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Reflections on lockdown - with Alissa from FamiliesDo

Today we are looking back on lockdown with Alissa; nanny and founder of FamiliesDo who lives with grandmother who sadly has dementia.

After working as a nanny for 9 years, I recently founded FamiliesDo which offers coaching to help families achieve a work-life balance by empowering each other to work better as a team. I have been working from home since June 2019 while still nannying on the side so working remotely wasn’t a big change for me. However, the school closures were a massive change as I haven’t seen my nanny kids since March. This was a huge adjustment for me and them since we haven’t been apart for this long in 9 years. I also help take care of my 80-year old grandmother with dementia during lockdown which has really impacted my lifestyle - and hers.

As lockdown commenced, I cared for my grandmother full-time with my family’s help. She’s lived with us for 3 years but we used to have a caretaker for her during work hours because she can’t be left alone or unattended even if people are nearby. We have to be very mindful of where she is and what she’s doing so she doesn’t leave the house, try and turn on the stove, or do any of the other “simple” household tasks that can become dangerous for someone with dementia. We do our best to switch off with each other between getting work done and making sure that she is safe and calm. She was a hard worker, a busy bee all her life so routines are very comforting to her because they make her feel like she’s being productive. But with the closures her routine is gone. She stopped her morning commute to her caretaker’s house during work hours. She stopped getting picked up to come home. She stopped running errands with us or simply going out to eat. Now, she’s stuck at home 24/7 if we’re not out for walk in the park after dinner. And this busy bee has nothing to do. I make projects for her, like sorting colored pom poms and other crafts, but that only keeps her feeling productive for so long before she gets confused or starts feeling anxious again, which usually leads to tears and shouting. Emotions are constantly running high for all of us.

Working from home is extremely distracting since everyone else started working from home too and since taking care of my grandma 24/7. My desk has always been in an open area, but that was never a problem until now. It’s difficult for me to work while other people are watching TV, when my grandma needs someone to look after her, or when people just aren’t mindful about someone else needing to focus. I bought noise canceling headphones which helps, but having separate office spaces, and a caretaker for my grandma, would really help me become more productive. I remind myself that “productive” pre lockdown looks very different post lockdown and that staying flexible with work and family is key.

Platforms for small businesses owners and FaceBook mom groups have been such a source of community and connection for me. I feel very supported to keep pushing and inspired to lift others up because of these communities.

Being away from my nanny kids has been very difficult and not being able to have fun with them or support them emotionally as a kind of big sister. They’re really my second family. And not being able to see my friends and boyfriend. As an extrovert, social distancing has been really hard on me. I don’t see zoom calls and texts as real personal connections. They usually make me miss my loved ones more since I can’t see them in person. But I think the biggest issue for me has been prioritizing down time. Since there’s less separation between work and play now that I'm Home 24/7 and I found myself just throwing myself into my work to stay productive and make up for lost time when I was distracted. In the beginning I wasn’t taking time for the breaks that I used to be really good at taking and when the closures weren’t in place. It’s been a major mindset shift for me to think of play as staying home and not going out with friends and family. BUT luckily, I love my work. So, work has become a form of play for me. I believe that clear separations between work, play and family are essential for balance. That was important for me to realize early on before I turned into a workaholic though it’s still a challenge. Getting creative about what down time and self-care looks like has really helped.

I’ve had more walks/ hikes with my family during this time than ever before. It’s a great habit that I hope we continue together as lockdown lifts. We were very close and spent time with each other before lockdown so it hasn’t been a major adjustment in our lives. Now I definitely have a bigger appreciation for slowing down and not being on the move 24/7. As a North Jersey girl that has been a MAJOR adjustment.

I know we’re experiencing more pressure than ever to take care of our family at a time they need us most, but please do not forget to take care of yourself. Don’t forget to feed yourself, don’t forget to be kind to yourself, to pay attention to your feelings and your needs. And don’t rush the process. You have time to adjust together more than anything into a home-schooling routine or summer schedule that works. Taking care of yourself needs to happen today, because when you take better care of yourself, you can take better care of your family.

Alissa Lopez

This series has been edited and compiled by Bex McKinty - a Belfast based blogger writing about anything from food and films to people and politics with the underlying aim of empowering womxn from all walks of life. Follow her at @girlscantthrow

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