When I was employed in a 9-5 job I used to daydream about how great it would be to be self-employed.
I imagined calm mornings, sitting at a tidy, trendy Instagram-ready desk, sipping a hot cup of coffee and ticking off tasks on a to-do list; feeling inspired, productive and satisfied.
This was of course before I had a child and working from home became a necessity. The reality is probably as far from my imaginings as it could be — a less than tidy house, rushing from one task to the next and moments of mind-numbing boredom are definitely more like the truth. And while I do often feel inspired and satisfied, the productivity bit definitely varies! As for a hot cup of coffee… Yeah. Pre-baby me had a wild imagination.
I have a background as a reporter and in project management but was made redundant shortly before I was due to return from maternity leave so now work as a freelance writer. (This wasn’t anything to do with my pregnancy by the way; the business closed its local office.)
Being able to write from home has been so important for a number of reasons, but especially for my self-esteem. I wholly love being a mother, but just as work didn’t make up all of me prior to having my son, being a mother is only part of me. I relish being able to work and focus some of my energy on something other than baby stuff and I fully believe I’m a better parent for that time away.
I wholly love being a mother, but just as work didn’t make up all of me prior to having my son, being a mother is only part of me.
My partner is a professional musician so also works for himself. He travels a lot which means me and The Small One fly solo for weeks at a time — something that lots of parents do, I guess, when their partners work offshore or work away. I am in constant awe and admiration of full time single parents because that gig is hard.
Oh, and we live in the remote far north of Scotland on an island 200 miles off the Scottish mainland. Not the best place for a travelling musician, I hear you cry! And I’d probably have to agree with you.
I do love living in Shetland, but island life can be isolating, particularly when Kris is away. Perhaps because I have lived elsewhere, I miss the option of being able to get out to have a coffee and do a bit of work, the distraction of wandering through shops, taking a different route or people watching and giving your mind a break. I suppose people in cities might yearn for nature and the peace of the outdoors — the grass is always greener. Though part of the appeal of living on mainland UK would be Kris not having to leave a day early to make sure he gets places on time — or at all! Fog and delays are pretty common round our way… But for now, it’s home.
My week is generally split between time with Soren and doing the normal stay-at-home mum stuff, and cramming work into naptimes and evenings. Then three half days a week while he’s at my mum’s I actually get shit done. So far, this has been working OK but in all honesty, one of my biggest challenges? Trying not to faff away precious childfree hours on social media.
Being a freelancer in a rural location, the internet is my lifeline.
It’s fair to say I’m a procrastinator and work better under pressure so I’ll often find myself thinking, “Ah, yeah, I’ve got loads of time”, leisurely making myself another coffee and perusing Etsy ahead of a deadline, when this is laughably untrue. I then spend the last hour before I’m due to pick up Soren manically hammering out words. I’m a true professional and don’t you doubt it.
But being a freelancer in a rural location, the internet really is my lifeline. The support, laughs and the feeling of togetherness in motherhood that I’ve found on sites like Instagram has been vital to how I’ve managed. It could be all too easy to dismiss social media as frivolous, a symptom of our disconnection with “real” life: but while actual face-to-face support is obviously crucial, I feel that there’s a really important feminist element running through a lot of the sites and feeds that I follow online. Through social media, women are finding a legitimate platform for supporting each other, particularly in motherhood, that hasn’t perhaps been as visible or accessible before now. This can be especially important when you’re not in a city location or somewhere you might more easily find like-minded folk.
Freelancing is challenging, but it means I can work and for that I am glad. I’m equally glad for the online community and places like Doing It For the Kids, as when you work from home and sometimes don’t hear another adult voice all day, the voices online become really important.
All photographs by Louise Thomason.