In my last post on balancing parenthood with freelancing I talked about maternity leave logistical realities. This week I want to talk a little bit more about the emotional side of things. After defining myself by my work for so long, I was shocked to find myself not loving work after g-pterodactyl (preschooler girl) was born. I took 5 months of maternity leave after g-pterodactyl was born, which I needed for both the physical recovery and the mental adjustment to parenthood. Returning to work was a bit of a shock, and it was the first time my ‘work’ felt like ‘work’.

A giant elliptical galaxy swallows up a young spiral galaxy. Recently created during the kiddos’ naps and after bedtimes for All About Space magazine. © Nicolle R. Fuller

It really bothered me that I wasn’t working purely for the love of it anymore. Before my pterodactyls, people used to give me a wink-wink, nudge-nudge when I told them that no, really, I didn’t do it for money–but I meant it. That shifted a bit when g-pterodactyl came along. I had to force myself to sit at the computer. Once I got going I enjoyed the work, but there were still other things I’d rather be doing: watching her learn to crawl, making yummy food, sleeping… I never got to a point where I wanted to quit, but I finally understood why many women do want to focus entirely on their families. We financially needed me to keep working, and I also knew that I’d worked too long and hard building both my skills and my client base to give it all up. Even if I’d wanted to take a temporary break beyond my maternity leave, I knew I would have had a long road re-establishing myself.

So I pushed through despite not ‘feeling it’. I finally got to a head-space where I could accept that motivations change and that’s ok, but it was quite a journey. It was a journey to convince myself that I could still do good work when I wasn’t feeling the pure love, and it was a journey to trust myself that I would likely get back to a place where I truly did love my work again.

With b-pterodactyl (baby boy), things have felt financially harder (oy vey, childcare for 2 under 5!), but the good news is that it hasn’t been as much of an emotional transition. After cutting down on childcare I’m essentially working during nap times and late at night. I am enjoying work again, luckily; it’s as close as I get to downtime right now.

I look forward to a time when I have more energy and my time isn’t so strained. I have to guard against pushing myself to the point that I don’t have enough left for my pterodactyls, and I have to try my best to be honest with myself about my own health for the long haul. Staying up until 2am to finish work is a lot harder when there is a 3year old who gets up at 6 am. Spouses/partners may understand why you ignore them for a day or two recuperating (or curse as you stumble bleary-eyed through the house), but the baby and preschooler don’t.

I try my best to be smarter and pickier about what jobs I accept, and more focused when I do have time to work but now that I’m grasping for any work time I can get, it’s harder to clearly separate my work time and my kid time. Today I caught myself looking up reviews on easels when I should have been focusing on the trains g-pterodactyl was making fly (because of course, trains fly). When I should have been focusing on work emails during her preschool and b-pterodactyl’s nap, I found myself clicking the emailed link to a sale for kid’s clothes. This sort of thing is bound to happen, but it really CAN’T when you only have nap-times and after-bedtimes to work. Similarly, I take the IRS seriously when they say that your office space has to be exclusively for work in order to claim it. And yet… that baby pterodactyl started crawling (into my office)! And the girl-pterodactyl wants to draw on the Cintiq… the sage advice to define your own work space seems so much more complicated now that pterodactyls are constantly blurring the lines.

I am lucky. Yesterday I drew a galaxy and then went outside after naps for bike riding to meet Daddy off the bus. The day after tomorrow I’m taking the pterodactyls to the zoo. This crazy time will pass, and I’m sure I’ll look upon the time fondly. But if anyone else is out there feeling pulled in all directions, wondering how they can manage to stay up late to finish their work and still have enough patience to play ‘kitty’ with their preschooler, please know you’re not alone.

Read more about adjusting to freelancing with kids in the first Parenting-As-Freelancer post Maternity Leave as a Freelancer, and stay tuned for future posts.