Yesterday I said that the single most important thing to consider before beginning to freelance was your reason for freelancing. I said that because that reason affects all other aspects of your business. This particular post really exemplifies that truth.
If, like me, your reason for wanting to freelance is to spend more time with your family and kids, then you will likely need to work part-time until your children reach school age. (If you have another reason for freelancing that requires you to work full-time, then you may need to hire childcare.) It is very possible to carve out some productive work time at home with very young children. However, carving out forty hours (or more) working hours a week, every single week, with young kids at home may cause burnout on your part and ultimately wonâ€™t give you any more time with your children.
For the reasons described above, this article is directed at those WAHMs who, like me, want to find a better family/work balance. In my situation, I began working ten to twenty hours a week and have gradually increased my working hours to between twenty to thirty hours a week. Thatâ€™s not to say I havenâ€™t put in an occasional week of long hours to meet a deadline, but overall, I try to keep my working hours within that range.
Over the years I have developed some unique ways to find time for work and still remain involved in my childrenâ€™s lives. The obvious tip for older children is to work while they are at school or doing their lessons. Most of the rest of these tips will work for both younger and older children. (Of course, you could plop a DVD in the DVD player, set out coloring books, and have your children watch DVDs all dayâ€”but I recommend only using that method for emergencies. First of all, itâ€™s not really in the best interest of the your kids for them to be watching movies all day long every single day. Secondly, they will grow tired of it.) Where there is an age consideration related to the tip, I have noted it in the tip. Here is my list of flexible work times for WAHMs:
- When the kids are asleep. This works especially well with younger children who need more sleep and tends not to work so well when the children are older and have the same bedtime as you. Still, if you stay up and work an extra hour past their bedtime every day thatâ€™s five hours a week. If you have a baby, you will also want to work during their longer nap. (Note: Be careful that you get enough sleep. I cringe when I read posts from WAHMS who only allow themselves four to five hours of sleep a night. There is no quicker way to burn out.)
- During library story time. In our town the public library has weekly story times for children up to age twelve. (The story times are separated by age level with each level having its own program.) The children go into the story room and the childrenâ€™s librarian reads to them and does activities with them. A parent is expected to remain in the room only if the child is under two. Parents of older children are expected to remain in the library, but are only supposed to go in the story room for emergencies. Story time can be an excellent time to get in an hour of work. (Especially since the public libraries in my area have wireless Internet access throughout.)
- During sports practice. You should not, I repeat, you should not, attempt to work during the big game or recital. Your kids will definitely notice that you werenâ€™t paying attention. However, most childrenâ€™s athletic activities for school-aged children have three to five hour-long practices a week. If youâ€™re like me, itâ€™s about a fifteen-minute drive to the practice. If you were to drive home that would be another fifteen minutes and you would only have about a half hour before you had to go back and pick the kids up. Why not bring your work and use the entire hour of practice as work time? If the weather is nice, I can sit in the car and get quite a lot of work done during a practice. You may not have Internet access (unless you get lucky and thereâ€™s a Starbucks across the street from the practice field), but you can easily bring a tote filled with editing, invoicing, work-related reading, and other paperwork. (This can be an excellent time to create skeleton outlines for articles or other writing.)
- Swap a play date. If you have a WAHM buddy with similarly aged kids you can take turns hosting a once a week play date. (I recommend play dates of no more than two hours for preschoolers and about four hours for school age children.) For this to work, itâ€™s important to give your WAHM buddy some leeway. Remember, things do come up. Kids get sick. Families go on vacation. Try to be understanding about these situations when they occur. However, if your WAHM buddy proves to be totally unreliable you may need to find someone else.
- Saturday morning with dad. If you have a willing and supportive spouse, Saturday morning can become their special time with the kids. Trips to the park, or even running errands, can become special memories for your kids. Our family has been doing this on Saturdays, off and on, for years. (A couple of days ago I read on another blog where another WAHM was doing something very similar with her Saturdays. Now that Iâ€™m ready to link to it, of course I canâ€™t find the post at all. If it was your blog and youâ€™re reading this let me know and Iâ€™ll put a link here.)
- Motherâ€™s day out programs. I canâ€™t say enough about these wonderful programs, usually provided at a low cost, that are designed to provide preschool moms with a break. I found one through a local church, but some community centers offer them as well. The one near me meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and accepts children between the ages of six months to four years of age.
Depending on your own circumstances and community, you may discover additional work time. If you have other work times that allow you to focus on work without neglecting your kids, Iâ€™d love to hear about them. Feel free to drop me a note.
Postscript: A WAHM Caution Against Being Superwoman
When I was in corporate America I thought that I could do it all, all at the same time. If I couldnâ€™t manage to do it all, then something must be wrong with me. That mindset didnâ€™t go completely go away when I left my cubicle behind. Itâ€™s very easy, as a WAHM, to overextend yourself. The truth is, most people function best when they focus on one thing at a time. It just so happens that Yahoo put this article about multitasking on their front page today. I think itâ€™s especially pertinent for those of us who work at home.
Contents (c) Copyright 2007, Laura Spencer. All rights reserved.