Freelancing with kids: how do you make it work?

freelance mum - editor of The Early Hour, Annie Ridout

It’s enough of a challenge juggling one child and working freelance from home – but what happens when a second baby comes along? Annie Ridout finds herself struggling so turns to the Instagram community for their wise tips and advice on freelancing with kids…

Some days with two kids – aged nearly three and three-months-old – go by quickly, smoothly and productively. If I can synchronise the naps, I’m winning (and working). But this doesn’t often happen, it’s usually perfectly out of synch (toddler goes down, baby wakes up).

I recently had an important pitch to write. I planned on getting stuck in during nap time. Only, the baby had other ideas. Placid though he is, he does occasionally need more attention than a boob shoved in his mouth or a tickle with one hand while I type with the other.

The toddler woke up earlier than expected, came downstairs and wanted a book. I made a pathetic attempt to carry on working, finding the persistent requests for a book frustrating. Then I remembered she’s not even three-years-old – she also needs time and attention rather than a snappy mum who seems more interested in a screen than in her.

I’d love to say I slammed down the laptop lid (is it a lid?) and spent the rest of the afternoon devoted to ‘my angels’. But I didn’t. I continued trying to write and edit this pitch, while they became evermore impatient. So by the time my husband returned, I was desperate to hand them over. This meant he had no time to shower (imperative for a builder) and began cooking dinner while juggling the two bairns.

I finished my work, closed the computer and got out my phone. While tending to the pitch, I’d missed a load of messages on Whatsapp – things that needed answering (making plans, basically). So I manically replied while attempting to converse with my husband, teach the baby to role and entertain my toddler.

On this day, the juggle was real. And it was not working. While in the midst of this (relative) chaos, I started to feel like I’m never able to separate myself from either kids or work. When they are sleeping at night, I tap away on my phone or computer. When the toddler’s at nursery two days, I have the baby hanging off my boob while I awkwardly type and make calls. At the weekend, we try to have some family time – then split childcare duties while one or other work/cleans/sorts life admin.

In something of a fluster, I do what I always do at times like this, and asked the brilliant Instagram community for their tips on parenting and freelancing. With one child, I managed to get her into a great napping routine and used this time to work. But it just ain’t gonna be the same this time, as the baby’s nap times on my two toddler-free days amount to around four/five hours. That’s not enough time to do freelance work (to deadlines), run The Early Hour and pitch ideas for new work.

This is what my Instagram family suggested for making it work with kids and deadline…

Freelancing with kids: how do you make it work?

allbymamauk: “This sounds very much like my life a few months ago! Baby is now one and it’s a bit easier and eldest has had time to form a bond and is more used to it. Emails on phone was the only way I survived. Not an easy juggle though, I can relate.”

joannamackie: “I make the most of all the quiet moments but doesn’t leave much time for self-care.”

mrsemilyjean: “So hard!! I have been using nap time with the baby on the two days toddler is at nursery, but it’s no time at all. I am rubbish at working in the evening so I think I am just going to have to bite the bullet…. and set the alarm early…”

annaduley: “Are there any crèche/workspaces near you where older children can be busy and safe, baby in your arms and your computer in front of you? I always found one of those vibrating swing things helpful in getting Olive asleep and my arms/boobs free.”

bon_ldn: “My eldest always kicked off when I pulled out a laptop but my littlest never did! ( Probably because he grew up around it more). I trained my eldest into long lunchtime naps – like two hours – then I’d bounce the smallest in a baby Bjorn with my foot or wear him tight and sway slightly. It’s all coming back to me! But I sadly also had a full breakdown when small was 3 months as I was trying to do it all.”

emilygrayphoto: “I have three (five years, three years and four months) and I work in the evenings until late and have the kids in the day. It barely leaves time for a shower!”

smallprintbooks: “It’s very very hard but does get easier and you’ll find things slot into place a bit more as he grows bigger. I look back on my time in the first months/year with really hazy eyes but there was def a moment it kinda clicked a bit more. That and I went to the doctor and said I felt out of control…it helped. You’re doing a great job. Don’t expect too much of yourself.”

pennywincer: “A babysitter. That’s how work happens in the early days of having two. I have no family around, obviously that would be choice number one if you have access. Otherwise – book a babysitter for a few hours here and there if you want to keep up working! It is not possible to parent two small children and work at the same time without help. It’s best you get the idea out of your head now before you drive yourself crazy!”

shinerhilldesign: “Hang in there it does get a little easier. The only real way to do it is get help with the baby. Partner or babysitter has to step in. It does feel like you are shoving them from pillar to post sometimes but you do need some clear head time. Baba #2 came to every factory/ meeting with me until six months old and I worked in the evenings (or fell asleep while putting the older one to bed!).”

cardosfarmproject: “Magda Gerber / Janet Lansbury. Their independent play ideas have helped so much with the toddler. Also, TV.”

steph_dontbuyherflowers: “Two small ones is mega tough sometimes – I wasn’t working and I found it tough so all I would say is go easy on yourself and anything that doesn’t absolutely have to happen can wait. This was ‘The Survival Phase’ for us and about getting through to the other side…”

And an extra idea from Twitter:

mompowerment: “Have you considered working playdates? Kids play and you and other mom can actually get work done. It’s been a lifesaver (and biz saver for me).”

Freelancing with kids: how do YOU make it work? Would love to hear in the comments…

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