Changing Challenges to Family/Freelancer Balance
Recently, I’ve been trying to consciously make changes to my small business and my life with small kids. That includes working to revamp my work outlook, and redesign my website and marketing to a more personal approach. In doing so, I’ve revisited my last attempt at a blog, back when my kids were 1 and 4. I managed about 4 posts before giving up. The upside is that is that I now have a record of what challenges I was dealing with then. Sadly, I’m not a journaler, so I don’t have a personal record beyond vague recollections. So although my blogging goal is a bit different now–I still want to record what family/work/life balance challenges I’m encountering.
The End of the Cuddle Era
My kids are still young. They still want to cuddle, they will still hold my hand in public and they still WANT to spend time with me. And yet, we’re close to the end. So very close to the time that my daughter (now 10) won’t want to acknowledge me. She flirts with it; one day scowling at me during drop-off and not-so-subtly signaling that I need to ignore her as she walks to her friends. While on other days she boldly asks me for a kiss before skipping off. I’m not very sentimental (or am I?), but I have to admit it breaks my heart a little bit. I logically acknowledge that it’s time, but…
Recognizing What I Can and Cannot Control
This realization has brought into stark relief that I need to savor this time. It’s hard to do. There are so many things out of my control. This world we live in leaves me alternating between gasping at its’ injustices and fears, and huddling down in ostrich mode, pretending others’ realities can’t be bad as they really are.
Then there are the things I can control, and perhaps that is even harder to admit. As talked about here, I found myself taking on more and more work. I am so easily caught in the trap of working all day, and then late into the night. After working with business coach Justine Clay I’ve made a concerted effort to stop working until I’m so tired the next day I can’t pay attention to what’s important to me. This past year, I’ve successfully cut out working late. Of course it still happens sometimes, but finally, it’s not the norm. With my newfound time, my intention is to spend more intentional time with my family. As well as spend more time recharging myself through exercise, excursions into the city and nature, and creative endeavors.
Success at Spending Time Where I Need?
This summer, things were finally starting to feel balanced. For the first time in recent memory, I got to actually join my husband and kids on their treks to the mountains and lakes. If anything, I may have tipped a little too far onto the relaxation side ;-). I took a total of three consecutive weeks off, with a planned two weeks road trip to Vancouver island and then Mt Ranier. Then, due to an epic mountain bike accident (let’s just say, I learned what a Grade 4 kidney laceration is), another week off. I was a little stressed, but overall nothing dire came of my near month off (nor my kidney abuse). Thankfully, I successfully managed to schedule my work around the time away from my desk.
I Never Considered that Volunteering Could Interfere With Work
Since school started again this past fall, I’ve found myself filling my time in other ways, and sliding back into bad habits. I raised my hand when the school’s Parent Teacher Student Association needed a volunteer to help with communications. Then, for the second year in a row, I raised my hand to coach my daughters basketball team. Somehow, I’ve found myself head of the PTSA newsletter, updating the website, and in charge of communications. Easy right? It’s what I do anyway for myself, so why not help out my kids Title 1 school (in other words, a very worthy and needed volunteer role to fill!), by giving my time and expertise?
Identifying the Problem
The problem lies in my inability to modulate. I’m no longer making time to do these communicating tasks for my own business. My personality tendency towards obsession that has helped me excel in my work, has turned against me and made me a grumpy, unhappy, bitter person! Because the PTSA work feels so similar to my normal paid work, I have a really hard time stopping before my day has been spent almost entirely on volunteer work, rather than paid. And coaching basketball… that sounds like fun right? I went into it expecting to occasionally shout, “you have to dribble!”. Instead, I find myself lying awake at night wondering how in the world I can apply a 5-man-open-offense to a 4th graders basketball team, just to get them to stop huddling in the key! I can feel my brain rattling with the pressure, despite recognizing that it’s all silly and brought on myself.
Learning to Say No
Having my head filled with so many other things, I’ve realized I don’t have the head space I need to conceptualize my science illustrations. I’ve always enjoyed, and taken great pride in crystallizing the concepts clients describe to me through words, into a coherent vision. I can still do it, but it takes SO MUCH EFFORT to find the time and space. I fear if I don’t reclaim that brain real estate, this part of my skills will suffer.
More discreetly, for the first time since cutting back and taking time off when my son was born, my total revenue has decreased. Clearly, some of that is due to me cutting back on total hours by banning the 9pm-2am work nightshift. But as my business coach led me to realize, at this point in my career I should have increased my rates enough to more than compensate for working a normal 40 hour work week, including scheduled time during the work week for creative exploration.
It’s painful to admit that I’ve taken on too much (especially to my husband who has been trying to point this out to me). As much as I might be needed, my time volunteering isn’t sustainable to my family and my business goals. Although I will continue trying to help in my greater community, I do need to stop saying yes to the point that I’m sacrificing my health. I’ve mistaken not having a boss–beyond myself–as license to spend too much of my time away from my business, and it’s showing.
So for 2020, my New Year’s resolution has been to cut back on what I say yes to in my daily life. I need to reclaim that time to grow my business, and make space to enjoy the work I’m lucky to do.