When you try (and fail) to ‘have it all’.

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This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from freelance content marketer Stephanie Dunn. She says:

“I’ve been on maternity leave since October but have recently taken on a couple of one-off projects and am now looking to work on a more ongoing basis.

I would like — am trying to — work around looking after my 7-month old daughter: Essentially full-time mum, moonlighting as a content marketer.

My husband works away so some weeks he’s here and can take her, but some weeks I don’t have childcare. Grandparents aren’t on our doorstep but can step in if I really need to go out for a meeting or something. 

Up until the last month, she slept really well, went down easily and slept through the night so I would work in the evenings for a couple of hours. Now though, she can take hours to go to sleep and wakes up in the night so it’s messing with our routine a little! 

I’ve tried to do some work in the day while she plays… but this is not possible (an email takes a day to write!!) and I feel guilty as I’m doing neither of my jobs well.

On top of this, I write very little of my own marketing content (not great for a content marketer!) as I need to use all of my limited time to work for actual money jobs.

Anyway, I’m about to start a new project so we’ll see how it works out… but wondering if I’m wanting it all by trying to do it this way!”

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:

[00:01:11] – 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. I’m Frankie and this is Steve.

[00:01:20] – Steve
Hello, yes, each week we take a question submitted by a member of the Doing It For The Kids community. Do our best to answer it, but then — most importantly — we take your comments, your answers, your wisdom and feed it back into the next episode.

So we go back to last week’s question, which was…

[00:01:37] – Frankie
For the school newbies. The parents at the school gates for the first time who are trying to adjust to working within school hours.

[00:01:42] – Steve
So many good tips came in. Here’s some of them.

Hannah Rich. Hey, Hannah.

Hannah said,

“I used to want to have a clean house, everything done, dinner made or dinner on before I sat down to work when my kids were new to school. Now, three, four years later, I leave all of that stuff until after business hours. I just get my head down and ignore it. That may make complete sense to some, but a revelation to me!”

Yes, I do that. If the dishwasher isn’t unpacked, if there’s still a mess on the side, if I haven’t done whatever I was meant to do with the washing. As soon as I take the kids to school, I kind of treat it like I’ve left the house, even if I go back and work from home.

[00:02:20] – Frankie
The next comment comes from ‘9 to 3 Jobs’. I don’t know who runs it, so I’m really sorry.

Well, as you can guess, they deal with people that work between nine and three. Nine to three?

[00:02:29] – Steve
I thought they only had 923 jobs.

[00:02:32] – Frankie
‘9 to 3 Jobs’ say,

“Our tips for working in between the school pickups: Don’t try and cram everything in and set your keyboard on fire. Spread out the to-do list over the week. It works. And communicate the hours you work in your email. Footer too”.

[00:02:44] – Steve
Oh, yes, I should do that in my own, really.

[00:02:46] – Frankie
Yeah. So should I. I don’t know why I don’t. I feel like I used to.

[00:02:50] – Steve
Rebecca Lismer. Hi, Rebecca.

Rebecca said,

“My standard, as always, is never make a cup of tea!”

[00:02:57] – Frankie
What, no tea?

[00:02:59] – Steve
Rebecca continues,

“I might make one halfway through when I’ve achieved some stuff already, but otherwise — no tea. Or, I just don’t hit the ground running.”

[00:03:06] – Frankie
I’m not on board with this at all.

[00:03:07] – Steve
Can be a form of procrastination.

[00:03:10] – Frankie
Or, they can get you going in the morning? I guess it’s a personality thing, isn’t it? Like, I love that five minutes at the beginning of the day where it’s like, “Right, tea on. Let’s go!”

[00:03:19] – Steve
Peter Kidger, known as The Pocket Architect. Wow.

Peter says,

“Don’t eat lunch at lunchtime. Eat in the middle of your workday. 11:30am works a treat. Afternoons are so much longer and more productive as a result, and means you avoid any panicked 2:00 pm beans on toast guilt.”

I’m torn on it because I find after lunch I am less productive.

