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Freelancer maternity leave: Can it be done?

Categories: freelance, maternity leave, pregnancy, time management, working from home

7 comments

Just thirteen more days until I’m officially on maternity leave from what I call my “day job”–working at home part-time for the book publishing company I’ve been with for ten years. Thirteen more days until I can ignore that email account, those Dropbox notifications, the pressing pressure that I am responsible for hundreds and hundreds of pages of someone’s near-and-dear-yet-riddled-with-typos composition. Thirteen days!

What shall I do to celebrate? Spend mornings napping in a hammock? Indulge in a six-hour Pride and Prejudice marathon? Throw a handful of confetti and then collapse in a heap because I really, really, really need this break?

Yes, I should definitely do all of those. Definitely. Right after I finish writing those four articles and proofing those ten posts and cleaning up that eighty-page file and invoicing for those three jobs. Then I will relax. I mean, I’ll relax if the baby doesn’t need me for something, because chances are he’ll arrive before all my freelance deadlines do, a situation that’s…not ideal.

I picked up a ton of extra work while my husband was unemployed, and although I was doing it for the short-term money at the time, I actually scored a number of long-term contracts that I’m enjoying the heck out of and don’t want to lose. The work is different and new, the people I’m connecting with are smart and fun, and it certainly helps to have some extra income now that we’re adding an extra person to the family, and, and, and…And yet it’s probably insane to think I’ll be able to keep up the pace of 4+ hours of freelance work a day when I add a newborn to the mix, yeah? YEAH.

At this point, I have only vague plans to take some time off from the freelance circuit, and those vague plans include an admittedly skimpy haitus of only two weeks after the baby’s born (and no time prior to that) before jumping back into the pool. TWO WEEKS! Am I fooling myself? (I’m fooling myself.) Am I asking for trouble? (I’m asking for trouble.) Is two weeks too short? (Two weeks is WAY too short.)

BUT.

I don’t want to lose this work because I like it so much. I don’t want to lose it because I like the way it makes my brain feel. I don’t want to lose it because I’m kind of addicted to the flurry of checks that come in the mail on days other than the 1st and 15th. I don’t want to lose it because I think freelancing will become an even bigger part of my work life once I’m the mom to two small children.

I’m hoping that because I want this work more than I need it, the act of having a baby will in short order make me want it less and therefore feel better about taking time away from it. I hope this will happen. (I think it will happen.) (It needs to happen.)

And honestly, I worry more about my ability to do quality work with a newborn in the house than I do about the practical logistics of caring for a newborn during work hours (having been through this once before, I now know I don’t have to be in the baby’s face “entertaining” and “enriching” him every time he opens his eyes), and on that point alone, I should make sure I give myself enough leeway that I don’t end up doing a half-assed job for clients I owe my very best work. And that’s not to mention that above all else I also owe both myself and my new son the best of what I can be as a mother.

So, hello, other freelancing moms out there! What did/do you do about maternity leave? Did you take time off? Did you suffer dire consequences? Did you suffer dire consequences because you didn’t take time off? How short is too short?



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7 comments so far...

  • I don’t freelance the way you freelance, but I’m technically a freelance employee when I work in tv. So, I turned down a series because I’ll be giving birth, but I’ve made it very clear to my current Executive Producer (and all the Executive Producers I’ve worked for) that I will be returning as early as two months after he’s born. Depending on Seth’s work. So… this is an unhelpful answer, but yeah, I struggle too, because if you don’t produce for a while, you sort of start to be forgotten when the good jobs come up. And it’s totally up to me to keep my name fresh at the top of the pile.

    Two weeks sounds like not very much time if you don’t have help at home, will you?

    Tamara  |  June 15th, 2012 at 12:16 pm

  • I am taking 4 weeks off work then going back. I work from home, but I have to answer phones and take chats from customers when I’m working. If I didn’t have a job that required a time commitment and relatively quiet atmosphere, I would probably start working sooner. Of course, if you don’t need the money and don’t like the work, then I would say take more time off. But if you want to give it a shot, go for it. I don’t think anyone is going to be upset if you try to keep these contracts but have to bow out post-baby.

    Jessica  |  June 15th, 2012 at 12:42 pm

  • Tamra–No, no help at home, which is what makes me nervous. I had a really easy baby last time and could have gotten SO MUCH work done had I realized it was totally possible, but this time I think I’d be a fool to imagine things will be so simple. So…yeah. And I do not envy you in an industry when you really do need to keep your name active in circles lest you miss out on jobs. Yikes.

    Leah K  |  June 19th, 2012 at 10:01 am

  • Jessica–I do think my clients will be totally understanding if I have to flake out when Baby comes, but OH, I hate to flake out! Being a reliable freelancer is almost as important as being one who’s good at her job, which I think is why I’m so nervous about just playing it by ear. I’ve got a rep to protect, etc.

    Leah K  |  June 19th, 2012 at 10:03 am

  • I speak from experience when I say to you “TAKE IT EASY.”

    When my son was born last October (and my daughter just 22 mos) I planned to take 6-8 weeks from my part-time “day job” (20 hours/week as a graphic designer at a small agency) but only 2 weeks off from my freelance business.

    Like you, I too like that flurry of checks and, going for 8 weeks without my regular pay check (I had been saving to take the time off but still!) at my day gig put some pressure on me to still pull in some cash through those jobs.

    At 6 weeks post-partum I decided that I would go back to my day gig and take baby with me and still continue my very full freelance schedule. Two days into it I found myself in a heap on the couch, crying my eyes out to the tune of “I caaaan’t do it allll.”

    I typically thrive on being busy - always doing something but the adjustment to two kids + regular life (house work, recovering from having a baby, impending holidays/birthdays/etc), no sleep, etc left me in a very rough place.

    At my 6 wk PP check-up my midwife would not release me to go back to my day job until at least 8 weeks. Had she not done that I probably would have continued on and fallen into depression or crazy anxiety worse than I was feeling. Having someone else say, “It’s OKAY to need a freaking break - TAKE IT!” allowed me to relax and not feel like I had to maintain the super mom/designer status I rocked with just one kid.

    If you can afford it, take the time. You will be so very happy you did.

    Amanda  |  June 21st, 2012 at 5:49 pm

  • I took 5 months after each baby, but I did insane schedules for the year before each was born so that I’d be able to do that. It was crazy, but then it was lovely not to have the time with the newborns.

    I scheduled work to be finished about 3 weeks before I was due with each. The first was born the day after I finished an on-site project. The second was born two days before his due date so I had a few weeks.

    It does take an understanding client or two and not very many clients (I was freelancing for only 2 regular companies in each case), and a great history with them to pull it off though. I had been working for those clients for 4 years freelance at that point.

    Katie  |  June 23rd, 2012 at 6:15 am

  • Ugh, I have a typo above and it’s bugging me! “but then it was lovely not to have the time with the newborns” should be “but then it was lovely to have the time with the newborns.”

    Katie  |  June 23rd, 2012 at 6:18 am

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