January 17, 2018
Parenting while freelancing is hard… what if you are both freelancers?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary tells us that the term freelance was first used in the novel Ivanhoe by Walter Scott. In it, King Richard was offered the service of paid “Free Lances”, or literally, a ‘lance’ that was not beholden to any monarch.
While the ‘Free Lances’ of King Richard’s time were unlikely to be juggling parenting and their work, in 2017, this is more common. In fact, there are thousands of articles already written about how to do the two simultaneously and harmoniously.
When doing a bit of research for this post, what I found missing was how to do it if both parents are freelancers. The majority of the articles either describe a single parent family (and I tip my hat to you out there doing this on your own!) or are written from the perspective where the freelancing parent is also the primary caregiver, and the other parent goes to their 9-to-5.
So, without further ado, these are some lessons I’ve learnt about parenting from a couple of freelancers.
Sharing the Mental Load
This comic in the Guardian by French artist, Emma, describes the mental load borne by women in heterosexual relationships. While statistically, this is true, in my personal experience it is because the women are also the primary caregivers of children, and not because that they are women (this fact alone can be the subject of several feminist academic research topics, so let’s move on).
In my personal experience, my (male) partner bore much more of the mental load. For almost a decade, he was a freelancer, and the primary caregiver of our children, while I had the steady 9-to-5.
Since we now have to juggle a double-freelancing schedule, we have found that it works better if we consciously share the mental load. No one needs to be asked to do the laundry or the vacuuming. If the children have a special event at school, we share the fact through online calendars like we would if it was a meeting with a client (yes even with the kids!).
While we are on the topic of scheduling; everyone in the family has a shareable online calendar. In fact, we even have a family Slack Team. Running the household like a large shared co-working space means that there are no surprises. If the family gets an invite to a party, we can check using a multitude of mobile devices whether everyone is free or not. I’ve not gone as far as making the kitchen, gym and lounge bookable… but we may do as our children approach teen-dom. This had a nice extra side-effect of forcing us to register domain names for the children when they were born – after all, why should they use an unprofessional free webmail account, it’s not the mid-90s!
As a contractor, you wouldn’t take on a new contract where the scope of work is outside of your skill base. Yet most people don’t apply the same ethos to their parenting. In fact, they think of it as a failure if they don’t perform the many household tasks flawlessly. We have found that outsourcing is our best bet to a harmonious family life. We have arranged for babysitting every Friday, scheduling it in as a date night.
Even if we don’t do anything particularly special, the time to ourselves gives us an island of peace in an otherwise hectic week. Our oldest needed extension in certain school subjects; we arranged for after-school tutoring… and so on and so forth. Understanding your limitations will mean that you achieve the things you are good at and learn to let go where you aren’t.
I’d love to hear if you have any parenting tips and tricks, especially if you are also from a two-parent freelancing family…. There must be more of you out there!