How Kids Fit Into Your Freelance Life: Part 1

Rabia Mughal and her son, Mikail.

Many work from home freelancers (especially moms) have to juggle caring for their families as well as their clients. It’s not easy! The great myth that freelancers who work from home can save oodles on child care while running a successful business is just that—a myth.

Depending on how old your child or children are determines how much time they require you (or a caregiver) to spend with them. A newborn baby sleeps a lot, but they also need to be fed every few hours. Try working on your computer while breastfeeding. It’s impossible.

When children get older and go off too school, you have a chunk of time during the day that you can devote to work—but afternoons are busy with after school activities for your kids. Depending on when the kids go to bed, you have some time before you hit the hay—but what about your spouse? Your friends? There never seems to be enough time in the day.

I decided to find out how other freelancers with children make the most of their time. Rabia Mughal is a journalist who lives with her husband and 19-month-old son, Mikail, in San Francisco.

Before Mikail was born, Mughal was planning on keeping her full-time associate editor job after her maternity leave. And she did—until Mikail was 7-months-old. She then decided to work less hours from home as a contractor for the same company.

Q: How has your mentality changed since working from home and raising your kids?

I initially thought it was an all or nothing situation where one could either be a stay-at-home parent or a working parent, so it was great to find this perfect balance. Having said that, I also realized that in order to be a more hands-on parent it is almost always necessary to sacrifice certain ambitions and goals in life. I have made my peace with this fact by telling myself that I will get to all that later. Right now it’s wonderful to have the luxury of seeing my baby whenever I want and being there if he needs me for anything.

Q: What is your schedule like?

I work from a home office and treat my work day as if I were working in an actual office. I have a nanny who comes at 9:00 am. By that time I have already dressed Mikail and he is ready for the day. I work from nine to five, but take out the time to have lunch with him, play with him, and do little things like put him down for his nap. I find that since I have stopped worrying about leaving him for eight hours a day I can actually focus better on my work.

Q: What lessons have you learned along the way?

Initially when I had my baby I was very hard on myself. I wanted to give a 100% at work and to my baby and I never felt like I was doing enough. I have learned that working parents of young children have one of the hardest jobs in the world, and it is okay to slow down a little during this phase in life.

It is possible to stay focused on your career, but most people can forget about any Nobel Prize-winning achievements during this time. There is a little person who is running you ragged, but somehow, it is all worth it in the end.

Q: What advice would you give to a freelancer who struggles to work from home and raise their children?

Make a schedule and stick to it and that will make your day more efficient. If the kids wake up at a certain time, nap at a certain time, and have their activities at a certain time, it is much easier to plan the day. Make the kids respect your workspace and make them understand the difference between work time and play time.

Allocate time slots to the kids and to your work. Use your work time efficiently and don’t try to get work done during your time with the kids. It is important to keep these two things separate so you can focus. Finally, remember that you are trying to manage two very difficult jobs so give yourself a break and a pat on the back every now and then.

Next week we will be talking with freelance photographer Rachel Bell, and how having her three children was the reason she started her freelance career in the first place.

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