Women in Coastal under Covid-19 Series. Everything has an end.
By Ana Vila-Concejo
Everything has an end. These words that my friend Marina told me when I had my first child, have taken a whole new meaning in 2020. I am a Marine Scientist doing research in coastal geoscience and engineering, I have an ongoing position at The University of Sydney and I am one of the lucky ones. I am safe, I have my job, I can work from home and I am (mostly) sane. Even more, my friends and family here and in Spain are mostly safe and healthy and most of them have kept their jobs. I truly am lucky.
The year 2020 has brought a new meaning to being lucky… overworked, overloaded, overworried and anxious; but lucky, very lucky. Repeat with me: everything has an end.
Teaching in lockdown. In Sydney we saw lockdown coming towards us in slow motion, the lockdown was happening in other places. I spoke with my family and friends in Spain almost daily and frantically checked online statistics daily. In only 2 days, I learnt to record lectures and I pre-recorded and set canvas pages for 16 hours of lectures. It was insane but it somehow worked. I was lucky (again) to have amazing students in my cohorts this year, and I thank them for their patience and understanding. They would watch the videos and work through the material and then we would use the lecture times to discuss. It was actually pretty good, but we did miss some fieldtrips, the labs and actually seeing each other.
Family in lockdown. The kids, 11 and 7, came home for many weeks… was it 6? Was it more? Less? I can’t remember, it is a blur. It was a crowded house, with my husband and I working remotely, and the two kids learning online. We also had one cousin from Spain, Nico, who having arrived on the 6th of March for a long-wished adventure of travelling and surfing around Australia, had another type of adventure and got to know us intimately during lockdown.
Living in lockdown. We were lucky again we have a good house and a good internet connection (we also had toilet paper). We lived with military precision, with the adults taking turns in taking care of the children. I think I brought my fieldwork skills home! I would start working at 6am (sometimes earlier) and work until 8am. At 8am we had breakfast together and organised the daily routine making sure that children’s lessons did not conflict with adults’ meetings or zoom-lectures. My husband would typically home-school 9-12h, I’d do 12-15h and Nico (to whom we are eternally thankful) would take them to the park or do something with them after 15h. After 16-17h everything got blurred again as we tried to fit exercise and after school activities that before consisted in you dropping a kid, and now consisted on the kid doing karate or dancing in a room and you becoming the support person with image and sound*.
What now? Now life and work consist of trying to do things right and trying to avoid the virus getting out of control. We do many things just in case as we prepare for worse case scenarios and different possibilities. Workload has increased ridiculously but I do most of my work from home and have more time to be with my family. I am pretty good at disconnecting so I am not working crazy hours, but it is sometimes a choice between working like crazy to diminish anxiety levels caused by to-do list, or getting rest and somehow manage the anxiety… it is a difficult balance as I like to do things well and do them on time.
Overall, I cannot say that I hated lockdown or that most of the work fell on me as the woman of the family. I do have a very healthy relationship with my husband and we both took the required load, having my cousin at home increased the pressure for space but was instrumental to share the load. I kind of enjoyed the lockdown, made me feel closer to my children but I don’t want to repeat the experiment any time soon. Australian travel bans mean that I cannot go and visit my family and friends in Spain and that adds an extra layer of worry. However, I am lucky, we are safe, we are healthy and we still have jobs. We are in an area with relatively low incidence and summer is coming, and everything has an end.
*I confess I did ballet and jazz with my 7-year-old son because he didn’t want to dance alone, I thought the teacher couldn’t see me, I now know she could, apparently I was so hilarious that I was her highlight for the lessons. If only she gave me a spot at the end of the year concert…Posted on: 03/11/2020, by : Ana Vila-Concejo