Tips for self-employment / working from home with no childcare in place


As well as my photography business, I am a freelance writer, and I also offer SEO and social media advice and management, and a bit of design work here and there.

Oh, and then there’s maintaining this blog, which is clearly more of a therapeutic and personal endeavour, but it is also the springboard for the all the paid work that comes my way.

Arlo is at preschool. But Rory isn’t. And his naps amount to no more than an hour in the car during Arlo’s pickups/drop offs. This means that 100% of the time, I am juggling work with my children at the same time. There is no guaranteed, scheduled time just for work, and on the other side of things, I have to actively make sure that I give the children enough of my focus without work-related tasks taking over all the time.

Given the amount of people I know who were unable to return to work post-babies due to childcare costs, the people I know who can’t afford to save a deposit for a house, and all the other things that have become increasingly tricky in the last decade or so, I figure there must be a lot of people out there like me. People for whom it’s necessary to bring in money to cover all the essential living costs, earning a living at home, at the same time as caring for their young children, Because paying for childcare would offset any earnings made. Or because the amount of work you have varies from month to month.

But how come ALL the articles I read about being self-employed, freelance, or working from home always assume that there is some form of childcare in place?

Because it would be bloody impossible to do both at the same time, wouldn’t it?

working from home with no childcare

I hardly ever see a work / childcare / life balance piece that doesn’t read along the lines of “Keep work and time with your children separate. Turn off your phone when with your children. Don’t try to work around them, use their childcare hours wisely”, etc.

But what about the tips for those of us working from home around their small children? We know we are never going to have a clear distinction between work time and family time, it is always going to be hectic and most often leave you wishing you could do more of both.

Granted, there is no advice that can actively revolutionise the productivity of those of us working from home around small children, but here are some things I’ve learnt along the way about managing expectations.

Tips for self-employment / working from home with no childcare in place:

If you have children that don’t nap / unreliable sleepers, adopt a ’10 minute schedule’ approach to avoid the frustration of starting a task and having to pause. Lots of tasks CAN be accomplished in 10 minutes, and although creative tasks sometimes take a lot longer (and, if your me, require uninterrupted concentration to really give it my best), if you can find a way of subdividing those creative tasks into 10 minute segments, you will feel a lot less frustrated at the interruptions.

If you have children that reliably sleep past 7am (what?), consider getting up at 6am to get an hour’s work in before they wake.

If you have night-wakers, or are sleep deprived, I don’t recommend this approach unless you have no other option, because it WILL lead to burn out. You need SOME sleep to work and to function. Sleep comes first, although it’s tempting to sacrifice it.

Of course you will need to work in the evenings. Which is also the only time you get alone to yourself or to spend with your partner. If you can, schedule in advance the evenings that you will be working so you can more easily see any windows of opportunity to have a ‘date night’ or, y’know, a decent shower.

Cleaning is the last priority. Your job is taking care of the kids, and your work. Save for the washing up, wiping down highchairs, and clearing up food mess, I don’t clean or tidy during the week. It is a task that Sam and I blitz together at the weekend, or that Sam does in the evenings if he has the time. Yes, there are toys EVERYWHERE, and mid-week visitors might be taken aback by the state of the unhoovered floors. But really? It’s the least of my concerns.

If your partner is taking the children out so you can work, make sure they know in advance that there is no time allowed for dawdling in the morning (No leasurely breakfasts and browsing the internet). Let them shower and get ready first. And DON’T attempt to start work until they are 100% ready to assume ALL childcare duties.

Communicate with your partner and be clear on your roles and what you need from each other in order to maximise your time. When you work from home around the kids during the week, you are used to jumping in on the kids requests all the time. It won’t be automatically assumed that this will be any different when you partner is around, unless you are both clear on your roles and your set times for ‘uninterrupted work’. It may be that your partner takes over the whole of the bedtime routine so you can get an hour’s work in for tasks that you are behind on and need to be completed THAT day, or it may be that you need a good few hours at the weekend to work. Whatever set times you decide, make sure that everyone knows their roles, and that all kid requests for drinks / general whining / entertainment / whatever are deflected immediately by your partner.

(Communication is the key with this point. It can be incredibly tricky to execute. Especially because it’s confusing for young children to understand why your work balance is different at the weekend than it is during the week, when you are also doing lots of tasks for them too. And especially if your workspace is in a common living area in the house, where your children may be in the same room as you whilst you work. Generally, I’m FAR more productive if Sam takes the children out – but this is not so simple in winter / when you don’t drive / when you have a small breastfed baby. More often than not, I end up working with the noise and chaos and demands of my children two feet away from me. In this case, you just have to get really good at shutting off from all distractions.)

