Or is it impossible to freelance when you have young children?

(49 Posts)
cinemalovers Thu 28-Aug-14 07:44:29

I have been up since 4am with my one year old, who gas a virus. Third night in a row. I'm in the middle of a big project that I'm meant to be managing but which is going tits up . Today I have a meeting with the woman who hired me. I feel like saying I just had no idea how difficult this would be with a baby - I can't respond to things quickly, I can't commit to meetings outside normal working hours, I can't function well when ds is ill or not sleeping. Aibu to get a lower paid, 9 to 5 office job for the forseeable? Would I ever make it back into my career? Or should I just accept that you can't have a freelance career and a young child unless you can afford a live in nanny?

WhenSheWasBadSheWasHorrid Thu 28-Aug-14 08:02:02

It does sound tough, I'm not freelance but am expected to be very flexible by my employers.
What helped me was a very supportive dh to help with the horrendous nights (dd only slept through at 3 years old).

The main help was having my mum offer child care - pick up and drops were very flexible. Also my employers were very understanding if I had to book a day off because she was sick.
I don't know what to suggest re the woman (your client) - is it possible you are just struggling because of the virus and next week will be better or are you struggling to keep ontop of everything all the time.

Stampysladygarden Thu 28-Aug-14 08:06:27

I found freelance was the way to go being a single parent. I also had a zero hours contract job to top up when necessary.

There's no way I could go back to being employed with inservice days, having weekly sen appointments with ds, school holidays and sick children.

I would try to stick it out.

bassingtonffrench Thu 28-Aug-14 08:10:42

I am freelance and was throughout the baby stage. I am part time which helps. For me it is much easier than a regular job and I found clients understanding about kids in background during calls etc. if dc were ill and I had a vital commitment I hired emergency nannies.

WhenSheWasBadSheWasHorrid Thu 28-Aug-14 08:13:23

How many hours are you contracted to do each week?

NynaevesSister Thu 28-Aug-14 08:17:19

Are you a single parent? You'd have to function no matter what job you had. The thing with freelance work is that it can be so very flexible. I couldn't have done it without any childcare though. They demand too much attention. You need a childminder at least a couple of days a week.

NoSquirrels Thu 28-Aug-14 08:36:06

I presume you have childcare in the days? Honestly, even with a 9-5 job you probably couldn't commit to meetings outside of normal working hours and you'd still have the bad nights and work the next day, with the added commute etc. Nothing's completely stress-free as a working parent.

do you have a partner? Do they get up too, or see your freelance job as less important than theirs?

I worked a mixture of short-term contracts and freelance and so know that both in-office and at home are both stressful but doable. But you need support, childcare and a realistic attitude to how much work you accept/what sort of projects and you need to communicate that to clients at the outset. But it's a learning curve - grit your teeth through this one and there are lots of benefits too.

cinemalovers Thu 28-Aug-14 09:00:04

Thanks for your replies. Ds is now wide awake but won't be put down. I have some childcare and a dp, but he's a freelancer and his response to doing childcare is always 'maybe', which isn't good enough so I have to plan to do everything, then take advantage of extra time I get at short notice. Maybe I just need to do very different kinds of work. Or is it really this hard for everyone, no matter what the job? I know I need the money and of course the financial independence and career prospects in the long term, but I feel like there has to be a better way

MrsCampbellBlack Thu 28-Aug-14 09:03:11

I think its hard from what I see. Especially if you are getting £££ contract rates as your employer will understandably be expecting someone who is fully on the ball.

Depends what you're job is and how much you charge to some extent.

Pastperfect Thu 28-Aug-14 09:03:26

It's not freelancing that is your issue but bit having proper childcare in place.

Trying to fit a full day's work around your DCs sleep time is unrealistic even when they're not sick

SolomanDaisy Thu 28-Aug-14 09:08:35

I think freelancing is possible, but you have to limit yourself to very few hours unless you have child care in place. I worked only when DS was asleep or when DH wasn't at work. Now DS does a few hours at preschool it is easier.

HoorayHenri Thu 28-Aug-14 09:24:50

I have freelanced for almost ten years, pre and post DCs. DC1 is an appalling sleeper, so when I went back after maternity I'd usually have been up 3-4 times in the night before rising at 6am and doing a 12hr day (two days at home, 2 days a 3 hour return commute). On top of that for six months I was pregnant with morning sickness. I found it manageable (just!), but only because I had proper childcare in place 8am - 6pm all four days.

