parenting

  • What are the childcare options for freelancers?

    Are you freelance with kids, or thinking of going freelance when you’ve got a family? Then you’ll need to know what the options are for childcare for freelancers! Thanks to Nina from the Freelance Lifestylers Facebook Group for the inspiration for this post.

    What are the options for childcare for freelancers?

    • Nursery
    • Childminder
    • Family/friends
    • No childcare

    Nursery

    Nurseries are a group childcare option for those that want the benefits of being able to drop off their child(ren) for the day, somewhere that has structure and a class of children the same age.

    Pros

    • Larger groups of kids
    • Lots of activities included, from song and dance clubs to trips out.
    • The perk of meeting lots of other mums and dads, and kids parties. It’s nice to make some nursery parent friends.
    • Purely from a personal point of view, I felt nurseries offered better structure for learning and hitting learning objectives.

    Cons

    • Larger groups, so your child(ren) may get less 1-2-1
    • Often the more expensive option
    • Less flexibility, you’ll often need to give 30 days notice to make any changes, and you pay for the month up front
    • Fixed hours, so whether they’re in for a full day or a half day, you pay one price for each slot. So if you only need them in from 9-12, you’ll probably still have to pay for 8-1.
    • You’ll probably pay for bank holidays and holidays, even if your child(ren) isn’t in (don’t pick Mondays for this reason, a mistake I made!)

    Childminder

    Childminders are individuals who will look after your child(ren) in their own home. They’re often parents themselves, and have a small group of children they look after (1-6 kids).

    Pros

    • More flexibility, both with times, pick ups and changing days
    • A consistent carer for your child
    • Smaller groups, so more 1-2-1
    • Many childminders take their children out to lots of different places, from libraries to soft play, all included in the price
    • Cheaper than nursery usually.
    • Regulated

    Cons

    • If your childminder is on holiday, you’ll be without childcare (although some offer partnerships with other childminders to cover this time)
    • Often work shorter hours than nursery

    Family/Friends

    Do you have family or friends nearby who are keen to help out with childcare? Hurrah! This is a great option, whether they can come to you or you drop the kids off.

    Pros

    • Often free! You could also do a swap with another self-employed parent, so you take it in turns to look after each other’s kids alongside yours.
    • More flexibility
    • A better understanding of your child’s needs

    Cons

    • If family/friends can’t help out, you might not have other options
    • Occasional clashes in the best way to bring up your child, especially with family.
    • No regulations, learning targets or training in childcare.

    No childcare

    Are you looking to fit work around your children’s routine?

    Pros

    • Free
    • Flexible
    • You and your partner are the sole caregivers, so more control over what they do.
    • You don’t miss out on any big milestones

    Cons

    • Having to work during naps, or once they’ve gone to bed can be very challenging. Especially if they refuse to nap, or fight bedtime. Potential for burn out.
    • Not having time for yourself
    • Loneliness. It can be easy to fall into the trap of not going out and meeting people. I found the Mush and Peanut apps really good for getting out and meeting other mums.

    Other options

    What are the childcare funding options for freelancers?

     

    Tax Free Childcare

    While the employed have been able to benefit from childcare vouchers for a while, if their employer does them, the self-employed haven’t been able to use them unless they had their own company. Now thought, they’ve introduced a Tax Free Childcare scheme that us freelancers can use too. Here’s what HMRC says:

    Parents will be able to open a new childcare account. For every £8 a parent pays into their childcare account, the government will pay in an extra £2. Parents can get up to £2000 government support per child per year towards their childcare costs – that’s up to £500 every 3 months. If they have a disabled child, they can receive up to £4000 per child – a total of £1000 every 3 months. They can then use this money to pay their childcare provider.

