Well, I had a kid. And here I am, back behind my desk, working on the new challenge of keeping a tiny person fed, clothed and housed with the same old task of typing thoughts into the internet. I could segue into the miracle of childbirth here, but everyone has heard that before. Plus, I personally found the experience less miraculous and more sciencey. Very cool, life-changing, intense science, but it definitely fit more into the scientific marvel category than mystic miracle for me. Not sure why that matters, but there it is.
To me, the real mystic happening is how parenthood changes this, the state of being a freelancer. I am doing, or getting back to doing at least, the same thing I was doing six weeks ago. Filtering my inbox, reaching out to sources, setting up interviews, researching and crafting stories from the results. But my motivations, methods and philosophy around all of it have shifted. Not drastically, but still dramatically; the way a sliver of sunlight in the corner of window changes the lighting in an entire house. Here’s how.
Time has a different value. During my first five years of freelancing, I said yes to pretty much everything. Likely a combination of wanting to be as successful as possible and being terrible at saying, “no” to people, the policy served me well, if leaving me fried fairly frequently. But that resulted in me doing some great, high-paying work, as well as some low-paying grunt work that simply wasn’t worth my time. Taking maternity leave gave me the opportunity to stop everything, and now that I’m adding thing back in, I’m leaving some of that grunt work behind. It’s not that might time suddenly has a new value; it’s that I finally have the incentive to assess it.
Efficiency has new value. Our childcare plan isn’t exactly conventional. As my husband and I are both self-employed, we’ve simply divided the day into his shift and my shift, with a reprieve every couple of weeks when my mom plays nanny for two days. Six weeks ago, my workday could begin when I woke up and end whenever I felt like I’d had too much wine (oh wait, that was a year ago. Six weeks ago it was just when I was too sleepy to go on). Now, I have a fraction of that time to do the same amount of work. It sounds impossible, let’s not underestimate how much time social media, painting my nails at my desk, creating endless lists on my whiteboard and clicking on dumb links takes up. It’s newly important to weigh what matters, make decisions and get shit done.
Carving Out Essential Non-Essential Time At the same time, most of my long-term planning and strategy time happens when I’m painting my nails. There are things we do as freelancers that are necessary, but not critical for that day’s success. And they aren’t exactly the fun part of the job either. It’s hard enough to stay behind your desk after sending off a paying assignment to do two more hours of work that won’t result in a paycheck anytime soon when the only thing awaiting you is Jeopardy and a new Pinterest recipe. When it’s spending time with a person who physically needs your attention for survival, and is also pretty fun to hang out with, it’s even tougher. I absolutely don’t have the answer to this yet. But I’m working on it.
I know I must do better. Time has a different value, but so does my name. This tiny human is going to develop her own sense of self, but much of that is rooted in who we understand our parents to be. Growing up, it wasn’t just my opinion that my mom was the best teacher in the school or that my dad was the best veterinarian around; these were things I knew. It was evident in the work ethic and how others valued them. I grew up with the assumption that I was an outstanding person because I came from outstanding people.
Whelp, it’s time to live up to that standard. There is no more time to waste just getting by. Everything I do has my name on it, and I now share that name with a little someone. I don’t want her growing up with the idea that her mom is a person who does a thing, but the person who does the thing. So she will know she can grow up to be the person who does the thing of her dreams too.