Working mum guilt :: Freelance ain’t so shiny

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“I decided to go freelance so that I could be with my family more, not so they could watch me stare at a fucking laptop all day Adam! I feel like I’ve really cocked up”.

Pretty much a weekly phrase in casa de la Shearsmith. Working mum guilt GETS me.

In my past life as a retail assistant for Mothercare, I never really had to worry about much regarding “being there” for the kids. I worked part time hours and childcare wasn’t a huge issue because I was able to ask family to have the boys. The major issue for me would arrive if the boys were poorly – I truly hated leaving them, even though it was a necessity. I had to work, sadly, money was an issue – as in we didn’t have hardly any. The only qualifications we had were those we had built up through experience and they soon became useless for Adam when he left hospitality management to pick something with more social hours. All in all, we were like a lot of people – working to live and occasionally that meant that we missed things.

When I started the blog back in 2013, I kept working and growing. Eventually I was lucky enough to say that I could take the blog and my social presence to the next level, donning the cap of “social influencer”, “professional blogger” and occasional “social media manager”. I was able to do something that I truly adored, was 100% flexible around the kids and that pretty much meant I was working when I was baking with my loves, crafting, going on days out. Then I started to grow and as offers to collaborate started to flood (trickle, it was more a trickle) in, I started to get the bug – higher aspirations. I’m not saying I want to be the next Zoella (lying, that woman has hair to die for, I’d totes be the parenting Zoella if I could) but I wanted to take the blog to a place where we didn’t have to feel the butt clenching “Can we afford the bills this month!?” that we often felt. Going freelance took it’s own toll on our finances, what little we had was replaced with air and then my monthly wage was up and down like an enthusiastic kids on a pogo stick (complete with the occasional fall of the side, rendering the bank balance empty). Pretty much in the way that you feel pride in watching a child grow, I felt an immense pride in watching my hard work come to some sort of fruition, even if it was more dinted pear that orchard. I had to make sure that this succeeded so that when the kids were ill, I could be there. When there was a sports day, I could BE THERE, without having to plead with someone above me.

As I said, things started to get more successful, I got that soft trickle of offers for collaborations and I jumped at them. Well, most of them – I’ve turned down a few including working with a penis enlargement company, I just didn’t see how that was going to fit in between a post about science crafts for toddlers and cute children’s shoes. Perhaps I missed a trick. Anyway, things started to pick up and I started to say “yes”… which meant more work. Which meant pre-arranged deadlines and suddenly I’m working double the hours I did before, turning down invites to play groups and sitting the kids in front of the TV on a more frequent basis.

A few weeks ago Reuben had a school Harvest Festival. The kids were going to the local church to celebrate and with it being a C of E school it happens from time to time and I try to avoid it. I really don’t like religion at all, I’m getting worse as I’m getting older, so I signed off going. It’s not like it was a Christmas performance and I had so many articles to write for so many people… apart from Harvest festival is one of the three “big ones” where parents actually take time off work, and here I am with my flexible self employment telling my son I couldn’t make it. I only realised my balls up when all the other mums were telling each other they would be there in a couple of hours… shit. I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt, and I actually took off work, working until 1am that night to catch up… but it’s not the only time this has happened and it won’t be the last.

“I’ll just do this one email” turns into 40 minutes of work, “we’ll head out to the playgroup as I don’t work on wednesday” turns into a full blown 9-3 work day, complete with 7-12am catch up on what I missed. I frequently find myself missing things at school, the specific reason I decided to become self employed, in order to work – and yes, I can choose but I really do think that makes it even harder. Secure the deal that could pay our mortgage for the month or go and be one of the mums that can make it to the friday morning assembly?

I am NOT complaining about working, heaven forbid, as I know there are so many mothers (and fathers) would would KILL to work as flexibly as I do and earn a decent wage, but I feel that mother guilt like never before because the onus is all on me, with no boss to blame my busy schedule on.

I truly believe that guilt in motherhood is inescapable, we put ourselves under such pressure, so frequently that it becomes impossible not to feel guilt over the work life balance.

28 Comments

  1. June 30, 2018 / 6:45 am

    As someone who is still in the “aspirational” stage of becoming a full time blogger I found this really enlightening. I too want to work more flexibly to give me freedom and I’m currently blogging part time; I’ve had the last three weeks off for holiday but you’ve still inspired to give it my best shot because what you have is the freedom to choose.

    I usually blog in the evenings when Lily is in bec(advantages of a 6pm bedtime!) but I do go on Socials in the day x

  2. November 8, 2016 / 2:48 pm

    I completely relate to this post. The trickle of work, for me, has turned into a flood (which I am very grateful for!) but the hours I’m putting it to try and keep up is insane! I start working at 5am so I can get some done before the kids get up. It’s nuts. There’s got to be a balance somewhere….

  3. November 7, 2016 / 12:06 pm

    I often read frequently about a working mothers guilt, whether through freelancing or F/T employment etc. As I’m not a parent myself, I can’t say if it’s something that could be avoided but I doubt it. I’m sure a parent would like to be there for everything their child has going on but sacrifices are made, I suppose sometimes you can be a little bit more flexible than if you had a boss. People feel freelancing is easy but boy do they not have a clue xo

  4. November 6, 2016 / 11:53 pm

    Lady I hear you.
    I left my full time teaching job to work on supply to allow me the flexibility to be there for my family. It was the best decision I ever made, but I don’t work enough days to cover the bills and my blog backs that up for me nicely. But it also means that I’m constantly checking my phone, taking photos, sending a message, editing a video – and not being quite as present as perhaps I should be. However, as I often remind myself, it’s still more present than I would be if I were working full time in school . . .

