Adjusting Childcare as a Freelancer with Kids Under Five
Freelancing and balancing out work and two kids under five shouldn’t be that different from when you’re working for an employer. Unfortunately, there is the perception by others, and most importantly, oneself, that you should be able to do it all when you’re working out of the home. Since you’re home anyway, why can’t you watch the kids AND be a successful small business person? The sentiment is,
“That’s so nice you can work from home and have the kids home with you.”
The reality is that when work is rolling in, I can easily work 50+ hour weeks. How do 2 kids-under-5 fit into that schedule, even if your office does happen to be in the home [my kiddos referred to from here on out as pterodactyls for their crying (screech)]?
Honestly, I don’t really think I can do it all. I know I’ll burn out (and notice I haven’t even mentioned housework… thank goodness for the miraculous–supportive-husband-cares-more-about-cleaning). But this little tiny nagging feeling keeps trying to convince me that I can do it all. Even though I am gasping for more sleep and some of that mythical thing called “down-time”. Also, financially, I don’t have much choice at the moment.
The schedule of a freelancer is naturally a bit sporadic and generally, that suits me just fine. I like the balance of super busy times and then nice mellow times. Financially speaking, maternity leave ate into my safety bubble–who am I kidding, it popped and mopped up any remnants of my safety bubble–so the inevitable gaps in income feel so much more pressing than ever before. (read more after the jump)
Self Employed Childcare, Advice vs. Reality
Specific to my family situation, g-pterodactyl was initially in full-time care after my 5 month leave (see my blog post about taking maternity leave as a freelancer). I knew I had a textbook on the horizon, but it hadn’t started yet and my other work coming in was sporadic. I reached out to a Mom’s Small Business listserv for advice on what to do about childcare, and the responses unanimously told me to keep the full-time care.
Everyone counseled me that as a small business, I had to first take myself seriously in order for the rest of the world (i.e. clients) to take me seriously. I really appreciated their advice, but in the end I realized that the best solution for us at the time was to change caregivers so we could go from full-time care to half-time care. This was a really hard decision to make, but it felt so right after I (and my husband) made it.
Freelancing From Home with Kids
Eventually, that textbook did get underway, and g-pterodactyl was in preschool full-time up until b-pterodactyl was born. Since b-pterodactyl was born and the textbook is done, we’ve again cut down to three half days of preschool for g-pterodactyl. In addition to the work reasons for cutting down on care, G-pterodactyl seemed to need more downtime at home.
Finding time to work is complicated with b-pterodactyl always at home with me. Thankfully, he naps a lot (for now). When my work does flow, I’m struggling to get work done during naps and late into the night after bedtimes. When things get really bad–or good in terms of business–the pterodactyl’s two sets of Grandparents have been incredibly generous with their time. Unfortunately, both the wonderful sets of Grandparents are a good drive away, so this is not a long-term solution. Although one of the key reasons for our move from DC to the Seattle area was to be closer to them. I’m happy to say that my work quality has remained solid. (I feel pretty confident claiming that, after recently winning some illustration awards–yay!) Something has to give though, and I just haven’t been able to keep up with the business and marketing side of things as I should.
Finding Equilibrium as a Freelancer
Since the beginning of my journey as both parent and freelancer, I’ve spoken with other industry veterans whose advice fell on the other side of the coin, counseling me to remember what a brief, important time it is that kids are small. And that’s what I try to keep doing. Reminding myself of both sides, that this time is precious (who knew I’d ever use that word unironically) and at the same time, to respect myself as a professional artist and businesswoman. I spell out the detailed back-and-forth, undulating, nature of our childcare arrangements to highlight the ever-changing landscape balancing out our finances, our children’s needs and the demands of my business. We’ll have to reassess again once b-pterodactyl stops napping so much and when (not if :-)) work gets hectic again.
Some impromptu art from g-pterodactyl, which she describes as her sound machine (we rely heavily on sound machines in this house for kiddo sleep). Is this what the sounds looks like to her? The machine itself?