I know now what I didn’t know then. I spent quite a bit of time working up to a full-time income freelancing while keeping the day job during pregnancy so that after my baby arrived, I could stay home and spend more time with him and do the mommy thing the way I wanted to. I was thrilled that it seemed to be working out perfectly. How soon I realized I was rather delusional.
There are many new parents who change their schedules dramatically to accommodate the birth of a baby. While you’re pregnant, you might work hard to negotiate a work schedule with your boss that allows you all or most of your time at home. How hard can it be to knock out 35-40 hours of basic work at home anyhow? Or you can do what I did and elect to leave one job after the baby so that you can be home, planning to make up the income through freelancing.
The premise is simple: It will cost less to work at home and I have a source of income built up. I can easily stay home and spend more time with baby to have a fulfilling lifestyle.
I was only partially right, but like so many things, jumping into freelancing or leaving the company office to begin working at home with a new baby in tow is something is something you can only learn about through experience. And there are certainly memorable experiences.
“I’ll just work while the baby is sleeping!”
Regular naptimes and bedtimes don’t exist for months for babies. That means you’ll be scrambling and anxious most of the time to use every second of his sleeping minutes to try and cram in work. Babies, being the tiny, adorable sadists they are, like to trick you by sleeping well for a few days before deciding they would rather sleep just thirty minutes of every ninety minutes for three months ensuring you spend most of your time putting him to sleep or feeding him to go back to sleep shortly. Believe me; you can’t do much with the thirty minutes in between without supreme drive and focus.
“The baby will sit next to me while I work!”
Yup – for about the two minutes it takes for him to get bored, that is. Babies like to be held and they need that physical contact. One terrific thing about this age is that baby might be content to snuggle against you in a sling or front carrier while you work for short stretches, but most like to be up and on the move. A swing might work as well, but then you get stuck with the true blade of parenthood – guilt over not holding her as much as possible.
“I’ll cut back on hours (and income) so that I can spend as much time with my baby as possible!”
Babies are outrageously expensive. It’s true you can do it for much less than the averages statistic companies like to throw around, but even if you’re breastfeeding and using cloth diapers, you’re still paying off hospital bills, doctor’s bills, buying bedding, clothing, washing those diapers and seeking out the endless supply of items babies seem to need – Mylicon and Tylenol come to mind. Add formula and diapers to the mix and you’re looking at hundreds of dollars a month, easily.
Of course it is less than paying for daycare, but if you’re not able to take advantage of paid maternity leave or have the option of falling back on a spouse’s income, you’re back at work almost immediately after delivery to be sure bills get paid.
“My partner will watch the baby so that I can work!”
Daddies love their babies very much, but many mothers elect to breastfeed. Unless you have a very specially equipped partner or have elected to bottle feed expressed milk (which you’ll still need to pump, mind you), you’re still on call every 2-3 hours. Even formula can be tricky at times. I learned through personal experience that for many things, baby prefers Mom (although it can be just as true for dad) and that hearing your baby cry and fuss for you is rather distracting from the work environment. If your baby prefers dad’s company leaving you hours free to work after he gets home – I envy you.
The bottom line – you do get much more time with your baby than you might working in the office. The downside? You’re spending much of that time anxious about work you need to finish, finding clients to ensure you cover the gap your suspect is coming next month or trying to calculate how many naps it will take to finish up work for the evening before you can allow yourself time to sleep.
“I’ve learned so much!”
New parents have a rough start. So do many new freelancers. Only the toughest survive with everything (income, sleep and sanity) intact. Fortunately there are some tremendous pluses that come after just a few months or freelancing parenthood. Eventually naps lengthen and you’ll have an hour here and an hour there to work. Bedtimes move earlier and you gain the evenings for a nice solid chunk of work time. Best of all, you learn to accommodate the insane rhythm of your household to make it all fit, and you’ll be thrilled to be home to watch your baby grow and change.