When childcare help from your family isn’t actually much help.

This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question submitted anonymously. Let’s call the person… Gemma. She says:

“If I’d gone back to my librarian job, my M-I-L was going to babysit for a full day every week to ease the financial burden and get baby cuddles in. However, now that I am fully self-employed, she ‘pops down to visit’ for 2-5 hours every other week, of which 1 hour is lunch that I am expected to cook, and eat with her.

It’s lovely of course, but it’s hardly letting me get any work done…. It’s obviously a favour so I struggle with the guilt of pushing it beyond being family time to being work time.”

This episode is supported by the lovely people at IPSE, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed.

Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:

Comments on the previous episode:

[00:01:14] – Frankie
Hello, you’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast, where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. My name’s Frankie and this is Steve.

[00:01:23] – Steve
Hello! Yes. Each week we take a question from the Doing It For The Kids community, do our best to answer it and read out the comments and answers and experience given by you guys on the following week’s episode.

Which means we start this week by going back a week to Rachel’s question, which was essentially-,

[00:01:40] – Frankie
What to do when your mates say they like your stuff but don’t actually buy it.

[00:01:43] – Steve
Penny Smyth got in touch. Could be Smyth. Actually, thinking about it. It’s Penny Smyth.

Anyway, Penny says,

“I agree with what you were saying about buyers not buying instantly. It’s not that friends or any supporters or followers don’t believe in you. They might just be hovering, probably distracted. Maybe they do really love it, but just aren’t buyers of that kind of thing in general.”

This bit’s good. Ready?

“Interest doesn’t ever come close to equaling sales, whatever it is that you do. It’s always a tiny fraction that convert. Well, that’s true for me, anyway. Once I got my head around the fact that it’s not a sale till the money’s in the bank, I felt a lot lighter. Turn your energy outwards to find all the other lovely people who don’t know you exist yet and will be dying to buy your stuff.”

[00:02:28] – Frankie
We have had some cracking comments this week, can I just say. That is great. Thank you, Penny.

[00:02:33] – Steve
And then Ross got in touch with-, I mean. I don’t know how much of this you’re going to read out, right, but if you like what Ross is saying, you should go back and check out his actual comment, because it was more like six comments and they were GOLD.

[00:03:08] – Frankie
Yeah. So, basically, we answered Rachel’s questions last week — her friends like her stuff but don’t want to buy it. We told her basically to not try and sell to her friends and gave her loads of other stuff to do. But Ross actually gives some useful advice on how to sell. Like, actually sell your products.

Right, so Ross says,

“I have two comments. One, as a friend of someone who sells gift type stuff, and one as a business person.

Point one — I think you need to remember that liking what you do and wanting to buy your things are very different. I like what my wife’s hairdresser does, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to go out and sit in her chair. There’s some really clever dog gear around these days. Those Led light up collars are very clever, but I don’t have a dog. Tesla cars are amazing, but I’m not about to drop 40k on an electric car. I have a friend who sells gift stuff. I think what she does is brilliant, but it’s just not the kind of thing that I personally would buy. So, likers, aren’t necessarily future customers. It’s an important distinction.”

Yes, Ross.

Ross continues,

“Two — I don’t think this was mentioned in the podcast, but scarcity and seasonality are real drivers to purchasing. You’ve got a huge opportunity to use seasonality in a gift business, as you seem to be doing with your Father’s Day cards, for example. I wonder if you could use scarcity as a tactic? Do limited runs of prints and cards so people have to get them before they run out. Do limited time price reductions so people have to buy before the price goes back up?”

[00:04:27] – Steve
Yes. God, it’s so good, isn’t it?

[00:04:31] – Frankie
It’s like actual sales advice.

[00:04:33] – Steve
That really works on me. And I have bought stuff. You know, like, I bought a print once and it was like “number one of twenty”, and honestly, I don’t think I would have bought it at all if there were no numbers on the bottom of it. Isn’t that weird? We’re weird. People are weird. Prey on that weirdness.

And also, for time limited price reduction. So if there is a sale but it ends on Sunday, then, yeah, I’m more likely to go buy. Such a good point. Ross went on to say so much more stuff. One of them was the idea of, like, a subscription model, which I really like. So you get a certain amount of cards a month or every two months, for example. Also, he said about social proof, like, crowds attracting crowds.

[00:05:16] – Frankie
I’m definitely that person. All the websites now, they say “820 other people are looking at this product or have it in their basket right now!”. Like that. I really respond to that.

[00:05:25] – Steve
It works!

[00:05:26] – Frankie
Messes with my head, it does.

[00:05:27] – Steve
Brilliant comments, Ross, thank you so much. Ben The Illustrator, got in touch as well.

Ben said,

“Rachel, I totally hear your plight. I’m an illustrator, and I’m often in the same situation with art prints. I understand that not all friends will buy things, but they might recommend you to someone else. So if they ever give you a compliment, give them a little ‘tell a friend’, and in time, the word will spread. Social media is a brilliant place for spreading the word from friends and family to beyond too.”

