(one day my home office will be a separate building in the backyard like this one)
Freelancers in general have pretty flexible schedules. This was one of the key factors that attracted me to the career move, as the mother of a young child. Being able to move my schedule around according to the needs of my family has been incredibly convenient.
I actually work part time, three days a week, and in those days I also take care of some household duties so my writing time is probably more like about two and a half or even two and a quarter days. Occasionally I am able to grab a few more hours at night on the weekend for urgent things, but it is not a guaranteed thing – my husband works long hours (which lets us afford my low-paying career change) and my toddler son requires a lot of attention (so making him entertain himself is not really an option just yet).
It is pretty well known that if you work from home, you have to work hard to stay focused. It is very easy to get distracted with the housework or the long ‘research breaks’ or just you know, general procrastination. Some people get out of the house to get work done. Some people use specific routines, set timers, use to-do lists and are simply just very strict about their workspaces being for work only.
I have to admit I have not found a routine that has worked for me. I’ve tried setting aside days or timeslots for types of work but inevitably something pops up that throws me out of my schedule and all is lost. It doesn’t help that housework is actually part of my at-home job. And I’m a chronic multi-tasker from way back (apparently a big no-no).
So I’m still trying to find my rhythm with my working days.
The other thing that happens is on my days ‘off’ (I say ‘off’ because though I am not being paid for being with my son, I am certainly working hard on those days!). Because I have spent the previous three days thinking and writing, the ideas keep coming! So it is a bit of a battle for me to capture the ideas before they are lost, without compromising on the time I spend doing my other job with the Mummy hat. And then it comes around at the other end of the working week – I find it hard to get my brain into gear when it is time to stop playing with trains and start generating ideas.
I find it really hard to switch off the ideas machine – or at least to simply save the ideas in the drafts folder of my head. But I have found that if I am not giving my family my full attention, we all suffer for it. That is the price of being a working mother, and by choosing to work part time I have found a way to be able to give attention to both my career and my family.
Being a part-time journalist is also a difficult juggle when I have a definitive line between my working days. I have three days in which I can send and respond to emails and talk to editors and interviewees on the phone or Skype. Journalism, even for articles that are not time sensitive, is reliant on your response time. You need to be polite to people who are doing you favours – sending you information or agreeing to interviews – and you definitely need to be available for editors when they want to talk, otherwise you will jeopardise your chances of getting the job.
Most people are understanding of a mother working part time, particularly in the parenting field where I have had a lot of work lately, but it lengthens the process significantly. In the meantime the other writers who are available are getting the jobs.
Unfortunately my son has started asking me to put my phone away (as I quickly tap out an email reply) while I play in the sandpit. This makes me sad. He is noticing. So it has come to a point where I have had to make a conscious decision about how long I leave an email before I reply to it. And then I worry about it. This isn’t what I signed up for when my husband and I decided this would be the family-friendly alternative to my office job that was keeping me out of the house for ten hours a day.