    You’re eligible if:

    Your child:

    • is under 12, or 17 if they’re registered as having a disability
    • usually lives with you

    You (and your partner, if you have one):

    • are 16 or over
    • live or work in the UK
    • are employed or self-employed
    • are over 21 and earn on average at least £120 a week, unless in your first year of self-employment. Different rates apply if you’re under 21 or an apprentice
    • earn less than £100,000 a year each
    • don’t get other support with your childcare, including from a childcare voucher or salary sacrifice scheme

    You may also be eligible if you have a partner and one of you gets any of the following benefits:

    • Carers Allowance
    • Employment and Support Allowance
    • Incapacity Benefit
    • Severe Disablement Benefit

    30 Free Hours

    Once your child hits the term after their 3rd birthday, they can apply for 30 free hours of childcare. It’s not quite as straightforward as it sounds though. Many childcare providers will only let you use the hours in certain times brackets or if you’re booked in for certain times, so it’s not just a case of putting them in for three free days. If you’re already using childcare though, it should save you some money.

    Additionally, you can use them alongside:

    Tax credits
    Universal Credit
    Childcare vouchers or salary sacrifice schemes
    Childcare grants and bursaries

    To be eligible, you need to tick the same boxes as you do for Tax Free Childcare.

    To apply for either of these, you need to sign up through the Childcare Support website. 

    Conclusion

    There’s no one size fits all approach for childcare when you’re freelance. Personally I went for a nursery because I felt it was a better fit for my busy little boy, but I know lots of freelancers have had brilliant experiences with childminders. The key is to explore all your options. Don’t be afraid to visit a few different places.

    What are your experiences of childcare as a freelancer?

  • Freelance Life: Before and After kids

    Before I had Oscar, I had a very naive idea of how I would mix the freelance life and parenting. I’m not sure if I assumed I’d have one of those children who happily just sat down doing one thing for ages, or I just assumed that I’d have more energy than I do. But the honest truth is that, on the days I don’t have nursery or childcare, I find it extremely challenging to get anything done. I think there’s a lot of pressure on mums who work from home to achieve so much – and being a mum on it’s own can be challenging enough. Someone recently asked me how I get so much done – and I honestly don’t feel like I do, I just happen to be fairly visible online. 21 months on, I still feel like I’m not achieving enough.

    So, I thought it might be interesting to share a day in my freelance life, before and after having Oscar (on a day when I don’t have him in nursery).

    Wake Up

    freelance life parenting
    Trolls guarantees me 15 minutes of focused work time.

    Before Kids: Wake up at 7am, feeling (fairly refreshed). Sit in bed scrolling through e-mails. Saunter to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and breakfast. Scroll through social media. Put shower on. Wash. Put bra on. Dress. Meditate. I’m ready for the day.

    After Kids: Wake anywhere between 5-6.30am. Scramble out of bed to be greeted by the noisy but smiling alarm clock/child. Go downstairs with Oscar and give him his milk and breakfast. Put kettle on. Put Peppa Pig on. Scroll through emails. Put kettle on again because I forgot to make tea. Make tea. Play hide and seek. Forget tea. Drink cold tea like it’s a shot of Sambuca.

    Morning

    Before Kids: Sit down at desk and work through To Do list. Take conference calls.

    After Kids: Sit on sofa and keep Oscar busy with building bricks/cars/Disney movie/something in the garden if the weather is nice. Try to reply to e-mails/tweets/Facebook comments while he’s distracted. Stop half a dozen times to pull him off the walls/stop him eating the toys/stop him filling his toy box with water/applaud him for stacking a high enough tower. Repeat. Give in after five e-mails and join in with play. Still not wearing a bra.

    Lunch

    Before Kids: Make lovely, healthy lunch. Eat lovely, healthy lunch.

    After Kids: Make lovely, healthy lunch for two. Oscar refuses lovely, healthy lunch. Throws it on the floor. Put fish fingers in oven instead. Return to lovely lunch, now cold. Still not wearing a bra.

    Afternoon

    Before Kids: Drink tea and proceed through To Do list.

