Saturday, 26 February 2011

Parenting and homeworking

Why homeworking works for parents
In November 2010 I told my story about how I became a homeworker. Since then I have been continuing to feature blog posts about balancing parenting and work. I even had my very own (unofficial) homeworking blog carnival, which attracted entries from female and male parents (sourced from professional forums and BMB).
This year I pledged to recycle-reuse more and to campaign (in my small way) for homeworking, with the slogan Homeworking can save families and the planet (read one mum's story here). I have also tried to initiate conversations in LinkedIn about the need for UK employers to exit the Dark Ages and believe that some jobs can be done from home using remote technology. One of my rants won me a ticket for the TedxGranta conference, which was about how ideas (and women) can change the world.

I have received negative responses from potential UK employers (and agencies that target freelancers) so far, so aside freelance writing I copywrite for a foreign agency, which allows me to work from home. I also do indexing for a publisher. I have a lot of experience as proofreader but the competition is huge so I rarely bother to find any job in that department.

Working from home and being a parent
How do you do that? There are frequent discussions about this on Mumsnet in the freelance chat area. If you have a baby that has naps during the day, it's easier, but what if your child doesn't nap at all at daytime? Some mums use partial childcare through nurseries and preschools, others need full childcare and might consider a childminder for more flexibility... I didn't have childcare till preschool and my daughter was never a good, reliable 'napper', so in the first years it was mostly voluntary work (NCT newsletters) with a bit of paid work when I could fit it in, such as product reviews, teaching Italian, the odd feature, proofreading, etc. I used to work early in the morning or when she went to bed and at weekends. If my partner was around and could look after her, then I'd work weekdays.

Then I landed a bit copywriting job in December 2009 and, luckily, it was during the Xmas holidays. So I used most of the holiday period to work, while my partner was around. I had Xmas and the 26th off, the rest of the time I worked around eight-nine hours a day to meet the deadline. More work followed, but my partner got very busy so it started to be a big juggling act, as I was still volunteering for various charities. The work volume was still OK, but it got really busy when my daughter started preschool in September. She was only doing 15 hours till November when I paid for extra hours so she could be in from 8.40 till 3.10 one day a week. I couldn't have any more slots as it's a busy preschool and I'm reluctant to go the private way, so it has been manic, especially since I like to volunteer now and then at her preschool. 

Basically if I have a big job I get up early (sometimes I am foiled by my daughter waking up though) and work when she is gone to bed. During the day I work through her preschool hours and manage some hours while she is around by giving her activities such as painting, playdough, anything that will keep her busy for half an hour or so. I have learnt to work through interruptions (games, snacks and occasional TV noise). 

I take advantage of any free time my partner has to do my work and volunteering, and work a few hours every weekend. But I'm happy because I'm raising my child, having some social time with her (outside preschool hours we go out to groups and a music class, plus playdates) and contribute to the family's finances. I have to be very organised and give up a lot of 'me time' but it has been worth it. I don't miss working in an office one bit as I'm in touch with so many people through forums and we have virtual watercooler moments.... So if you are thinking of heading this way or you'd like to support my small campaign, please leave a comment and I will be happy to feature your story and even plug your business!

I will post on why it's great for employers in the near future...

1 comment:

  1. I've been running a successful business from home for 12 years now and my husband joined me as a partner in the business about 9 year ago. We were doing it before having children, which I imagine made it easier than for someone having to go freelance when their child is small.

    When our oldest was small, I worked early mornings 5am to 9am while she slept, then afternoons while she slept and some evenings. Then, when she was 6 months, my mum started looking after a few mornings a week and we increased that as she got older and she also went to a nursery school and a playgroup.

    With our youngest, we've ended up having my mum look after her for longer periods to get more work done in the day, as mornings are out now, since she gets up at 5 most mornings! So we work in school hours and then fit in other bits here and there on evenings and weekends, but we try to get as much as possible done in school hours and then we can give the girls quality time the rest of the time.

    In the publishing industry, for the most part, we've found no expectations of working in-house, though I do sometimes have to point out that telephone meetings can often be as useful as fact-to-face meetings and not take me away from work/my kids for the whole day. We use a fair few freelancers ourselves and expect them to work from home.
    Good luck with your endeavours!