If your children have a ‘quieter’ time of day when they are more likely to be happy playing independently, use that to your advantage. Our usual routine is to go out and do something fun in the morning, and then have an hour or two of TV time in the afternoon. Because I know they will (usually!) be happy to sit and do that with little input from me. This is when I do the bulk of my ‘Urgent. Needs to be done TODAY’ work.

I try to avoid sitting down to work in the morning, even if I think I have a good window of time where the kids are pre-occupied. Because I tend to find that the emails breed more emails and the ‘Urgent. Needs to be done TODAY’ work starts stretching into the afternoon, and before I know it, the kids have been fobbed off for a whole day with nothing fun planned for them.


Be realistic about your short-term ambitions, and don’t give yourself a larger workload than is possible to do when you are also the sole carer for your children during the week. Yes, this may mean that you feel like a very small fish in a very big pond, or that you can’t imagine EVER earning a decent living, or that you have to do something that feels very wrong business-wise and turn down work that doesn’t fit with your schedule. But if the long-term goal is to increase your earnings so you CAN afford childcare / to expand your workload once your children hit school age, then the short-term ambition is to not burn out before you get there.

Don’t panic if people chase you for emails before you’ve had time to respond that same day. Don’t worry that they will feel abandoned. Unless it is really a matter of grave importance or the difference between you losing or keeping a client, they can wait a day. I’ve considered putting an out of office disclaimer in my email footer: ‘I have young children, emails may take more than 24 hours to be answered’, but I’m pretty sure that is NOT recommended in Business Sense 101.

Use an organisational system that works for you. In a complete flout of my rule above, I am ALWAYS checking my emails on the go. But I find the iPhone mobile email system kind of crap, and it’s all too easy to open an email, read it, realise your reply needs a bit more thought than you are able to give right now, and then forget all about that email 3 hours later. I’m currently using the Mailbox app, which allows you mark emails or move them to folders with one swipe, and is also really great for removing unimportant emails from view, so you can concentrate on the ones that DO need attention.

You won’t be able to make time for yourself without it being at the sacrifice of family time, work time, or partner time. If you class your three yearly smear check as ‘me-time’, that’s OK. This stage won’t last forever.

Allow yourself to feel guilty that you are not giving your children your ‘all’ at all times. Acknowledge your worries that they perhaps watch more TV than they should. Let yourself feel sad that your family time is compromised because you need to work at the weekends.

And then remind yourself why you chose to work this way in the first place. It might be the best option, it might be the only option. Either way, you are doing the best you can.



Morden Hall Park

It’s been a long while since I’ve done a post just because I had some photos that I wanted to share.

Every time we have a free weekend day, we try and tick one off my ‘places to explore’ list. And so, a few weeks ago, we took a picnic to Morden Hall Park.

I haven’t been taking my camera out with me on many of our trips lately (too many children/buggies/bags to wrangle), but something about the words ‘National Trust’ and ‘Rose Garden’ compelled me.


morden hall park

morden hall park





Whilst Rory thought the photos were THE BEST FUN EVER (Oh, you have so much to learn, little one), Arlo wasn’t too pleased that we interrupted his game of hide and seek and made him sit still. But I did get some sneaky shots of him admiring the flowers:



morden hall park rose garden


morden hall park

Thanks to Sam, for agreeing to take these photos for me, and for not missing focus on the shots I liked most.


Activities for children at Westfield Stratford City


This is my first experience of the school summer holidays. We have been doing SO MUCH this summer, it’s been bloody exhausting really fun.

We have been so so lucky to have been given ACTUAL SUMMER WEATHER for so many weeks this year. But the problem is, I’ve become so accustomed to it, that when a rainy day hits, I find myself stuck for inspiration in regard to entertaining the children.

On paper, it sounds like the most horrendous idea to take your children to a shopping centre. But every time we go to Westfield, the kids have a great time, and in between their fun, I get a bit of time to peruse the makeup counters or at least one or two clothes shops. Win win.

I have written before about why we find Westfield a really hassle-free place to go with children, read more on that here.

