It’s Tuesday. A nursery day. I’m at my desk chowing down on my late lunch of slightly stale chocolate-coated digestives. Due to my husband’s questionable radio choices from last night I’ve just caught the end of the Jeremy Vine show— $%*^$%$!! — and Steve Wright is now introducing today’s topic for discussion: “How and why did you get the job that you have?”
I almost exclusively work from home so spend most lunchtimes listening to the radio in an attempt to fight the ever present sense of looming isolation that comes with working for oneself. As a result, I’ve listened to a lot of phone-in radio chat. But today of all days, this is the question as I eat my I’m-really-not-sure-you-can-call-that-lunch lunch; a lunch that’s a well-earned break from trying to get this site up and running; a lunch that has followed a morning of starting (and ultimately giving up on) at least 5 bits of writing in a row. Steve couldn’t be more in sync with my life at this exact moment.
Why do I do what I do? Why am I launching DIFTK? What the fuck am I doing Steve??
About 6 years ago I retrained as a graphic designer for a lot of different reasons. Primarily because I wanted to get paid to do something creative, rather than get paid to facilitate other peoples’ creativity. Secondly, I believed (rightly or wrongly) that I had some vaguely decent design ability. But ultimately I paid those bonkers-expensive tuition fees and went to college two nights a week with sugary tea as my only sustenance because I wanted to work for myself. I really wanted to work for myself; for me, but also for my non-existent kids.
I paid those bonkers-expensive tuition fees and went to college two nights a week with sugary tea as my only sustenance because I wanted to work for myself. I really wanted to work for myself; for me, but also for my non-existent kids.
Yep. I was playing the long game.
But then I come from a family of serial sole traders so maybe becoming a freelancing parent was always just an inevitability. I really wanted to make sure that I could work from home when we — that’s me and my then boyfriend Rob, now husband — started a family, and becoming a graphic designer was my means of allowing that to happen.
Of course, the baby-free version of myself — that utterly ridiculous, self-righteous bitch— envisaged an idyllic future where my child would blissfully entertain themselves all afternoon while I painstakingly kerned and crafted my finest design work to date. I’d win some awards. Wear a beret with confidence. Make all my kids’ salt-free dinners from scratch. And all in an outfit that doesn’t resemble my pyjamas. And maybe, just maybe, one day that might actually happen but for now, I’ve got an 18-month old clawing at my leg, peeing on the rug on my home-office floor and pointing at my computer asking “wosssssDAT?”
Good question boyo. What is that?
Well… it’s a window into the magical life of Sarah & Duck, obviously. But it’s also my independence. It’s my way of helping pay for those slightly stale chocolate-coated digestives. It’s my way of making sure I can be there to pick you up from nursery; that I can be there for bedtime.
In a lot of ways my working-for-myself plan actually paid off. I’ve made enough money to not (yet) throw in the towel — despite a right royal rookie tax bill fuck up, seriously WHAT IS CLASS 4 NATIONAL INSURANCE EVEN FOR?! — and I manage to successfully contribute to the family pot since having a kid. But oh my god it is isolating. And it is stressful.
So why have I also decided to launch Doing It For The Kids? A project that will almost certainly eat up any ‘spare’ time or sleeping hours I otherwise might have had.
I want to take away that looming sense of isolation that can come from working freelance; that can come from looking after a little person on your own each and every day.
And I think when I really boil down the waffle to an absolute dried-out crisp, it is exactly that — a desire to want to take away that looming sense of isolation that can come from working freelance; that can come from looking after a little person on your own each and every day. If you’re not careful it’s very easy to lose all confidence in yourself and what you’re doing both on a personal and professional level.
So if I stumble across another parent at Grotty Snotty Soft Play World that also works for themselves, I genuinely feel like I’ve won the lottery. At the risk of sounding a bit creepy, I basically want to know everything about their life. I feel a sense of instant camaraderie with them — which is obviously ridiculous because for all I know they might think I’m a tool, a bit of a creepy tool — but even if they do think I’m a bit of a creepy tool, it’s reassuring just to know that they exist. That they’re doing it.
I suppose Doing It For The Kids is like picking up all those freelance parents I’ve met and putting them in a place where I can get that sense of camaraderie at anytime, anywhere. And I feel like if that could help my sanity day-to-day, then maybe it might just be useful for someone else too.
Photograph by Francesca Tortora.