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The reality of being a working from home mum

Working from home

Being own boss for many is a dream, just like it was for me. In my adult life I was always employed somwhere, always worked fixed hours (as a teacher and then careers adviser) for fixed salaries and away from home. I loved every bit of that until I became a mum. Something changed about me, my priorities shifted and I could no longer love my job as much as I used to.  I felt stuck in a 9 to 5 office job, fantacising about working from home and doing all the amazing things I couldn’t do whilst sat at the desk. I missed my children, I missed my home, the flexibility and the freedom (and financial prosperity) that would come with it.

In my last job I worked almost 9 years and I absolutely loved it. I had a great team and an office based in the city centre. Cosy, convenient and doing things I really and truly enjoyed (working with young people, helping them to get into employment or training).  I never resented the work itself but the hours that I was working were taking a toll on my family relations. Coming back home at 5.30 after all day I needed a little rest. But my cranky kids needed my attention, exactly as they were having a meltdown. I couldn’t wait until they would be in bed so that I could have a little rest. And as soon as they were in bed I felt guilty about not spending enough time with them. I always promised myself that the next day would be different. And guess what, it never was.

My little ones sometimes visited me in my workplace and we used to take lunch breaks together. It was lovely having this opportunity, however all this time I felt life would be so much better and easier if I worked from home, closer to them. I hated waving bye bye to them and I felt my place was somwehere else. I felt I was missing on the important moments of their lives whilst helping other young people.

working from home mum

When my part time photography business started growing I needed more time to focus on it. I needed to decide if it was just a hobby or a career. I could no longer be a full time mum, full time adviser and part time photographer, something had to give. The idea of working  for myself started appealing to me more and more. I had a romantic, idealistic (naive) vision of all the perks of being my own boss. So, I left my full time job of 9 years and started working for myself, for my own name and a brand that I would be proud of.

The Reality

In November 2016 when I was handing in my notice I was in a bubble. It felt like I was doing a skydive or a bungee jump. I was taking the leap of faith and it felt both scary and sensational. With time when the adrenaline started wearing off and reality kicked in I learnt what it’s really like to work from home as a full time photographer.

And don’t get me wrong. Being own boss is amazing. So let me tell you about ‚the amazing’ first.

  • It is amazing that I can chooose the hours that I work.
  • It is amazing that I can sit in my PJs’, on my sofa, with no make up and do the work.
  • It is amazing that I can take time off whenever I want to.
  • It is amazing that I can set my own prices and choose who I work with.
  • It is amazing that I can work on my own and set my own rules.
  • It is amazing that I can work from home and not waste time and money on commuting and renting.
  • It is amazing my children can see mummy working and appreciate the role I have in our family budget.
  • It is amazing that I am solely responsible for everything.
  • It is amazing that I can always be with my children when they need me, for example when they are off sick, for their sports day or school plays.
  • It is amazing that I can do what I love and be creative.
  • Last but not least, it is amazing that you have easy access to all the food in your house.

But every coin has two sides.

For every ‚amazing’, there is a flip side. There is a big BUT.

  • It is amazing that I can chooose the hours that I work. BUT that means I sometimes work at 11pm, at weekends, at nights. I am never at ease, my phone is never off. Whenever a query comes through I always assume there is an eager potential client whose time is precious and unless I respond immediately they will go elsewhere. FOMO, i.e. the fear of missing out is a real thing and it is a bitch. I am trying to be strict about my boundaries and only respond to messages in reasonable office hours, but occasionally I find myself typing replies at midnight. I don’t recall ever working past 5 pm when I was employed. Once I shut the doors behind me I was off. Being self employed is not the same.
  • It is amazing that I can sit in my PJs’ or other comfy clothing and do the work. BUT, as a woman I also like to feel attractive, I want to make the effort, choose my outfits for the day, put the make up on and feel presentable. When there is little time in the morning for the school run and there is no risk of seeing a client on my editing day I hardly ever make an effort. I brush my teeth, put some cream on and the most comfy outfit I can find and that’s it. I’m at work. Which to be honest is no different from my day off. And that’s tricky. teh boundary between work and leisure becomes unnoticeable.
  • It is amazing that I can take time off whenever I want to. BUT I don’t get paid for it. When I go on holiday for 2 weeks it means that I am not making money and I return from holidays already panicking about catching up on work and getting back the money lost through holidaying.
  • It is amazing that I can set my own prices. BUT not everyone appreciates them and sometimes I hear people calling my prices unreasonable, stupid or that I charge an arm, a leg and the world. I find myself justifying to people why I need to set these prices to survive and offer them the service they will be happy with.
  • It is amazing that I can work on my own and set my own rules. BUT I have no one to confer with, to seek advice, to share responsibility, blame or go to a Christmas party with. I am the photographer, the marketing team, the customer service team, the driver, the boss and whole team in one. I consider myself a sociable person and working on my own 100% of time sometimes is harder than I thought it would be.
  • It is amazing that I can work from home and not waste time and money on commuting and renting. BUT that means my whole family life is mixed with business. I bought a large house for my family to live comfortably in yet one room is totally excluded from use for them. I am a hoarder and have far too much stuff that I struggle to part with, which means that it spreads all over the house. My samples, my backdrop rolls, my props are in each room of the house. Again, don’t recall bringing any of my office equipment and cluttering my house with it before. That’s a new thing and my family are often struggling to cope with it.
  • It is amazing my children can see mummy working and appreciate the role I have in our family budget. BUT that means they see me on my phone or my computer at the time when I should be focusing on them 100%. They realise and appreciate that this is how I work but…
  • It is amazing that I am responsible for everything. BUT that means I am responsible for everything. No one to delegate the task to. I do everything. And that’s hard.
  • It is amazing that I can always be with my children when they need me, for example when they are off sick, for their sports day or school plays. BUT that doesn’t mean I can put my work on hold. In practice that means that I have my sick child under one arm whilst I am editing or writing with the other. That’s neither good parenting nor business management. I take the trust my clients put in me extrememy seriously and want to always deliver and do it on time. That means dealing with pressure of parenting and business all at once.
  • It is amazing that I can do what I love and be creative. BUT creativity (shooting and editing) is just like 10% of my work.  The rest is less creative, more mundane and not as entertaining as one may think. Replying to queries, blogging, ordering, packing, contacting clients, learning, looking for new locations, shopping, tax assessment, etc etc.
  • Last but not least, it is amazing that you have easy access to all the food in your house. BUT that means you eat it uncontrollably. It is harder to be disciplined about meal times, portions and the number of trips to the kitchen. And because you work from home and your daily step count is unlikely to exceed 1000 you add more food to less activity and you end up with new dress size in no time. And it is not smaller dress size, trust me.

Mumtographer

Apart from being a self employed mum, the fact that I am a photographer has added even more flavour to our family life. I reflected on it some time ago and wrote a post confessing to all the things I did wrong to my family whilst following my dream. Have a read here.

I sometimes feel like I want to go back to being employed even for one day a week  just to feel part of a team. I sometimes I feel I need to get some healthy balance, to change the scenery, to literally get out and stop thinking about my business. I find myself thinking, worrying, planning and business managing 24 hours a day. It would be lovely to think about something else for a change.

I probably haven’t said it but I LOVE being at home and working from home. I get so much out of it and I can’t imagine being back at employement full time.  But my point is, before you make leap with a naive expectation that working from home is all fun, bliss and lots of money that you get to spend whenever you please – read my post again. Before you judge another mum who is working from home or feel jealous of how amazing and easy her life is, think twice.

And if you want to be your own boss do it.  It’s worth it.

working mum

Aga

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