(Art Credit: Sisi Recht)
Being a working parent has never been easy. Traditional work scenarios are designed for people without boundaries and constraints with performance (explicitly or implicitly) tied to long workdays and the expectation to be “on-call” constantly. Fifty-six percent of parents say it is very/somewhat difficult to balance their job and family.
Working for myself gave me a level of control over my time that allowed me to meet my needs and my family’s needs. I’m not alone; seventy-four percent of freelancers say that freelancing gives them the flexibility to be more available as a caregiver for their families.
My “work/life balance” looks different from someone with a 9-5 job, it’s more integrated, and I’ve made sacrifices to make it work. I didn’t take twelve weeks of maternity leave. I went back to work after six weeks, but when I did, I was able to work while taking care of my daughter because I didn’t have a full client load and cultivated long-term client relationships that supported me in parenting while working. I can’t tell you how many calls I did that first year while breastfeeding or pumping!
That is just one example of the give and take required when freelancing as a parent. Ultimately, I can’t imagine being able to raise my daughter and maintain my own sanity while working for someone else—I genuinely believe that being a freelancer makes me a better parent.
I’m not saying people with a 9-5 are bad parents. Freelancing makes me a better parent than I would have been otherwise. Every parent finds their own balance for making parenting work for their life. I co-parent with a 9-5er, and I happen to think he is a top-notch dad.
With that said, here are a few of the reasons why freelancing helped me be the best parent I could be.
Thirty-nine percent of working mothers and fifty percent of fathers say they spend too little time with their kids. This seems obvious when you think about how time is structured when you work a traditional job. If you work an eight-hour day and have a thirty-minute commute, you’re looking at ten-ish hours away from your home when you factor in lunch or other breaks. When you factor in taking your child(ren) to childcare and picking them up, you’re likely adding at least another hour, so now you’re at eleven hours of your day spoken for.
This means that if you’re sleeping for eight hours a day, you only have five hours left to be with your kids, take care of yourself, and do everything else adults have to do in a day. These constraints disproportionately affect women because women are more likely to be in charge of children’s schedules, chores, and other non-work responsibilities.
Time was already a key motivator for me when I decided to quit my 9-5, and that became even more important when I had my daughter four years ago. When I worked for other people, I barely felt like I had enough time to spend on myself, let alone take care of another human.
Freelancing allows me to have more control over how I spend my time; it also means that sometimes the boundaries between work and life are a bit fuzzier.
I make more money working for myself than working for other people. I’m not alone in this. Sixty-two percent of freelancers say they make more than they would for a traditional employer, and the number of independents reporting annual earnings of $100,000 or more increased by nearly thirty percent from 2020 to 2021.
It isn’t just that I make more money, it’s that I get to think differently about how I spend that money and the time it takes to make it. I used my flexible schedule to keep my daughter with family or with me for the first year, avoiding the crippling costs of full-time childcare for an infant. I continue to leverage that flexibility to avoid paying for after-school care and expensive summer care now that she’s in a public school. I can also build passive income streams that allow me to change the relationship between money and time.
On top of the obvious benefits of having more money and making it work more effectively for me, I’m also teaching my daughter different ways to think about income and the relationship between time and money.
Health & Happiness
If parents barely have time to spend with their kids, do you think they have time to take care of themselves? This was a huge one for me before I had my daughter. I constantly felt like I was sacrificing my health and happiness for work. I know that I’m a better parent when I’m healthy and happy, and research supports the connection between parents’ mental health and children’s mental health.
Freelancing supports my mental and physical health in so many ways. I have more time and flexibility for my own health and happiness activities (e.g., working out, meditating). I also have less stress because of the way I’ve integrated my life and work. Most importantly, I’m fundamentally happier because I’m doing work I love and working with people I enjoy.
Recent research shows that this is true for other freelancers as well. Eighty-seven percent of full-time independent workers say they are happier working for themselves. Sixty-seven percent of freelancers say working for themselves gives them the flexibility to address personal mental or physical health needs.
I know working for yourself isn’t for everyone, and there are millions of parents out there working a “normal” job and being amazing parents. I also know that for me, all of the benefits of working for myself also allow me to be a much better parent than I would otherwise. On top of that, I get to show my daughter what it’s like to follow your dreams and create the life you want to live.