Being a freelance dad, I don’t have a lot of work/life balance. My office is my home and my co-workers are my 2 and 1 year old sons. It’s awesome, but there’s not a lot of small talk and the office hockey pool isn’t nearly as competitive.
You see, in June when I quit my full-time job to pursue a career in freelance design, my wife was on maternity leave. In September she went back to work teaching and I stayed at home creating websites and business cards between diapers, snack time and Buzz Lightyear.
Freelancing while taking care of children can be as daunting as it sounds. I’m often unable to take meetings with new clients at a moments notice because I don’t have someone to take care of the kids. A tantruming two year old makes great background noise while talking with my printer about paper weight and spot colours.
I have the best of both worlds. I get to pursue a career in a field I love while seeing my kids play and steal toys from each other. It does cause some late nights to meet deadlines but it’s worth it.
Adjustments have had to be made. Here’s a short list of some of the things you have to let go of as a freelance parent.
Schedules. You can make schedules till you’re blue in the face but when nap time is delayed by a couple hours or potty training takes a few steps back, you’re going to miss some appointments. Instead, I suggest you make ‘to do’ lists. Don’t assign times to complete the tasks. Take care of what you can complete while you’re with your kids and wait till the cavalry arrives to finish the rest.
Regular Work Days. There aren’t many freelancers who can keep to a 9 to 5 work day. Even fewer freelancing parents are able to. I get up early before the boys are awake and plough through as much work as I can before I hear their footsteps upstairs. From that point on I get to work when they’re busy playing or watching a movie. When my wife gets home from work we’ll eat dinner as a family and then daddy gets a few hours of work time before putting the kids to bed and then back to the computer. It’s not an ideal situation but it’s what we’re doing so one of us can be home with the kids and I can build my business.
Being A ‘Good’ Parent. Sometimes, in order to get a job done for a client, I let Samsung and Panasonic look after my kids. It’s a necessary evil. I’ll throw in the DVD (anything Pixar usually does the trick) and get some relative peace and quiet for the next hour and a half. I feel guilty when they don’t get out of the house on a nice day because daddy has a deadline. All their activities don’t involve crafts and swingsets. Most of the time it’s Treehouse or Teletoon. Just play superhero when you can and know that when you say “Daddy’s working” they’ll appreciate it later when their school’s principal has someone to call when they’re in trouble.
I’m sure I’ll write more on this subject again in future. I’d love to hear how other freelance parents make things work in their careers.