Having a small child and working an office job can be very hectic. You have to stay productive and engaged while dealing with feelings of guilt for abandoning your baby. But there are other options.
One of the best decisions I ever made was quitting my regular office job and switching to freelancing, right around the time my daughter was born. Here are just a few things I have learned from being a freelancer parent.
1. Take advantage of quiet moments
You might think that working from home is the easiest thing in the world. You are in the comfort of your own home where you don’t have to worry about dress codes, regular working hours, or lunch breaks.
While that is true, everything changes when you add a baby into the equation.
You can do both, but not at the same time
For me, it is a lot easier to keep up with both my family and running a business while working from home. But a small child needs constant attention. Especially if you, like me, are the only parent who works from home, you will definitely find it challenging to have a stable working schedule.
Seize quiet opportunities
The good thing about this situation is that you learn to use every opportunity and adapt to strict time limitations. I managed to sketch out an article during my daughter’s day nap and polished it out at night when she was tucked in for the night. Sometimes I get up early to work—then the evening is reserved for time for myself.
2. Pay attention to your kids’ creativity and perspective
Kids have a different way of seeing things
They have no filter in their minds; they often speak and act without thinking. When you have a child in the house, you start seeing things in a completely different way as well.
One of the most important things I learned from my daughter is that you can always find a new way to be creative. Children have a way of making everything seem fun and exciting. Pay attention to their perspective: it might help you to be more creative, or to think of outside the box solutions to problems you’re working through.
Let your kids in on your work
Don’t be afraid to let your small child have a look at your work and know what you’re doing. Also, when you do crafts together, observe how they do things in their own way. You can easily use little pieces of information to your advantage and create a better outcome, no matter what you are working on.
Be open to the possibilities
Having a child around also helped me realize that I would like to try to do new and different things. If you’re feeling stuck in your current job, you can simply start by looking up potential freelance jobs to explore what might be more interesting more you.
3. Create an “off-limits” workspace
Claim your space
This is a problem that many freelancers come across. When you work from home but you do not live by yourself, you will definitely need to carve out a room, or at least a system for being able to work without any distractions.
If you are a young parent, you probably know the struggles of living in a smaller house. But even if it’s not possible to convert a spare room into your office, there are many ways to improvise.
Find any possible free space in your house and try finding a way to work there. For example, you can move your desk in your garage and use it as your quiet workplace. Or simply keep all the things that you need to work a (well organized) plastic bin, and spread everything out on your kitchen or dining table while your little one is taking a nap.
Keep it organized
If you have the option, choose a room that is not close to your living room or the area where the little one usually is. This will allow you to work without too much noise and distraction. You’ll be able to get your work done faster.
Keep things organized and make sure that whenever you need to work, the baby is either napping or with some other member of the family.
4. Hire a babysitter for a few hours, even if you’re working from home
You might think that it’s silly to work from home and to have a babysitter. It really isn’t. Having a toddler in the house is a full-time job by itself. My daughter is always demanding my attention and she really wants to be with me whenever I have work to do.
While it’s totally possible to keep up with having both a baby and a freelance job, it will be a lot easier if you have someone in the house to help you. Start by asking for help from your family. Maybe there is a parent or other relative who would love to help you out with your little one. The best part—it will probably cost less than paying a childcare professional.
If your pocket allows it and no one from your family can help out, you can simply hire a babysitter that can be around the house and keep an eye on the baby for a few hours so you can focus on working. The good thing about freelancing is that you do not need to work a set 9 to 5 schedule, and you can probably avoid paying for full-time childcare.
The extra support might allow you to take on more projects since you won’t have to constantly worry about the baby–you might find that you can take on enough additional work to boost your income substantially.
5. Do not be afraid to start your own business
Certain freelancing jobs can sometimes get boring and repetitive. If you keep working on jobs in the same topic area, you will most likely be able to generate a better and better income because your expertise will grow, but you may eventually want to try finding something that you will truly enjoy doing.
The great benefit of being a freelancer and a parent is how easily you can start a business in your own home—if you’re smart about it, you can even transition your existing business into something that you really want to do, rather than something that just pays the bills. Think about offering services based on your personal expertise, or trying something new—maybe there’s even a way to let your child be part of it.
If you structure it right, working from home means be able to spend a lot more time with your kids. Children are not afraid to take risks and you shouldn’t be either. Work hard on starting your business and you are bound to succeed, no matter what you decide to work on.
When things aren’t as easy as they seem
Since I spelled out some of the benefits of working from home as a parent, I’m going to take a moment be honest about what made it challenging too.
Quitting my regular job and adapting to a different lifestyle was pretty difficult. Even though I knew that what I was doing was right for my baby and for my family, I couldn’t help but miss the office life and the ease of working particular hours. Freelancing and having a young child can truly be a nightmare when you first start out.
It’s hard to find free time
First of all, I soon came to realize that I had zero free time and personal space. I always either had to work or take care of the baby. While working in an office, I had to make time in the morning to take care of my appearance, and that is something I gave up along with my job.
You miss adult interaction
There will be times where you will need a break from being at home all the time. When you work in an office, you are always around people and you never miss the communication, no matter how annoying or uncomfortable it can be sometimes. With being at home all the time, I really felt more isolated from my peers. It just underlined the fact that I needed to figure out how to take more time for myself.
All in all though, being able to experience your child growing up and taking care of them yourself is one of the greatest things in the world, and it’s worth the difficulties and the struggle. You really learn how to overcome the challenges over time and it becomes a lot easier, especially when you have your partner by your side to help you adjust.
Don’t be afraid to take the risk
Back when I had just quit my job I felt nervous and insecure about our future income and my family’s quality of life. Now, two years later, I can easily say that quitting my office job was the best thing I’ve done. I have the time I need to spend with my child and watch her grow.
If you are in the slightest bit nervous about trying something new, just think of all the time you will have to spend with your child and the flexibility freelancing offers. Even though it probably will not be easy to get started, it might be the ticket to a far more comfortable and enjoyable life.