Yesterday my son turned two. We didn’t have the big party that we’d planned but a small gathering with our immediate family in the sunshine. After not seeing everyone for nearly five months it felt a little bit like Christmas – a well-deserved knees up after weeks and weeks of Zoom calls, WhatsApp messages and letters being our only way of staying in touch.
This milestone has also made me a little introspective and I’ve thought a lot about everything that’s happened over the last three years. I make no secret of the fact that our son is the result of IVF – a scientific miracle that helps so many families like mine get their happy ending.
But somehow it only feels like five minutes ago that I was crying on the sofa at the thought of starting fertility treatment. Two years of trying unsuccessfully for a baby had gone by and I felt at my absolute ebb. I was heartbroken and sad to the point that I found the whole thing really hard to talk about.
‘Why isn’t this easy’? I thought as I looked over all of the medication and needles stored in my fridge. ‘How is this fair when I want to be a mum so, so badly and everyone around me is making pregnancy announcements left right and centre?’
I was once so upset by a friend’s pregnancy announcement that I had a panic attack in a cow shed. (We were camping and away for a birthday weekend in the middle of the countryside). It was one of the worst feelings i’ve ever experienced and we had to pack our things up and come home. Nothing has ever left me so emotionally exhausted.
Thankfully, for us, it did work out and I think about how lucky I am Every. Single. Day. IVF is hard and I don’t think that trauma, that empty feeling of uncertainty, ever really goes away - even when it works. No one ever grows up thinking that they might not have a family, or that a stranger will be the one to help them conceive armed with an embryo and a test tube.
It’s also part of the reason why I’ve thrown myself, head first, into the parenting space. I’ve been to every group imaginable, waved at every local mum on Peanut, joined every freelance parenting group I can, and dote on my son a little bit too much at times.
As I said in my first newsletter, one of the main reasons I decided to go freelance was because I wanted to start a family but didn’t want to be a slave to a system that, in my opinion, is broken.
Businesses are still not flexible enough. Paternity leave for fathers is still pitiful and quite frankly, insulting to the value that men bring to the family environment. Childcare is still too expensive and pregnant women and those with children are still discriminated against. According to research reported by Mother Pukka, 54,000 women a year lose their jobs in the UK because they have children and most of them stop because their work has become too inflexible.
In my previous job, I knew I wouldn’t be supported if I had a baby. The day-to-day stress would have likely made my IVF treatment fail and I would have seen my son for roughly 2 hours a day in the week if I were to work my contracted hours. I wanted to create a work-life balance that benefited me and my family - not shareholders and millionaires.
And I did it. And so did you! And that in my opinion is worthy of acknowledgment. So in today’s newsletter I’m not only celebrating my boy turning two, but two whole years of creating a working environment that really works for me. Cheers to that!
10 Lessons of Freelance Parenting
Here’s 10 lessons I’ve learnt over the past two years of freelance parenting and some sage advice that I would have given myself before starting out. Maybe a few of them will resonate with you too.
You will love your baby so much it will sometimes feel completely overwhelming. You won’t know quite what to do with the feelings and it may sometimes come out as fear, anxiety and maternal rage. Falling in love is terrifying.
Your career will not fall to the wayside just because you have a baby so don’t panic or put too much pressure on yourself. You’re working for yourself, making a living and raising a small human in a way that means you don’t have to forfit your liberty or happiness. Gloria Steinman would totally give you a high five.
Babies really reveal who your true friends are and boy, some people close to you will really let you down. But the good friends that stay will seem more wonderful than ever and you’ll treasure them all the more for it.
Being mothers or parents doesn’t automatically mean you should be friends, so don’t force friendships with people you really have nothing in common with. You’ll find your tribe with time.
There is a small but supportive community of freelancing parents so join all the groups on Facebook – it’s officially back in vogue. Groups like Doing it For The Kids and Freelancing Females will bring you new work, camaraderie and contacts that you never even knew existed.
Be open about how you work and never be scared to say you have a child. A male recruiter once told me to to keep my son to myself as it might put a big new client off. The client in question had twins through IVF and told me in our first phonecall that she made a point of hiring parents as freelancers. I'm so glad I ignored his shortsighted and sexist advice.
Freelance blurs the boundaries so check in with yourself every now and then. Just because you can work during every nap times, in the evening and at the weekend doesn’t always mean you should. Take that day off and spend it with your best friend.
Stop comparing yourself to other freelancers and take a day off social media when you're feeling low. Reach out to people instead and support each other rather than seeing them as a threat.
‘This too shall pass’ will become your favourite saying. Remind yourself of it after every bad night, nursery illness or horrible client.
Start a newsletter. It gives you the freedom to write about everything you’ve been meaning to, and you may even help others in the process. It also really makes you feel good – and who couldn’t do with a bit more of that right now?
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