Oh work at home parent, how dost thou neglect thy child? Let me count the ways.
- I know the furtive checking of your mobile phone - ahem, office - like a crack addict seeking their next fix. Worse - it's often executed under the guise of 'Oh, shall we see if it that's Daddy, letting us know he's on his way home?' Even when it was blatantly an email notification.
- Playing on the floor, full attention (allegedly) trained on earnest building of generic bricks - I know you're wandering mind is creating and revising a checklist of items to be completed today.
- And of course, when Daddy does return home, so your work time proper (the dedicated slot) begins.
I defy you to deny it. I know.
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I know because this is my life. Every day. Being self-employed, we also miss out on the perks of paid holiday and sick leave. But don't fret - we do get a couple of other things instead, which I'll get to later.
When I started my maternity leave, I naively decided to expand my (part-time) freelance writing biz, and really push the blog. 'I know,' I thought, 'I'll just write when the baby sleeps! Et voila - no nursery fees, a job I can tolerate (enjoy, even), and best of all I'll simply fit it around Pixie!'
So just in case you're considering doing the same, allow me to disabuse you of a couple of very lovely, very quaint, very silly ideas I was dazzled by:
Misconception: You will write when the baby sleeps.
Reality: The baby doesn't sleep.
If the baby does sleep, it can be for anything from 7 minutes to 3 hours; if the baby does sleep, it will probably be when you're in the car; if the baby does sleep, it's a great opportunity to wash your clothes/the floor/your hair; if the baby does indeed sleep and you begin work - she will always wake up at the precise moment you have lost yourself in your scribing mojo - and ruin your momentum. There will be scores of BRILLIANT lines of prose which never see the light of day, for they will flutter away into the ether with your sleeping beauty's dreams.
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Misconception: Founding and maintaining a blog is an awesome, simple way to earn bucketloads of cashola.
Reality: Establishing and developing a blog is LABOUR INTENSIVE.
The odd post won't cut it. You must be publishing regular, consistent articles comprising valuable wisdom and insights - or at least entertaining yarns. Some days this is really fun and easy; other times it requires a lot of imagination. Like for example when you have to try to find a hilarious way to recount the time another small child tried to batter yours right in front of you. (I've not written this yet, I'm still working on how to make it funny. Watch this space. You can expect me to conjure up vivid imagery involving mum's, and duels with (s)words.)
Misconception: Because you'll fit work around the baby, you'll always be available for her. It's the perfect work-life balance!
Reality: Thanks to the above two points you will never clock off.
'From work or as Mum?' I hear you cry. Oh Sweetie, you've a lot to learn. From the moment you see that little pink line you'll never clock off from being a parent! In case my meaning is a little murky - it's both. When you're supposed to be working, you'll always be listening for the baby/preparing her lunch/folding her washing. And when you're supposed to be focused on the delightful joy (read tedium) of stacking the same bricks or reading the same book for the tenth time, your mind will wander to those tasks you could be completing instead. (Yes, I did mention bricks earlier, and if you think it's repetitive in an article, just wait till it's real life.)
Note: This list IS in a particular order. I have numbered the points numerically, with the most important at number one. And for the discerning among you, whose morning espresso (who am I kidding, this ain't America, we're not hardcore enough for anything stronger than lattes) has done it's work - yep they're all number one. Because I can't place any one over another. Not being 100% emotionally available to your child when they're asking for you is tough; at any time, for any reason.
Bringing us neatly on to the first of those things I mentioned earlier:
Guilt. In spades.
I may have implied they were both good things, but I didn't actually say that. Every emotion we experience as a work at home parent is diluted with a little guilt, for our child, our spouse, and our family. Prioritise; organise; dry your eyes.
Thankfully, the other thing having my own business affords me is a sense of self; a sense of purpose; a sense of worth. All things which diminish when a child arrives. These have been equally important to me as any financial gains. They drive my determination to keep going. (Being in a position to contribute to the kitty is a nice bonus too, it means I can treat myself occasionally without the guilts.)
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Along with the fact I only have myself to blame if I work overtime, and I always take Christmas Eve off now!
I console myself with the thoughts that I'm teaching my daughter to be comfortable in her own company (albeit inadvertently). And one day, should she want it, she'll have a ready-made platform on which to express herself and from which to build a career. As such, I'm investing in my own sanity today, our family's year, and my daughter's future.
Kate also writes at The Less-Refined Mind: A Mouthpiece on Motherhood, Marriage, and Mischief. Join the mischief on Twitter and Facebook.