There is plenty to entertain young children at Westfield. If there are two adults, one can take the children to the play areas whilst the other shops, or if you are alone/need to stick together, you can alternate “boring shopping” with children’s activities – the play areas are cleverly spaced throughout the complex to make this task easier.


Weekdays are perfect. Weekend mornings are still fairly quiet. I would avoid weekend afternoons if you can. We are equidistant between the two Westfields, but Westfield Stratford City is where we usually go, as it’s the more buggy-friendly public transport route for us.

Arlo was in kind of a weird mood on our latest trip. He kept asking when we were going to the farm and then getting upset every time I said “We’re not going to a farm, we’re going to Westfield”. At the moment, we’re experiencing a lot of frustration when he feels like he’s not being listened to. But he was soon distracted by the lure of the children’s activities and the play area outside in ‘The Street’.

 activities for children at westfield stratford city

There are different children’s activities on each week throughout the summer holidays at Westfield Stratford City. Check here for the full schedule.

This week’s children’s activity was making your own pies. Arlo made one savoury pie and one banoffee pie. The activity was fast paced with the staff working hard to hold the children’s’ attention. Arlo was done within about 15 minutes – which is the perfect time before he gets too bored of any type of ‘making’ activity. There was no queue for the activity – also a bonus.

After loving some of their other skincare products, I picked up a tub of Hydraluron Moisture Jelly that is on an advantage cards promotion at Boots at the moment.  And we stopped by Mothercare to get a few bits from the Little Bird collection for Arlo’s A/W wardrobe.


On the train home, once I’d FINALLY learnt that Arlo was going to get upset every time I countered his argument that I had told him we were going to visit a farm, I realised the error in our communication.

As far as farms go, Westfield is pretty disappointing. And I’m “definitely wrong” that it’s even called Westfield, as a field has “animals and stuff”. But as somewhere easy to take young children on a rainy day, it ticks all the boxes.


Westfield invited us to check out the children’s activities and we were compensated for our time. 


Simple portrait photography tips – with Photobox

portrait photography tips

Taking photos of little ones can be a tricky business. For a start, children don’t always listen to you or stay still where you want them to. And on top of that, you have all the camera settings and lighting conditions to deal with.

I’ve been doing it for a couple of years now as my own company, Chloe Bridge Photography, for four years with my own children, and before that, as part of a large portrait photography company.

When you want to improve your photography, it’s not always easy to know where to start. Photobox have put together a useful guide to explain the simple but key things to remember when taking a portrait shot.

Below the guide, I will expand on a few of the points with my experience that I’ve picked up along the way. For more photography tips from Photobox, click here. 


photobox photography tips

Low apertures
Shallow depth of field will give you that ‘sharp subject, blurry background’ look. Lowering the aperture will achieve this (an aperture of 2.8 or lower is great for portrait shots).

Remember to keep enough distance between you and your subject – when shooting too close at low aperture, you run the risk of having a nose in focus but the eyes and rest of face blurry.

Finding the right light
Photography is all about light. The word actually means ‘drawing with light’. And so it’s not surprising that light quality is one of THE most important elements of a shot.

(Personally, I think if you nail the light AND the expression of the person in the photo, it doesn’t matter about all the other ‘rules’ – you have a perfect shot).

direct sunlight open shade

It’s a common misconception that a sunny day is perfect weather for taking photos. Bright sunlight is actually my LEAST favourite shooting condition. Not only is it harder to view the results on your camera screen, it creates harsh highlights and shadows, and causes your subjects to squint.

If you are outside and the sun is high, look for some open shade to take your photos – open shade is PERFECT for even skintone and gorgeous catchlights (those are the sparkly reflections in your subject’s eyes).

If you find yourself in a place with absolutely no open shade, the best angle is to position the sun behind your subject/s (so their faces will be in the shade and there will be no blown out highlights), and up your exposure a stop or two to compensate (your camera will automatically meter to the brightest spot, ie the sun, so your subjects will be darker when shooting towards the sun).

Annie from Paint the Moon has some great tips for shooting and editing full sun photos.


Turn the lights off
Avoid artificial light like the plague. When doing a portrait shoot at a family’s home, a question I am frequently asked by my clients is whether I’d like them to turn on the lights. The answer to this is always a BIG NO.

Ceiling lights and lamps will always create a more orangey tone to photos (even with white balance adjusted!) If you are shooting indoors, find a spot with as much natural light as possible, and shoot near to windows.

Of course, in my personal shots there are times when there is no natural light available so I find I need the lights on – Christmas morning, for example. But wherever possible – NO LIGHTS!

