If you've worked freelance around pre-school child at home, come and tell me how it was

(47 Posts)
TantieTowie Fri 30-Nov-12 09:54:43

So, I have two DC, one at school, one in nursery three days a week, and I'm currently thinking about taking DD (21 months) out of nursery because I think I could bring home the same amount of money by working in naptimes/evenings as I do through working more but paying nursery fees. I would also be able to spend more time with DD, who is probably my last, before she goes to school.

My husband thinks I'm delusional and that I'd get very stressed - but I'd really like to hear from anyone who has made it work (or indeed, tried it and found it really doesn't work.)

This is my thinking: I have one regular piece of work that takes 12 hours a week. I also have other regular work, but essentially all the work I do over and above that first regular piece of work goes to pay nursery fees of £8,000 a year. I worked out I'm £150 up over the course of a year, but because I pay tax on that £8,000 I'm actually down.

And because I also have to pay nursery fees during the school holidays I work three days a week through the school holidays and DS goes to holiday club (he likes it, mind you). Which is fine, but it means that school holidays aren't a time when we can go off and see relatives, catch up with grandparents etc, as I'd like, but in fact a time when I need to earn even more than usual and feel chained to home.

So my question is: is 12 hours work a week in naptimes/evenings doable, or is it madness? NB the first regular piece of work doesn't require much in the way of phone calls (though the other work does) and DD naps for at least an hour at lunchtime and will often do two if I don't mind a late bedtime.

TIA for your answers, will check in later after I've done some work.

RedZombie Fri 30-Nov-12 10:03:09

Possibly not what you want to hear but I had to use childcare. There was no way I could have done any work with children around. I was working full time and had to be contactable by phone for most of the day.

Fortunately I had GPs who helped out too so the cost wasn't that much of an issue.

TantieTowie Fri 30-Nov-12 10:17:59

Thanks, Red. Yes, grandparents would change the whole equation, but they live too far away, unfortunately.

schobe Fri 30-Nov-12 10:20:39

It's a nightmare tbh.

schobe Fri 30-Nov-12 10:21:36

There are nurseries/childminders who will do term time only. Look for one of them?

Pendipidy Fri 30-Nov-12 10:26:36

how old is the little one?

Lancelottie Fri 30-Nov-12 10:28:17

What I did was to book a local childminder for just the mornings, 9-12. She wore him out nicely for me at toddler groups and playing with the older toddlers, returned him for lunch, then he slept for a good two hours every afternoon, so I got at least 5 hours a day for the price of 3.

Then we had a second child and it all went to pot.

Lancelottie Fri 30-Nov-12 10:29:14

If you rely entirely on naps you really end up resenting them when they wake up early (or drop the nap altogether. Which they will, because they grow.)

Lancelottie Fri 30-Nov-12 10:31:49

Did you really mean that you are only £150 up over a year, or was that a typo?

You do also need to factor in pension, career, promotion prospects, and the often huge cost of a lengthy break.

WilsonFrickett Fri 30-Nov-12 16:23:44

Your DD is nearly 2 - she will be dropping that nap within a few months, year tops, so I don't know how sustainable your plan is.

I couldn't have done it your way as I need to be able to take phonecalls, and have in fact lost work because I don't ever call my clients' clients unless I'm childfree (well, not so much now as DS is 7, but certainly that was my policy up till 6 months ago). This policy was developed after DS burst into the room one day when I was on a call to a client and yelled that he needed 'a poo right now mummy.' Which was nice.

So I'm on the fence really. I also find it very hard to work in the evening, I do it but only when I really have to - it's not a great time for me mentally.

TantieTowie Fri 30-Nov-12 16:37:22

Thanks all for your thoughts. Yes, Lancelotti I did mean £150 up over the year, given that I can think I can still do the first 12 hours of my 21 hours a week while DD naps, and stop doing the rest until she's in term-time pre-school (which would be about a year later, if I went down this route). I'd still be working, just not doing as much as I was. ATM I feel like I'm working purely to send her to nursery, but maybe that's just something to be put up with till the free hours kick in.

However, I can't afford to lose all the work, so maybe I really do need childcare. <Ponders>

TantieTowie Fri 30-Nov-12 16:39:33

Wilson: yes, I realise she'll drop the nap pretty soon - but then she'll most likely start going to bed earlier and I'll have time then that I don't have now. But I'm not much good at evenings either. Think I probably will stick with what I'm doing, but it's so annoying. I wish you could write childcare off against tax.

MysteriousHamster Fri 30-Nov-12 17:30:05

Why don't you try leaving them in nursery just one day a week, so you save money, have one day where you can do at least 7-8 hours solid work, and then you have less to catch up on in the evenings.

12 hours would be too hard I think - what about illness etc?

