Making It Work: Freelance Writer
Hints for juggling the feeling of always being on the job
First and foremost, I do not write this with authority or lead by example. It is currently nearly half past midnight, and I am sitting at my desk blaring Pearl Jam, sipping my small ration of wine, and balancing a 17-month-old toddler in my lap on a Boppy pillow. (She falls asleep instantly to Pearl Jam; it’s the oddest thing.)
I’ve been doing this since she was born, literally balancing her weight on my lap while trying to put in some precious hours at my job as a freelance writer. In the last couple of months, I finally had the funds to hire a part-time babysitter, but I still get the majority of my writing done at night. I’ve somewhat perfected the combination of a large cup of creamy coffee at 8:00 p.m. and the glass of wine following it to fuel my (hopefully) three hours to write in peace.
Working from home as a freelancer exacerbates the feeling of being on the job at all times. Over the last year, I’ve learned a few tricks to get a break from work and allow myself to focus on my family, and I also have a few areas where I can improve. I won’t mention how little I shower or how hairy my legs are, but just know it’s a pretty dire situation.
For the love of God, drink some water
I’m horrible with this. I even carry around a (usually full) Nalgene bottle that never leaves a three-foot radius of my body, because it’s often at the most inconvenient times that I find myself dying of thirst. Often, if I have to look for the water or go to a sink or cupboard in order to get it, by the time I walk two steps I’ve already forgotten about the need and have been distracted by an overturned bowl of pasta, a dog chewing on a wooden block, or a baby tearing off a diaper and running through the house naked. Some of my friends swear by a gallon of water a day, and others say at least 64 ounces are sufficient. Do what you can. Your brain will thank you.
Self-care includes diet (and no, I don’t mean that kind)
Moms are notorious for their coffee, red wine, and chocolate trifecta. These things are often akin to the elixirs of life itself. But what they giveth, they also taketh away. Moderation is key with your daily dose of indulgence. It’s common sense, really, but it has to be said. The more good-for-you stuff you put in, the better you feel. The more things you eat and drink that dehydrate you, the more crummy you feel in the morning.
Get away from work—I mean it
I have mindfully resisted getting a smartphone. I have a flip phone, mainly because I enjoy getting away from a computer and getting offline. It feels like I’m going off the grid these days, but leaving the laptop at home for even a quick walk around the neighborhood means I’m stepping away from my job and enjoying a true break while getting some fresh air and exercise. Some friends of mine set alarms to remind them to do this several times a day.
When you’re at work, be at work
I don’t always have this luxury, but that probably explains why I stay up as late as I do most nights. Almost every minute that I get the opportunity to focus on work means a minute I can spend focused on my family. If a minute goes by where I’m trying to type an email while my older daughter is telling me a story about what happened at school that day, it feels like that precious time is lost to everyone involved (though it does still happen). Set work hours and stick to them, using apps like social media blockers for your computer if you need to do something drastic.
Take care of yourself
Be kind to yourself. Don’t fall into the mommy-guilt traps. It helps me to have chunks of time in the evenings where we all sit together. It doesn’t have to be in a traditional dinner sense. We can be watching a movie, or I can be sitting on the bathroom floor watching them take a bath together. These little blocks of time where my kids have my full attention (and I mean full—no work distractions, no phone, no laptop) are the moments I remember at the end of the week. I don’t feel like I need an entire day of these to be a good mom. My kids see that I work hard, and I feel that’s important. They see that I have my own life (sometimes) and that’s important too. But some days it’s a struggle to fight for a shower, so it’s a constant give and take.
Most importantly, be proud of what you’re doing and the things you’ve accomplished. Being a working mother is not a negative! It is a juggle to find time for yourself, your kids, and work. The important part is to be present in the minutes you can spend with each activity. Meditate, close your eyes, put down the phone, and do what you have to do to make sure you are focused in those five or ten minutes. These days, a completely focused minute is like doubling your time.
Stephanie Land, has a bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing from the University of Montana. She and her two daughters live in Missoula, Montana. Read more of her story at stepville.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @stepville.
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