We’re back with another round of “Mom Talk”, where we invite some incredible mothers, from all walks of life to share their personal experiences and journeys through motherhood, whether it be struggles, triumphs, or anything in-between—nothing’s off limits when it comes to topics. This week, Alice Ashe talks being a new mom, while deciding to fully pursue her freelance career. -JKM
Six months after my son was born, I took the leap, left my magazine job, and became a freelance graphic designer. My husband, Tim, and I had loosely started planning for it right before Emmett’s arrival, but did not get serious about my making the change until a couple months before I officially left my job. And, in the middle of the summer of 2015, I found myself with a newborn, who I was convinced I did not need daycare for, and a new business.
It probably happened more slowly and naturally than my memory makes it out to be. I had been doing freelance work on the side for almost a decade and had a small, mostly local client base. But, nothing quite prepares you for the daunting feeling of sitting alone on a couch in the middle of the day with an infant, realizing you may have just whisked away your financial safety net. Tim and I obviously crunched a lot of numbers before we made the decision. With his non-profit job, even without paying for daycare, my work was definitely needed to make ends meet.
Things went well the first few weeks. But, they went well for two reasons: one, I had worked out a deal to continue to contract for my old employer, while they found my replacement. And, two, my mom came to help with Emmett. It was great. I had work, and I had free daycare. Then, as summer ended, my mom went back to school as a first grade teacher, and my days started to slow down.
While I relished in the break from commuting downtown every day, the quiet of our neighborhood—while everyone else was off at work—started to set in. I felt like I was breaking the law when I took Emmett out on mid-morning walks to the park, or if I turned on the TV before noon. I tried not to let it bother me and to appreciate the new time I had with my child. I reminded myself that this is why I did this, and that someday I will miss it. But, the change was hard because as my days slowed down, so did my emails.
Having worked for magazines most of my career, I was accustomed to emailing constantly—sending off invoices and hunting down illustrators—working at breakneck pace to get a layout sent off to editors. Now, as soon as Emmett would go down for a nap, I would jump online and just sit there, hitting the refresh button in my email, praying for a response and something small to work on. My emotions were on a roller coaster. Going freelance had long been a dream of mine, but why did I decide to do it right after I had a child? How reckless! What if we can’t afford to do this? Three years ago, we were renting a small apartment, with no child and no responsibility. That would’ve been the perfect time for me to test out what now felt like a crazy idea.
Later that fall, I started to get lucky. After sending out countless contract applications for months and piecing together small jobs, I picked up a website redesign and, after a nudge from another client, made a cold call and was hired for a branding project. I was thrilled. I was even getting better at juggling my work around Emmett. I scheduled calls when I knew for sure he would be napping, set up yoga mats and blankets in my office so he could play with toys, while I hopped on my computer, and started believing that I could actually do this. Then, he started crawling.
Like all new parents, Tim and I were overjoyed and so proud of our little guy. After weeks of gently pushing him up on all fours, he finally put it all together, and was on the move. But, it didn’t take long before we realized what his newfound freedom meant in our not-so-baby-proof bungalow. And, I had not factored this into my freelance plan. We borrowed a playpen from friends. Surely I could keep him contained in that, while I tried to plow through some work during the day? He hated it. I was an emotional mess. I tried playing catch up at night and on weekends, but it wasn’t enough. Something had to give.
Emmett started daycare shortly thereafter. While it was hard tossing another wrench in our budget and sending him away every day, it was the best decision for both of us. Of course, I found the more time I had to work, the more work I had in return. Having him in daycare gave me space to focus on projects, so at the end of the day, I could focus on him.
As they say, freelance work ebbs and flows. You constantly have to hustle. Much like parenting, it definitely takes time to figure out. But, for me, it has turned out to be incredibly rewarding—again, like parenting. I love my clients and have had opportunities to work on some amazing projects that I otherwise would not have been able to consider. And, a couple years in, I do have a more flexible schedule and am able to appreciate and use the slow periods to spend time with my loving son and family.
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