My 4am desk, as far away from sleeping children as possible and very close to the kettle.
This is not a post about how wonderful being a freelancer is and how it solves all childcare issues during the school holidays. It is a survival guide.
I’ve been a freelance copywriter for nine years now and absolutely love my work, I really do. I enjoy the freedom to pick and choose the clients I work with, to choose my hours, where I work, how I dress when I work (sometimes in jeans, sometimes in fluffy slipper boots) and what projects I take on.
I’m also incredibly grateful for the flexibility being a freelancer offers. I never miss sports day, I can reshuffle work pretty effectively to cover the inevitable sick days (school children do like to share bugs), am there for assemblies and can help on school trips. I walk the kids to school and I’m always there to pick them up and to take them to swimming and so on.
It sounds idyllic and in many ways it is. It was most definitely the best choice for me and our family although there are downsides with being self-employed, as there is with everything. For me, the biggest downside is managing the school holidays without childcare.
Top Tips for Surviving the School Holidays
The chances of you being able to continue to work full-time office hours with children at home is unlikely, and why would you want to? At the end of the day, the summer is also a chance to spend some quality time together. Be realistic about your expectations for getting work done. Keep on top of your regular clients / work but perhaps weigh up the pros and cons of taking on extra work or new projects during the summer (new clients often need additional hand-holding and admin time that you just won’t have).
Decide When You’ll Work
While it isn’t easy to have a solid schedule during the holidays you do need to choose pockets of time that you will be best able to work effectively. Many freelancers “parent “during the day and work during the evening. I’m no good at evening work anymore, my brain shuts down after 7pm and so I start at 4am and write solidly until 8.30am-ish (longer sometimes), after which the boys are up and ready for breakfast. At this point I’m Mum for the day, only jumping back on the laptop to do emails or social media bits and pieces while they’re busy playing. Some days I switch off at 9am, having done five good hours of work and am finished.
A 4am start does not work for everyone but it does for me; it’s my most productive time and allows me to get the work done.
For such a small word it can be blistering hard to get out sometimes. I’ve had to really be firm this year and say no to additional work and short deadlines. Thankfully I’ve been doing what I do for long enough to persuade clients to wait or extend deadlines because as I’ve told them, I simply don’t have time to give their extra work / new work the attention it deserves. Being honest about not having time means I have three new clients waiting for me in September. They appreciated my honesty and were willing to wait.
Invest in Yourself
No matter how content your children are to occupy themselves or how well you work at odd hours of the day or night, working from home during the holidays takes its toll. You need to make sure that you take time out to relax and recover before you get to that point where you can’t think clearly anymore.
One day, when Roy was off work I slept in then grabbed the laptop to go to the library and work in new surroundings, without interruptions during “proper” working hours. Believe it or not, this was quite the tonic! If I work weekends it is the odd hour here and there, not big pieces of work and I’m allowing myself to wake naturally rather than by a shrill, annoying, very early alarm.
The whole point of my juggling work and home like this is for the kids to have the very best summer and for me to be part of it, and enjoy it. I can’t do that if I’m frazzled. I make taking time out for me a priority.
Can it Be Done?
Is it possible to effective juggle working from home and children over the summer without childcare? It is, as long as you are realistic about the time you have to work, are organised and make sure you look after yourself.
This summer has been hard work in some ways as this is the first time I’ve chosen to do the whole summer without any childcare whatsoever however, I’m very glad I have. We’re having great fun, making memories and while I’ve got close to a deadline or two I’ve had all work done on time, without anything being rushed.
I’m taking a few days off in September when they’ve gone back to school, just for me because you know what? I think by then I’ll have more than earned it!