The words of my six-year old son, when I tried to explain why I was sitting on my computer and ignoring his requests for immediate attention (yet again). Freelance work with kids brings with it a mix of flexibility and constraint. After 15-years working full time for others, the decision to work for myself has been exciting. Finally I can be in charge of my own destiny, choosing when and where to do my work, and having the freedom to work on a variety of projects with a diverse mix of clients.
On one hand, it means I can be more present and available with my three kids. But on the other, it means they’re often being ignored or ‘enjoying’ more screen time so that I can get urgent work finished.
“Only Daddy works”
When I recently tried to explain what I was doing on the computer, my son questioned it. “You don’t work, Mummy. Only Daddy works.”
Well yes, it’s true I’m not the main bread-winner right now, but believe me, I’m working. When I tell my kids their Daddy is at work at the hospital looking after sick people, it’s a concept they can grasp. But tell them I work on a computer writing words, and their eyes glaze over.
As my kids grow older and more aware, I’m trying to educate them on work. What it is, why do we do it, and where it happens. Beyond just making money, it can also be a creative outlet or a way to feel productive and contribute to the greater good.
When I was a child I wanted to be a baker or a vet. Ask my eldest son and he’ll say he wants to be a policeman, doctor, fire fighter or ‘own a museum’. All solid, understandable, career paths.
To his young mind, what’s the point of my job if I’m not saving lives, making something useful or selling something in a shop?
The future of work
My mind boggles when I try to imagine the world in which my children will start their working lives, approximately 15 years from now. Will they roll their eyes when I tell them I remember sending out press releases by post (snail mail!) and calling journalists in consideration of their daily deadline for the print edition. Printed media, what’s that?
According to the Future of Work in Australia 2018 report, 11.6% of the population are independent contractors, and that number is growing all the time thanks to the gig economy and the trend towards flexible, project-based working.
More and more of us are choosing to work for ourselves, and the professional services sector is a growth area for this. This means freelance work with kids is a reality for many parents, and many of our kids are confounded by the kind of work we do. Unfortunately they sometimes think we’re choosing our laptops over spending time with them.
I’m hoping that soon my kids will get used to the sight of me working on the computer, or ‘going to work’ (cafe, library or co-work space). In the meantime I’m trying to involve them in the work I’m doing and make it relatable to their world.
For now, I’ve got absolutely no regrets about my choice to start my own business and work from home. Not being tied to a desk in an office during business hours means I can be there for play dates, extracurricular activities and trips to the park and beach. The beauty of writing for a living means I can do it at night when the kids are asleep or during the hours they’re at school and pre-school.
Who knows, maybe eventually I’ll even put them to work for me. What will the future equivalent be of sticking labels on envelopes I wonder?
Tips on explaining your job to your kids
- Try to make them understand the value of money: “We need money to buy food, clothes, petrol for the car.”
- Talk about the clients and customers you work with: “Let’s visit this cafe – I helped them write the words for their brochure, telling people about their yummy cakes and drinks.”
- Show them some of your processes: “I’m sending something to my client which shows them how to pay me money for the work I did.”
- Relate your work to their world: “Bluey’s mummy goes to work in an office, but your mummy stays at home to do her work.”
Check out this episode of Doing It For The Kids: How to explain your job to your kids for further inspiration and insight. This is a great podcast for freelancers who have kids – lots of practical tips.