[00:03:43] – Frankie
Yes, true.

[00:03:44] – Steve
Now, is that because there is less time between me eating and picking up the kids, or is it like a psychological thing?

[00:03:54] – Frankie
I’m exactly the same. I’m most productive in the morning after I’ve had my cup of tea, Rebecca. And then after lunch, I just dive into that slump, slump, slump. I eat all the chocolate. Don’t really get much done.

[00:04:06] – Steve
Might be worth trying. I might give that a go.

[00:04:08] – Frankie
Amy Harrison says,

“I just wanted to input about the PTA. I volunteered at a couple of events last year, attended some meetings, and now I’m the treasurer. But I wanted to join because I’ve been freelancing for seven years and it’s such a lonely existence sometimes. I just want to be part of a team again. I don’t actually have the time, but I’m willing to make time for my own sanity / mental health, and make a new group of friends and be a part of something worthwhile in the long run for my children. So far, so good, but ask me in a year’s time and might have a different opinion!”

[00:04:36] – Steve
Oh, good for you, Amy. There was somebody else who went to two meetings and he’s now the chair.

[00:04:41] – Frankie
Yeah, that escalated quickly.

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:06:36.190] – Steve
This week’s question comes from Stephanie Dunn, who is a freelance content marketer.

Stephanie says,

“I’ve been on maternity leave since October, but have recently taken on a couple of one-off projects and am now looking to work on a more ongoing basis. I would like, or am trying, to work around looking after my seven-month-old daughter. Essentially full-time mum moonlighting as a content marketer.

My husband works away, so some weeks he’s here and can take her, but some weeks I don’t have childcare. Grandparents aren’t on our doorstep, but can step in if I really need to go out for a meeting or something.

Up until last month, she slept really well, went down easily, slept through the night, so I would work in the evenings for a couple of hours. Now, though, she can take hours to go to sleep and wakes up in the night, so it’s messing with our routine a little. I’ve tried to do some work in the day while she plays, but this is not possible. An email takes a day to write and I feel guilty as I’m doing neither of my jobs well.

On top of this, I write very little of my own marketing content. Not great for a content marketer, as I need to use all of my limited time to work for actual money jobs. Anyway, I’m about to start a new project, so we’ll see how it works out, but I’m wondering if I’m wanting it all by trying to do it this way. Steph.”

[00:08:00] – Frankie
I feel your pain, Steph, I really do. So many things to say.

[00:08:04] – Steve
Well, that’s good.

[00:08:07] – Frankie
What’s the dude with the viral YouTube TED Talk?

[00:08:09] – Steve

[00:08:10] – Frankie
That’s the one. A lot of this boils down to her maybe looking at her ‘why’.

[00:08:14] – Steve
Simon Sinek. ‘Start With Why’.

[00:08:16] – Frankie
Why she is doing what she’s doing? What is the life she’s trying to build here? What’s the priority? I guess the bottom line… because it feels like she’s trying to do all the things, and as she says, feeling like she’s not doing any of those things particularly well. Maybe, she needs to go back to her ‘why’.

Does she need to scale back her work if the priority is being around with her child full-time during the week? Or is her work more of a priority for her than maybe she’s suggesting? What is the balance she’s trying to aim for?

[00:08:43] – Steve
It’s essentially impossible-,

[00:08:45] – Frankie
To do all the things.

[00:08:46] – Steve
To be a full-time mum and work. You either need some form of childcare or you need to accept that you simply have very limited hours in which to do stuff.

[00:08:58] – Frankie
Yeah, I think it would just help her to maybe sit down and think about what her priorities actually are. As she touches on, her child is becoming more difficult with sleeping. That is a massive issue. It’s quite easy to become dependent on those nap times and those good spells where your child goes to sleep when you ask them to. But that changes and kids are unpredictable and as they get older, the routine shifts all the time. And it’s always — like, I touched on last week or in a different episode — it’s always the minute you get into a rhythm with it that they change it. And you have to readjust everything.

[00:09:32] – Steve
You can’t depend on running a business in nap times.

