Heleen, our Head of Digital Marketing, mother to a six year old daughter and with a partner who is a millennial domestic god, shares how she is managing the ups and downs of the current situation in our latest coronavirus catch up.
I saw the COVID-19 tsunami coming
Being Belgian, an avid reader of the European news, and with a mother whose job as a leading child psychologist in Belgium was to advise on when to close the schools in response to coronavirus, I saw the COVID-19 tsunami heading for the UK a few weeks earlier than my English friends. So, whilst the UK was still grappling with what was about to hit us, I had my own quite ‘oh sh*t’ moment back at the beginning of March, nestled away in my home in Sunderland.
Every cloud has a silver lining
My daughter, Emma, is six years old and an only child. From the age of 5½ months to 4½ years I worked full-time, regularly putting in a 60-hour week, so I only saw her at the weekends. It tore me apart and broke my heart. I joined 2to3days last summer as their Head of Digital Marketing and the wonderful thing about the job is that I am trusted to deliver great work on time. When I do it is up to me. So not only has this meant that for last 10 months I can take Emma to school and pick her up, I also get to take her riding on a Thursday afternoon which is so special. Lockdown has also meant that the three of us have spent more uninterrupted time together as a family than ever before. Whilst there have been tantrums and meltdowns it has been wonderful to have this quality time together.
My feelings are like a yoyo
I have found throughout lockdown that my feelings fluctuate all over the place. Sometimes I feel really positive and then without any warning I can feel really quite low. I also miss my family dreadfully – they are all based in Belgium and we were supposed to visit them this Easter. Even though we facetime regularly, I miss being physically with them and being able to give my mum and dad a hug. I am also really worried about my 92-year-old grandad who has dementia. He still lives at home and up until now the Belgium government have been amazing and provided him with several hours of home care each day. But this has stopped. My dad and uncles and aunts are trying to see him each day but it isn’t the same and he loves the old routine. It is deeply upsetting knowing that he is distressed and there is nothing we can do about it except facetime him, which isn’t easy to do with a 92 year old with dementia! I am also acutely aware of how my daughter is feeling. She is too young to express herself properly, but she is becoming increasingly clingy – she literally follows me everywhere and I mean everywhere! She is not sleeping as well as normal and we are having far more tantrums than we would usually – bottom line, she is really lonely and scared, and how she feels messes with my mojo. I also had pneumonia a couple of years back and my partner has asthma, so I feel like I am wearing an ‘invisible vulnerability cloak’ even though I look very well and happy. Without realising it, it really wears you down.
Life gets in the way when you are making plans!
Ha! I love a schedule! So, once we knew that home schooling was happening I bought loads of stuff, created a schedule for the week/day and thought 'marvellous, I’ve cracked this and it will work like a dream'…. That lasted one day. I quickly realised that to survive we needed to manage the moments and react to the mood. There is no point trying to read when I can see a tantrum coming our way. It is also amazing how you can practise the alphabet whilst riding your bike!
My partner’s work and the value of flexibility
Joe is working crazy hours! He is doing the work of three people and also has to contend with a head office in the States so thank goodness I can flex my hours around Emma. I’m trusted to do my best, even if that means Emma is sitting on my lap colouring in – we manage and the work gets done but it is tough going.
A millennial dad
Even though Joe is working long hours, he is a domestic god. Brought up by a single mum, he inherently gets it and woe betide me if I interfere with his laundry routine! He is also great at playing silent football whilst taking a business call. I just wish he hadn’t started spring cleaning the downstairs cupboard as not only has he found my secret stash of shoes but now we have enough stuff to run our own car boot sale and currently this is all in the hallway – so life always has its trade-offs!
A cheeky rom com or 2…or 3!
I am finding, bizarrely, that I really want to watch rom-coms. I am also loving watching the BBC 2 series Race Around the World – pure escapism as I lose myself in the wonderful scenery of South America. I even watched a series the other day on Netflix called Unorthodox which is not something I would normally watch but I found it fascinating. It has been wonderful having the luxury of time to be curled up with Netflix and not feel guilty!
Growing closer with the 2to3days team
We all work flexibly and virtually, and whilst this has so many benefits, the trade off is that we do not have the water cooler moments or the drinks after work. During COVID-19 we have had a weekly Cake O'Clock where the children and pets all pile in, and we have all share insights into our families’ lives. My colleague Charlotte also has one child of a similar age so we natter away on WhatsApp, sharing the small intimate moments of day – both the highs and the lows and that is really lovely.