TalkinPeace2 Fri 30-Nov-12 17:43:24

I did not have family near and could not afford childcare
so I was creative
worked when they napped / watched cbeebies
and worked in the evening - always was a nightowl

am lucky that DH is free range as well so we've always been able to juggle

EATmum Fri 30-Nov-12 17:58:09

I freelanced for some time after my first two DDs. It was flexible but I always needed childcare - I had a great arrangement with a childminder who would work out on a weekly basis what hours she could do, and that was when I worked. But while it was good for a while, I missed the social interaction that is pretty central to my work. Without it, I found myself bored and always feeling the pressure if work I'd not finished because it was in my living room. I was happier when I went back to an office-based role and had a clear definition between home and work. But that's so individual, it's hard to know if that helps.

spatchcock Fri 30-Nov-12 19:24:33

Tried it, failed miserably. My DD's naptimes were (and still are) really unpredictable.

A lot of my work involves calling people, which is where I fell down. I'd arrange to call someone slap bang in the middle of nap time and unfailingly DD would be awake and merrily shouting the house down.

She's in childcare now, I work peacefully at home, everyone's happier!

FamiliesShareGerms Fri 30-Nov-12 19:30:06

I have tried working from home for just one day a week with a little one. I reckon you can get two hours decent work done between 0930 and 1500, plus a few odds and ends.

DolomitesDonkey Sat 01-Dec-12 13:21:41

I'm really not sure at all why 12 hours a week over 7 days is "impossible" in the evenings. Seriously? hmm It's 90 minutes a day.

I work full-time, have 2 under 2.5 and run two businesses - I start work at 5 and I work after they've gone to bed. You just need to be discliplined.

TalkinPeace2 Sat 01-Dec-12 13:28:36

been there, got the teeshirt - haggling with HMRC while a 2 year old bawls at you is not fun.
I pointed out to my kids from early early on that the phone is work and if they want treats they let me phone so I can earn money to pay bills.

Also free range working is not 9-5 : its whenever you get the chance in blocks as short as 15 minutes. At all hours of the day and night.

forevergreek Mon 03-Dec-12 15:04:19

It's possible. Like someone said its only 90mins a day! Do people really not have 90 mins free? Even if they don't nap and fall asleep at 9pm that's only 9-10.30pm.

I would work every afternoon over Naptime (2 hours), that's 14 hrs a week without working at any other time.

Or every evening 2 hours when they are in bed.
If you do both you are easily at almost 30hrs work if needed.

If dh can take over some days you could even miss days and work say 6pm-11pm 2 days a week, and one nap time, or any other combination.

Many people I know say they could never work with a child at home, but then sit and watch reality tv all evening. It's not they don't have time, they just don't want to use that time to work.

Graceparkhill Mon 03-Dec-12 15:13:53

If your work can be picked up and put down then I would say it is possible.
Agree with others- the napping routine always changes ( and not in your favour) just when you least expect it.

I think phone calls is the big worry. If you are very secure and well regarded you might not mind breaking off a call to answer an urgent cry. I know when mine were young I did not want to "admit" to being at home.
Much easier now with emails and the like. I worked from home when the fax machine was still a novelty !

HardlyEverHoovers Mon 03-Dec-12 15:17:07

I have been studying at home with DS, not quite the same but similar! I would find it very hard if DH didn't care for DS on the days I'm studying. The one bit of time I can grab on days that I have DS is if I get up at 5am, and work until he wakes up at 7.30/8am. Seem to get loads done and enjoy being up early once I'm out of bed.
I think the downside is unpredictability. My DS doesn't always do what he's meant to do, e.g. sleep until 8am, go down for a nap etc. Then you're suddenly behind and not much you can do.

Lancelottie Mon 03-Dec-12 15:27:50

I once had to break off an overseas call by helping 'Excuse me, the baby's just fallen off the sofa!'

Not my most professional moment. Or indeed my best parenting attempt.

Lancelottie Mon 03-Dec-12 15:28:07

Helping?? Yelping was what I tried to type.

TalkinPeace2 Mon 03-Dec-12 15:45:23

TBH so long as your tone of voice remains professional and clear and what you say is sound, the fact that you are working from home is MUCH less of an issue nowadays.
I spoke to a very professional ombudsman chap on his London landline number ..... only when the rooster started up did he admit that the calls were diverted to his mobile and he was in his garden as we spoke.
Diversion into veg talk for ten minutes, then business relationship cemented.

WilsonFrickett Mon 03-Dec-12 15:52:41

I do work at all hours of the day but I don't call clients beyond their core hours, which tend to be 9 - 5.

bigkidsdidit Mon 03-Dec-12 15:59:21

Could you get up a bit earlier? I am madly busy at the moment so am planning to get up at 5 and do a solid hour of concentrating before DS wakes up. Nice and peaceful too. But I like mornings!

