You decide to become a freelance writer so you can stay at home with your little one — and you envision yourself tapping at your keyboard and sipping java while your precious angel plays quietly with a set of blocks at your feet.
Then, when you attempt this, you’re slammed back to reality: Your kid won’t nap, keeps you up at all hours, and blocks? Really? His favorite pastime is to tug at your pants leg and scream while you’re trying to do an interview.
The hard truth is: If you have kids and want to freelance, you need support. Becoming a successful freelancer takes dedication and a lot of work. It’s not something you can fit into a few minutes here, a few minutes there.
Sure, you may be able to whip out a very quick assignment during naptimes. But if you’re serious about making money as a writer, you have to have help.
I learned this the hard way. My husband and I both freelance, and we had trouble getting anything done while our son was at home when he was a toddler. We eventually moved to North Carolina, where my parents watch the kiddo 16-20 hours per week.
I know what you’re thinking: Childcare is expensive — and we don’t conveniently have retired grandparents in the area!
You’re right about the cost of childcare: Before we moved to North Carolina, we tried a fancy daycare. It cost $600 per month for two days a week. If you’re a new freelancer, prices like this can be daunting.
So, what to do? Here are some ideas that have worked for Babysitter Exchange. (You may also be able to find an already-established co-op in your area through these sites.)
Again, you’ll want to be confortable with the other parents in the group before you trust them to babysit your child. Join the group and start getting to know the other parents, and schedule play dates with the other kids before graduating to full-on babysitting situations.
3. Hire a Mother’s (or Father’s) Helper
Another option I’ve tried: Find a neighborhood teen who’d like to make a few bucks, and hire her as a mother’s helper — someone who watches your child in your home while you’re there. She can keep your child entertained and out of your hair while you get a few hours of work done.
This works best if you have a separate room in your house where you can shut the door and work. For example, our mother’s helper kept our son occupied in the living room and sunroom while Eric and I worked in the office. She also occasionally walked him to the local park in his stroller.
The benefits: It’s cheap (we paid ours $5 per hour), and it takes place in (or near) your home so you’re around if anything goes awry.
Sadly, freelancing and taking care of a little one often don’t mix. To get serious about your writing career, you need blocks of uninterrupted time — especially for interviews and phone meetings where you don’t want a kid wailing in the background. Be creative about your childcare options, and you can get your work done without childcare costs eating up your profits.
How about you: How have you handled the childcare situation while you freelance” Let us know in the Comments below!