Updated: Jul 21, 2020
Sissi Arcuri has kindly shared her experience of lockdown and reflects upon what continues to be a very worrying time for us . She reminds us all to take time out to recharge and write down things we are grateful for.
I am a mum of two; my daughter is 8 and my son is 2. I am Polish, my partner is Italian and we are both miles away from our families. I work part time for a financial advisor and I am studying to eventually become one myself. I am also a self-employed freelancer providing marketing and virtual - assistant services. Some weeks I work full time hours whilst also juggling two kids, home, studies and my social media profile with very little childcare. My youngest goes to childminder 1 morning a week and he has started pre-school for 2 mornings a week since January. I solo parent a lot because my other half works in a restaurant.
My life pre-lockdown was very busy and exciting. I had achieved the perfect balance of being a mum and having a career. I went to yoga classes twice a week and I run an instagram “lifestyle blog” profile. I can’t say I had a good work-life balance, because my life was beyond that - it was all just life. I loved every minute of it. Work wasn’t in conflict with being a mum and being a mum wasn’t in a way of having my career. It is in my nature to “want to have it all”, I worked hard for many years to achieve it and finally “had it”.
Pre-lock down I had a very busy schedule and a routine; each day was different and I always had a place to be and things to do. Routine and planning were key and I had to stick to it so I wouldn’t fall behind. It consisted of work, school, pre-school and childminder pick-ups, yoga classes, study time, housewife time (I had no family or hired help) and, most importantly of course, being a mum!
Our life was drastically changed by lockdown. Before lockdown, I was the primary carer for our children, as their daddy was only home on Mondays and Tuesdays. But when the restaurants closed, he was home for 2 months straight and took over the majority of household and parenting duties. This is because my workload experienced a sharp increase and, as many will know, when you run your own business there is always a backlog of work you never had time to do. So I used this opportunity to catch up on things like filing my accounts or going paperless with my office. I had also been poorly for several weeks so it was an absolute blessing that he was here able to step in. We were always a good team (I work full time hours on his days off so he’s in charge of the kids and the house then) but I have always been the one who spends majority of time with our children (he works 70+ hours per week) so it was a nice change for all of us. The one thing that was difficult was the homeschooling. Neither of us are skilled in this department and whilst before I was able to close my office door or go to work and forget about what needs doing around the house or kids, now I have to coordinate their home learning, answer their questions and calm down a little girl that got stressed trying to do her work all whilst I’m trying to work and this puts all of us under a lot of pressure.
I have cried tears of happiness on a few occasions, mainly when the government announced the furlough scheme and that it was going to be extended. I know first-hand how little the Polish and Italian governments have supported their people. I have said on many occasions that if I could choose one country where I would like to be during this pandemic it would have been U.K. I feel very thankful to be here and for everything the UK government has done. They may not have been perfect but I truly believe they have done their best and they acted quickly and were a lot more transparent than other governments across the world.
With regards to my employment; I have the best boss in the world so I feel even more grateful about that. He is flexible and understanding and supportive and will always tell me to put my family first. Whilst working from home he would tell me to just be available but not to worry if I cannot do everything. He even told me to take an extra hour for lunch because we are not busy. He moved out of the office so I could work there uninterrupted when I need silence (I am still isolated because there’s no one else there). I remember working for a guy who would never allow flexible or remote working and who was so obsessed that he made his employees write down every minute of their day in an Excel spreadsheet so he could check we had worked hard/fast enough. I am very lucky and grateful for the supportive boss I have now. I am also my own boss so can’t complain there!
The hardest thing in the lockdown was the loss of our routine and homeschooling my daughter. We all had busy and active lives and losing this from one day to another was hard on all of us but mostly on my children. I don’t think our school was particularly supportive as I believe they set unreasonable expectations on parents as well as focusing primarily on the study part. I wished they would have focused on supporting our children’s wellbeing and I don’t understand why are they unable to provide even just 1 hour of Teams or Zoom classes a day. It would have been a completely different experience if my daughter could see at least some of other students as well as the teachers online every day. She has her own iPad and can iMessage friends and do FaceTime calls but this again has to be supervised and our schedule is full enough. Keeping both of my two children entertained every day with a bigger age gap (5.5 years) is not easy!
The second hardest part was the uncertainty of what our income will be, will we still have roof over our heads at the end of the year? Will my partner’s restaurant re-open (he is the main bread winner)? Will he still have a job at the end of the year? Will we ever be able to afford buying our own house since we had to dip into our savings and are no longer able to put money away each month? During the first week of lockdown, we have found out we are expecting our third baby, which has added so much additional pressure to this already vulnerable situation.
I am grateful for Family Time. We never had enough of it before lockdown, since my other half works long hours in a restaurant, he’s never home on weekends or bank holidays. His busiest days are the Mother’s days, Valentines and all weekends. He would leave the house at 9am in the morning and wouldn’t return until 12-2am. Now, we go for long walks every day and spend majority of our days in the garden. The kids have changed a lot now that they were able to spend so much time with their dad and it has been so lovely for me to have my partner to lean on every minute of every day as well as for the two of us to have plenty of time as a couple.
I think we have experienced one of the most worrying times and we continue to do so, and some of us are less resilient than others. I know this will probably sound cliche as it is said over and over but really, it’s OK to not be OK. Talk to someone, share your feelings, have a little cry if you need to. Take a moment to re-charge and write down things that you are thankful for.
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