Without a doubt, the number one thing that will help you improve your portrait photography is practise, practise, practise. You can read a hundred different guides to prepare you, but the real learning process comes in when you put those skills into action.

Pick up your camera frequently, use it every day, try different things, shoot in all sorts of light, and you will quickly find that it becomes second nature to know what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to portrait photography.

Following the simple tips from Photobox will improve the quality of your photos. But don’t let ‘the rules’ discourage you from taking photos anyway, even if you know the conditions aren’t perfect. I would always rather have a happy photo of my children in full sun, rather than not have the photo memory at all.

It’s useful to know the optimum conditions for portrait photography, but it’s so important to remember that you don’t HAVE to choose to follow them.


This guide was created and sent to me by PhotoBox




On not blogging ‘all of me’

I guess that most people would assume that writing a personal blog means revealing a lot of yourself to the internet. But for me, the reality is that I feel I’m not really revealing much about me at all. There is so much more I could be writing about.

I’ve been working my way through some of my old blog posts recently, tightening up the SEO and simplifying the categories. My blogging style is, unsurprisingly, different now.

Our voices change over time as we go through new phases and experiences, that’s a given. But one thing that I know that has been lost along the way, is the way I used to blog for blogging’s sake, and now, I rarely have the head space or the time to do that.

Sitting down to write used to be a therapy. An antidote to the isolation I felt when Arlo was tiny and I was very much lost in a world that I was still coming to terms with. I didn’t have anyone in real life going through anything similar, but I knew there were people online, with the same sort of experiences as me, who could connect.

I used to write about a simple day we had at the park. A nondescript weekend where we did a bit of DIY around the house. Or an in-depth account of our sleep struggles. I used to blog every couple of days, and include photos I’d taken each and every day. I’m still taking photos, I’m still doing all of these things. Except only 20% of it is making it to the final edit.

I know why. The reason is directly related to the growth of my family. Back in 2011, I had one child. And he used to nap long enough for me to sit down and write. Arlo hasn’t napped for two years, and that’s the exact same moment in time that I had to start prioritising what I blog, and letting the blog posts about whatever has interested me that week, or a particular train of thought that I’ve been holding in my head, become the least urgent posts to write.

Writing about the children, or about family days out, will always come first. I’m driven to write about that stuff because I don’t want to forget. I don’t want to lose that, and if my children happen to lose me, I want that to be there for them to read, in my own words.

But what I also want to talk about is why periods had an amazing month of PR in July, how two hours in a church with Caitlin Moran prepared me and my friends with THE BEST ammunition to throw back at a misogynist bully that same night. About The Returned being a brilliant piece of understated but totally effective supernatural drama and HURRY UP WITH THE GODDAM SECOND SERIES (How are they going to deal with such a large filming gap? Especially with the very young characters? HOW??).  About how having children has effected my emetophobia anxiety (negatively, right now, for anyone wondering). About how seasons 4 and 5 of Parenthood had me lying awake waiting for Sam to come home so I could bombard him with questions about whether or not I was pulling enough weight for my side of our ‘team’. About how I wonder what people mean when they say ‘My wedding day was the best day of my life’. About how Hattie might be in on the time-machine dinosaur clock secret. She’s always appearing from nowhere at the beginning of the episode. Or perhaps Hattie and Andy are actually the same person, like Fight Club.

You get the idea.

That is a small selection of the notes that are hastily written on my phone, with the idea that I’ll turn them into more coherent blog posts at a later date. But I leave it too long and they get pushed way down the priority list never to see the light of day.

Seriously, my phone is FULL of these half posts. THAT’S me.

Sometimes I think about turning down some of the great opportunities we get offered in return for blog coverage, in order that I can clear my blog ‘to-do’ list and get back to concentrating on blogging for blogging’s sake once again. But I love writing about the fun we have when we review something I know the boys will love, or when I get to document a family day out. These are things that benefit the whole family ,as well as providing great motivation for me to pick up my camera.

As with most things when you have young children, I automatically find myself prioritsing them first, even when it comes to my blog, which I started as a space to reclaim me.

I’m sure when I’m old and grey and reading this back, I’ll be thinking, “For GOODNESS SAKE WOMAN. WHY were you complaining about too being busy having FUN to sit down and moan about life??!”

Not being a proficient enough oversharer – it’s a good problem to have.

morden hall park