    After Kids: Kid goes down for a nap. Mad panic about what to tackle first in the 1-3 hours of nap the toddler takes. Work, housework, shower? Procrastinate by mindlessly scrolling through phone for first 30 minutes. Panic a little more. Finally focus on e-mails, writing content and planning ahead. Take a conference call with one eye on the baby monitor, praying they don’t wake up mid-call. Throws wash in machine (last lot of wash is still in the basket, unfolded and un-put away). Debates whether to jump in the shower or baby wipe wash. Finally put on bra. Quickly dash around the house doing a five minute tidy. Child wakes from nap.

    Evening

    Before Kids: 6pm rolls around and you finish up for the day. Write tomorrow’s To Do list, and enjoy an evening of dinner, Netflix, social media scrolling and blog post writing. Maybe even venture outside and socialise.

    After Kids: From 5pm, I have grand ideas of the many things that will be achieved after bedtime. As soon as Oscar is in bed, anytime between 7-8pm, I’ll collapse on the sofa in an exhausted heap. Half an hour later, realise I’m still watching Peppa Pig. Two hours later, collapse in bed.

    Obviously, the ideal is that as someone who is self-employed, I should have the flexibility to just not work on the days when I don’t have nursery for Oscar. Reality is a little different.

    But would I change it for a job? No! I love what I do, my freelance life is just as much a part of my identity as being a mum is. I love that I can be at home to see all the cool things my son learns to do. I love that there’s not as much pressure to be a polished mum all the time (because, no one apart from Instagram can see me at home). Plus my boss (me) is pretty understanding of the days when not much sleep has been had and all I want to do is have a day watching Trolls on repeat. Being a freelance, work-from-home mum is certainly a privileged position to be in, even with its challenges.

    Oh, and this is really only very short-term in the grand scheme of things. In just over a year, he’ll be applicable for the free 30 days of childcare a week. And I’ll be sitting at home, working and missing him horribly. So if you’re going through these early years of freelancing and parenting, remember that it’s not forever! And you’re doing far better than you think you are.

    How does your freelance life compare, before and after kids?

  • My first month as a (freelance) mum

    OscarHow are we already nine days into August? The last few weeks have absolutely flown by, and I can honestly say they’ve been some of the most challenging but best weeks of my life (sleep deprivation and dirty nappies aside). I’m afraid I’m going to indulge in a bit lot of baby talk in this post, so if you’d rather stick to general freelance chat, may I suggest having a browse of some of the Day In The Life Of A Freelancer posts?

    If you’ve read my previous post on pregnancy and pre-natal depression, and the struggles and concerns I had, you’ll maybe understand why it’s such a huge relief that parenthood has been so, well…lovely. I have to confess, I’ve become a bit of a mumbot and I’m completely in love with Oscar, which has taken me by surprise a little as someone who wasn’t really that maternal before. In all honesty, after struggling during pregnancy I think my family, Pete and I all thought the first few months would be really hard for me, but it’s all come surprisingly naturally.

    Obviously, it hasn’t been entirely rosy all the time. Labour was traumatic, complicated and took three days, and both Oscar and I ended up staying in hospital for almost a week after his birth. For about two weeks afterwards, I was pretty traumatised by the experience, however in retrospect staying in was a blessing as we really benefited from lots of time with the brilliant midwives at Frimley hospital. I honestly don’t know how first time mums can cope in those first few days if they’re ejected just a few hours after giving birth. Having that hospital stay as a buffer has undoubtedly helped me settle into motherhood much easier.

