It’s a funny thing really, but looking back on pregnancy it seemed like a blessedly simple time. Of course, that was before the baby came out of the tummy and started vehemently disagreeing with me all constantly, so it’s probably a matter of course. I also remember distinctly thinking during pregnancy that it was so much more challenging to work while manifesting another human than it had been previously. Tired mommy brain tricks aside, I did learn a few secrets while freelancing during pregnancy – even if it was a few years ago now.
You Will Always Lose to Baby, Always
It’s a tough lesson for new mothers (and fathers) to learn, but once that baby comes out, he is the center of your universe – deadlines or not. Even scarier, you’ll quickly realize that he’s already taken control of the family’s existence from the inside. You might think you’re going to stay up late tonight and take care of some blogging, but when you wake up in a puddle of drool over your keyboard at midnight, you’ll know once again that baby won. He wants you to sleep so you sleep. Plans be damned.
To accommodate this eerie power of the unborn, you must plan your work schedule around his (and your own) needs. This means you now start the day planning for eight or nine hours of sleep at night. You’ll plan around three squares and two or ten snacks. If you’re violently ill in the mornings, you’ll arrange to work in the afternoons and evenings. You might as well adjust your schedule to his. Think of it as practice for the rest of your life.
Pregnancy Brain Is Very Real and Very Scary
If you’re outside the realm of pregnancy and babies you might not have a clue about Pregnancy Brain, but as any mother, pending or otherwise, and you’ll learn quickly that you lose your mind when you’re pregnant. And it doesn’t really ever come back. If you once could commit fifty-item grocery lists to memory, you’ll be lucky now to remember toilet paper and are still more likely to come out of the store with a pint of ice cream and a new baby book and nothing else.
In the freelancing sense, this means you must now organize everything to a fine nuance and write things down. Document, document, document. It is far better to be overzealous in organizing work on the calendar and filing notes and saved emails than to risk forgetting about a client’s special request or a full project until after the day or week you said you’d take care of it.
Babies Come When Babies Come
I’ll admit I was very lucky to have two gigantic babies. Not because I love the look of a stomach covered in stretch marks without any trace of muscle definition (it’s awesome, really), but because my giant children were delivered via scheduled C-sections due to their size and reluctance to leave the cozy womb on their own. What that meant for me the freelancer is I was able to plan my maternity leave – all five days of it.
I have wonderful clients and most have families of their own and understand how frantic life is going to be once the baby comes. However they also have businesses to run, some of them quite large businesses, which require continued blogging, content development or new articles. Clients understand to a point. It’s a tricky thing with freelancing. They were excited to celebrate the birth of my baby and one, who had a high-end online baby store, actually sent me some fabulous gifts for the baby. But my understanding clients also wanted as little disruption as possible in my work.
I handled this in a few ways. Since I knew down to the minute when I’d be heading to the hospital, I arranged work up to that point to get ahead in the weekly material. I built myself a week off by working ahead and then set up an auto responder to my email and left to have the baby. That night, the laptop was fired up with the baby next to me and I was checking some messages. I suggest doing only things that might be critical during your time off, be it a week or a month, and you don’t have to let anyone know you’re actually checking messages if there isn’t an emergency.
If you’re not lucky enough to have a scheduled delivery – and believe me, it’s not all peaches and rosebuds – you’ll need to stay on your toes. Based on how your pregnancy is progressing you might take only small projects to be completed the day of. You might find someone to cover your slack when you go into labor. You might ask your ongoing clients to find another writer for a month or two although you risk losing them permanently. But as much as possible, plan on a light load as you approach delivery and then start motherhood.
It’s a personal decision how much to share with clients, especially new ones. Really it’s none of their business if you’re thirty-nine weeks pregnant, but if you take on the project only to have your water break two hours later you risk looking unprofessional if you go missing from the computer for a few days without explanation. I’ve always been upfront with clients, new and old, about the possibility of pushing the project off a week should the baby come between accepting the project and the original deadline. Clients were appreciative of the information and knowing there was a ready solution should a problem arise. And since I wasn’t asking them to be present at the baptism, I didn’t feel like it was too big an intrusion into my personal life. But then we’re all different.
Being pregnant and then becoming a mother is a huge transition, and it’s far easier if you’re not as crazy as I was – blogging within two hours of being home from the hospital. Prepare for the dip in your budget better than I was able to and you’ll come out of pregnancy with a healthy career, a healthy baby and a healthy respect for what the next decades of your life will entail.