Self Employment

Switching Off - Freeing Your Mind From Work

Last week we turned off all the plugs in the house, made sure we’d locked the door properly, and headed off for a short break.

It was the first time that we’d been away ovenight with Jacob, so we knew it was going to be a learning curve. It wasn’t going to be sitting by the pool, sipping a beer as the sun warms us. Then again, after parenthood, is it ever that again? Maybe in a (good) few years time.

After an overnight stay with his grandparents, where he adapted to sleeping in his new surroundings without any issue at all, we headed south to St Annes, and a hotel that I used to go to as a kid with my family. It holds fond memories, and having gone back with his family my brother reported that it was just as good and family orientated as it was back then. A last minute booking and we were off!

The weather was fantastic, the people welcoming, and Jacob took to it all so well we ended up staying another night to extend our holiday a little. A very welcome break.

Escaping It All

But you don’t ever really switch off when you are self-employed. I guess it’s the same as being a parent - you’re the one on watch, even when you aren’t officially on duty. It’s not really possible to push it all to one side. And it doesn’t feel right to either.

Returning from a holiday is always challenging because other than during the Festive period, your inbox keeps getting attacked, work continues elsewhere, and the world keeps on turning, just waiting for your return. Which leaves you having to get back up to speed as quickly as you can on those first few days back. The holiday you’ve just had becomes a distant memory.

With self-employment I find the challenge is less about that first day back and catching up, and more about how you make your thoughts, plans, concerns and questions meld away when you are actually on holiday. How you properly relax your mind, so your body will follow suit.

Blue Skies.jpg

Mindful To Be Mindful

I feel like I’m at a bit of a crossroads where I am workwise at the moment, so doing that for me this time was easy at times, and not so much at others. The freedom of being away from a computer allowed my thoughts to wander elsewhere, prompting new analysis and fresh ideas, along with the usual nagging doubts and imposter syndrome.

I’m not sure I’ve quite perfected the ‘walking away’ aspect of having your own business. I’m definitely better than I was, but given a free moment, my mind does tend to wander there. Which is annoying when it is 4am and you find your son has gone to sleep after his feed but you are wide awake. I wonder if that will change a little once I get set up for work somewhere outside the flat?

But even with the occasional work distraction dancing through my head like a Morris dancer who’s had too much Irn Bru, one of the most important lessons I’ve learnt is to make sure you get a break at all. I was guilty of not doing so for a long time, going five years between summer holidays towards the end of my Young Scot days. Now I truly appreciate the value of getting away somewhere different and getting a fresh perspective to recharge the batteries. It’s crucial to your physical, emotional and mental health.

So if you’re holiday allowance is sitting unused, or if you’re a freelancer trying to decide if you can afford to go away, don’t think about it. Take a break (Kit Kat optional).

Self-employment and Fatherhood - the perfect combination or oil and water?

A few days after my last blog, life changed.

On the 19th February, five minutes before the clock changed the date, our son Jacob decided to join us 12 days early. Many had told us that he would likely be on time or a bit late being a first baby. Jacob clearly had other plans.

So first off, I have a good excuse for not putting any new content out recently. My note from the teacher comes in the form of a small person who needs me way more than anyone ever has done.

But the main reason for writing this is to share my short experience of the continuous juggling of being a parent and being self-employed. I’ve written before about the benefits and challenges of working at home. The last nine weeks have shown that I knew nothing yet…

Making It Work

There are plenty of pros and cons to being self-employed and having a young baby. On the plus side, you’re home a lot more. You can manage more of your time to make sure you are there to change nappies, do feeds at all hours, and allow your other half the chance to do the basics like having a shower without it becoming a logistical pain in the ass.

You can work into the evening to give you time to be with your child and partner during the day. The later efforts are fuelled by more regular visits to coffee shops (always a good thing in my book!), sometimes to get your fix, others to get you all out for some fresh air. You can nip out to the shops to pick up things you suddenly realise that you need. Or don’t need but are willing to try just to see if it stops the crying. And you can truly be part of the whole process by being available for the important appointments with the likes of the doctor or the health visitor.

A regular working view for me these days. As one sleeps, another types…

A regular working view for me these days. As one sleeps, another types…

I’ve also discovered the value in doing things in the early hours, before the world has risen and the sky has any light in it. I’ve caught up on podcasts, articles I’ve been meaning to read, and cleared a fair bit of my Netflix queue as my son uses me as a human pillow in the dark. I’ve even come up and started developing some new work ideas in the wee hours.

Most important of all, you don’t feel like you are missing the golden moments of your child growing up. And there’s no price that can be put on that.

The New Pressures

But then there’s the flipside. For a start, you don’t get any paternity. The longer you are off, the less money you are earning to support your family. I had to cancel meetings and training sessions with Jacob arriving early, and thankfully we managed to get them rearranged. But if that hadn’t been possible, it was going to hit my wallet pretty hard for my monthly earnings. Being your own boss already comes with insecurities and imposter syndrome. Yet becoming a parents steps that up a gear. There’s a new reliance on my success.

And yes, being at home means we can spend quality time together. But it also means I have to step up the discipline to make sure I’m not going through to hang out with Jacob all the time. Which is far from easy, I can assure you.

Lastly there’s creativity. It doesn’t always flow when you’ve had an hour and a half worth of sleep. You need to force yourself to focus, and at times just getting the basics done feels like an achievement. The first four weeks were really tough on that front. I’m not sure if I’m now more hardy to the lack of recharging, or if I’m just getting better at resting at other points throughout the day, but things are definitely on the up there.

As I sit here, having just finished my third coffee of the day, it hits me how hard it’s been to reintroduce myself back into the working world since Jacob joined us. Making time to bond with my son, support my wife, keep my business going, get things done around the flat, plus everything else that needs done, has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve had. And likely will continue to have.

I wouldn’t change for the world.