On a bad day (when my card is declined) the beat of the drum goes guilt, guilt, guilt. But I was listening to Desert Island Discs on Radio 4 last week and once again I heard that fridge magnet favourite: if you’re doing what you love, then it’s not really work, it’s good for you. It’s joy. Something that you do in your day to give you the potential to learn, grow, refine and hopefully —shine.
This DID guest’s mother was a teacher, and she said she remembers her mother (I missed her father’s work) working a lot, but she was always happy about it. Enjoying every aspect. Her passion and dedication flowed out in all that she did throughout her day. Her mother’s work ethic was intrinsic to her job and so her daughter saw her as an example of someone in The Work Force who was content. Busy, possibly stressed sometimes, surely tired occasionally, but loving what she was doing in life.
One thing that shouldn’t bother me (but does), is that there is an assumption that freelance means I actually do not work. That I don’t earn any money, and that my magazine is a h – h – h – hobby.
Firstly, I do work. I DO WORK. And — news flash! — I even occasionally earn money. I have pretty much zero childcare and any I am thinking about, I *feel* I have to justify with my earnings alone because me working is essentially an indulgence. Obviously! I love my magazine and words, but no, I’m not a big earner. “Indulgence,” they say! But I love it.
I LOVE it.
One thing that shouldn’t bother me (but does), is that there is an assumption that freelance means I actually do not work.
Selfish. Am I selfish for wanting to write and do the magazine but neglecting to bring in oodles of cold hard cash through doing it? Since being locked in my car because the frikkin’ door wouldn’t open and not having enough money on my card for just one (strong) coffee, I wonder: can cash bring me cashmere? Less cold and hard, more door-smoothly-opening, flat white in hand (cream cashmere jauntily swung over my shoulder). Would life run a little better? Would I be liberated from guilt?
Should I have agreed to full-time post-baby and stayed at the agency?
This — those words up there — that’s a bad day. We can still pay our bills and though making hardly any money, I’m doing what I love. My life is FLEXIBLE. Everything lights up when I see something coming together. My kids see it, they feel it – they climb the towering boxes of magazines in our hallway. Screw the kitchen extensions, the Aga, the cashmere, the assumption that I sit on my ASS ALL DAY. Who are these people? Sometimes, I think I’ve made them up. My own little gremlins, dressed like Peppa Pig and George, asking me for some new boots to jump in muddy puddles, then tutting as I scream “help!” from my LOCKED CAR DOOR!
Yesterday I asked my partner if maybe I should not work at all. He said I would be awful. That I need it. And on the flipside, actually even if I was head-to-toe in cashmere (too warm), I would still have (my own) food spluttered on that cashmere. I would still somehow be locked in my (Audi Sports) car. I’d still break my (designer) sunglasses. I’d still regret a fringe.
Crucially though, I’d also whinge about wanting to follow my dream, cry into my gin and wish I had followed what I’d always wanted to do and started my own magazine. To be a writer. My guilt would still be fluttering all over the place.
For me the gremlins are mainly in the form of TIME AWAY from my children MUST ALWAYS equal CASH in the family money pot.
In freelance parent world, for me the gremlins are mainly in the form of TIME AWAY from my children MUST ALWAYS equal CASH in the family money pot. Time with my children while making cash at the SAME TIME is very hard, therefore ALL TIME that is not with them needs to be financially PRODUCTIVE.
It doesn’t need to be.
It’s important to get perspective, to take some time out, do something for you. Whether that’s running, yoga, synchronised swimming, cooking, lying down. I like a really good potter. And cocktails! We don’t need stuff, the family with the teacher mother and her daughter were not rich, but they were happy and look, the daughter got to be on Desert Island Discs, which basically means she’s going to be listened to on the Radio 4 archive forever (or at least until 2117).
And with work — do what you love. Enjoy and ace it and then (for me, certainly) be better at doing actual life. All the bits of it. I’m genuinely more productive when and after I work on my mag. It’s akin to binge watching a Netflix series surrounded by Maltesers, after a deep tissue massage. (Deep tissue massage. Get one, put it on expenses!) Though ideally, I would quite like to make actual money from this hobby*. It pushes me on and illuminates parts of my mind to aid others; from pitching features, to a new style pasta pesto, to patience.
Money is important, however. We all know this. So, make sure you are quoting good rates for yourself. Know your worth. Tell yourself you are GREAT. You ARE. Reassess your workloads. Look after yourself. Push what makes you happy.
It’s not easy, nothing really amazing ever is (see: kids), but you’re in it now and I, for one, believe in you. You big, shining, freelance parent. Now I need to believe in me.
*Not a hobby.
Photograph by Helen Martin.