Freelancing when long term ill - conflicted (long)

(21 Posts)
FaceDirectionOfTravel Fri 24-Jan-14 08:18:34

I am hoping you will all be able to help me get some perspective on this situation and hold my hand. I have been ill with chronic fatigue for a couple of years and have two children at primary school. My husband is helpful but works in a demanding job and can only really handle routine things like emptying the dishwasher.

I love my work. I value it enormously. But financially we will be fine if I don't work. I have managed to continue working part time on my existing freelance projects but have not managed to take on new work. Last summer I decided I should not be ambitious about my career, and just deal with things that come across my desk as they appear.

So I haven't worked since August (I turned down a major very attractive contract that simply wouldn't have been manageable) and am still struggling to manage daily household jobs and child-related stuff. I mean, I'm hoping you understand - running a house is hard work in itself without anything else.

I'm reaching the time of year when my favourite client starts thinking about my involvement and I want to speak to them. I've also had an enquiry come through yesterday from a new and brilliant client (although no details about what the work would involve).

But I feel like I'm at sea. I'm waiting for a hosptial procedure that might help my condition but don't know when it will be. I don't really know how much I am capable of doing as my condition is so variable. I have days I can barely get out of bed. Most days I need to rest for a couple of hours while the kids are at school.

If I take this project on, or any project really, I might be unreliable and fail to deliver and harm my reputation, but also might damage my health and my ability to look after my family. But I want to. I so want to. I love my work. I hate not being able to work. I just want to do it all.

This has helped me already just getting it down in black and white. I think carrying on working is just a fantasy for now.

But then what if I got lots of help in around the house? I already have a cleaner three hours a week but maybe a mother's help coming in more frequently is the way forward. But she won't know about all the different kits and permission forms and it just feels like I'm still the one who would have to manage everything. Even on days when I'm really bad. Maybe I'm wrong and getting more help is the answer and I just can't see it. Argh.

I'm sure most people would think I'm crazy for thinking about working when I don't have to but I get such a buzz from it and I really value my career. I'm hoping someone here understands. Thanks for reading such a massive post.

MrsMargoLeadbetter Fri 24-Jan-14 09:24:45

Sorry to hear of your illness. It sounds very difficult and frustrating.

Based on your post I think you should wait until your hospital procedure. You don't need to tell new clients the truth, you can say you are committed to other projects, so they might come back to you again?

Wish I had a more constructive answer.

Fingers crossed that the procedure helps.

FaceDirectionOfTravel Fri 24-Jan-14 09:47:54

Thank you for that. I really appreciate your reply.

The language I used last time was that I had ongoing commitments and limited availability. I was quite proud of that - no need to mention that my ongoing commitments are to my health and children. grin

So far I have decided that the best thing I can do is just seek more information and not close down my options. So I hope to speak to my favourite client today about the shape of the project, and have said to the new client that I may be available but need to speak to my existing clients first and any information they can send will be gratefully received.

I'm not closing anything off, but hopefully with more information things will become clearer.

WilsonFrickett Fri 24-Jan-14 11:47:55

I think yes, keep your options open and see what happens wrt the possible work - very often (as you know) there's a bit to-do about things and actually the work turns out to be very little. Or, if you're really lucky, it's a piece of work which is difficult the first time, but then very easy the second time and the time after that - so wanting more information before you make a decision is absolutely the right thing to do. You may even find you don't need to make a decision till after the hospital procedure.

All that said, my husband has a demanding job. He can - and does - do a lot more than emptying the dishwasher though. Part of the freelance life is peaks and troughs - my DH knows that most of the time I do most of the things in the house. But sometimes (like next week) I am going to be working day and night and he will have to do more.

You don't mention your DCs ages, but I suspect there's more either they could be doing to help themselves! The other thing you could look at is upping their after school activities to extend your day or swapping childcare with other parents.

Finally - yy to getting more help. Look at how much you earn ph then look at how much you pay your cleaner - in my case, cleaning myself costs me significantly more than paying her. Upping her hours seems like a no-brainer if you're going to be earning to cover it. And if you get a mother's help they will learn about kits and routines and things.

I do have some appreciation of CFS - my best friend has struggled with it for years. She always says work is the easy bit - it is the most absorbing and interesting part of her life and that 'feeds' her energy for the other parts. Work builds confidence and self-esteem - both vital if you're battling a condition like this. She also swore by mickel therapy

Good luck!

FaceDirectionOfTravel Fri 24-Jan-14 12:22:37

Thanks, Wilson.

