I would love to be able to say that I came to freelancing because of my entrepreneurial spirit and need to be the master of my own destiny, but that’s not really true. And as much as I joke about not playing well with others and preferring to be my own boss, that’s not really what brought me here, either.
The truth is that two things brought me to freelancing: 1) That my “mommy track” hiatus from the conventional corporate workforce was making it impossible to find a job that actually fit my skills and interest, and 2) that I was a single mother and desperately needed a way to make a living that was still flexible enough to accommodate my kids’ needs. And as for that second one, yes, I know there are people who work full-time in a corporate setting and still manage to get their kids to doctors’ appointments and activities and such, but I don’t know how people do that. Even with a flexible schedule, I am exhausted, trying to keep up with my family and my work.
I used to wish my kids were just a little bit older, to make things easier. And now they are, so what’s changed?
The good: Older kids don’t require as much minute-to-minute supervision. I can tell them to go practice piano or do homework or read or whatever, and most of the time, they actually do it. No one needs a diaper change or a channel change or to be told That is icky and we do not put it in our mouths!
Furthermore, now that my daughter is 12, she can be left home alone without me having to worry or her freaking out. Just recently we’ve started leaving both kids home alone together for brief errands, when necessary, and sometimes just those 10 unencumbered minutes can make a huge difference in the day.
These are the sorts of thing I wistfully looked forward to, back when I first started working from home and my kids sometimes felt like bottomless pits of neediness. “When they’re a little older, I’ll have more free time,” I thought to myself.
The bad: Ever heard the saying, “Little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems?” It’s so true. Sure, I don’t have to watch my kids every minute, now, and they’re in school most of the day, but they stuff they need me for now sometimes feels a lot “bigger” than back when they were little.
I have to help with homework. And sometimes I don’t actually know how to do it without doing homework on the homework. (Seriously, now. What is the Russian Peasant Method and why does my kid have to learn it?) I have to drive them here and there. I have to get them to doctors’ appointments and clubs and activities and friends’ houses. This afternoon I need to have both kids across town from each other at the same time, which I probably could’ve avoided, somehow, if I’d been a little more on the ball. But we’re figuring it out.
In summary: Balancing work and family is challenging, pretty much no matter what. Whether you work from home or an office, whether your kids are big or little, there’s always a juggling routine to keep it all going.
I just need to keep reminding myself that there is no “it gets easier” piece to this, because while the issues change, never having enough hours in the day pretty much doesn’t. And I definitely don’t want to be wishing away the kids’ childhoods while I get through it.
I’m still grateful for the ability to set my own schedule, and figure this is probably the easiest managing everything is ever going to get. But that’s not going to stop me from trying to get the kids to agree to just stick with medium-sized problems for a while, yet….