The modern woman is supposed to have it all! I have it all, for the most part anyway, and I can tell you that the joy and satisfaction that is supposed to be encompassing my very being right now is nonexistent. Having it “all” is a bunch of bullshit. Do I hate my life? Nope. I like it. But I fully realize that my life is a big juggling act of sacrifices. This is true of anyone trying to run a freelance business and have a family at the same time.
Consider the amount of time it takes to grow any business – it doesn’t happen in twenty hours a week. It doesn’t even happen in the forty or fifty hours a week you’d be working in an office job. Growing a successful business takes hours upon hours over an extended period of time. Unfortunately, those of us juggling children and family issues simply don’t have sixty or eighty or one hundred hours in a week to make miracles happen. We don’t even have the same work hours in a day most of the time – even when we use childcare.
So what’s a busy freelancing mama to do?
Let’s all close our eyes for a minute and try to stay awake. Actually, we should open our eyes. Sitting still is about to do me in – if I close my eyes right now, I’m gone.
But the exercise: Consider your priorities right at the moment. Most of us would throw family right up there at the top. And running a close second is the business. But wait! The business is really supporting family, so it’s like a dead heat. You can’t support your first priority without your other…first…priority. So there you have it. The most critical problem for every working mother. Where do you dedicate your energy, your minutes, your hours, your budget? It’s a very tough call.
I can’t tell you how to prioritize your life. All I can tell you is how I make it work. I’ve been doing this juggling act with little men in my life and two jobs for about five or six years now, so I’m not an expert, but I’m well past novice.
Life in Bubbles
As much as I’d love to be as light as a bubble, I have to resign my bubbliness to the compartments of my life. I have learned that trying to overlap my bubbles makes me ineffective in both spheres – especially with two children. It is possible to overlap a bit when you have one baby who naps, but not with two non-nappers. What I mean by “bubble” is the protected time that I use for certain things.
I have a school bubble of time when I’m teaching. I have a daytime bubble of time with my children every weekend and every day of the summer that I almost never try to work during. I have a freelancing bubble that exists starting twenty minutes after the boys are asleep. I have a shower bubble that I manage to slip in between the boys and the freelancing ones. On a good day my sleep bubble lasts seven hours, but few days are good days in that regard.
I dedicate bubble time to that area of my life. While in that bubble, I do the very best I can to be outstanding at what I do. This almost completely eliminates the guilt you can feel if you take yourself away from the kids during “kid bubble time” to try to do things from the “work bubble.”
Would I like to be like the rest of big bad freelancers hopping up at the crack of dawn and getting right to work? Absolutely. (No sarcasm.) I would love to work like a dog cranking out work and doing some serious marking for hours upon hours. But I can’t. Even when I’m not teaching, I just can’t. I choose instead to sacrifice potential income and potential growth during this phase of my life and my children’s lives by keeping the business small.
I work only two to three hours a night and might answer some emails during the day. Not only does this short amount of time make me productive, I also learn to chunk work into sections that fit the short blocks of time. When I bid out a project, I can almost instantly determine if it’s a one-night or two-night project, and since I know how much I need to make per night, it’s a relatively easy process to set up.
Do I have dreams about what I want to do as a writer and business owner? Sure. And believe me, I’m beyond frustrated sometimes that I can’t put all of those dreams into action. I have a list as long as my arm of the things I want to do and should do to push this business of mine into a new bracket, but I’m baby stepping it. So long as I’m making progress in bits and pieces, I try to stay content and remember that my life is relatively in balance. That’s actually a pretty big deal.
Take a Long-Term Perspective
I’m working small now and I have many bubbles to manage. But soon my children will be totally independent in the afternoons and evenings. Before I can blink they will be off to college and out of my hair completely with their own careers and houses. Some hussy might even try to marry one of them – fortunately I’ve prevented this intrusion by setting up arranged marriages with the daughters of my best friends. Good in-laws are everything, you know. Not only will my boys be out of the house by the time I’m 45ish, I’ll be eligible for a full retirement from teaching when I’m in my early 50’s.
The youngsters out there are probably dry heaving right now at the thought of hitting 30, much less 50, but at 31, I realize that 50 isn’t that far off in the grand scheme of things and I’ll be pretty busy between now and then. For the time being let’s look at my 40’s. In just over ten years I’ll have all the free time in the world. I will have minimal responsibilities compared to what I have now with greater discretionary income. There is no reason for me personally to beat myself to death during the most special years of my life (the part where I am influencing lives significantly) when I have plenty of time to enjoy the business later. Small steps, like small investments, over time add up.
I don’t need to put work ahead of family. There will come a time when I’m glad I have the freelancing work to keep me beyond busy and that will be the time for growth, expansion and perhaps exercise as well. In the meantime, I’ll just keep putting one foot in front of the other taking slightly larger steps over time. I can’t go fast, but even going slow, I’ll get there in the end. And I won’t have any (significant) regrets about being a great mommy for my little men.