It does seem like a no-brainer to increase help and childcare financially speaking, but it doesn't feel like that. It is challenging because then I think, who am I if I'm not the one dealing with the bloody swimming kit? I don't know. I'm not very good at the moment, struggling badly with fatigue just now, so all these things feel very emotionally loaded when actually they probably aren't. I'm in tears thinking of having a stranger in my house every day loading the dishwasher while I lie in bed upstairs or work on the computer. Maybe it wouldn't be like that.

My kids are great and do what they are asked to but at 7 my daughter is a bit young for anything more than tidying her room and getting herself ready (and doing whatever I ask her to do like clearing the table), and my 9 yo son has various issues - nothing terribly serious, borderline ASD, possible ADD, some sensory integration problems which have eased lately. He is a good kid but he cannot hold anything in his head for more than a few seconds and he is bouncy like Tigger (despite being nearly as tall as me). He will do as asked but only after repeated requests and I can't give him a list longer than 2 items without triple checking they are done. I don't know whether this qualifies as SN - he is under assessment and sometimes he is really fine and seems quite NT and other times I think, 'Nope, I have a handful here.'

And as I was writing about my DH I thought, 'MN will pick me up on that.' grin But the truth is that work has been very stressful for him for a couple of months, and he has definitely got stuck in a mode of being that involves work and his hobbies and a bit of other stuff around the house. I picked up the slack for a while but his work is going to carry on being busy for several more months including some travel so I don't see him being able to just start doing more. He has probably got borderline ASD and ADD as well, tbh. You can't fight nature and it feels like it is up to me to be the one who bends. Maybe that isn't true but I have to fight to get him to see my PoV so I have to pick my battles. He thinks I should just give up work and have fun and see my friends I think - be a lady who lunches.

I had accepted all this with good grace in the run up to Christmas. I felt like I had come to terms with not working. But now I start to wonder if I can work because I love it, when really, maybe I can't.

But once I have a better picture from these two clients I will also look into additional housekeeping help and after school club one day a week for the kids.

Thanks again for bearing with me on all this.

MrsMargoLeadbetter Fri 24-Jan-14 17:08:49

Oh Face don't get upset over somebody else loading the dishwasher. As wilson wisely points out if you can earn more, why not outsource? But I get where you are coming from.

Having told you not to work back tracking here I can see it can bring lots of benefits to you and some beyond money.

I did wonder when I saw your first post about outsourcing some of the work or having a back-up plan but that could bring similar issues as having a housekeeper etc but it might give you peace of mind?

I guess you need to come to an internal acceptance (for now) that if you want to work it is worth giving 'working with help' a go to see if it makes it all more possible. Hopefully this will be a phase and you will recover at some point....

FaceDirectionOfTravel Fri 24-Jan-14 17:39:09

Thanks, Margot It does seem ridiculous to be upset about someone else loading the dishwasher. Surely I should be thanking my lucky stars that is even an option since I loathe housework.

I feel a bit better since speaking to my favourite client. Basically, she said they won't have much work for me this year, just the odd day. Which is just enough to keep me feeling involved but not too stressed - and I was honest about my condition and she was very understanding. So I wouldn't get things with a quick turnaround time, for instance, but a days's work spread out over a week or so. Perfect.

The other client has also sent me some details and it is not exactly my area of specialism but I have more info so can think about it properly. I am definitely not well enough to travel to meetings outside my city, so that might put me out of the picture anyway.

Feel much better for having people who understand to help me clarify my mind. Thanks both. flowers

FaceDirectionOfTravel Fri 24-Jan-14 17:44:45

As an aside, I remember a poster (Xiaoxiong, was it?) posting about how she had hours of cleaners and mother's help and nannies when she works full time. That is enviable in some ways. And Xenia was always very forthright about delegating every single possible thing. I know this in my rational mind but ... it is so emotive, isn't it.

FaceDirectionOfTravel Wed 29-Jan-14 20:07:47

Okay, thanks for advice earlier. I have now turned down the other piece of work. It was definitely the right decision for me, with this health procedure coming up and not much support at home.

I do feel like my time will come, and I just need to be patient for now. A small amount of work to keep me ticking over is enough, and I need to focus on health and family right now. Thanks all. flowers

MrsMargoLeadbetter Wed 29-Jan-14 20:41:38

Glad you have found peace with your decision. Always worth considering the options when they come up.

Best of luck with your procedure. Have everything crossed it brings you relief and better health going forward. thanks

Honu Fri 31-Jan-14 18:37:04

Might it help getting some assistance in place before you take on work - i.e. separate the assistance from the work? Then, while you are having the procedure you won't be stressing about housework and childcare, and when you feel able to work you will feel comfortable with the delegation. Trying to delegate when stressed never seems to work for me.

FaceDirectionOfTravel Fri 31-Jan-14 21:45:33

Thanks for your reply. My husband has just announced that he is probably going to have to travel with work over the next few months, something I haven't had to deal with for a long time, so I know I was right to turn it down.

Right now I need predictability and low stress, I think (not thing that come with freelancing, tbh).

I may need help with housework and children even without working, as my health is not good. I can really see the benefit in getting the help in place and then seeing whether that seems to free me up to work.

But I am mainly focusing on getting through my next procedure and seeing whether it helps. I am lucky that I don't need to work - for a while it was terrifying as I ha no insurance to cover loss of earnings through illness and yet we needed my salary or we would have had to move, so I had to work and could hardly do anything else at all. Life was miserable We aren't in that position now, thankfully.

Punkatheart Sun 02-Feb-14 08:19:04

Low stress, my darling - that really puts it in a nutshell.

As someone with lymphoma and yes, trying to work too, i really understand. Yes get help and don't pile stuff on yourself.

It will be OK and if you ever need to PM (two sick gals trying to be Superwomen!) please do so.

Good luck with the hospital stuff.

FaceDirectionOfTravel Mon 03-Feb-14 07:31:09

Thanks, Punk - I feel like this is the right decision for me right now. I hope that you can deal with the lymphoma firmly and decisively!

FaceDirectionOfTravel Mon 03-Feb-14 11:33:15

I had a visit with an old colleague over the weekend and she has passed me contact who has a very short piece of desk-based easy work which feels much more like it. And I made a start looking at some of the work with my favourite client - it feels a bit overwhelming but I am going to try.

And my daughter has lost her comfort toy so I have just spent an hour looking for that....aargh.

Punkatheart Mon 03-Feb-14 19:38:24

I think is such a comfort. When I am in the throes of pain and exhaustion, putting a magazine together is for me the ultimate buzz.

Oh dear - talking of comfort - hope you find the toy. My daughter had a monkey and one day she dropped it and I ran over it with the pram. It was never the same and I got evil looks from her for quite a while!

FaceDirectionOfTravel Wed 26-Feb-14 22:33:10

Thanks again, everyone. I jumped on this small piece of work so have been working for a couple of weeks now and it is fine. My health is okay just now too, but it isn't a big commitment so I can recover if it gets too much.

It really helped to have someone (*Wilson*?) say that it had been good for another CFS sufferer they knew to keep working a bit...I think that is true for me as well. thanks thanks thanks

FaceDirectionOfTravel Fri 14-Mar-14 17:57:52

Sadly this whole situation has gone tits up. My daughter has been off school all week with a nasty virus, I got a version of it which wiped me out, my 'small' project deadline is next week, my husband will be travelling on business from Sunday, and attempts to contact agencies for emergency childcare were fruitless. I only need to do about ten hours work between now and Weds but if my daughter does not improve it will be v difficult to work Mon to Weds.

My mum has now agreed to come over on Sunday for a bit, I'll probably have to bail on a long standing social arrangement on Sat and work instead, and I'm sure one way or another it will get done. So then a weekend written off right before a week of flying solo.

Awful, awful, awful. Very stressful and horrible, and has put me off working for ages. Have not coped well with the stress at all, due to my resources being depleted...shouted at my mum, threw things across the room, had a big cry, etc.

Just wanted to have a moan here. I love working but I think I'm going to have to give it up for the foreseeable. sad sad

Still, more time for MN.

Hello Face, just wanted to add a comment here. I've just had pneumonia, and been unwell for the first time in my life. It's totally and utterly changed my perspective on life and working. It has shown me that I want to work and that I need to find a way to balance it all. I don't know if this is helpful, but I figure you're going to get a lot of people who will tell you to stop working altogether. And if you want to work, you should.

Is there anyone you can have a partnership with, to do the work in your name, under your email address? What do you do? I bet someone here will be able to suggest people to team up with you.

FaceDirectionOfTravel Sun 16-Mar-14 22:35:00

Bird thank you. I think I am going to take some time off for now and figure out what next. I know I need something external to structure my life, and something that gives me purpose. But intense freelance projects simply aren't going to work for me right now. I feel much much better for having decided that.

Punkatheart Mon 17-Mar-14 09:59:09

Sending good thoughts, my love. Sorry it is so stressful. You are doing well - focus on your achievements.

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