string of away games and as a result of his career you live in a city with no support network to help you keep your sanity and crippling loneliness in check. We’re super-good at that.

Having trouble with the office man-splainer? Our lifetime of experience in nodding politely while dudes tell us ‘how footy works’, despite the fact that we have been forced to eat, sleep and breathe the damn sport from the moment we met our partners makes us experts in the practice.

Struggling with body image? As WAGs the societal expectation that we look a certain way and weigh a certain amount has left many of us with a hugely eroded sense of self-confidence so we’ve certainly got some thoughts we can share with you here.

Someone stole your thunder? Once I grew human-person and had it chopped out of my abdomen, only to have my husband make the New South Wales State of Origin team two days later. As a result, I spent six of the first nine weeks of said human person’s life raising him alone, becoming a parent for the first time alone, all the while fielding hyper-enthusiastic ‘you must be so proud of Ryan’ sentiment. Simply put, I can empathise.

Us WAGs are more just than giant handbags, filled lips and hot air. We have thoughts, feelings and opinions on a far-ranging variety of topics and it’s perhaps not the worst idea in the world to ask us our views on these things from time to time.

That said, maybe just leave the medical advice to the certified health professionals.

#BALANCEFORBETTER

There’s an air of head-scratching and confusion around rugby league at the moment.

What began as a few off-field incidents late last year has developed into a spate of player misbehavior, particularly with regards to the treatment of women. As a result, industry-wide frustration seems to be giving way to a sense of dejected confusion.

How did it come to this?

Commentators across the board have offered theory after theory on where the code has gone wrong, but one thing seems to be beyond argument – rugby league has a problematic relationship with women.

Stripped to its core, rugby league is a celebration of strength, speed and aggression. All characteristics that – rightly or wrongly – are generally associated with men, and have been since time immemorial.

So in this lead up to International Women’s Day, when we take time to reflect on the strides we have taken towards gender equality, we need to start by acknowledging that because of its fundamental physical nature, the literal rugby league field remains a space where women are separate.

That said, this segmentation along gender lines is no excuse for the fact that even off the field, rugby league remains a male-dominated space. And surely this is where we need to start. If there is a poor or even indifferent attitude towards women within rugby league, it could be because there are simply not enough of us around.

It is important to draw a distinction here between football clubs and football departments. In my sixteen years experience with rugby league clubs I’ve known a great number of women who work in the ‘front office’ of the club – marketing, sponsorship, membership and match day experience, for example. But within the football departments – the players, coaches, medical, strength and conditioning staff – in my experience the number of female staff tends to be much lower. Not zero, but very low.

So for all intents and purposes, the space in which players operate tends to be male-dominated. Which is problematic.

These guys spend all day mostly with other men; working with other men, reporting to other men, in some cases competing with other men.

Often they have come to this industry straight out of high school, maybe even an all-male school, so they have literally never had a female peer or a female boss. They have never had to compete with a woman for anything.

Which is why we are in desperate need of women in football departments and in management. Specifically female trainers, performance staff, referees, coaches, managers, CEOs and board members. We need more women present in the gym, in team reviews, on the sidelines, in boardrooms and on touring buses.

We need this group of young men to understand that women are a vital component of any functional workplace, that they are more than just your mothers, or your sisters, or your potential romantic conquests.

Women need to be not only humanized, but bestowed with intrinsic value that is not relative to the amount of weight they can squat or bench press.

Players need to be shown that the inclusion of women in any environment is one that will enrich the workings of the team. Multiple and diverse viewpoints on any issue can only be beneficial, we know this. #BalanceforBetter, as is the campaign theme for International Women’s Day this year. 

Challengers to this school of thought will point to the fact that there are few women in football departments because rugby league has long been considered the domain of men so there are fewer women applying for the roles in the first place. And when they do, they may not have been afforded the vast experience that their male counterparts have, and their CV is likely to reflect this discrepancy. It is a vicious cycle.

So how do we resolve that?

A mandatory quota system for female staff in football departments might work.

Whilst the merits of quotas have been robustly debated in both the corporate and political spheres, they are already an accepted aspect of rugby league. For example, UK Super League teams are only allowed to register five overseas players at any one time, presumably to protect the homegrown talent pool of the game in the UK, and this is accepted as part and parcel of the game internationally.

I fail to see how the enforcement of a female football staff quota should be seen as any less valuable or necessary.

It’s just one example of a change that could be made.

Plus we do need to approach this issue from the top down. The NRL have done a great job of creating a inclusion framework for the entire rugby league community, but one can’t help but wonder how long this attitude shift in the grassroots of rugby league will take to filter through to the highest, most visible level of professional rugby league in the NRL.

