Chloe

I can’t own all the days

Last week, I lay on the floor in Arlo’s room. I was angry. It was a sunny morning, for once. Both children were in good health, for once. It was our one full day off during the week. And there was no way I could think about finding the strength to dress everybody and guide a three-year old, buggy board, bike, and baby, to the park and back again. As the morning grew later, it became obvious that I was waiting in vain for my energy to appear. The night before had been awful, and I knew that day would be a write off.

I can’t own all the days. There will be days, weeks even, where it’s better to accept that nothing is going to happen, nothing is going to get done, and I have to learn to be happy that the pace of life has to slow down, because there’s nothing I can do to change it.

Of course, being self-employed and having work of a seasonal nature makes this concept a bit more tricky to swallow – if I book in a busy month of photoshoots, then it’s not as simple a matter as saying “Oh well, someone’s ill, or we haven’t slept in days, so this week will have to be a slow week”. Of course, that’s not going to cut it.

But for now, I am not working all that much. There are various reasons for this – I don’t work much in January and February because the weather is less than perfect for photoshoots. Plus, Sam has several trips coming up for work over the next few months but we don’t know exactly when yet, so I have purposefully not been touting for much business because at the moment, I’m unsure that I’d be able to fit it in without him here to look after the children whilst I do a shoot, or whilst I need to edit. We have the same situation year on year, it’s always going to be the same until we have some sort of solid childcare in place for both children.

And the other reason I’ve not been working as much is because I wanted to see how I felt after temporarily removing one time-stealing factor from my life. This decision also coincided with Arlo doing two longer days at preschool (from 9.30-2.30). I still have Rory , so it’s not an opportunity to work. But he is a relaxed, easy baby, and a baby is a LOT less mentally taxing than a three-year old. So, I have more breathing space. Part of my day actually feels relaxing. I can wind down. If I manage to get Rory down for a nap in the cot, I even get 30 minutes of time just to myself, without any children – I can count on two hands the number of times that has happened since Arlo stopped napping over a year and a half ago. And I get to spend time with my baby, and we all know how fleeting that stage is.

Some photos of my time with just Rory in recent weeks:

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Looking out of the window like a dog – his favourite thing to do at the moment. 

It’s made a big difference. January and February have been quite pleasant, really, considering my usual mood at this time of year. Sam says I seem happier. There aren’t any deadlines. Free time is a bonus, not a rush to get important things done. I am playing with my children. I haven’t really played with them consistently for ages. I’m always attempting to fob them off so I can work. Arlo comes home from preschool and we do jigsaws, or board games. I make Rory giggle. His life isn’t just a cycle of trying to get him to sleep so I can get things done.

So, basically, I’ve confirmed my suspicions – which were that I’m happiest being either a stay at home parent, or working (with childcare), but trying to balance the two (with no childcare) is really not very fun. Just as I can’t own all the days, I also can’t win at all the roles, all of the time. I want to enjoy my children, and live in the moment with them. I enjoy my job, and I wish I had more time for it. I wish I got more of a break as a parent, more often, so I could better appreciate my time with my children. I wish for a lot of things, that are impossible to wish for all together at the same time. It’s a parenting paradox.

I don’t know where this leaves things, because ultimately I do need to work, and I’m out-of-pocket if I pay for childcare, but at least I’ve clarified the situation in my head rather than it continuing to be a jumble of guilt, confused responsibilities, and tiredness weighing me down.

Sorry About The Mess is a personal lifestyle and family blog. documenting the life of London blogger and photographer, Chloe. This is our family story.

