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Since my youngest child began going to school last September, the days of working while breastfeeding and changing diapers feel like a distant past. All I can remember is it was a very difficult and frustrating time. I cannot imagine juggling freelance work and caring for TWO small children, and yet that’s exactly what today’s guest blogger, Maria Bellos Fisher, does every day. Read on to find out how Maria accomplishes this feat.
“It’s so great that you can work at home since you have the kids.”
I get that a lot. I’m a freelance magazine writer and blogger and I’ve worked at home for three years. I began working at home two months before I gave birth to my daughter, now three. I began freelancing exclusively two months before my son, now four months, was born.
Freelancing with small children takes determination, innovation and practice. Most of the time it also takes child care. When freelancing was my second job, I needed extreme organization but luck and timing played a big part in my productivity. I used to schedule my interviews during nap time just to ensure a professional, uninterrupted phone call. If my daughter refused to nap that day, I had to reschedule. Fortunately, I was writing parenting stories and my sources were used to life with small children.
Once I became a full-time freelancer, I had to work around my kids’ schedules and needs. Last summer, before my son came along, I had two blissful months of flying solo. My daughter went to the babysitter’s in the mornings so that I could work to build my business.
Working at Home with Not One, But Two Small Children
Once I had my son, the plan was to keep him home as long as it was productive.
At the beginning, I realized I’d forgotten how much care a newborn needed. My daily routine was this: feed and burp baby, insert into car seat, ready three-year-old and drop off at preschool, drive home, feed, burp and lay down sleeping baby, work, and repeat until preschool pickup.
The routine hasn’t changed much since then, but the feed/sleep cycles are longer and now we’ve added play time to the cycle. He does play by himself in the baby gym, so I can work uninterrupted for about 15 minutes during play time.
Caring for a baby and trying to work was frustrating, but once I let go of trying to control my schedule and adapted my tasks to the baby’s whims, the frustration lessened. One of the first things I had to do was to figure out which tasks I could complete while holding the baby. So I made a list of things I could do one-handed. These tasks include: reading freelancing articles and Lexi’s “31 Days to Start Freelancing” online, researching markets, responding to personal emails, filling in spreadsheets and brainstorming.
Now whenever I hold the baby, I switch to a one-handed task and I no longer feel that my progress has been thwarted. I just pick up where I left off on the two-handed task when I put the baby down.
I also made sure to use my time wisely. I made sure every solo moment counted. I’d do tasks like reading magazines for potential markets while the kids were playing, later in the day. And if I wanted a particularly productive day, I’d work on the computer during nap time in the afternoon. For the most part, I only worked mornings, when my daughter is at preschool.
Another change I made was to confine my ambition for the day into manageable tasks. At first, I’d plan a rigid schedule and I’d get frustrated when I couldn’t complete even one item. It took some time, but I finally gave up control over my to do list. Now at the end of my workday, I pick two tasks that I want to complete the next day. And the next day I make sure I complete those tasks. Once I’ve got them done, I have a sense of accomplishment and everything else I do is gravy.
It took a lot of trial and error to get productive while caring for my son, but I found a way to make it work. The biggest hurdle was giving up control. Once I accepted that I no longer controlled my day, I went from frustrated involuntary slacker to happy, productive freelancer.
Maria Bellos Fisher is a freelance magazine writer and blogger based in Seattle, Washington. She was a full-time journalist for five years, trained at Gannett and Inside Washington Publishers. She has published stories and essays in local, national and international publications. She currently specializes in parenting and cooking stories. Read her family relationships blog, “Hereditary Insanity.”