  5. November 6, 2016 / 11:31 pm

    Freelance work definitely isn’t as flexible or “easy” as people seem to think it is! Blogging is a very time consuming job and it’s great that you’re so successful at it!

  6. November 6, 2016 / 10:36 pm

    It’s really hard juggling family and blogging. As my girls have got older I’ve found I have less time as they need more help with homework and after school clubs. I’ve never been able to take either of my blogs up to the next level because of this but I’m ok with that. I’m just slowly doing my thing and slowly climbing up those stairs and as long as I keep going up I’m happy.

  7. November 6, 2016 / 9:50 pm

    I am sure it is not easy being a freelancer plus looking after your kids and trying to build a blog business. Some days it will be harder than others but that’s life I think if we lose the balance between family and work then we should worry even more than usual

  8. November 6, 2016 / 10:39 am

    I am a stay at home mum and blog and that first line of face in a laptop made me laugh. Ecause that what I do and rally don’t want to be

  9. November 6, 2016 / 2:40 am

    I know where you are coming from, I have the same problem working from home and it’s hard to keep taking time off to go see all the performances the schools do, The more children you have the more times you are expected to go in too and all the mums seem to go to all of our performances. Then you can’t always help when there is a bake sale or a coffee morning or anything else and others don’t quite get it. They hear you work for yourself from home and think that you can drop everything at the drop of a hat which isn’t quite the case.

  10. nicol
    November 5, 2016 / 11:23 pm

    you’ve just shown what it’s like to be a freelance and a mother at the same time. people may think it’s easy but there’s many scarifies you have made. i admire you

  11. November 5, 2016 / 8:03 pm

    Its so difficult isn’t it? I think with being a mum comes any type of guilt – When I am trekking around the country with one daughter, I feel bad about not spending time with the others. We all do what we can – Therefore why I am reading blogs on a Saturday night x

  12. November 5, 2016 / 5:05 pm

    I 100% relate to this. The juggle and struggle is real. Freelance is great because yes we can be there when our kids are sick, BUT the work is still there too. There’s no one covering for us in the office, the pile of work just grows and grows. It’s great but it’s hard too.

  13. Hannah
    November 5, 2016 / 4:32 pm

    I can only imagine how you must feel and your so busy!

  14. November 5, 2016 / 3:18 pm

    I couldn’t agree with you more. My heart breaks every time my little one clings on to my hands and asks me to come build blocks with him and all i can say is ‘just 5 more minutes’. I hate doing that but I am at such a place where I am bringing my blog into the world and you know, its hard work!
    Motherhood is a puzzle. Sometimes when you think piece fits, it turns out that theres another place that it needs to fit into.

  15. November 5, 2016 / 12:07 pm

    I don’t have children yet, but I kind of feel your guilt. I’ve been a freelancer (graphic designer + blogger) for many many years and I know the pain of “Only one email turns to hours of work”.

  16. November 5, 2016 / 8:41 am

    My mummy couldn’t afford to go freelance. She works full time and blogs on the side and has often thought about going it alone as a freelance graphic designer but she loves the studio space and that she gets to leave her work…at work. As blogging is her hobby she works it around me and not the other way. This week we’ve had a little blogging break and it’s been great. Sounds like you are doing a good job balancing everything, please don’t feel guilty – it’s hard to be a mum that works

  17. November 4, 2016 / 9:29 pm

    I think freelancing is so hard with kids, it’s what I do and I basically don’t do it except not he days my little one is in nursery. He’s only just started and goes in twice a week, but trying to do work when he’s at home is just not gonna happen.

  18. November 4, 2016 / 9:21 pm

    I do think people underestimate how hard flexi life is at times because it isnt all about sitting on your sofa all day x

  19. November 4, 2016 / 9:12 pm

    Aww what a gorgeous picture! Don’t be so hard on yourself, you are doing an amazing job both as a parent and a lady with a career xx

  20. November 4, 2016 / 7:26 pm

    I’m freelance as well and I find I end up working far more now than I did before I went freelance! x

  21. November 4, 2016 / 7:18 pm

    This is such an interesting read! I’ve always said I’d like to go freelance if/when I have kids, but I think even then it can be tough to balance everything!

  22. November 4, 2016 / 5:59 pm

    “I’ll just do this one email” turns into 40 minutes of work. I hear you on this!

  23. November 4, 2016 / 4:36 pm

    I can’t imagine what it’s like to have the stresses of working and being a full time mum, but my Mum worked full time and seeing her have that independence of working hard for her family and having that fire and passion really inspired me growing up. Don’t be so hard on yourself! xx

  24. November 4, 2016 / 4:01 pm

    Agree with every word of this, but I do make sure I don’t miss the school things – at the end of the day it was why I went freelance, but sometimes it is so tough, and it does mean working very late nights.

  25. November 4, 2016 / 3:29 pm

    Aww I bet it is really hard – I don’t think people realise quite how much time it does take up. 🙁

  26. November 4, 2016 / 2:39 pm

    Oh I hear you mama! I quite often sit down to my laptop at 8.30am and go to collect Rose from school at 3.30pm see the bigger ones in etc. Promise myself that’s me done for the day and I’m still tap, tap, TAPPING away at 8pm. I have no boundries and I know that is where the problem is but hey, who am I to turn down a paid collab because there might not be one next week, or the week after? Geez, no advice. Just ‘we got this’ xx

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