How do you balance a family and a freelance career? Michelle Thompson shares her experiences
As a freelancer with a family, the biggest difficulty you face is time. I’m always aware that I have to pick my two boys up from school at 3.30pm, although they stay until 6pm one day per week and go on play dates with friends, so I can get on with it then. In the evenings I disappear to work when nobody is looking. Once the kids are bathed, we have dinner and then I go back to work. I try to stop at 11, but if I have a deadline on it can be later.
My partner – graphic designer Gareth Wild – and I are both freelance; our studio is across the road, but we tend to work from home. When I had my first child, August, I took five weeks’ maternity leave then had to start working, since I worried about turning jobs down. When August was eight months old I became represented by Anna Goodson Management in Canada.
Sticking to a strict routine and fixed bedtimes will help you cope. When my second son, Felix, first came along I let him sleep too long in the day and then I suffered in the evenings when he wasn’t tired. My version of controlled crying was having him jumping around in the cot at midnight, with me sitting beside it and sobbing because all I wanted to do was sleep. Having a cleaner helps, too. From early on I knew I couldn’t look after two small boys, clean, cook and work. And Gareth does most of the cooking. When it’s the school holidays we split the day: he’ll have the kids in the morning and I’ll work, then we’ll swap for the afternoon. Probably once a week in the summer break they’ll go to a kids’club.
The boys have been brought up with us both being at home, but usually working. August is very arty and will often come and sit with me and work on his own stuff. If given the chance, Felix would be on my laptop all the time.
American clients are great: if I mention that I have to put the boys to bed, they ask to see pictures and tell me about their children. However, I try not to mention it to UK clients, who are generally younger and haven’t had children yet, or are men.
Drinking lots of wine in the first few years might help! But overall you’ll find that it gets much easier as you go.