I’m fully convinced that the most hilarious, deep-seated irony of the universe revolves around freedom of choice. Think of those teenage years when you struggled, fought, threatened, snuck out and wore horrible clothing to express yourself and gain true independence from the overbearing monsters we call parents. For most of us, now that we have free will, we live with gusto. We stay out all night partying. We take weekend jaunts to the mountains. We write horrible (or great!) poetry and fall deeply in love.
Life is yours to mold – it’s your own and even if the occasional bump in the financial or work road comes along there are cars to drive fast, weekends to drink and dance through and lovers to snuggle with endlessly in front of cheesy films and fires. Naturally, we then use that independence to make a life-altering decision. We decide to become parents to “complete” things. For nine (and a half) months, we dream of all of the wonderful things we’ll do as parents. We set up the nursery the way we want it to look and post 110 pictures of baby clothes we’ve prewashed and wall paper border we’ve selected.
And then baby comes and the free will you’ve enjoyed so long is almost completely wiped out.
For me, this was the most shocking thing about becoming a parent. My life was no longer about me at all – it was about a screaming child who didn’t care that I was tired. He didn’t care that my weight loss plan involved hour-long brisk walks that he hated, and he most certainly didn’t care that I just needed to sit down for a bit and watch my show. For the first few years of parenthood you scratch and claw your way back to the surface trying to reclaim a little piece of that freedom you once enjoyed, but you’re just kidding yourself – how can you really be wild and free when you’re having that rare night out and still have a pair of Transformers underpants and a pull-up in your purse?
But there reaches a point where you’re comfortable with the arrangement you’ve managed to eek out as a parent. You devote yourself to others all day long and claim a few hours at night for yourself. You might have to sip that wine watching grown-up shows while matching up socks, but the time is still your own. Unless you start freelancing.
For work-at-home parents, taking on freelance writing is never a true hobby. It’s essentially a sacrifice of the last bit of “you” that remains.
To be successful as a freelancing writer, designer, or Tupperware salesperson, you have to be willing to either treat this new job as a job including paying babysitters or daycare fees, or you make the ultimate sacrifice and agree to serve others literally all but your sleeping hours.
Sounds terrifying, and if you let the reality of it catch up with you, it can be.
Realizing you have no real freedom left at all is certainly an eye-opener for those who think a writer can just throw in a few articles between naptime and goldfish and juice boxes and earn enough to make it worthwhile and still kick back with hubby in front of the fire in the evenings.
For most mothers and fathers who stay home with young children, you spend most of your time either actively following your children, caring for your children or listening for your children while rushing to finish household chores. If your idea of freelance writing is carrying the laptop into the den with the kids, I sincerely hope you’re making a grocery list or skimming through forum posts because anything written between breaking up fights, fetching snacks and retrieving the remote from warring toddlers isn’t worthy of much else.
So what’s my point?
I can tell you after working with young children underfoot for five years that to be a successful freelance writer you have to enjoy what you choose to do. It is absolutely a choice. You’re giving up the last few hours of yourself to dedicate to one more thing in your day – if you don’t like it, you won’t do it or you’ll hate it and yourself for sacrificing so much for it.
So stop and really think about what you’re doing before you start committing yourself to clients or mills to write most or all evenings. If you’re not sure how you’ll handle giving up those shows and glasses of wine, start with one night a week to see if it’s worth it. Remember – this isn’t writing the next novel you’ve dreamed of for years. Writing for clients means taking orders to a degree, following through and hitting deadlines. It’s like having another infant with constant needs.
You’ll hear a lot of discussion about your hourly rate and wage, but remember that your rate isn’t just a number for working mothers. You’re already doing more than a full-time job raising children properly. Is any number worth the only two free hours in your day? Many mothers realize after a few weeks or months of freelancing that it isn’t. And that’s okay. Take some time off to regroup or scale way back. This is not an easy way to pick up a few bucks.
My advice? Don’t get bogged down in a writing career or even hobby before you consider what you really want from it. If you decide to move forward, absolutely be sure that you’re doing something rewarding on an intrinsic level. If you’re selling your last remnants of self for the money you’re scraping in, it’s almost certain you’ll burn out no matter what your rate.
There is money in freelancing as a stay-at-home mom, but what is that money truly worth to you? For me, I like to run a business and assert myself and grow in a skill set I just can’t use anywhere else. But that’s me – what’s in it for you?