I'm launching a new series of short interviews with freelance writers, where I'm asking them five or so questions on a topic they're particularly experienced with. Today you get to hear from Rebecca Garland: wife, mother, and freelance writer. Rebecca shares some of her thoughts on juggling work and family life when you're a freelance writer staying home with the little ones.
You're a WAHM with two young sons, also managing a freelance writing career (not to mention recently getting your Master's degree). I have to ask... how do you have the energy, and how do you juggle it?
At the moment, I'm not convinced that I do have the energy!
I'm one of those people who is most productive when I'm stretched to the limit. These last two years I've been stretched pretty thin, but having too much on my plate forces me to take care of it on time. I don't have the luxury of procrastination. I also don't have the luxury of working out, going to the movies, shopping, or watching TV.
Do you find that being a WAHM means you need more structure in your freelance writing work (especially in scheduling time), or do you instead find that you have to be even more flexible about when you can work (does that work schedule change constantly)?
It is impossible, at least with my sort of work, to be a WAHM without structure. All of my time is scheduled. Every detail of every project is allotted time on the calendar and that calendar is full one month out. While I do have to leave some wiggle room for surprises such as teething babies and toddlers who must be rushed to the emergency room with croup (his baby brother went two nights later), for the most part the schedule doesn't change. I get the boys in bed after a long day, then I sit down at the computer and work like a fiend until it's time to pass out and start another day. The day actually starts about an hour after I go to bed with a midnight feeding, so it's a neverending job being me.
What one thing would make your life easier as a freelance writer / mom (or are you superwoman, with it all totally under control)?
In high school my nickname was actually superwoman, but those days are long gone. The thing that would make my life easier right now is if it would just go the way I planned it! Last year I was teaching full-time, writing part-time, pregnant, parenting a toddler, and finishing a Masters. Oh, and I have a husband, too. This year, I gave up the teaching job for a spell, didn't have to worry about the Masters, had the baby, and was just going to write part-time. I should have had all kinds of free time to get back in shape, catch up on my shows, and relax, but that time seems to have eluded me. Our days have a schedule and routines, so nothing I do is actually challenging. It's simply doing it all constantly without a break that is so draining. I keep telling my husband that fifteen years from now I'm going to spend the day in bed - I just won't have a chance until then.
What's the biggest challenge you think many WAHM's face when trying to juggle their freelance writing careers with their family life and raising their children?
Anytime you freelance, your job is never done. The hardest thing about working freelance rather than as an employee for someone is knowing that even when you finish a project, there is another one waiting in the wings and you still need to be constantly marketing. If you have a lag, you don't get to relax and take a break, you fret and worry about marketing even more to fill that gap so that there is no break in income. If I had someone paying me to work twenty hours a week, I could work my hours, flip off the computer and not think about it again until the next day. As it is, I tend to check email in the middle of the night after feeding a baby and constantly push to bring in new projects and brainstorm new concepts. Work is always on your mind and your time stays fixed. When you have too much work, you don't have enough time. When you have time on your hands, you worry about not having enough work.
What's the most rewarding part of being a WAHM for you personally?
Being home with my kids, of course! I love nothing better than to spend the day with my kids. They are a ton of work and occasionally stress, but there is nothing like watching your children grow. The only thing that would make my situation better is if I didn't have to do a single other thing than enjoy watching my six-month-old roll around the room and my two-year-old singing and dancing to entertain the baby.
While it may still be a few years off, I know that when I cross that line into WAHM territory, I'll certainly be keeping in touch with Rebecca and a few other writers / mommies in my network to find out exactly how they do it! And when that time comes, I'm sure Rebecca's blog, RealMom.net, will be a regular stop during my work week. Why don't you drop by and say hello?