Elisavet Arkolaki, originally from Greece, is the mum behind Maltamum, and a mother of two, Erik 4 years old and Nelly 1. She studied French Language and Literature at the University of Athens and did her Masters Degree in Global Marketing at the University of Liverpool.
She moved to Malta in 2006 and had a successful career in the iGaming sector before she decided to put it ‘on pause’ and care for their first-born. Or rather that was the initial idea because soon enough she felt she wanted to come up with something that would give her the opportunity to remain active work-wise.
Maltamum started as a blog and was ‘born’ 3 weeks before she gave birth to Erik. 2 years later, the MaltamumShop was launched.
As a follow-up to baby-wearing week, Elisavet reached out to us to share more about her journey so far and plans for the future.
I wasn’t really aware of the fact that I would have to survive on broken sleep for a couple of years.
What was the biggest surprise about becoming a mother?
The power of love. How I literally felt my heart expanding as Erik was growing. Also how all other emotions were magnified; the altertness, the worries.
I was also positively surprised when our daughter was born; you see, I was worried whether it was possible to love someone else as much as I loved her brother. But the heart did its magic again, and expanded once more. It’s like you’ve built a small hut with your partner, and with every kid an extension is added, and the small hut slowly turns into a villa, that has so much love and enough space to fit in everyone. I find that one’s heart inflates exponentially versus the time you’ve actually known these tiny little human beings.
What has been the most challenging aspect of motherhood?
I wasn’t really aware of the fact that I would have to survive on broken sleep for a couple of years. That babies don’t ‘sleep like a baby’ as the common phrase implies, and neither do toddlers. I haven’t slept for more than 3-4h straight since 2013, and that’s on a good night.
I didn’t really expect either that I would be ‘on call’ 24/7. I found it more difficult to cope physically with our first, and surprisingly, I find it much easier now with our second, even though we have two young children to care for. What has changed is my mindset.
My expectations are different now, as I have accepted that this is how it is for now, and it will pass, and soon she will be a 4-year old like my son, who’s more keen of playing with his friends rather than being with mummy. I tend to take one day at a time, and be kinder with myself when I don’t manage to do everything I have on my daily ‘to-do’ list.
Actually, every single day there’s something left behind, and that’s OK.
What has been the best moment for you as a mother?
I cannot pinpoint a certain moment and if I would, it would be unfair, as each milestone is equally important.
I will always remember the first time I held them in my arms, the first time they smiled back, when they gave me their first hug, when I heard their first words and witnessed their first steps. But I can easily say what I enjoy the most, and that is the mornings with the two kids, and even more when daddy joins us (he usually works at night).
Our current morning routine after the summer break is Nelly and me waking up around 06:00 and Erik around 07:00. That gives us plenty of time to start the day without stress, as his school is 5 minutes from home. We listen to some music while we enjoy our breakfast, play a little bit and get ready to go.
Do you think becoming a parent affects relationships with others? how?
It does, in many ways. Your daily rhythms are different when you have young kids.
Most of our time when we’re not working is spent with our kids. If we need to do errands, we take them with us. Around 19:00 we start the bedtime routine. Roy puts Erik to bed and then works, and Nelly and me are also in bed by 20:00 latest. I usually sleep by 21:00, so that I can manage the ‘night shift’ with Nelly’s frequent wake-up calls (don’t ask how many…).
As a result, I’ve lost contact with dear friends who don’t have kids, simply because I can no longer go out when they do. Roy and me, luckily, still see enough of each other as he’s working home-based.
What is the best thing you ever bought as a mother?
My Ergobaby carrier. It’s the only baby product I’ve used daily, and seeing that it wasn’t available locally when Erik was born, inspired me to bring to Malta and launch my shop (www.maltamumshop.com) .
One piece of advice for any new mum?
I am a new mum myself, and just embarking into this journey. But I will pass on what I’ve been told by older and wiser women, who’ve been through all this, and are now divorced or still happily married as pensioners. An advice I didn’t take under consideration the year Erik was born, and was a mistake.
If you have a good man on your side, don’t forget to care for him and find time to be a couple (and naturally it also works the other way round). Intimacy is important, and should be a top priority, on top of your list. If you show him love, he will love you back (and vice versa).
And a man who loves his wife, will love her children, and will be there for them no matter what. And when the kids leave the nest, you will be left with someone you still like and love.
How do you feel about the phrase “work-life balance”? What do you think can be done to improve situation for working mums in Malta?
More flexibility at work. Empower your employees, mums and dads, trust them with more freedom and flexibility on working hours, and good people will pay it back with their loyalty and performance.
There will be bad ones who take advantage of it, but these ones you don’t want them in your business anyways. Also, there should be more support and incentives for female entrepreneurs and freelancers to keep it up after maternity leave.
What are your plans for this coming year?
Last week was the International Babywearing Week 2017 and I was the main sponsor of an event organised by Becky Gauci Maistre and Babywearing Malta. The TULA brand and the brand new Ergobaby Omni 360 carrier which is the very first ergonomic, forward facing carrier that does not require an infant insert, was launched during the event. I wrote an article on the subject for The Times of Malta. Nelly will be at home with me during this scholastic year so I will keep on working around the clock, when the kids don’t need me. I am also hoping to finish a children’s story that I’ve been writing for with the help of my son.
What makes you happy?
Spending time with people I love, travelling, reading, writing, long walks alone in the nature. The last one is what I miss the most since we got the kids.
Drink of choice
Coffee and Chocolate milk
Comedy: Mama Mia Drama: Once
Favorite TV series?
King of Queens and Friends
Best place you travelled to?
Moorea in French Polynesia
What do you admire most in people?
Honesty, empathy, creativity, people who define success in life by measuring achievements against personal dreams, high intelligence when combined with a big heart. I am grateful to have found all this in the man I love.
What do you despise most in people?
I try to avoid spending time with people who talk bad about others behind their backs, with people who think they are better and more worthy than others, and with people who think they know everything.
Writing and reading
Any hidden talent?
My mum says that I have a rare skill, that of being able to rationalise over emotions. Would that qualify as a hidden talent? 🙂