I would do the one day in nursery option, get 6 hours done that way.

Zoonose Mon 03-Dec-12 16:15:42

I work 25 hours a week freelance, on average. I have childcare for 10 of those hours. My DS is in school and my 2yo DD is at home with me other then those 10 hours in nursery. she does not nap and so the rest of my work is squashed into evenings and weekends. it is hard and I would much prefer to do all my work in longer sessions. I can do 2.5 hours max in an evening before I am too tired to concentrate properly. It is also stressful because it eats into family time and DH seems to resent me working. Either way, it causes a lot of arguments. So I wouldn't do it personally!

TantieTowie Mon 03-Dec-12 21:40:15

Thanks for all your thoughts. Just checking in before I do some evening work - and that's with the childcare. I salute you 5am-ers - I think I need to try something like that and see if I can do it before changing our arrangements (but that is so early!)
I'm also considering cutting down the nursery hours to one or two days a week.
TalkinPeace2: I think you're right that it's more acceptable to be working from home, but I also think that it's still not acceptable to be obviously looking after children while you do it unless it appears to be a one-off rather than routine. On my days off at the moment I tend to just turn the mobile off.
Freelancing is going to be great once they're both in school – and I'm going to feel so rich! It's such a balancing act until then but I don't want to wish the pre-school years away.

TalkinPeace2 Mon 03-Dec-12 21:42:54

I must admit I avoid my mobile whenever possible
email is MUCH better as you have proof of what you said, when you said it and can consider your words for a few hours after receiving messages.

SMS is second best

but phone calls - I always take notes - can be open to interpretation - which is never good in my field :-)

and being in the habit of only communicating a couple of times a day is good practice.

DolomitesDonkey Tue 04-Dec-12 06:56:05

I work at home for an organisation employing nearly 300,000 people and there are a lot of us working from home.

And yes, during conference calls you might hear a doorbell go and a dog go mental, or even a "daddy, I need a lol right now". But in my experience it's just laughed off, the offender put on mute and nothing further is said about it.

Tele-working is the future and most of us don't have a sound-proofed office!

I should also add that I have a lot of conference calls with people on multiple continents... So it's just not realistic for everyone to be in the office 24/7.

DolomitesDonkey Tue 04-Dec-12 06:56:27

Lol = poo!

TantieTowie Tue 04-Dec-12 14:37:10

Thanks Dolomites that does put it into perspective. I think as a (more sackable) freelancer you tend to be slightly paranoid about things that wouldn't bother you in a job...

Needless to say last night after I'd been working for about half an hour DD woke up crying and so ended my evening's work. Anyhow, back to it.

DolomitesDonkey Tue 04-Dec-12 15:49:39

Tantie I got mine up to bed last night by 7... sat down with the laptop and husband away at the gym. Youngest started screaming his lungs at 7:15, my nerves were shot by 8 and I reached for the Jack Daniels. ;)

PermaShattered Tue 04-Dec-12 22:04:57

I'm freelance, 3 children at school and 21 month old goes to nursery 2 mornings a week. So i get LOADS done on those two mornings (nursery and breakfast club run all done at 8am and i'm usually working by 8.30), the rest of the week i work in naptime (1-2 hours a day) and evenings; and also a chunk of a saturday.

When i've been really busy, i've been up at 6am and done an hour before the rest of the household wakes up (and i am a morning person). It helps that my husband is very supportive so he'll take the kids out half the day sat, if necessary, etc......

It's not easy, and you need strong will power and determination.

And there's no shame in having children in the background on a phone call - although i don't make calls when they're around, and only receive them if they're urgent. And people are usually interested in them anyway! Can be an ice breaker......

The majority of my communication is done via email - it certainly can't work if there are phone calls to be made. Yes, it gets stressful - but it's temporary. Before i know it, the baby will be at school and i shall pine for the days i had a baby at home!

Mosman Tue 11-Dec-12 14:05:20

I'm thinking about giving it a go, honestly the actual "work" I do is maybe three hours a day v's the childcare and stress the family is under for a net gain of $900 a month whilst working in a very well paid job, it's a waste of everyone's energy tbh.
I couldn't be much more stressed tbh.

TantieTowie Tue 11-Dec-12 20:36:26

That's interesting, Mosman. Are you also a freelancer - and would you give up all your work or just some of it? And how far is/are any children off school?

I'm still thinking about it myself - I don't have to change anything till March since I have work commitments up to then. My fear is that I'm being complacent in thinking I can really do the work I'm thinking of in two hours a day, no childcare - and that I'd burn my bridges with a nursery where DD is happy and well settled in finding out that I couldn't. In the meantime, I've been experimenting with doing that particular piece of work evenings only and getting the other work done during nursery days.

