So it turns out that one of the biggest challenges with trying to work freelance when you have kids is mainly, well… the kids.
Apparently it’s actually pretty hard to get shit done when you have a feral three-year old raiding your freezer and looking for a congratulatory hug every time he successfully does a wee in a more suitable receptacle than the hole in the kitchen floor.
Sure, lots of us freelance parents have our kids in formal childcare at some point during the week — but what about when you need to work a little bit more flexibly; when your deadline won’t wait; when the kind of work you’re doing just doesn’t operate within predictable, reoccurring hours?
Thankfully there are some options out there for when you just can’t be left ‘holding the baby’.
Get a friend to watch the kids
Do you have friends? Do they have kids? Are they also freelancers? Yes? BINGO — you are in the very lucky position of being able to swap some kid-free time with a fellow freelance parent. Basically, you get said friend round to your place (or theirs), you make a brew, one of you works for a bit while the other entertains the kids, and then you swap. Or if you’re really lucky, you can both work at the same time while the kids entertain each-other — living the freelance. parent. dream.
But wait right there, don’t put the kettle on just yet. A quick disclaimer!
Somewhat amazingly, until as recently as 2010 parents actually faced prosecution for looking after each-other’s kids but the rules have now changed. As long as you’re both genuinely friends, not looking after each-other’s kids regularly (like the same time each week, every week), for no longer than 2 hours and there’s no money exchanged, then Ofsted shouldn’t be knocking down your door. But worth familiarising yourself with the latest guidelines nonetheless.
Get up and go
If your kid’s anything like mine then actually getting them out of the house — preferably somewhere with rocking, foam-based parrots and a large selection of over-priced snackage — is absolutely the way to go if you need to get anything done. So grab that laptop, and get out the door.
I’m talking soft play establishments with only one entrance / exit (and a strong wifi connection). A ‘kids cafe’ with juice on tap and some form of entertainment like a slightly mangled play kitchen (and a strong wifi connection). The kids’ space/room/thing at your local library full of books and toys (and did I mention a strong wifi connection?). Or maybe one of those super fancy (super pricey) gyms with a creche where you won’t actually get any work done but might have a swim…
Plus, if you’re the lucky owner of a child over 4 years old and live within reach of a city, then get yourself over to your local IKEA pronto where you can get up to 60 minutes free childcare while you get stuck in to some meatballs and inevitably spend the money you’ve just earned on a 10-pack of scented candles and a billy bookcase.
Cowork for your life
Of course if a rocking, foam-based parrot just isn’t cutting it on the conversation front and you need a bit of interaction with actual, real-life adults then a coworking space is where you need to be. And listen up people, listen good — there are now child-friendly coworking spaces out there.
Spaces like Huckletree West who have a dedicated Kids Studio (complete with tipi and lets-not-lie-to-ourselves TV) where you can work while the kids squish their half-eaten banana into the freshly hoovered carpet; you can hire a babysitter as and when you need them within the cost of your membership; sessions are flexible; changing facilities are available. It’s basically nirvana.
You get all the perks of a coworking space — networking, support, collaboration, headspace, access to facilities and meeting rooms — but you can bring your kids along for the ride if you need to. Plus there’s hot coffee. And something called a ‘meditation yurt’. Marvellous.
Found a solution to your I-really-need-to-work-today-despite-having-the-kid-with-me problem? Would love to hear about your experiences and how you make it work.
Photograph by Huckletree West.