I was reading this article about What freelancing is not on GraphicDesignBlender.com and it occurred to me that I had many of these delusions myself as a fledgling freelancer back in 2007. I had just quit my agency job as a creative director (which few women achieve by the way) and thought I’d try some side jobs till the next perfect position opened up. I was fantasizing about Erwin Penland or one of the smaller local agencies like Launch here in Spartanburg. In the mean time life happened and before I knew it I had actual, real clients.
It had always been my dream to freelance. You know, work from home, be an award winning mom. Playdates, coffee with mom friends, client meetings in between nursing sessions. Vacations with the family whenever I want. Could it get any better? Whoa girl, back up. Freelancing as a mom is hard.
So my second child comes along. The pregnancy was not easy. Freelancing was a struggle when I could barely walk by 28 weeks due to exhaustion and amazing amounts of swelling. I worked from the couch with the laptop propped on my swollen thighs. I thought I would take some time off after her birth. Four weeks should do it. Not the full six that “working” mom’s get from employers but I work from home. I should bounce right back. So I email clients and tell them of my plans. Almost immediately one of them calls me and says, “… but you’ll still be able to do my work during those four weeks right?” I laugh and say “sure”. After all, it’s only a few hours a week for this one client. Right after arriving home with our beautiful new baby I get an email. There’s an emergency with another client. They NEED this done right away. Is there any way I can work it in, “you know, while the baby is sleeping.” I yawn and smile and say “sure”. After all, I don’t really need those naps. I’m fine.
Those four weeks go by and I’m hanging on by a thread. I kept reading that new moms need to sleep as often as possible. “When ever the baby sleeps” were the exact words. Turns out babies don’t really sleep much at all. Not during the day and not at night. And I NEVER slept when she did because that was the only time I had to work.
As if freelancing weren’t enough I also had my domestic responsibilities. Laundry, cleaning, changing and washing diapers, planning and cooking meals, breastfeeding every two hours, taking the dog out to potty. I’ll say it again, freelancing as a mom is hard.
So months go by and I’ve struggled through some postpartum anxiety and depression mostly due to sleep deprivation according to my doctor. I’ve found a sort of rhythmn and we’re all fairly happy and relaxed again. My daughter begins to develop a routine and life gets easier. Relatively speaking.
She’s almost two now. She has a solid schedule which I can use to my advantage and get my freelancing work done and a good amount of domestic chores completed. I still struggle to find time to complete all my tasks. There are days the laundry really is flowing from the basket to the floor and out the bathroom door. There are many days I work those three hours during my daughter’s nap and then still have to work another two or three or six hours after bedtime. I am tired, I feel under valued and under appreciated by clients and my family. I’m not alone with my husband for days at a time. I forget my son’s name, my own age, the last time I showered.
Is it worth it? Yes.
I get to see all the things my daughter learns. I’m her primary caregiver, not a daycare provider. I don’t miss anything. I’m with my family more often, even if it feels like the opposite is true sometimes.
Is it easy? Not even a little bit. It’s hard. Very, very hard.
I work hard to make sure my clients get what they want. Not one of them has complained or even seemed to notice my struggle. Which is good. I don’t want them to see me as struggling to complete their projects. I still love my job.
Would I recommend working from home? That’s a more complicated answer.
It really depends on the individual, their family situation and their personality. You have to be able to multi-task. You have to learn to adapt, be flexible and practice patience. You have to stay motivated (not easy). I’m not saying I’m winning any awards for any of these things. There are days when I just want half an hour to sit quietly without ANY ONE wanting something from me. You have to know when it’s time to step away and take care of yourself. Even if someone has to wait for something. I’m not claiming that I take care of myself all the time or that I always put my family or clients ahead of myself. You have to find a balance. They are not all equal on the fragile scale of priorities. But in order for your family to be comfortable you have to work and in order for any one to benefit from your sacrifices you have to feel that it’s worth it. You have to be happy first.
I do recommend being happy. Only doing what makes you happy. Weigh your options, talk to your family. Talk to other freelancers, parents and people you trust and respect. Don’t run in blindly but don’t hold back either. In order to love life you have to LIVE it. Fully and without regret.