Panelist Michi Turner talks about her journey from an unsupportive office environment to a freelance career working from home
I am a freelance graphic designer/illustrator and mom of two. Ione is 4, Arrow is 22 months. Ione is totally energy-filled and rambunctious and has a mind of her own. Arrow is a quiet little dude who loves to cuddle.
They are so different! Ione attends PS110, and was previously involved in a couple different daycares, nanny-shares, and pre-school. Arrow is currently in a co-op playgroup, and a part-time nanny share.
With my first child, nothing really changed. I went back to work, and didn’t really explore any options beyond daycare or a nanny-share. I pumped in a bathroom stall everyday for 8 months, was constantly asked to over-perform at work, I was sleep-deprived - we were asked to leave one daycare, and one of our nannies quit - it was a difficult time.
When I was pregnant with #2, my employers told me that I would not get any maternity leave pay or health insurance, so I already had it in my mind that I was not going back to an unsupportive environment.
I started freelancing on the side to build up a client base, and kept working throughout maternity leave (thank goodness for sleeping newborns!) so that when I did leave my full-time job, I had a fall-back option. It was at that point that I started a branding business with another mom so we could work together on larger projects.
Making it Work
My schedule is very flexible, which works with my kids’ schedules, but it is never the same week-to- week. I have set hours for child-care so I try to go to meetings and get most of my work done during those times (most mornings), but in the afternoons I switch back to mommy-mode.
I usually start working again after the kids go to bed. My partner and I have also scheduled our early-evening time so that we can alternate days, i.e. some days he has the kids and does dinner/bath/bedtime while I work, or vice versa.
If I have a big deadline or project, I will often jot down notes, or type into my phone, while I’m watching my kids. But I don’t sit down at my computer if I’m with them. It just doesn’t work; they can totally sense that I’m tuning out and they tend to need me even more. If possible, we stay outdoors until dinner time. If I’m inside, the temptation to start working is too strong, so there’s less distraction if we’re outside.
I now also have a few babysitters I can contact in a pinch. Because we don’t have family nearby, we have to outsource child care when we need it. It helps to have a partner with normal work hours, as we can tag-team evenings.
Tips, Tricks and Lessons Learned
Burn-out is a reality when you’re working full-time, caring for a little human, cleaning, cooking, all while trying to maintain your own identity. Ask for help. Hire help if you need to. Also, self-care is EXTREMELY important. Go to the gym, go to a therapist, get a massage, go out with your friends without your kids. Make things easy for yourself, and don’t try to do it all!