I think just about anybody who is self-employed understands the Feast or Famine approach to working. It seems that you are either completely overwhelmed with projects or staring intently at your phone just willing it to ring. Even after more than a dozen years, I still fight the (very strong) urge to take on every client who comes my way because I never know how long it will be before another project appears on the horizon.
On top of that, the nature of my work has changed since I began my self-employed career. Back when I was starting out (I feel old now), clients gave me work-back plans and secured my services long before a project was scheduled to begin. Now everybody needs everything yesterday, which adds to the chaos of trying to squeeze work in between school pick-ups and dinner prep and everything else that needs to happen to keep the home running (relatively) smoothly.
Right now I’m in the midst of a feast — which means I’m staying up way too late (so much for that 10 o’clock bedtime I’d resolved to adopt this year!) and chugging coffee like it’s going out of style. My butt is practically glued to my favourite dining room chair and Adam and Leah have had to fend for themselves more than I would like. I keep telling myself that if I can just get through the next week or so, life will get back to normal — but I’m starting to question what normal looks like anymore. Work comes along in crazy intense bursts and then I spend the in-between periods attempting to recover (and make up for lost time with my family).
I certainly recognize how blessed I am to be able to cultivate a career while still being (mostly) available for my children — but the ongoing struggle to balance work and family leaves me feeling regularly exhausted, like I’m not able to give my best to anybody. And because I feel badly, the intermittent bumps to our chequing account get eaten up with dinners out, extra toys and myriad other things I buy to appease my guilt. It’s a strangely vicious circle of stress and spending.
Some days I long to drop the kids off at daycare and head out for a nine-to-five job, if only to have some physical separation between work and home. Then I remember my agency days of hunching over in front of a computer long into the night — and frequently bringing work home with me. (And if I’m going to have to work ridiculously late, I’d prefer to do so in my pyjamas.) Other days I think that maybe I should give up my career entirely and instead embrace life as a stay-at-home mother, except that I would sincerely miss the creative challenges that work offers (and our standard of living would definitely change).
So here I am, trying to figure out how to be both freelancer and engaged family member, preferably without losing my mind in the process. I’m not sure what the answer is but I’ll let you know if I discover the secret to keeping it all together as I spend some time over the next few months evaluating priorities and goals.
Just as soon as I finish these next three projects.