Chloe is a self-employed graphic designer. She lives with her husband and their almost-5-year-old daughter, who has just started school.
I worked for a local publishing group for 8 years prior to becoming pregnant, but after 5 years took voluntary redundancy from part of my job – so I went from full time to working 3 days a week. I’d learnt an awful lot from my colleagues but I’d always dreamed of choosing my own working hours and my own clients. I’m also quite an introvert. I like people, but working in a very large company in an open plan office made me quite stressed, so reducing the time I was there was the best of both worlds! My now husband was very supportive of my decision, and luckily we were able to afford it.
My daughter was born in 2013 and after a few months I found that I was able to maintain my existing clients thanks to slings – I got quite adept at working while swaying! The closer it got to maternity leave ending the surer I was that I didn’t want to go back. After a terrible experience with a childminder, our minds were made up! My high-needs child was clearly not ready for external childcare, and I felt confident that I could work a small amount while she slept, so I resigned.
It has got progressively easier to work as childcare has increased over the years, and now my daughter is at school I can get quite a bit done at last! Her school is only 5 minutes walk away so I am back from the school run by 9am normally and work pretty much continuously until I leave to pick her up at 2.50pm. I can sometimes get an extra half hour in while she chills out after school, and if needed I can work when she’s asleep.
I love the flexibility that working from home affords me – I can go to Stay and Play every week and school assemblies, it’s not a problem if she’s sick, and we can get plenty of special time in after school. I could definitely earn more by becoming employed, and the school day is so short that I tend to prioritise work over exercise, but it’s worth it!
I think you have to make a concerted effort to overcome the downsides. I’m getting a dog to make me take a break and get some exercise, and I’ve started a Facebook group of local home-working creatives to provide support. We’re aiming to meet up once or twice a month so we get to talk to real life adults occasionally! I sometimes really struggle with the transition between working and parenting, as the school day is just long enough to get my teeth into a project, only to have to stop mid-flow. I have to be quite mindful not to be irritable about it, but it’s getting easier as we settle into the school routine.
For me, the biggest downside is the school holidays. I’m now working enough that I can’t just stop during the school holidays, but my work is unpredictable enough that booking holiday clubs in advance is not especially helpful. My ideal solution to this problem would be a hot desk/studio space like Ziferblat, but with on-site childcare.
It’s not perfect, but I really think flexible working is the right choice for my family – I am doing fulfilling work, and I can give my daughter the support and attention she needs. It’s pretty satisfying!