It’s nearly midnight and I’m sat in front of my laptop. I’ve got a blog post to write, photos to take and social media to schedule. My phone pings and it’s a message from a friend. It kicks off yet another conversation about how I have the dream job. I work from home, I’m there for my children and the whole thing can be pretty exciting. But there are a few things you need to know about living the dream.
It’s not a dream – it’s real life
There’s no silver lining or fuzzy edges. My house is a tip and I shout at my kids. Bad things happen because that’s the way life goes. If you want to see what living the dream really looks like, pop round at bedtime. Anytime between 6.30 and 8pm in case you were wondering. There will be tears, tantrums and dogs desperate for a walk. My husband will probably be battling the children while I try to finish a piece of work I should have done hours ago. It will be chaos, just like any other home at bedtime.
Living the dream takes a lot of hard work
I didn’t wake up one morning with the skills, knowledge and client base to be a freelancer. There have been several periods over the last few years where I’ve survived on a tiny amount of sleep. Regularly working until 3 am, up once or twice in the night with Lia and back up at 6 or 7 am to get on with my day. While I built up my business, I was audiotyping as well as blogging and writing. Everyone had deadlines and I can’t let people down, it’s not in my nature. And I was looking after the children full time. It was tough.
… and a little bit of luck
Taking the leap from a lifelong career to working freelance is massive. I was lucky. I gave up my ‘career’ a couple of years before having children. That was a huge decision, and it turned out to be the right thing for me. So when Libby came along and I had the opportunity to work from home, making that leap was easy. I trusted my own judgement because I had got it right before.
And about that working from home opportunity – I was lucky. A good friend was starting a business and she trusted me to work with her on it. Then when Lia came along, it was a small step from being employed at home to freelancing. Giving up a career to work for myself would have been too risky for me. The gradual steps that led me there allowed me to get to where I am today.
… and a lot of support
My husband still works full time. If he wasn’t bringing in that salary, we wouldn’t pay the bills. My work isn’t enough to keep us going by any stretch of the imagination. All it does is to give us enough money on top of his wages to allow me to stay at home with the girls. It means I don’t need to find a ‘proper’ job, I can be there for those milestones. But it’s still tough. My husband does a lot around the house, and without his support I wouldn’t be functioning.
It gets lonely
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a sociable person. I’m happy with my own company. Give me a dog over a colleague any day. But even for me, it’s pretty lonely living the dream. I have nobody to chat to about the little things over coffee. What to do about this or that, how to pitch a piece of work or how my husband has annoyed me. Do you want an example? I got frustrated about the fact that everyone thinks my life is easy. It would have been great to chat about it over a beer to someone who was in the same position. But there was nobody, so instead – well you know the rest.
It’s a matter of priorities
At the moment, freelancing isn’t paying me a full time wage. So we’ve had to cut back on our spending and decide what was really important. For us, holidays matter – but they don’t have to be expensive. We’ve never been abroad as a family, our time will come for that. The girls rarely have new clothes and toys. With a few exceptions, they wait for birthdays and Christmas. And I can’t remember the last time I went shopping to buy something for me. But we have what matters. I won’t look back on the girls’ childhood and wish I’d had a more expensive pair of shoes.
It’s not your dream, it’s mine
I might be living the dream. I mean, it’s pretty amazing being able to work from home. But it’s not your dream, it’s mine. What I do won’t work for everyone, and it has taken me years to get to this point. Living the dream only works if it’s your own dream. You have to really want it. And as for me? I still have dreams. This isn’t the be all and end all for our family. We have a five-year plan that involves travelling for a year. And after that? Who knows. Perhaps I’ll settle down and get a proper job again. Wear nice clothes, commute to work and have a social life. But I doubt it.