As a freelancer, I work “mommy hours.” During my kids’ preschool hours, naptimes and after they go to bed, I am at my laptop. I love being able to work around my kids’ schedules, but it isn’t always easy. Here are five tips for making mommy hours work:
1. Protect your work time—both the daytime and the nighttime hours. I have limited daytime hours, and I have to use them wisely to ensure I can take care of client calls and interviews. I don’t meet up with friends for coffee, shop or chat on the phone with friends or family. I head straight home after dropping my kids off and as soon as I walk in the door, I head downstairs to my home office and start working. I look past dishes that may need to be done or laundry I should fold, which means my house is not nearly as tidy as I would like, but I am able to grow my business and meet my clients’ needs. I take care of my household chores in the morning before I take my kids to school, evenings as I’m prepping dinner and on the weekends.
My nighttime hours are just as valuable as my daytime hours, so I usually spend those at the laptop, too. I wrote about skipping happy hour in this post.
2. Be flexible. As a freelancer, customer service is paramount. I have to deliver on the projects I take on, so my number one goal is to get the job done. Not everyone works mommy hours and there will be times when a source or client needs to talk with you outside of your scheduled work time. There are plenty of times I need to call in a sitter or set my kids up with an activity that will keep them entertained for a half hour or more. If I know I’m going to have a heavy workload on a day my kids don’t have school, I try to tucker them out in the morning to take advantage of long naps in the afternoon. Just last week I had four interviews lined up for Friday afternoon—a time when my kids will be with me. My kiddos each had classes in the morning (Evan at preschool and Madelyn at Little Gym), then we hit the park for a picnic and a few hours of playtime. Both kids fell asleep in the car on the way home and I was able to knock out all of my calls. I also recognize that this nap time was a gift from the gods, because it doesn’t always work out this way, but I am oh-so happy when it does!
3. Be honest. When I first started freelancing, I tried to hide the fact that I work around my kids’ schedules. I would create little activities to entertain Evan if I needed to take a call after he was home from preschool and rarely asked someone if he could offer up another, more convenient time to talk. As I’ve gotten more stable (and comfortable) as a freelancer, I’ve been able to rein in some of that and tell people upfront what times I’m available. Being honest about what times work for me hasn’t hurt my career and, if anything, it can be an icebreaker when I’m talking with other working parents. I think becoming more comfortable and confident with where I am in life right now has actually helped my business. Plus, I am proud that I am able to keep “mommy hours” and build a successful freelancing business, so here is no reason to hide it. That being said, refer back to tip #2.
4. Plan ahead. To maximize my daytime hours, I spend time each evening plotting out how I’m going to structure the coming day. I review my calendar, ensure I have all of the contact information I need for reaching sources and send any emails that I need to get out. I also look a few weeks out so I keep all of my deadlines straight and can prioritize the interviews I need to get done. I do most of my actual writing in the evenings and on the weekends, so I’ll often schedule certain stories or editing projects for certain nights. Taking a broad look also lets me find time to volunteer at my kids’ school or schedule in doctor and dentist appointments that I have to take care of during preschool time.
5. Be grateful. I know that working mommy hours is a gift. Not everyone has that luxury, so even on the days that are hectic and I’m trying to figure out how to get it all in, I give thanks for ability to work around my kids’ schedules as much as I do. That helps me keep perspective and see those late nights or crazy afternoons as a gift and not a burden. Plus, I know these years are going to go by in the blink of an eye. Evan turned five this month and today we are having a meet and greet with his kindergarten teacher. Starting in the fall, my little guy will be in school all day five days a week. I’m sad he’ll be away from me so much, but I am certain I will use that time wisely.