And we don’t really have time to wait. We need to do something. The situation has become pressing. As many have pointed out, there is brand damage being done to our game but what’s far worse is the potential for actual human damage.

Last week the NRL announced a forensic review into NRL culture, with particular regard to the treatment of women. This is welcome recognition that there are changes to be made. I look forward to the findings, and more importantly to a future where in rugby league we can be aspirational in this space, rather than standing around, scratching our collective heads.

CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION

After an NRL off-season replete with player misbehavior and serious accusations, we in the rugby league community have once again found ourselves in the murky debate as to how our game should treat proven perpetrators of violent crime.

Now, in the wake of domestic violence accusations against Cowboys player Ben Barba, both his club and the league have acted – swiftly and decisively. The Cowboys have torn up his one-year contract and the NRL have deregistered him as a professional rugby league player in Australia.

It’s an encouraging step in the right direction.

If the NRL can use this decision as the groundwork for an extensive policy for dealing with convicted violent offenders, then this precedent has the ability to act as deterrent to future would-be offenders. So it’s an integral part of the overall discussion.

But it is only one piece of the puzzle. This is a discussion that must be continued and considerably broadened.

As a case in point: it’s been heartening to see concern for Ben Barba’s partner and children filter through the media coverage of this story. Multiple commentators have raised concern for Ainslie Currie’s mental well-being as a result of the incident and the family’s financial well-being in the wake of the sudden termination of a household income stream.

Like many current and former NRL partners, I know what it’s like to depend solely on a partner’s income. It’s stressful enough when it comes time to renegotiate contracts that you’ve long known are expiring; I cannot imagine what it must be like to have the rug pulled out from under you in this abrupt manner.

This is an opportunity to broaden the conversation. Not only the conversation around what we can do now for Ainslie Currie and her children, but how we can continue to improve if we face this situation again in the future.

Here’s what might seem like a disconnected example: I have long believed that NRL players should have a fixed day off. A weekday, which is selected by the club at the start of the year, and remains the same week-in, week-out, regardless of whether it’s preseason, standard competition or finals.

Bear with me.

As it stands, NRL clubs dictate players’ week-to-week schedules within a few restrictions negotiated and set by the Rugby League Players Association. NRL clubs are not bound to provide their players (or their families) with a standard recurring day each week when they are guaranteed no commitments. They have days off, yes, but they float around and are different week-to-week.

So how would this make a real difference?

Firstly, it would force players to recognise that they must co-exist with many other working components of a functioning society, thus going some way to negating this unreasonable expectation that players’ families will simply be ‘on tap’ to pick up the slack of family-life and household management. It forces players to see their families and partners as people who deserve not only their time, but some semblance of certainty in their day-to-day lives.

To simplify: hey guys, there are other people in your world that need to be able to rely on you. We know people love footy and stuff but is it so high stakes that we must be on-call seven days a week in the event of an emergency meeting about a referee crackdown on playing the ball correctly?

Secondly, it gives players a better opportunity to plan for life after football. They could study, maybe even in an actual face-to-face setting where they venture out into the world, meet people from different backgrounds and generally get a small glimpse into how another section of society operates. They could use the time to commit to half a day of regular work experience – a much more appealing prospect to any employer, surely.

Crucially, a standard day off removes a huge barrier to partners of footballers with children having gainful employment. Under the current model, given the fluidity of players’ schedules, the level of childcare required to cover all of the possible scenarios for even having a part-time job, can be financially prohibitive. Couple that with the regular travel and the fact that many families have taken contracts in cities where they have no other family support, and it’s no surprise to me that most of the partners I’ve met either don’t work, or work in the gig economy. If we could just have one day of certainty, it would make some financial contribution or even financial independence seem that much more attainable.

And this is where it all ties together.

If players are given more realistic opportunities to work towards life after football, they’d be better equipped if football life ends abruptly, whatever the circumstances.

If partners are given time and space to earn something of a living, to create meaningful professional networks, then in these horrible situations, perhaps the financial stress at least might be somewhat alleviated.

But most importantly, if we can make big, cultural changes that communicate to everyone in the game that you must give something back to the people that support you endlessly in achieving your dreams, then perhaps it will go some way to creating an attitude shift towards partners, families and anyone outside of the rugby league sphere with regards to their intrinsic worth.

I know this might be fanciful and I know it assumes a lot of players’ and partners’ individual choices. And there is certainly no suggestion that giving players a Tuesday off will signal the end to our problems.

But it could make a difference. It is one of many relatively simple but fundamental changes that just might go some way to contributing to a better future for our game and everyone it involves. There are many more ideas out there, we just need to keep talking about it.