[00:05:56] – Frankie
I love that Ben’s just known as Ben The Illustrator. Everyone else gets a first and second name, not Ben.

[00:06:03] – Steve
Thank you so much for your comments. I know Rachel really appreciated them as well, so thank you. Good work, team. High fives.

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:08:28] – Steve
Okay, this week’s question comes from Gemma, who actually, it’s an anonymous question.

[00:08:34] – Frankie
Not her real name.

[00:08:35] – Steve
Yeah, that adds a little bit of “je ne sais quoi” to the equation, doesn’t it?

[00:08:38] – Frankie
Yeah. You’re all wondering what the question is now.

[00:08:40] – Steve
Yeah. So Gemma says,

“If I had gone back to my librarian job, my mother-in-law was going to babysit for a full day every week to ease the financial burden and get baby cuddles in. However, now that I am fully self-employed, she pops down to ‘visit’ for 2 to 5 hours every other week, of which 1 hour is lunch that I am expected to cook and eat with her. It’s lovely, of course, but it’s hardly letting me get any work done. It’s obviously a favour. So I struggle with the guilt of pushing it beyond being family time to being work time.”

Mother in law territory.

[00:09:20] – Frankie
So much to unpack!! Yeah.

[00:09:24] – Steve
I think this actually strays into the territory of some people not understanding what self-employed actually means. So when you were going to go back to a full time job where you went into somewhere and you worked, the mother-in-law — in fact, maybe we should just say we should just say relative, because it could be any relative really, right?

[00:09:44] – Frankie

[00:09:45] – Steve
But the relative was happy to come down and look after a child for a day because you were going into work and they got that, they understood that. But then you went self-employed and you’re working from home and well, then you can look after your kid. That’s kind of where this whole situation starts, isn’t it? Which we’ve talked about in another episode.

[00:10:03] – Frankie
Yeah. That attitude from people that because you work for yourself, you’re not really working. And particularly as a woman with children, often if you’re self-employed, people talk to you like it’s a luxury that you’ve chosen to do that for yourself. And therefore, if I’ve driven from wherever to be with you and your kid, the idea that I would then allow you to work is like… “What? Surely you’re just around and can drop your work at any time because it’s not really an integral part of your life?” Do you see what I mean? I’m not saying everybody thinks like that.

[00:10:33] – Steve
Clearly we don’t know your family situation… goodness knows families are complex things. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that your mother in law doesn’t want to help. It’s just that perhaps in her head she doesn’t need to help in that same way because you’re at home.

[00:10:53] – Frankie
Which I think would make having that conversation feel more difficult. Personally, it feels more tied up in those larger feelings and assumptions. I’m recognising that it’s bigger than the practicalities, if you see what I mean.

I think there are two approaches to this. One is like — yeah, spell it out for her. You literally explain what’s going on here. “I’m using this time for work. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult for me to work when my kid is around”. I don’t know, make it really explicit that just because you’re at home doesn’t mean that it’s easy to work with the kid and her around.

But the alternative is to go completely the other way and just be like, “You know what? This isn’t working”. I don’t want to get into the politics of this, so rather than stressing myself out about it, I’ll just enjoy that as family time. I know that doesn’t help you on the work front, but look at alternatives because otherwise it feels a bit like everyone’s just going to not enjoy it as much?

[00:11:50] – Steve
Yeah. So in that case. Going with the first scenario, then you need to have that transparent conversation.

[00:11:58] – Frankie
Yeah, which isn’t easy.

[00:11:58] – Steve
Could that be your other half?

[00:12:03] – Frankie

[00:12:03] – Steve
It’s the mother-in-law in this situation. Your other half could also have that conversation?

[00:12:08] – Frankie
It’s about boundaries, isn’t it? And I wonder if literally imposing physical boundaries is the way to get around it. So when she was going to work as a librarian somewhere else, it seemingly wasn’t an issue. Now she’s in the house, it’s more complex. So can she literally work elsewhere? So when the mother-in-law arrives, she goes out and goes somewhere else? I know that depends on what you do and your setup, blah, blah, blah. But yeah like, remove yourself from the situation. Particularly on the lunch thing because then she has to fend for herself and feed the kid and you’re not spending an hour handcrafting pasta from scratch or whatever!!

[00:12:42] – Steve
But I think that’s totally right. But not just from your perspective, from her perspective, right? Have you ever looked after somebody else’s kids in their house?

[00:12:52] – Frankie
No, but I’ve had other people do that for me, short periods of time. But it’s hard for everybody.

[00:12:58] – Steve
When I’ve done it and I’ve done it for-,

Once we were in Australia, for example, and we were staying with a family, so we got to know the kids quite well. And eventually the couple, the parents, went to a wedding or something. They went and we looked after their children as well as our children for the day. And one of them was maybe, I don’t know, two or three, and one of them was one. They were pretty young kids. Anyway, what occurs to me, thinking back to that time, is that I behave differently to those children when the parents are around. Right. And I don’t mean that in a weird way, it’s simply that I’m not responsible for them because their parents are in the house.

