Bbbbbbb bbbbbbb (gun shots), PKUUUH (bomb drop)! The sound effects keep on coming as the Star Wars battle rages on. This version stars hundreds of Legos and my 7-year-old’s imagination.In between air raids and bomb drops, I try and squeeze in a few words of a writing assignment on my laptop, while keeping the f-bombs to a minimum. “Honey, please don’t be so loud. Can you play in the other room for awhile,” I say. A few minutes later, I hear another battle, this time between siblings. “Mommy! He won’t let go of my (fill in the blank),” one says. Then comes mediation time. “Who wants a snack,” I implore. After the troops are fed, it’s time for homework (theirs and mine). Just as I settle back into my keyboard to start that article, I’m interrupted once again.
This is the daily battle in our home.
Is it even possible to have a freelance writing career while raising kids? Being a working-at-home mom and a stay-at-home mom are two very different jobs. I should know, I’ve been doing both for awhile now. It’s definitely a challenge at times – organizing schedules, making priorities, ignoring housework and not forgetting to pick up the kids from school. For Mommy (or Daddy) freelance writers, it can be a quite a feat to balance between your job and your kids, but with a little guidance, you can be an efficient freelancers and while also enjoying time with your children.
After hours of on-the-job research, here are six tips for parents who freelance from home:
1. Wear one hat at a time.
When you’re working, focus on work and when you’re parenting, focus on your kids. Of course there will be times when your two worlds overlap, but you will be more productive and enjoy your kids more if you can learn to separate the two.
2. Make a work schedule and stick to it.
Think about when you can get the most work done. Is it early in the morning before the kids wake-up, when they’re at school, or late at night after they’ve gone to bed? I’m a late night owl and not an early riser (getting up early to take them to school is torture enough!), so I adjust my work schedule accordingly. Just don’t expect to get much work done once your munchkins are home from school. Lego battles and sibling skirmishes can make work frustrating.
3. TV is your friend!
You may have heard that you shouldn’t use the TV as an electronic babysitter, but I say, “Why, not?” Turn on the tube and don’t feel guilty. Just don’t watch it, this is for the kiddies only. TV can be a lifesaver when you’re on a deadline and you need to distract Junior from being your distraction. In moderation, it won’t hurt them – I promise. Relax, your kids will turn out fine.
4. Get out of the house.
It’s easy to get glued to your laptop, but fresh air, exercise, a lunch date, and conversations with other writers are just as important. The more you experience in life, the more you have to write about. Just don’t play “hookey” all day! It’s all about balance.
5. Prepare for the Unexpected.
Unless you’re a psychic, preparing for the unexpected may be hard to do. You never know what chaos will come your way once you have kids. Just as I sat down to write this piece, all three of my kids began to get sick at the same time (all night long!). Have a back-up plan. Do you have a babysitter to help out? Will your spouse take the kids out for a couple of hours and give you some more time to work? Try setting your deadline a day or two earlier, so you can account for that unexpected chaos at the last minute.
6. Congratulate Yourself
Above all, pat yourself on the back. It’s not easy juggling freelancing with parenting, but the rewards are immense. Catching those special moments with your kids is truly priceless.
Liz Laing is a freelance writer and single mother of four. She has been published in national magazines, including Mothering and in-flights, US Airways and Alaska Airlines. Most recently, she’s been blogging about the “Best of L.A.” for CBS Los Angeles.com and some of the neighborhood Patch outlets. Her work can be viewed on her website www.lizlaing.com.