I have thought about writing this post for about two years. (Seriously, I guess I’m a slow thinker.) No, really, I’ve been wanting to write it, but something was holding me back. And I guess that something was fear. Fear that I would be judged. Fear that I would lose clients. Fear that I wouldn’t get new clients.
Okay, here goes. I work PART-time. (Gulp! I said it!)
You might be thinking, what’s the big deal? And I agree, it’s not really a big deal. These days, people work all kinds of schedules, with all different arrangements. People work from the office, from home, from the train. No one cares, as long as the work gets done, right? But some people kinda do. And I guess I’ve been afraid that you guys/my clients are the ones that do.
About a year and a half ago, I was enjoying a very lucrative time in my work. One particular client was keeping me extremely busy with back-to-back projects, all summer long. One morning, my contact there sent me some edits for a printed piece, and when I emailed her (from my phone) that I’d send a new draft when I got to my office later that afternoon — a perfectly reasonable timeframe to complete edits — she got genuinely worried and asked what was wrong. Why wasn’t I working that morning? Was I okay?
Well, since you asked, I actually never work on Wednesday mornings. At the time, my routine for that day was to take my kids to half-day camp, hit the gym, and then maybe go to the grocery store all by my lonesome, thank you very much. Once I got the kids from camp, we’d come home and I’d put them in for a nap. Then my work day would begin.
But I didn’t actually say that. I sort of stumbled over a few words, maybe made something up about a dentist appointment, and finished the edits as fast as I could.
As a business owner, I needed my clients to know they could depend on me. That I’d be available to them. That I’d make their deadlines. That I’d respond to emails. All that.
But the thing is, like many business owners, I’m not just a business owner. Surprise! I’m also a mom. And I need my kids to know they can depend on me, too. That I’m available to them. That I’ll make their snacks. That I’ll respond when they call my name. All that. And if there are any moms out there reading this, they know this complex work-life balance we all strive for is very difficult to strike. Nearly impossible at times. And there is no one right answer for all moms. Or all small business owners. Here’s what works for me:
- I keep regular business hours where I have childcare for my children (since that summer almost two years ago, I’ve added another baby to the mix so no more solo grocery trips for now).
- All phone calls are scheduled during above-mentioned hours. I do not answer work calls outside of these hours. If I answer a work call by accident (I use my cell for work so this happens occasionally), you will think my office is located at the zoo. On the day the animals overtook the zookeeper.
- I will answer emails throughout the day as needed, but most of these are quickies sent from my phone. I save emails that require thoughtful responses for actual work time.
- When my business gets super busy, I use what I call ‘creative childcare solutions’ to add a few more work hours to my weekly schedule. I’ll leave you to your imagination on what that means. It may or may not involve Doc McStuffins and a plate of cookies, or using the daycare at the gym while I “stretch” for an hour while holding my laptop.
- If that’s not enough work time, and a deadline is looming, I work after the kids are in bed. I’ll do this so I never miss a deadline (and I never have).
- If I’m beginning to feel my plate is too full, I reexamine what’s on my plate, anyway. If every single thing I’m working on is delicious (read: fun, creatively satisfying, for a client a love, or a combination of the above), I remind myself that I won’t be busy forever and to enjoy all these wonderful projects. If there are some dishes on that plate that just don’t taste so good (read: boring, for a difficult client, have become an unexpected time-suck that basically means I’m working for free), I reevaluate my arrangements. Note: I always finish a project I’ve started or committed to. But, if somewhere along the line, I realize a client is no longer a good fit for me or vice versa, or my limited work hours aren’t conducive to a particular arrangement, I’ll address it.
That’s what works for me. If you’re a fellow working mom, I’m sure you have some other strategy all worked out for you and your family. If you’re a client of mine or some other freelance designer’s, maybe you’re thinking that this wouldn’t work for you. That you need a designer who is available to answer her phone 24/7 or at least 9-5 every day.
I finally got brave enough to write this post because I decided THAT’S OKAY. Maybe I’m not the right designer for you (at the moment). Maybe you’re not the right client for me.
I work part-time. One day, maybe in a couple years or maybe in many more years, I’ll work a more typical schedule again. But this is the season of motherhood I’m in right now. Sometimes it’s exhausting. Sometimes it’s super fun. Sometimes it feels like time is standing still. Sometimes my babies seem to be growing so fast, my heart literally hurts to think about it. But I know that by working part-time, even sometimes when they’d rather I was playing with them instead of working, I’m setting an example for them about work ethic, time management, and our family values. And that is why I’m no longer afraid to share this with the world.