[00:13:37] – Frankie
I see what you mean.

[00:13:38] – Steve
And also, that the kids behave differently to me when their parents are around, because, again, I’m not the one they have to listen to. They listen to their parents. Also, if they feel worried about something, they’re going to go to their parents. But if their parents aren’t in the house, then they come to you as the grown up that they trust and that they like. And so suddenly you find yourself holding hands and comforting a child who would never have come to you.

The fact is, all of those things would have gone to the parents. And it’s the same with a close relative, like a mother-in-law or a grandfather or whatever, who comes to the house. I think if you go out to do your work, you will get more focused work done, but they will have a different time with the child. It’s weird being in someone else’s house and cooking in their kitchen when that person is around.

[00:14:37] – Frankie
Yeah, totally.

[00:14:38] – Steve
And yet, if they go out, you feel much more comfortable.

[00:14:41] – Frankie
You could sell it to her as, like, quality bonding time? Now I know that in this situation, they clearly don’t live nearby, so they’re coming specifically and so they want to see you a bit as well. But you could tag that on at the end of the day? Like, you come back at a certain time and then hang out with them together and catch up. But if you go out for the majority of the time, you could sell it as, like, quality time with your grandson or daughter.

[00:15:04] – Steve
But look at this from her side of it as well. Hanging out with your daughter-in-law and the child, yeah, is not going to be as much fun as just hanging out with the child. Children are fun to hang out with.

[00:15:14] – Frankie
I don’t know what you mean Steve!

So what are the options there? You’ve got a co-working space, obviously, but that’s going to cost you monies. You’ve got a cafe, etc. It depends so much on what you do, though, doesn’t it? If you’re not usually a WiFi laptoppy type person, could you use that day for those types of jobs? So like, adminy stuff or finances? Do you know what I mean? But, yeah, dedicate that time for the kind of stuff you can do remotely on the move from your laptop.

[00:15:46] – Steve
Well, it’s like that with you, isn’t it? For your design work, you want to be in front of your iMac, which is tied in your house.

[00:15:51] – Frankie
Correct. I’m not going to take my iMac to the pub. It’s not going to happen.

[00:15:54] – Steve
Wouldn’t that be great with like a little… you know, one of those nana trolleys? The shopping trolleys with an iMac sticking out the top?

[00:16:02] – Frankie
Ha! It’s like fleabag, isn’t it? You know, like the guy that shows up with all the chargers and stuff. I’d be there, like, wheeling in my computer. Buy one latte, never leave.

[00:16:15] – Steve
It totally depends on the person, right? Because people are at the heart of this. But it’s funny, I do wonder sometimes whether before the baby is born and they’re thinking about all this stuff, or maybe after the baby’s born and it’s all quite cute and like, people are popping around and discussing about how you’re going to go back to work and stuff like that. I think sometimes grandparents might…

[00:16:39] – Frankie
…be a bit more forthcoming?

[00:16:40] – Steve
“Oh, yeah, I’ll help out with you. Yeah. Once a week. Yeah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah”.

Then the reality comes catching up with them.

[00:16:48] – Frankie

[00:16:48] – Steve
The fact that actually they’ve paid their dues, they’ve bought up their kids, they’ve done their work and now actually, have very busy social lives.

[00:16:57] – Frankie
And the freedom of doing what they want to do when they want to. Like, committing to a particular day is quite a big deal sometimes.

[00:17:02] – Steve
Yeah. Looking at it from their point of view, I don’t quite blame them, but I think they jump in on the, “Yeah, I’ll help out! I’ll come down once a week”. And then actually, the reality of that is like, “Oh, God, what about all of my life?” Because the fact is that if you aren’t putting your child into nursery for a day, but you’re relying on a parent or a relative to come and help you on that day, you actually do need them to come and help you on that day. And they need to realise that. But the reality of their life is they want to have the freedom still to be able to go for that weekend in Paris or to go to the cinema because their mate called up.

[00:17:40] – Frankie
Yeah, my parents take my son once a week, but I don’t count on that being 52 weeks of the year. Like, they go on holidays. It’s not like the private nursery where they’re always there and always consistent. Maybe it’s more about a mindset shift. So you perceive that time that she comes to help as like an added extra rather than core to your work time?

[00:18:07] – Steve
Yeah. That’s good.

[00:18:08] – Frankie
I know that’s easier said than done financially, because you’ve asked them to do it, because you want to save the money on childcare, but yeah. Is it about looking at it in a slightly different way? Would you feel less stressed about it in that case?

[00:18:20] – Steve
I’ll be honest with you. That’s all I got.

[00:18:27] – Frankie

[00:18:28] – Steve
So, you know the drill. If you’ve got comments or experiences about this topic, then please let us know.

What would your advice be?

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