    Once we left hospital, those wonderful baby blues hit for a few days, although these were nowhere near as bad as how I’d felt during pregnancy. But since then, it’s been kind of brilliant – and that’s largely down to getting lucky in the baby lottery with this little dude. We’ve been really fortunate that he’s a really chilled little guy, and he’s been taking naps during the day and sleeping pretty well at night. We’ve started to get him into the routine of going down at 7pm and waking for feeds at 11pm and around 3am, which means I get a precious few hours in the evening to relax with Pete and do a little bit of my own stuff (which suits my introvert nature perfectly). Although I’m planning to take a few months off before properly returning to work, I’m finding that keeping my finger in the odd pie and doing some planning for the future of my business has helped me feel ‘normal’ much faster. Which is why this blog has undergone a little update/spruce. I reached a point at four weeks when I realised that all I could talk about was Oscar and baby stuff, so being able to do a bit of brainstorming for work has helped me feel like I could potentially hold a half-normal conversation again some point soon.

    It’s hard to explain how different life is, but also how not a huge amount has changed. Thanks to the anxiety and depression I went through at the end of pregnancy, my expectations for the first few months were pretty low. I thought I’d be a bag of nerves and stress, struggling with sleep deprivation and unsure of whether I’d be able to bond. In reality, it’s all come surprising naturally. Dare I say it, it’s been fun! I’ve laughed more in the last few weeks than I probably have in years. I’ve probably cried more too, but the happy times outweigh that. I’ve definitely bonded with him, and fallen in love with my husband even more than before. Another concern for me was whether it would put a strain on our relationship which I really cherish, but seeing him with Oscar has only further strengthened it. I think having the support of him, and both my family and his family, has made the transition much easier.

    On the topic of sleep deprivation, it’s a bitch – but I’ve actually found it easier to cope with than the shattering exhaustion of pregnancy, which never let up (something my mum guru and friend Leanne told me about but I didn’t fully understand until now). At least now a quick 45-60 minute nap usually leaves me feeling much better. Obviously this is partly because of being lucky that he doesn’t suffer from colic at the moment, which makes sleep so much harder.

    I don’t want to paint an entirely rosy picture, but I also wanted to share a positive story after a pretty negative pregnancy and labour. There have been challenges along the way. He had jaundice early on and I had to have a blood transfusion (we looked like Bart Simpson and Caspar the ghost together) and due to lots of issues with breastfeeding we spent the first few weeks feeding him with a mix of expressed milk, formula and straight from the breast when I could. By the time we reached four weeks, we switched to formula only, and it’s a decision I’m really comfortable with now – and Oscar is thriving on it. It’s also meant that Pete and both of our families have been able to feed him and have lots of bonding time with him, plus it’s given Pete and me the freedom to have a couple of dates while Oscar’s doting aunts or grandparents look after him. It’s a personal choice and I have a lot of admiration for those that do breastfeed for longer, but for us the decision to switch to formula only was the best one. It wasn’t the easiest decision to make though – especially as there’s still a lot of guilt placed on those that don’t breastfeed. Being a mother has definitely helped me be more assertive and strong about my decisions though, something I’m hoping will apply to work too (I’ll also be using some of these tips from Hayley’s post).

    On the freelance front, having a baby is a pretty great way to have an enforced break from things – and gain some clarity. When I can, I’ve been filling a notebook with lots of ideas I’ve got buzzing round my brain. While it’s tempting to start a few new projects, I’m trying to hold off and do a little more development and planning. I’m also using feeding times to listen to some audiobooks, including The Big Leap which is really opening my eyes to ‘upper limits’. I’d really recommend reading it if you feel like you sometimes self-sabotage when things get ‘too good’. In fact, I’m trying to apply the principles now as I feel very lucky with Oscar and keep expecting a big dose of bad luck to come along. Arguably I had that bad luck with the pregnancy and labour, so perhaps he’s the pay off? I know as his naps in the day start to decrease, it will get more challenging – but I’m also excited about the smiles, milestones and bundle of new experiences that come with it.

    Do you have any recommendations for other great business reads/listens? Let me know in the comments!

    So, that’s my first baby proper babble. I’ve got some more posts coming up soon which aren’t baby related, so don’t panic – I’m hopefully not going to become a total baby bore.

    Are you a parent? What did it teach you about yourself? Did it help you develop any new skills?