In my view working with young children at home for any length of time is impossible (and depending on what you do, very unprofessional. None of my clients would have accepted that arrangement while being paid a day rate).

I think you are setting yourself up to fail without a separation between children and work. I was knackered, but could focus once the door banged (either with me or the DCs on the outside!)

Also, I often worked after bedtime, taking calls or finishing up work between 7pm and 11pm. Not ideal, but really the only way as I had to be home for pickup by 6pm.

A 9-5 can be just as demanding. The only difference is that you child would be in childcare so you could actually concentrate wink

HappyAsASandboy Thu 28-Aug-14 10:03:51

I have a 9-5 job, though with a two hour each way commute, which stacks up the hours.

I can't commit to meetings after 4pm, and find it hard to concentrate if I've been up all night. Those things don't change whether you're freelance or an employee.

I work from home one day per week to save my commuting time and it saves my sanity, but it only works because the children still go to nursery. There is no way I could work at home with the children here - it wouldn't be fair on them or on my employer. I occasionally work from home when my mum is here looking after the children, and it doesn't work as well as when they're in nursery. Better than if mum wasn't here, but not good enough to do it regularly.

Freelance also takes more discipline than the average 9-5 job. Would working from somewhere other than home (library?) help?

If you want to keep your career, you need to book reliable childcare for the hours you expect to be working.

WhenSheWasBadSheWasHorrid Thu 28-Aug-14 10:21:36

When you say some childcare - what does that mean?

It is starting to sound like you have a childcare issue not a freelancing issue. Are you trying to get work done while minding your one year old?

motherinferior Thu 28-Aug-14 10:28:03

Like any job, of course you need childcare. I freelanced, working four days a week and earning a reasonable living, from the period when my children were both four months old. I had an excellent childminder.

You can't work without childcare. Not proper work.

sconequeen Thu 28-Aug-14 10:35:52

I've been doing freelance work for 14 years now and it's almost 8 years since DD was born. In my experience, it is hard going, you will be jiggered a fair bit of the time, you have to be prepared for long days and little or no downtime, but the upside, which continues once DC are in school, is that you have much more flexibility in planning how you use your time, you can be there for school pick-ups, school sports etc and make the most of the school holidays without needing some else's permission, and, in my case at least, I can make a good hourly rate doing the type of interesting and satisfying work that I wouldn't necessarily be able to do if I was working for someone else.

I do think that you really need a mixture of reliable paid childcare and some sort of support network - DH/DP and/or family etc - to make things work. You also have to be very realistic and disciplined about the types of work you take on - for example, if you can't do out-of-hours meetings because you don't have childcare then, don't take on projects which require those. You need to be sure that you can to do your work to a high standard and on time because clients won't make allowances for childcare problems on an ongoing basis and you are setting yourself up for stress and hassle. And the point above about being able to concentrate and having a separation between children and work is absolutely spot-on!

I understand that your DP is under the pressure of being freelance too but, especially if extra paid childcare isn't an option, he should be doing his fair share of looking after your DC. I would suggest getting into some sort of routine agreed by both of you where you have paid childcare at certain times and other set times when you know that your DP will be looking after the baby. This will let you plan your workload and also plan in meetings etc, and things should instantly become so much more manageable. This will also let your DP know exactly when he is and isn't available to work, and let him plan his time.

Because my DH is working away so much at the moment and I am therefore very reliant on paid childcare at set times, I'm in a similar situation to you in terms of wondering whether I can keep going on a freelance basis, from a financial and practical point of view. But I know that, if I had DH at home and helping, things would work fine as this was the case in the past, and I am pretty sure that going back into the jobs market would be a retrograde step both financially and from the point of view of flexibility re spending time with the children. Time for a serious discussion with your DP, I think, and then plan the next steps after that.

MuscatBouschet Thu 28-Aug-14 10:40:44

I'm freelancing now. Have also worked from home and in an office. I've come to the view that hourly wage rate is critical because money buys childcare.