[00:09:35] – Frankie

[00:09:35] – Steve
And on top of that, you might be knackered because they’re waking up during the night and things like that. Also, when we’ve talked in the past about ‘seasons’, in quotation marks, is the fact that you’ve got to appreciate the fact that it’s not going to last forever.

[00:09:47] – Frankie

[00:09:49] – Steve
So, yes, it’s disruptive now, but who knows, maybe by the time you’re even listening to this, she’ll have settled back down in the night. Or maybe it will be months from now. You just don’t know. But you do know for sure that it is going to change. Things are going to change. And so that’s why, like Frankie says, it’s important to figure out what it is that you’re actually trying to do. Because if your priority is being the full-time mum, then that’s awesome. And maybe you just need to be realistic about the fact that your business needs to scale back.

[00:10:21] – Frankie
For now. For this season.

[00:10:23] – Steve
Yeah. If, however, you really want to do bits of that business, then you need to find some kind of childcare. Whether that’s approaching the grandparents who don’t seem to be that far away, to see if they might want to do a bit more. You never know unless you ask. Maybe you have. Or paying for childcare.

[00:10:41] – Frankie
But what paying for regular childcare does, it brings some structure and predictability to that constant unpredictability of those routines changing. It’s like it’s something that you can depend on, basically. You’re paying for that privilege. Is that something you want to invest in? Or is the priority being with your child? In which case, roll with it for now.

[00:11:04] – Steve
If you feel like you’ve already got a business that you need to keep going and you’re not going to go down the childcare option, then the other thing you might consider is hiring other people to work with you. So that, yes, you’ve bought in clients. You want to keep those clients happy, but you’re hiring other writers or creators, whoever it is you need in order to fulfill that work. There’s a plus point to that as well, because that might actually change the way you do your business. It might suddenly scale in a way you didn’t imagine before, if that’s what you want to do.

[00:11:35] – Frankie
And, if you can find other freelance parents, for example, that work in a similar world to you, you could try and engineer it so that you can do tasks on days that work for you and people could work in different parts of the week that work for them. You could plug those gaps in the week, if you see what I mean. So, your clients are being looked after on a more constant basis, but as a group. Or, not even a group, two or three people.

Oh, that’s my door. Hang on…

[00:12:02] – Steve
She could be gone sometime, by the way. Remember she’s got the dodgy toe.

[00:12:10] – Frankie
I put some ice lollies in the freezer.

[00:12:19] – Steve
How many ice lollies have you bought? Do you want an ice cream van?

[00:12:25] – Steve
In terms of not being able to do your own marketing, which she touches upon, one thing that I tried doing was using a dictation app called Otter, so that while I was walking to school or back I would-,

[00:12:41] – Frankie
…talk to yourself?

[00:12:43] – Steve
Yeah, I would talk to myself. Basically, saying what my blog post was.

[00:12:47] – Frankie
Okay, nice.

[00:12:48] – Steve
And then I would give it to a writer, a freelance writer, to knock into shape.

[00:12:55] – Frankie
And my daughter’s just turned one, but my prevailing memories of seven month old babies, particularly my son actually… is just pounding the pavements to get him to sleep. And using that time efficiently is quite hard because you’re literally out on the street and having something like that, like a dictation app would have been brilliant at the time because I was planning Doing It For The Kids and all that. I could have been writing loads of stuff down using my voice. That’s really cool.

[00:13:20] – Steve
It sounds like it’s important that whatever work you do take on, you make sure that it’s flexible, deadline-wise. Enough to fit in with the life you’ve got so that you’re not putting that pressure on yourself as well. So, there might be some jobs that you’ll turn down because they need it too soon, but there’s other things which don’t need to be done for a few weeks and a week later you’ve got it done. So, being selective on what jobs you’re realistically able to do-,

[00:13:45] – Frankie
And having somebody else you might be able to pass over to if you really have to commit to a deadline and can’t do it, that would be good.

