Falling into the freelance trap

…and how to avoid it

I recently read an article in the Telegraph by Maria Lally that was warning mothers to not ‘fall into the freelance trap.” It was published in March 2019 but I do feel that it is still very relevant.

In the article, Lally suggests that by being a stay at home working mum, you actually double your workload – you end up doing the household chores AND your work. Your days are longer and you get the joy of seeing your partner skip out the door each morning knowing that the pick ups, PE kit, swimming lesson taxi driving role is being handled by you.

It is all true – it really is. In the last few years, I have definitely ended up doing a lot more round the house, and I wrote about this in this blog post about ’emotional labour’. Lally only rescues herself from this role by taking an office job which takes her out of the house. Her partner works from home one day a week to help out.

Me and Maggie at work

This is the bit that sticks with me – why should you have to change your job or get an office job to be able to work and live happily? Working from home is no picnic even if I know that I’m envied by my office job friends. There is the inevitable distractions and I do a lot of the housework but I have spent a few years now honing my day structure and this has really helped me.

Here is what I do:

  • From the hours of 9am to 3pm, I prioritise work. It is that simple.
  • Before 9am, I set up the household chores – washing machine is put on, dishwasher emptied , clothes put away, beds made.
  • I take natural work breaks – hang the washing out, or prep the dinner but nothing that takes longer than a work break in the office.
  • After 3pm, I down tools, go pick up my daughter and then parenting stuff.
  • After bedtime, I may get my laptop out and run through a few emails but otherwise, I’ll wait until 9am the next day.

How I am able to do this?

  • I am really honest about my working hours to my clients
  • My husband is aware of the work that I do every day – we have a shared calendar so he can see what I have lined up
  • There is nothing like a deadline to focus you! I work smarter and harder on my chosen limited hours than I was when I worked longer hours in an office
  • I try and not take on too many clients. Does this mean that I am losing potential income? Absolutely but it is a sacrifice that I am willing to make at this stage in my life.
  • It is a juggle and I’m always re-addressing it but so far, this seems to be the best way of working for me.

Suggested reading:

Ms I Can Do It All blog post

Mothers beware of the freelance trap

Ms I Can Do It All (my thoughts on Emotional Labour)

Or…why I am my own worst enemy.

It has been a busy month – World Book Day, International Women’s Day London Book Fair and my daughter’s birthday. For a freelance book publicist, this is a lot of work in a very short space of time and include party planning for my daughter’s birthday, a lot of mental energy required. With my husband also working in publishing, it means that both our schedules are stretched.

Last week I found myself getting more and more angry with my husband. He was just getting himself ready for the Book Fair – sorting out his clothes, paperwork etc… he leaves on the Saturday and returns on the Thursday evening. Whereas I was commuting between London and our home in Leicestershire, staying overnight just twice. This was in a bid to give our daughter a little stability, but also because I didn’t want to be away from her for too long.

My busy London week meant I spent a lot of time at the train station
My busy London week meant I spent a lot of time at the train station

That isn’t something to get cross about until I realised that I was also organising childcare, dog care, cleaning the house, organising all my daughters extra curricular activities and getting all the laundry done so that she had everything she needed a week in advance. Plus getting myself prepared for the most important week for my business.

Technically it wasn’t his fault, it is just the way our household has been run. I ‘semi-retired’ when we moved to the countryside to settle Amy into the area and I wasn’t earning much. It made sense for me to take on the running of the house while he was at work. Now though… my business is growing year on year and I’m still doing the grunt work in our home. We hadn’t really discussed this and how he could start to help – I assumed he would realise and he assumed that I was handling it. He hadn’t appreciated my workload and the mental energy required.

Commuting to and from London during the week meant long hours...
Commuting to and from London during the week meant long hours…

I wouldn’t say there was a row but I simmered about it before telling him that I’d had enough. I told him that I couldn’t believe that he was just going to leave on the Saturday and assume that it was okay. He was shocked at my outburst but immediately offered to help. But guess what I did? Yup, I refused and told him I could do it. Argh!!!! No wonder he was confused.

Am I the only one that feels by admitting that I need help that it makes me a failure as a wife and a mother? Because that is how I felt – I needed help because I was drowning under the To Do list and needed a lifeboat.

Fed Up by Gemma Hartley is worth a look at after reading the article I mention
Fed Up by Gemma Hartley is worth a look at after reading the article I mention

If I’m not explaining this feeling very well then I fully recommend that you have a look at this article by Gemma Hartley about ‘Emotional Labour‘. It sums up everything I feel/felt. I even forwarded the article to my husband to help clarify my thoughts. (yes, he did read it…eventually)

So after a week away, we have come up with a new way of working our household which involves:

  1. A shared calendar – I now put all of Amy’s activities, school trips and my work meetings in one online calendar that we can both see.
  2. List sharing – one for food, another for birthdays etc… with initials by who is doing what.
  3. At the weekend we plan our meals for the week – this is really useful because it reminds us who will be home or if there is a late meeting etc…
  4. Job delegation – what we expect the other to do during the week. I’ll do the laundry but he will help with the ironing, takes the bins out and cook dinner on a Thursday. (Weekends – we both cook)
  5. Sharing the cleaning schedule – I follow the Organised Mum Method (do give it a go – it has changed my life) and he is now aware of what needs to happen each day.
  6. I will tell him about incoming work deadlines so he is aware that I may be looking for extra support at home

None of these are really that major but I do think that I need to be able to ask for help and learn to accept it. We are learning that our roles in the home are ever-changing and that we need to take a moment every so often to make sure the other is okay. I also need to get over the fact that a lot of time, I will be the one that says what needs doing because I’m at home. My husband isn’t a mindreader and I need to remember that!

Other reads: