Reality Check: Making It Work as a Freelance Mom

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If there were ever two words that just don't seem to go together, they're "freelance" and "mom." I once resorted to taping a sign on the closed door of the bedroom where I was working from home that said: "Unless bones are protruding, there's blood or there are flames, DO NOT INTERRUPT!"

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The approach didn't work well. My son slid the paper under the door, right back at me, within just a few minutes. He'd written: "How high do the flame have to be?"

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The moral of the story is that you'll have laughter and you'll have hair-pulling moments, but working with kids underfoot at home is doable, even if your chosen career is as a freelance writer. Of course, it gets infinitely easier as your children grow older, although this goes hand-in-hand with them mastering the art of sarcasm.

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Time Is Money

Keep this mantra in mind at all times: time is money. You must dedicate certain times of the day to uninterrupted work. Nothing other than blood, bones or flames can interfere.

Babies take naps. Use those hours for your brain-intensive work when you really have to concentrate. Set your personal alarm for an hour or two before your older kids wake up and do the same. Rush back to your desk as soon as you drop your child off for soccer practice – no stopping for errands on the way. You can do those later ​with​ your child. Get as much heavy lifting done during these times as possible. They should be reserved for jobs that really can't accommodate multitasking. You can take care of other work tasks while you're keeping an eye on them.

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It Takes a Village

You're working to pay your sitter's bills, not your own, when you pay someone to watch your children so you can get your work done. But you'll probably realize that you have other resources in place if you think about it. Your most obvious option is your spouse or partner, if you have one. Make ultimate use of the time when they're home and available to take over parenting duties.

Yes, this may be at 8 p.m., hours after the "official" workday has ended and you still have to touch base with a client. But honesty can go a long way here. Tell them what you're up against. Ask if they would mind having that important conversation after business hours or on a weekend. You might be surprised by how accommodating they can be.

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Your kids' friends' parents are probably more than willing to watch Junior for you for a few hours so you can cover a key work situation, particularly if you offer to take ​their​ Junior(s) off their hands in exchange so they can have some downtime. Or rotate after-school hours among you. You can take on the neighborhood kids on Monday knowing that you'll have the rest of the week free to dedicate to your work.

In a perfect world, your little ones might even have older siblings who can step in. You might have to pay them a little to keep an eye on the little ones, but at least the money stays in your family.

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Lay Your Cards on the Table

Bribery is not necessarily a dirty word, although it works better with older kids. Nothing says you can't put things into a perspective that your kids can understand. "You know that gaming console you've been dying for? It's not going to happen unless you let me work for an hour." It can be a highly successful approach if you're sure you can deliver.

A reward system can work well with younger children. "We'll go to the park at 4 p.m. if you leave me alone for one hour." One parent suggests setting a visible timer for kids that lets them know they only have to button up and leave you alone for another 26.7 minutes.

It's doable … and it's all worth it.

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