In some ways being a parent and a freelancer is an ideal combination. Being able to control your schedule means you have the flexibility to spend time with your children whenever you want or need to. However, this flexibility can be a double-edged sword. Splitting time between your family and your business can be difficult at best and downtime disastrous at worst. Keep the following in mind when thinking about how to balance your career and your family life:
1. Work Smarter, Not Harder: Caring for a child while working can be an exercise in frustration, particularly if your work time gets gobbled up by non-crucial tasks. When your little one is napping or playing contentedly in the next room, dive straight into work. Focus on the task at hand while ignoring distractions that would have once gobbled up your time.
2. Make Use of Small Amounts of Time: Ignoring distractions doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to check your email again. If your child can play on his own for ten or fifteen minutes, this gives you time to send out an email, organize your to-do list, or make a quick phone call. No amount of time is too small to be utilized if you are a freelancing parent.
3. Be Flexible about Office Hours: The age-old freelancing adage about setting and sticking to office hours can seem to be an unobtainable dream when there’s a cranky two year old tugging at your sleeve. This is the time to take advantage of freelancing’s legendary flexibility. Don’t be afraid to rearrange your schedule if your child needs you to. If a trip to the park in the morning will lead to a cheerful kid for the rest of the day, feel free to give your office hours a little tweak.
4. Make Work Time Special for Both of You: If you can make your office hours fun for both you and your kids you’ll have a much easier time working. Try setting aside a few special toys or movies for your kids to enjoy while you’re at your desk. If your kids are a little older you can set up their own workspace in your office, allowing them to work on their own projects while still staying close by.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help: It’s difficult not to fall into the “super-parent” trap when freelancing with kids. While it’s very possible to balance work and kids, there’s no reason to do it on your own if you don’t have to. If a grandparent or friend offers to babysit, let them! If you have the means, signing your kids up for a daycare group for a few hours a week can give you the space you need to keep your business on track. There’s no award for doing everything yourself, so be open to anyone who is willing to lend you a hand.
Being a freelancer and a parent can be an incredibly rewarding experience if approached in the right way. Building a happy family and a thriving business can be tough, but with the right mindset it is within your reach.