This is something I’ve struggled with ever since I started freelancing, when D was just three months old. “If I’m paying for childcare, what’s the point in freelancing? I’ll barely make anything!”
I was utterly CONVINCED that it didn’t make sense to shell out for a sitter when I was pulling in a super-small freelance income — and, yeah, maybe it didn’t (I certainly didn’t hire one).
But then my career actually became a career, and things changed, but I still didn’t think I should or could hire a babysitter.
Let’s take a look back in time and giggle at my naivety, shall we?
I started working on freelance projects when D was three months old, but — looking back — it was barely anything. I either worked at naptime or once he was in bed after supper. No sweat.
By the time my maternity leave came to an end, I had a lot of other projects on my plate but it still wasn’t crazy. I worked during every naptime and it was a reasonable amount — no sitter required.
We moved from the city to the country (Bedford to Truro, for locals) and that’s when things got trickier. I was pregnant with C, D was a total maniac — scaling counters and destroying everything — and I was trying hard to build up enough work to make this “freelance thing” really work for our (super poor) family.
When C was born, things went from bad to worse. I had NO maternity leave, of course, since I was self-employed. I took about six weeks *mostly* off to recover from my C-section, although I still did a few projects that simply couldn’t be outsourced. Then I was back into the fire, except this time I had TWO kids to deal with on top of my assignments.
I had a whooping bout of post-partum depression, too, although I didn’t really acknowledge it at the time. Darling Husband was working two jobs and life felt absolutely, positively difficult despite the kids’ cuteness.
Should I have had help? YES! Should I have worked less? YUP.
Uh, and things didn’t get any easier once C started crawling and walking. Ugh.
Things were still hard when C turned one and D was three. I had a lot more work at that point, and it was … challenging. I had two potential screamers when I was on phone interviews.
D was in preschool a couple of mornings a week, which gave me time to spend with C BUT of course I couldn’t work with my curly-headed little wrecking ball wandering around. So my only chances for working were when I’d put the kids upstairs for “quiet time.”
Ha! “Quiet” time. Hilarious, right? D would fall asleep a lot of the time, leaving C to wreck everything in sight. She became the official Room Destroyer and OH! DID SHE EVER DESTROY! Diaper cream smeared into the carpet, tampons and pads ripped from their wrappers and wrecked. Or they’d play together and fight. Either way, a lot of me running up and down the stairs instead of working.
So then I broke down and decided to get one-day-a-week childcare and it was WONDERFUL! It was so wonderful that we upgraded to TWO days of childcare each week, and rainbows and sunbeams were shining out of my nostrils because I was so very, very happy with the arrangement. I truly felt like I’d figured out how to get a good balance of being a working mom and a somewhat stay-at-home mom.
But then, after a couple of months of babysitting and only a WEEK of twice-a-week childcare — oh the tease of it all! — the babysitter decided to stop babysitting and get an out-of-the-home job, and it was very sad. Mostly for me.
Which brings me to now …
C started preschool and D started Primary (Kindergarten) and I actually got two hours, twice a week, gift-wrapped on a child-free platter. Two full hours every Tuesday morning and every Tuesday morning in which I could write all alone in a quiet house.
Of course, it’s been great, but … dude, it’s four hours a week! FOUR HOURS IS NOT A LOT. Plus, since D’s bus pick-up is frightfully early in the afternoon, there is no longer any “quiet time” in which I can shush them and try to sneak in some work. There’s just … not.
So this year, I’ve been back to my original stance of knowing I NEED childcare but I really don’t want to PAY for childcare because IS IT WORTH IT? I know it is, in theory, but there’s also the convenience factor. I want someone really close and flexible and trustworthy and also that person doesn’t appear to exist? I don’t want to commit to certain days at a daycare center when Darling Husband might end up being OFF on those days and it would be totally pointless to be paying someone to watch C.
I want my old arrangement, basically, with a lovely babysitter within a super-short walk and I know her and I know the kids there and I feel completely comfortable bringing my children to her. I want THAT, AGAIN, PLEASE. K THANKS.
In the meantime, I’m working at the crack of dawn, during preschool, after lunch while C quietly plays Barbies, in the evenings after the kids are in bed (when necessary) and full days when Darling Husband is off. It’s intense and it is possibly making me dread Christmas because UGH.
Yesterday we had a snow day (NO TWO HOURS OF CHILD-FREE WRITING WHAAAAA?) so I bit the bullet and hired a sweet girl we know to come over for three hours as a mother’s helper (since I’d be home the whole time, and she’s too young to technically babysit alone).
She was a dream — brought a craft for the kids to do, kept them entertained with games, and the TV did not go on ONCE (which is what I have learned to specify from babysitters because, hey, I could stick them in front of the TV for free while I work — and do sometimes, when necessary?) The kids had a wonderful time and I worked for three solid hours, alone in my office. WORTH. EVERY. PENNY.
I have grand plans to hire her on a regular basis, hopefully every week. I don’t have to drive the kids anywhere, they adore her, and it doesn’t have to be one set day of the week so I can plan it around Darling Husband’s rotating work schedule.
So, once again, I’m reminding myself that while paying for childcare means YES, some of the money I’m earning from my freelance jobs is going to someone else. But it’s a worthwhile investment in my career and my sanity — not to mention I don’t feel like such a frazzled mess of a mom.
So do me a favor and remind me of this next time I forget, OK?