Thursday, January 21, 2010

Yes, I'm A Write-At-Home Dad: Balancing Freelance Writing With Childcare

You know, being a freelance writer can be a tough business, especially when you're working from home.  Everything is up to you.  The schedules you make, whether meet your deadlines or blow them, and, of course, what sort of writing you end up doing.  Freelancing at home can be a double-edged sword.  I'm sure many of you already know that personally.  Whether you're productive or not is up to you.  You have to be self-motivated.  There is no other way to make it as a successful freelance writer at home.  That said, let me ask you this question:  What happens when you throw kids into the mix?

That's exactly, what I've been trying to balance for some time now.  You see, I'm a write-at-home dad.  Ever since I started freelancing, that has been a title I could claim.  It's the reason I got to leave the 9 to 5 job behind in the first place.  There was a need for either my wife or I to stay home with one our children.  My wife had the better job while I had the inclination and the skill to write.

The Challenges Of The Transition

You know when I first started doing side gigs in January 2006, I had no idea that by May I would be doing this thing called freelancing while taking care of my daughter.  From the moment I got started I tried to make this a full-time gig.  But, guess what.  Children don't understand things like deadlines and writing schedules.  All they know is, "Daddy, play with me" or "Daddy, I'm hungry."  Early on, it becomes a juggling act where you start and stop in the middle of writing articles or doing research to take care of their needs.  Then you attempt to get back in the groove.

This isn't always easy to accomplish.  Some days, it doesn't happen at all.  I end up staying up at night to do what I couldn't do during the day.  You thought you needed self-motivation when you were working alone in an empty house.  Try summoning the discipline to get an article finished when you're changing dirty diapers and cleaning up your child's room. Ugh!  It's not easy folks. But, I've been doing it (with varying degrees of success) for a while now.  Is my writing level where I would like it to be right now?  Probably not.  Do I want to expand my business opportunities to make more money doing the kind of writing that interests me and challenges me creatively?  You bet I do.

Still, I also want to be a good father.  I want my kids to know that I love them and that I want to spend time with them too.  Now, that I've got two little boys running around and the girl is in school, you can probably imagine some humorous mental pictures about how things go in my house during the day.  (Sometimes, I feel like I'm in a circus.)

What's The Point?

What's the bottom line to this article then?  Is it me just belly-aching about my current circumstances? I hope it's not just that.  Here's a good question:  How do I balance the freelance writing with childcare?  I'm sure you're wondering that very question.

Frankly, sometimes the balance isn't there at all.  I choose my kids during one part of the day and end up going without sleep to get something done.  In some ways, I'm still attempting to teach my boys what it means when I say, "Daddy's working" and close the door to my office upstairs.  Yes, they're still running around or playing in the next room, but I want them to appreciate what I'm doing for them by sitting in this desk, typing on this computer.  I want them to understand that just because I don't go out somewhere else to work, doesn't mean what I'm doing isn't important even necessary.  Those lessons may be slow in learning, but I think they'll get it given enough time.

Honestly, if you are in the same circumstances, you've probably come up with some sort of process to both get the assignments done while also attending to the needs of your little ones.  Above all, you have to be super flexible to bounce back and forth between one and the other.  You have to be determined enough to put words on the page no matter how many times you have to get up to break up a fight over a toy.  Sheer determination and will power - that's what it's all about folks.  If you really love what you do as a writer, then you will make it work.

Good luck.  Wish me luck too. I'll need it.  Please feel free to send me comments or questions.  I'd love to hear from you.  Take care.

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