Being a parent and a freelance writer generally go well together. One of the reasons I pursued freelance writing is because I was working in a traditional setting and wanted more freedom and flexibility to be around for my kids.
Freelance writing seemed like a great choice for me (It was!).
Focusing on my writing opened other doors (like being a content manager) and now I work exclusively from home (or Starbucks). It’s been a great change that’s helped our family balance (and our bank account).
But- working from home is challenging at times. If you already do it, you get it. And if you haven’t, you can probably imagine.
Here are a few of the reasons I’ve found it challenging to work at home as a parent:
- Kids. The very ones that I want to be home for can also pretty disruptive to work. I’m writing this particular article on a day my younger son is home sick from school. He timed it perfectly for the one day of the week where Grandma does after school pickups and hangouts and I get uninterrupted work time. So yeah- I love that I can basically drop things and make sure he’s okay but also- things are now thrown off. Though most days aren’t like today, kids can still disrupt your work. You already know they’re like small, loud tornadoes.
- Work. Yep, you have work to do. It’s awesome. But sometimes, especially when working from home, it’s hard to get that done. Whether it’s the sick kiddo, the laundry calling your name, or simply the desire to lie on your couch- work can sometimes be put aside. Working from home is a luxury I wouldn’t trade, but it can take time to get into the routine and be able to deal with the distractions and find the focus you need.
- Balance. Work-life balance easily gets out of whack for me. I know part of this is personal- I like work. I’m energized by it. I’d work a lot if I had more time. I also love my kids. I’m easily distracted by them. So, I get stuck in the trap of playing and thinking about work, and working and thinking about play. For some parents, this leads to feelings of guilt and not doing your best in either part of life.
Regardless of the challenge, I wouldn’t trade my work for anything. I feel so fortunate that I can volunteer in my kids’ classrooms, go to holiday events at school in the middle of the day, deal with the days off from school without much issue, and not have to panic or scramble for solutions when someone gets sick.
Because there are challenges when you’re a work-from-home freelance writer (who is also a parent), here are some tips to help you make the most of this work lifestyle.
- Get used to working on your phone. I’m typing this on my Evernote app while my sick kiddo sits on my lap. Not my usual preferred way of working, but it gets the job done. On a regular basis, I have access to tools I need for other work like email, Slack (for group and indivisible messages), Trello (for organizing and communication) and more. Though you can end up overly-connected, having these tools and being comfortable working from your phone allows you to do things like get some work done at your kids’ lessons or while you’re waiting in the pick-up line. Remote workers really can be remote so learn to make the most of your phone or tablet.
- Set boundaries. Being busy with work is a good problem to have. After all, kids can be expensive so I feel very thankful when I’m busy with work. But, that also means I’m busy working so boundaries become important. Both for work and family. I try to work when my kids are at school or after bed. I don’t always follow this but I try (prior to this year, the younger one was always home with me so boundaries were harder). So, when it’s time to work, I do it. I decline some invites from friends when I need to get work done and if I have more work than I can fit in, my kids play more on their own (and also watch more TV!). But, I’m also getting better about setting boundaries for my family time which means I focus on my family and enjoying our time and doing my best to stay off my phone. Boundaries as a work-from-home parent are important for everyone.
- Communicate appropriately. When you’re a remote employee, communication is extremely important. As a freelance writer, I don’t have a lot of contact with some of my editors, but as a Content Manager, I’m checking in with people multiple times a day. At this point, most of the people I work with know I’m a mom. But, I don’t talk about my kids often because it’s still work and a professional environment. People don’t really need to know about all that! However, sometimes I do mention my kids because it feels necessary. For example, today I dropped a Slack message to one group to say I’m home with my sick kiddo- I’m around but won’t respond as quickly. While I could just mention personal matters or not mention this at all, communication in this setting happens regularly and I’m quick to respond so I wanted people to understand what was going on. You need to judge the situation about when and how you mention your kids. When I’m wearing my freelance writer hat, my kids rarely come up. I know that kids can throw a wrench in plans but I always make sure that I can meet deadlines before I agree and I work hard to be done early. That way a sick kiddo (or whatever else come up) doesn’t lead me to send an email asking for more time. This relates to the next point.
- Remember that people don’t always care about your kids. This is a professional environment! The people who hire you want you to deliver your work- good quality and on time. Even if you’re writing a piece on parenting, your editor has so many other responsibilities that they don’t really have time to care about your issues. I don’t say this to be mean, but it’s the nature of work. When you have an ongoing relationship with someone, you can mention your kids from time to time but ideally, you don’t have to use them as a reason for delayed work. Being a parent is one part of you and while it might actually make you better at your job, don’t be overly chatty about your kids when it comes to work.
- Create time where you can catch up. Because, kids. You will still fall behind even with designated work times. If you have a regular catch up time available, this is helpful so that you don’t end up stressed or needing to ask for an extension. For example, I use Thursday or Friday nights as my catch-up time. Not always, but when I need it, after the kids go to bed, I leave the house and get an extra hour or two of work in.
Freelance writing and being a parent go together like milk and cookies (or margaritas and nachos).
But even great match-ups can have issues from time-to-time so use these tips for when the challenges come. And, if you run into other issues, don’t panic- you’re a parent- you can get through anything!!