I agree with others that working in the house with kids being looked after in another room is incredibly difficult and upsetting for toddlers who don't understand why you are ignoring them.

Is there any way you can make space for an au pair? Although your child is too young for sole care, you might well find someone suitable to play with your child while you work within ear shot.

BookABooSue Thu 28-Aug-14 10:40:58

It is possible but you have to manage your time differently. When DS was small, I focused on international clients and used the time difference to my advantage, working after he had gone down for the night. I tightly scheduled calls so I could ensure DS was in another room and enough to keep him entertained. I also used technology more eg had Skype conferences rather than meetings and used instant messaging and online workrooms.
This might sound obvious but if you need freelancing to work round certain hours then you put those terms into your contracts.

I've been freelance for many years and have a 4 year old. I think it was actually easier freelancing than working 9-5.

You need proper childcare. I'd recommend a childminder as they are likely to be more flexible and will usually still take your DC if they just have a little cold.

You also need to kick your DP into gear, there is no reason why you should be responsible for everything.

Basically what you need are firm boundaries and schedules. Just trying to wing it all the time won't work.

And whatever you do, do NOT tell your client you are struggling because of childcare issues. Better to say you misjudged the number of hours required or something but don't get into specifics.

OnlyLovers Thu 28-Aug-14 10:46:26

I have some childcare and a dp, but he's a freelancer and his response to doing childcare is always 'maybe',

Well, that's a problem, isn't it? Can't you sit down together and allocate the childcare so you both have equal shares of work and childcare?

MarshaBrady Thu 28-Aug-14 10:49:17

I freelance, on a contract now. What childcare do you have booked?

motherinferior Thu 28-Aug-14 10:52:42

I just worked a fairly standard day and week. Worked extremely well for me. The other thing with childcare is that you then aren't stuffed in the holidays - you just keep it going and keep working, like you would with a regular job. You also have something in place for after school if you need it.

I like work. grin

museumum Thu 28-Aug-14 10:57:24

I am freelance and find it MUCH easier. If ds was up all night I don't necessarily have to be at my desk at 9am, I can let us both sleep in a bit, drop him at nursery later and them make up the time that evening. Nobody is watching me and the clock as long as the work gets done.

What would you have done today for example if you had a 9-5 job? Call in sick??

Also, meetings outside of working hours? Do you work in a 24/7 industry? I guess I'm lucky nobody ever insists on meeting with me before 9 or after 5. Any evening stuff I do is on my own terms after bedtime.

I don't work Mondays or Fridays but I don't often tell clients that - I just say I have "other commitments" those days, only my two most long term clients who know me really well know I spend those days with ds. I do answer urgent emails those days but only at nap time or after dh gets home.

mum9876 Thu 28-Aug-14 11:01:37

I work from home. I've always used childcare up until around 8 years old when they are happy to play for half the day, as long as I take them out somewhere after lunch. They understand they need to be quiet if I'm on the phone.

It comes into it's own when they start school really. It's fantastic then - you can drop off, pick up, attend the odd school thing for an hour and still get 6 hours to work, topping up if necessary when they're in bed. I still used a childminder in the school holidays though.

So to me the answer is get some childcare in place. Even if it's just the morning. Both of you work all morning, one of you work in the afternoon whilst the other takes care of the baby, the other work in the evening whilst the other takes care of the baby. But trying to do both is nigh on impossible.

The nursery I used (a chain one) I had set sessions and they were more than happy to do extra sessions at short notice. Once they're eligible you can use your free childcare hours from the govt against your bill.

Hope you find a way.

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Thu 28-Aug-14 11:10:15

Freelancing isn't your issue, it's lack of childcare and support. You cannot expect to fit a reasonable amount of work round a baby's sleep time and schedule, that's madness and a ridiculous amount of pressure to put on yourself. (And I say 'yourself' because your DH doesn't seem to be that bothered about watching the baby when he's got work to do).

You need to reassess - either get childcare in place, or work out some sort of 'baby-share' arrangement with DP where one of you has sole responsibility for the baby at set times to allow the other person to work.

Freelancing is amazing for parents and does, as pp have said, really come into its own when you have older children who can self-maintain to an extent, but your set-up isn't working.

Imagine employing a nanny and then saying 'by the way, you have to be a project manager too.' Not gonna happen.

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