How freelancing helps in tough family times
JADE SHARES HOW HER WORKSTYLE BECAME A SAVING GRACE FOR HER FAMILY
March 29, 2019
When I decided to become a freelancer a little over a year ago, it was partly because I wanted to spend more time with my family - my partner, his daughter, his mum and our (many!) pets. I craved more flexibility, especially around school holidays where I felt I was missing out on a large part of my unofficial stepdaughter’s childhood.
Looking back, it was the best decision I could make for my family. Not just because of the extra legroom I now have when it comes to spending time with them, but because it really paid off when we had a family emergency.
This Christmas, overwhelmed with my stepdaughter’s complex needs (she’s autistic), her mother decided she couldn’t take care of her any more. Which is how my stepdaughter came to live with myself and my partner full time.
It’s been a learning curve, but it has been massively helped by my flexible workstyle. Being able to shift my hours around to accommodate school meetings, doctor appointments and spending time with my stepdaughter has been invaluable. Especially in the early days, when we were all trying to figure out our new routines and help her settle in.
With the freedom that this lifestyle offers, I can still fulfill my usual work (albeit sometimes at odd hours) whilst looking after someone who needs a lot of support. If I had been in the full-time office job that I was working before going freelance, I definitely would have had to take time off. I may have had to cut down my office hours and my pay along with it - which would’ve been a disaster with an extra mouth to feed! It would have made an already stressful time a lot more difficult.
My stepdaughter has complex needs. It means she cannot be left alone and needs supervision for various activities. Both my partner and I can work flexibly, so somebody is always around to do the school run and support her. She has fallen behind at school, so we’re currently doing a lot of extra work with her to improve her reading age, maths and writing. These extra study hours often fall within my old office hours - it’s when she works best.
It has also become apparent that she needs more support, so we’ve begun the lengthy process of getting her re-assessed. This means a lot of visits with doctors, educational psychologists and her school’s SEN coordinator.
My working day has adapted seamlessly to this. In fact, I’ve been able to take on more projects despite the new arrival in my life. I now spend the morning and early afternoon working, often clocking off when my stepdaughter finishes school. Then, after a family dinner and homework, I log on again for a few hours.
I don’t feel like I have to compromise. I haven’t had to choose between my work and my family because I can balance both. This whole experience has made me extremely grateful for the opportunity to work like this. To find a workstyle that fits every member of my family. Plus, I’m happy to report that my stepdaughter is doing pretty well - all things considering. This week we had a not-so-small triumph: she scored 75% on her Spanish test, a subject she had previously been failing. She was awarded a merit for her efforts, and I’m so proud of her.
World Autism Awareness Week is 1-7 April. The National Autistic Society has a wide range of activities across the week to raise money and awareness. To find out more visit autism.org.uk.
Jade is a freelance marketer and writer. She lives in London with her partner, stepdaughter and many pets. Jade became freelance after several years working in in-house marketing and communications, to look after her family, grow her career in different ways and spend more time with those aforementioned pets.