Mosman Wed 12-Dec-12 04:18:08

I have a two year old but in Australia they don't really get going in school until age six. We live in a suburb where none of the mummies work so are expected that they will be around during the day for all sorts of nonsense, but the bottom line for me is the childcare costs I pretty much hand over all of my net salary to the nannies who aren't even that good.
I've looked at an au pair option but the reality is I'd need proper childcare for the two year old beyond the remit of your average 20 year old tbh.
I would try and make deals at home, literally two pieces of business done from the kitchen table and financially I'd be in the same position so it is tempting especially with all the bitching and back biting that's going in in our office at the moment.

RichManPoorManBeggarmanThief Wed 12-Dec-12 05:11:08

If you do it, you have to accept that you can NEVER leave anything to the last minute, because the time you think "I'll finish that off when DD naps" is the day she doesn't (here speaks the voice of experience)

I think whether clients are bothered if you're effectively minding your own kids whilst working depends if you're being paid for the job or by the hour. No way would I pay an hourly rate to someone without childcare, but it wouldnt bother me if I was paying for a product, because then I dont really care how ineffeciently it's been done (in terms of stop/start/interruptions etc), so long as it's done by the deadline.

The other issue is what do you normally do in the evenings/naptimes? if you're using that time for housework/cooking/life admin etc, then that all has to get reschduled too

I'm a contractor as opposed to a freelancer (contracted for 16-21 hrs per week). I find the most efficient way is just to do it in 2x 8 hr days and then 3-5 hrs for email checks/ calls/odd meetings outside those days

Mosman Wed 12-Dec-12 08:45:24

I'd be paid on delivery so they don't care how long it takes me as long as I get there but truthfully we are talking a couple of hours tops, no payment until the results are in though

TantieTowie Thu 13-Dec-12 13:05:11

Yes, like you Mosman I'm also paid by the job. Sounds like it might well be a better option for you, especially if you're not happy in the work environment. I definitely prefer working from home in general, and I have great flexibility if either of the DC is ill.

And I agree, RichMan I'd never do hourly paid work without childcare. I'm tending to think I get more career progression with childcare than I would without. Still pondering, but thanks to all who've shared their experiences.

sparklechops Thu 13-Dec-12 22:50:06

I write for a living. So far, I am managing to squeeze work in around DD's nap times during the day. I also work evenings and weekends when DH can mind her.

Luckily, I can work on my laptop in my pyjamas and don't necessarily have to make phone calls. I can do most of my correspondence by email.

So far, it's working out ok. But she is nine months and seems to be dropping an afternoon nap. So we shall see....

BitofSparklingPerry Thu 13-Dec-12 23:00:31

I have a (HE) 5yo and a 3yo at home, I study for 16 hours a week and then run a business and do various little bits and bobs. It isn't high powered stuff, but I would say I get about 16 hours a week of work in.

But then I do almost no housework grin

DewDr0p Thu 13-Dec-12 23:01:13

I'd echo the pp who said how easy is your work to pick up and put down?

I tried to work 2 hours a day when ds2 first started school, mornings only. I found it just wasn't long enough to really get stuck into the work properly.

My other issue was I often found clients wanted to talk at about 4-5pm. Trying to sound professional while dealing with a pan of boiling over pasta and squabbling tired and hungry dcs is no fun believe me!

penguinplease Thu 13-Dec-12 23:05:54

I work from home now and have done since my middle child was nearly 2. I take and make calls and I work well over 30 hours a week. I had no option and the whole point of me doing the job was to avoid childcare costs.

Been doing it 9 years now. Works for me, had another child a few years in and took 4 weeks maternity.

My children understand that some times I have to be on the phone. The rest of it I juggle around them and I work mostly in the evenings which suits me fine. I often don't go to bed until around 1am but am better late at night rather than trying to get up early.

nkf Thu 13-Dec-12 23:11:56

I did it for about five years. It was okay. I liked aspects of it a lot. Very low childcare costs. I think I had someone two mornings a week. I became very efficient at getting down to work and working till the last minute before leaving to do a nursery pick up. I even worked with a baby in a sling. Totally doable. The only thing I found stressful is that your clients don't know that you can't be contacted at 5pm. I was either having to ignore calls or stick the kids in front of the TV and hope they wouldn't call me.

UniS Thu 13-Dec-12 23:17:08

Hard to do 12 hours in evenings and naps . unless you have a child who takes super long predictable naps. AND work that you can start / stop.
I used preschool hours to work, and that took discipline. before preschool age I used a childminder for a regular 2 mornings or 1 day a week if I had a multi day project I could do at home or at a customers unit. I can't have a small child very close to me while I'm working , I use sharp tools and lots of small parts.
Now the DC is at school I can fit 5 hours of making stuff into a school day. Its just the days when I'm not making / doing repairs at home but am out doing installs or testing at customers sites that I struggle with.

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