Guest post by Charlotte Foreman, of BestChickLit.com.
The majority of freelance writers need, to some degree, peace and quiet. So how do you achieve this when you have two school-age children, one preschooler and a husband who also works from home? I know it's harsh to say, but my heart sinks just a little when I hear that all-too-familiar early morning call of "Mummy?" from the top of the stairs, just ten minutes after I have begun work. How do they know I am up? I am deathly quiet every morning, but still they manage to interrupt my early work session every day. The mind boggles and I have, in desperation, come up with the following conspiracy theory: there is some sort of alarm/beacon embedded in my laptop that somehow alerts my children when switched on.
It's not that I begrudge spending time with my children. This is exactly the reason I rise at stupid-o'clock every weekday morning to try to get as much work done as possible before the children get up, and so "mommy's work" doesn't intrude too much on the rest of our day. But no, whatever my logic, my children simply do not share my reasoning and as far as they are concerned, as soon as I get up I am fair game. Apart from this situation leading to a rather frustrated mother, the early mornings can also lead to some very tired and grumpy children, which then has a knock-on effect on rest of the day. My life seems to consist of me sneaking in little bits of work here and there between outings, meals, games and housework.
How I envy those freelancers who have their own office, be it a spare bedroom, study or even a converted shed. However, due to lack of space both my husband and I work at the dining table in our open-plan house. And it's dog eat dog, with both of us sparring over who keeps the kids busy. Unlike me, my husband, who owns his own company, doesn't work solely from home and regularly escapes on jobs to London. He is currently in the process of looking for an office, something I cannot afford to do with my business, and suggested that I rent desk space from him. Rent? Wow, who said chivalry is dead? Needless to say, I told him exactly where he could shove that offer.
So now it is up to me to come up with increasingly ingenious ideas to keep the kids busy while I work, instead of using SpongeBob SquarePants as a babysitter. This is especially important since I embarked on a new venture -- BestChickLit.com, a book review website that also markets self-published women authors -- as well as my freelance writing contracts. Of course, my older children go to school and the youngest attends playschool three days a week but my workload far outweighs the few precious hours I get alone, so things like arts and crafts, playdoh, the garden's trampoline and endless supplies of toys are invaluable. Inevitably though, my children want me to participate in their game, which means during those short bursts of work I usually have one eye on my laptop and one on the game. I know it sounds bad, but what else can you do?
A lot of people claim they either want to or do work from home as a way of spending more time with their family, but that is simply not the reality. It's a constant balancing act between keeping the family and client happy. Success in your freelance role only exacerbates the problem as you become busier, and walking the tightrope of life gets a little harder with each step. It goes without saying that my children come first, but I love my job with a passion, so I need to find a solution.
The woman, and it will be a woman, who discovers the answer to the freelance working with children conundrum will be idolized. I, for one, will worship at her altar. But you can bet your bottom dollar that by the time the solution is given to the masses, my children will have grown up and flown the nest -- leaving me pining for the days when they rose at the crack of dawn to interrupt me working.
Charlotte Foreman is a mother of three and creator of BestChickLit.com.