Comments (11)

  • I get this post totally Chloe. At the end of last year I was struggling trying to attempt to do photography, freelance social media work, two children in no childcare whatsoever and trying to be a good Mum. I was constantly stressed, constantly counting down the minutes until nap time and just generally feeling uptight. We made the decision to put LL and Mads in nursery two long mornings a week (9-2.30) so I could get freelance stuff done, and I have also made the decision that I couldn’t juggle it all so for the time being I have put the photography on hold. I was actually getting quite a few enquiries but I don’t really feel confident or ready yet, I enjoy the outdoor shoots but the indoor backdrop ones stressed me out no end. They were also always at the weekend, would take hours for relatively small pennies, and in the end something had to give and it was that. Last week was my first week of the new routine and I relished those few hours to myself to get work done. I feel refreshed, and while I still have stuff to do at nap times and at bedtime, it isn’t anywhere near as much. As such I am having evenings with my husband and just generally being a better Mum the rest of the time.
    We can’t do everything and we can’t excel at every single role. And that’s ok. We just need to find a happy medium. x

    Reply
    • I know what you mean. There are certain photography scenarios that I just know will be not enjoyable or just aren’t my thing, and I’ve started turning these down, because if I have limited time I want to only be doing the type of shoots that I really want to focus on. So difficult to do all of this without childcare. I don’t think I can justify the cost of childcare for Rory just yet, but in a year’s time I hope to be in the same position where I can have a day or two to work.

      Reply
  • Totally relate to this. Truly.

    I actually restructured my work life at the start of 2014 feeling burnt out by the end of 2013, trying to ‘have it all’.

    I’ve taken a day off midweek with my eldest at 4 who is in pre-school 4 days and like you said, an easy baby is more manageable and I share the childcare with my Mum (realise I’m lucky on that one)…I have more time for the kids and try and write/blog professionally and do any screenwriting on an evening but I’ve got stricter with myself, said no to work I didn’t feel passionate about, upped my freelancing fees I can take on fewer commissions without a loss in earnings pretty much and although some days still feel stressful, most are manageable.

    Not easy this work/parenting juggle is it but like taking small steps/action makes a huge difference!

    Reply
    • There’s definitely no room to do work that I’m not passionate about. I used to feel guilty turning down things that didn’t quite fit the bill, but I’m much happier in doing it now.

      Reply
  • I’m in the same situation too lovely – i do a bit of freelance here or there but its now completely impossible to do it at home without childcare. It puts way too much stress on us all and no ones happy.
    Give yourself a break though and don’t feel guilty, everything you say is just normal stuff that ever parents struggles with (well i do anyway!) x

    Reply
  • Another freelancer in a similar situation over here. I think it’s completely normal to need time to figure this kind of thing out.
    My maternity leave ended before we had childcare sorted but M was never the kind of baby who’d let me work. Financially it was really tough but I ended up taking another three months unpaid to look after him. Now he’s at nursery far more than I’d like, but I just don’t see any other way of doing it. I need to work, and I’ve already reduced my load as much as can.
    That said, I work less than I would in full-time, in-house employment so I spend more time with him than some of my friends do with their babies. Being freelance also means that when I have a quiet afternoon I can go and pick him up early. It’s all about finding a balance, though some weeks that’s still harder than others!

    Reply
    • Yep, all about that balance. And you are right, some weeks are lovely, others are harder.

      Reply
  • Sending you strength and sympathies in getting through this – I wish I’d taken the time to just ‘be’ though, so kudos for that.

    I’d offer you advice but having chickened out of the daily juggle I feel unqualified to do so!

    Reply
    • You are far more qualified than someone who has never tried the joys of working from home. In fact, you have done both working from home/self-employment and working in a ‘proper job’ with childcare so I’d say you are doubly qualified on the subject!

      Reply
  • Yes. Me too. It’s exhausting.
    One thing though: you wrote, “ultimately I do need to work, and I’m out-of-pocket if I pay for childcare”
    But, you aren’t a single parent.
    Childcare costs are not your sole responsibility. If childcare costs £70 a day (that’s what mine costs) then you are paying £35 of your daily wage/income.
    If you give up all your paying work to do 100% childcare, then you are actually paying 100% of £whatever-yr-daily-income-is for childcare. You are also doing a full-time job for £0 a day. So you are doubly out-of-pocket: you have lost the earnings you would have made, and, you are spending all your time doing a new full-time job that pays you nothing, which is also a cost.
    Does this make the sums work out differently?

    Reply
    • Where I say “I”, I mean “we”. I am talking about our joint finances. It doesn’t matter which way you split it, our joint earnings will be in minus figures if we pay for any more childcare.

      Reply

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