My Biggest Freelancing Challenge (and How I Didn’t Solve It)

My biggest freelancing challenge is also the primary reason I began freelancing in the first place: my children.

I started dreaming about working from home when I first became a Mom almost 16 years ago. But, back then, I had no idea there were so many ways to earn an income without a regular job. Besides, as my family grew, we needed the medical coverage my job provided.

Fast forward many years later: I have three children and have become Internet-savvy. My head is swimming with the many possibilities for self-employment. With the guidance of experienced, entrepreneurial Moms, I set up shop as a freelance writer and online marketer.

I am giddy. I am living my dream, at last!

And then reality hits. An 18-month-old toddler needs constant attention and does not understand that Mommy needs to be at the computer for hours at a time so that we can buy groceries. To make it worse, he stops needing two naps a day. The house gets dirty again a couple of hours after I vacuum. Plus, older children, even a teenager, still need Mom after all.

A few weeks after my dream became a reality, I was almost crying in frustration. How was I going to get any work done if my family–particularly The Little One–was demanding my attention constantly?

Many Possible Solutions

I had several options:

  • Put the Little One in Daycare–Mothers who are employed do it. I have a job to do as well, so why don’t I do it, too? Find a good, reliable, affordable day care, and enroll my youngest child there. Sounds like an excellent option if I want to be able to work from home full time. However, I did not like this option at all! I left full-time employment precisely to be with my children. Besides, no daycare accepted children on a part-time basis (not where I live anyway). So, I quickly dropped this option.
  • Find a Mother’s Helper–Look for a nearby mother or student who’s looking for part-time work and have her come to my home a few hours a week to look after The Little One while I get stuff done. This was a very attractive option for me. I get to stay with The Little One, but still manage to work at home. I asked my friends for referrals, hoping to find somebody I could trust. Unfortunately, I didn’t find any. And, no, I wasn’t about to hire somebody from Kijiji or Craigslist! Also, it didn’t make sense to hire a student when I had students of my own, living in the same house already. Which brings us to the next option…
  • Share Child Care Responsibilities with Family Members–Family members make good child care providers because you trust them (most of the time, that is). They’ll often provide occasional child care for free, plus your child is already familiar with them. Unfortunately, my family lives quite far away, but I do have older children and a hubby who pitch in when they’re home from school or work. Of course, The Girls need to finish their homework first, so when there’s school their “opportunity” to help me out is quite limited. However, I do find that I can get tons more work done in the summer.
  • Work Only When the Little One Is Asleep–I know many Moms who’ve accomplished a lot just by doing this. While I’ve done this on occasion, particularly on emergency basis (such as when a deadline is fast approaching), I find that I can’t do this every single day. My brain’s “prime time” is in the morning. At night, I just can’t think straight or write very well. However, if you’re a night owl, then this is a perfect option for you.

My other problem is that I really get wiped out when I try to go by on very little sleep for days on end. I get cranky, my skin breaks out, and I eventually just pass out by 8 p.m. If I keep pushing myself, I get ill–which makes it even harder to get work done!

How I (Didn’t) Solve My Problem

I chose to just wait my problem out. The Little One is growing up fast. He has learned to keep himself occupied long enough for me to get spurts of work done throughout the day. He takes two-hour naps in the afternoons. Unless I fall asleep with him, I get to write without interruptions during that time.

And, guess what? He’s going to start school this September. Yes, I will be all alone in the house all day (Ontario is beginning to implement full-day kindergarten, and my son’s school is one of the pilot schools). In just a couple of months, I will be “free” to work for seven hours a day… if I want to.

Managing Expectations

An essential part of “solving” my freelancing dilemma was to manage my expectations.

My frustration stemmed from thinking that I could get full-time work done at home, even when I had a toddler with me.

When I decided that I would only work part time, and that I wasn’t going to make as much income as I wanted to (for now), then I stopped feeling frustrated.

This meant limiting the number of assignments I accepted. It meant giving up my other interests, hobbies and social obligations. It meant losing lots of sleep now and again. It meant being patient, as I put my bigger goals on hold, because my youngest child needed me.

I constantly remind myself that my time will come.

Tell Me

Did I miss a solution that could have worked for me? If you’re a freelancing Mom with small children, how do you balance family and work?

What is YOUR biggest freelancing challenge? What are you doing to overcome it? Would a change in perspective make your challenge virtually disappear?