[00:13:51] – Steve
Yeah, I’ve done that actually, because I’ve taken editing of the Being Freelance podcast back under my wing after paying somebody to do it for a while. But I have also made sure that I’ve got a freelance podcast editor up my sleeve-,

[00:14:03] – Frankie
If you need them. Nice.

[00:14:06] – Steve
So yeah. Steph is basically wondering, isn’t she, “if I’m wanting it all”.

[00:14:10] – Frankie

[00:14:11] – Steve
You simply physically cannot do it all. There’s a theory called the Four Burners theory and basically it sets out the fact that our life has four gas burners. As in like a hob.

[00:14:24] – Frankie
Okay. Yeah. With you. Yes.

[00:14:26] – Steve
Imagine four hobs on MasterChef, for example. One is health, one is work, one is family, one is friends. So health, work, family, friends. But the point is this, you cannot have all of them burning full brightness, full power at the same time. You only have certain amounts of energy, so you have to share them between those four burners. So if you’re going to give everything you’ve got to your work, then you’re going to end up neglecting your family, your friends, and your health. And how many of us have given us our all to our work and our family, but never do any exercise?

[00:15:01] – Frankie
Definitely neglecting the friends.

[00:15:03] – Steve
I definitely see it. Sometimes I’ll be really nailing it at my work, but then I kind of feel like I’m not doing so well at family. There’s no real solution in this theory as such. It’s more just realising that you’re not to blame. It’s simply that you can’t give all of your energies to all of these things and the only real way to get around it is to take some of what you’re trying to cook on one of those hobs and share it out to somebody else’s flames.

[00:15:31] – Frankie

[00:15:31] – Steve
So to outsource.

[00:15:33] – Frankie
Outsource. Hey, like a hot sauce!

[00:15:34] – Steve
And it might be outsourcing work.

[00:15:36] – Frankie

[00:15:36] – Steve
Or it might be outsourcing family. So childcare. I mention it because you’re not to blame. And really the only solution is to outsource. Or, to decide that actually, I’m just going to enjoy cooking on full power on that family hob for now. And I’m going to turn the gas right down on work. I don’t know if that helps.

[00:16:01] – Frankie
Definitely. Every woman listening to this is nodding along, I would think. The idea of ‘having it all’ is obviously like a massive, pervasive, quite dangerous idea amongst women, particularly. There’s loads of people that want to tell you that working for yourself is like the solution to all of that. If anyone tells you that having it all is possible, they’ve probably got one of those burners outsourced and they’re just not telling you. There’s often so much going on behind the scenes that you don’t know about because people don’t want to admit that they’ve got a nanny in five days a week or somebody cooks their dinners for them or whatever it is.

But again, we’ve talked about the impact of social media and stuff, but it’s so hard to believe that everybody else is nailing it and all those burners are going full throttle and they’re making loads of money and their kids are always happy, blah, blah.

I always say blah, blah. I have to stop saying that.

[00:16:53] – Steve
I like it.

[00:16:54] – Frankie
Do you? Okay.

[00:16:55] – Steve
I think for the Doing It For The Kids clothing range, I just want a t-shirt with “blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah”.

[00:17:01] – Frankie
Yeah. My point here is — there are a lot of people that want to tell you that you can run a business and have kids and do all the things really well. But, a lot of the time they want to tell you that because it benefits them financially in some way. Because they want to sell your product to help you do that. And/or, they’re not telling you about that stuff that’s going on. The help that they’re getting. The privilege they’ve got. Whatever that looks like.

But, it’s so easy to beat yourself up about it because you feel like everybody else is doing it when that’s not the case. That’s part of why this project exists, is that I want to talk about the realities of this stuff. One of those balls has to drop, and going back to that ‘why’ will help you identify which balls you’re happy to drop.

[00:18:01] – Steve
Well, good luck, Steph.

[00:18:02] – Frankie
Yeah. Hopefully some of that’s useful, and it’s such a common thread amongst Doing It For The Kids people. So many of us are dealing with a lot of that, if not all of that. So, hopefully when we bounce this back to everybody, they’ll have some — if not killer advice — at least lots of sympathy.

What would your advice be?

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