Whether you’re a freelance writer, a solo logo designer, or a purveyor of novelty socks, working from home and setting your own hours offers an incredible amount of flexibility and freedom. But, throw a child into the mix, and things can get a little complicated.
I love working for myself, and I love being a dad. It’s a lifestyle that suits me just fine.
Of course, you can put you kid in nursery Monday to Friday, leaving you free to structure your working days at your leisure, but if possible, looking after your child during the week is a hugely rewarding experience. It’s just getting it right timewise can be bloody tough.
I’m by no means an expert work and kindergarten juggler, but I do manage. Yes, I do manage – and if you’re in the same boat as me, wondering how you’re going to get everything done without leaving your little one in the lurch, may I offer you a few tips on things I’ve learned over the past 10 months or so?
Mix it up
While I don’t pack my son, Sid, off to nursery all week, I do send him there every Tuesday, as well as his nana’s on a Wednesday so he has a solid mix of activity and interaction away from the home. Doing this also allows me two, what I’d call, regular 9 – 5 style workdays where I prioritise the bulk of my important project work.
During other days I juggle my time a little more intricately, but I know for two days a week, I get to focus during the day, and Sid gets to hang out with other babies, paint with his feet, explore new surroundings, and not have to look at my ugly mug for a short while. Mixing things up is good for you and your child and allows for a period of solid productivity.
Find your pockets of time
The pockets of time as I call them, are regular slots in the week when you could be doing something useful when you usually don’t. Relaxation and escapism are essential but if you sit down and draft up a diary of your regular weekly routine, you’ll find small pockets of time you can use to your advantage.
Look at your schedule and if it’s a time when you’re not elbow deep in a nappy, or scalding yourself while temperature testing a bottle of cow’s milk, then you might be able to fill it with something useful. For instance, most nights I sit and wait for 15 minutes while Sid settles himself to sleep. Rather than sitting in the dark cross-legged outside his room, wondering why our wicker lampshade looks like the contents of a scarecrows underpants, I grab my laptop and formulate content ideas, send emails, or draft out pitches. That’s one hour and 15 minutes each working week.
“Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.”- Anthony Oettinger
Visualise your days while in bed
When the baby monitor starts to resemble a high budget firework display and I can hear the melodic cooing sounds of my son – usually at 5.30am – I lay there for five minutes and mentally plan my day. Of course, organisational apps like Evernote and Google Calendar are essential when it comes to mapping out your week, but by walking yourself through your next four or five steps and understanding the most efficient way to do so, you can really help save yourself time and stress. It helps me, anyway.
I take myself through my morning anticipating the best way to get Sid out of his cot, feed him, take out the bins, shower myself, and enjoy a decent amount of morning playtime before his first nap. Once he’s in the land of nod, my laptop is already fired up and I usually get to do between one and two hours of work before lunchtime. It doesn’t always happen of course, sometimes Sid wakes up early and fires out an unexpected dirty protest which will take me half an hour to clean up, not including the time it takes to find the marigolds.
Juggling freelancing and looking after your kid requires you to pick the times of the evening or night when you’ll work at your optimum level (you can’t always rely on naps and nursery), but equally, you need to adopt a flexible mindset.
Kids are only human which means they won’t do what you want them to all the time, not even half the time really. Understanding how to tweak your schedule is essential to surviving as a parenting freelancer because if you don’t, you’ll have to go back to a regular PAYE job or give up work completely.
Always allow contingency time and work throughout the day to manage client expectations with quick calls and emails (at appropriate times) – that way you won’t get caught short.
Also, being able to watch your child grow up every day is a privilege and a pleasure, so no matter how stressed out you get, stop and take a moment to remember how lucky you are. And for goodness sake, enjoy every moment, from the pee soaked sweater sleeves right through to the park visits. Time and tide wait for no man, so cherish every moment.
Oh, and it’s okay to have an alcoholic drink or three while you’re working at night – just don’t over do it – remember you have to get up and change a nappy in the morning.
Disclaimer: After writing this, my wife, Lynsey, brought to my attention that she didn’t get a mention. She is a top wife and a wonderful mother who works full time, mainly from home. But, she works on a PAYE basis and as a result, cannot share the childcare during the day – hence the juggling act.