The Biggest Lie I Was Told About Working for Myself

My idea of the self-employed lifestyle used to be based on magazine interviews with entrepreneurs. Those stories would feature houses sparsely decorated with Danish furniture and tasteful, expensive artwork gifted to them by creative friends. There would be a photo shoot at a nearby by beach (because the self-employed always live seaside) with their gorgeous children barefoot and dressed in white (always white). Their home offices (also white) would be Instagram-perfect with clean lines, no paper, the prettiest of computers and a touch of colour added through a single stemmed flower thrown carelessly (carefully) into a vase (white). They would talk about the wonderful life balance that going out on their own had afforded them. So far, so dreamy. Sign me up.

I have been working for myself for over a year now. My house is not going to be featured in a magazine any time soon. We do not live by the beach. My office is a mess of paper and snatched ideas. But of all the little (white) lies told, the biggest one of all has been about self employment giving my life balance. It has given me a great deal, but the balance thing? I call complete BS on that.

Like many women I decided to work for myself so that I’d have the flexibility to spend more time with my children. Primarily, I wanted control over my own hours. But flexibility is not the same as balance.

This is the thing noone tells you about starting up your own business – your business becomes like another child. Like a child, it demands your attention at inopportune times. Like your child, you are desperate to see it succeed and thrive. Like a child it needs to be fed and nurtured. You feel acutely that the success of your business a reflection of you, just as you do your children. It will take up a significant amount of head space, jostling alongside your children.

Rather than creating this thing that allows you to spend more time with your children, you have essentially created something that requires a great deal of time (and head space) away from them. Potentially more time than a part time job working for someone else would. 

The beautiful, seductive thing is you can choose when those hours occur.  Like 4am because all the other hours are already taken.

Sometimes you can choose. Deadlines pending. Clients understanding.

My business is supposed to be quarantined within three days, during school hours. When the eldest is at school and the youngest is at daycare. My ideal is that I tie up all loose ends in those hours. But my clients don’t work exclusively during those hours. My work often bleeds over into the time I had reserved for my kids. There have been plenty of times when I have relied on Peppa Pig to babysit my youngest during a teleconference. Believe me, excessive Peppa Pig watching sure didn’t feature in my daydreams about how working for myself would look. There is an incredibly fine line between too much work and the right amount of work. I am still figuring that out and there are times I commit to way too much. Any semblance of balance goes right out the window.

On the flip side, I can leave my work and go do something fun with my kids without having to explain myself.  I can make Assembly when my son gets an award. I can volunteer my time because, to a large degree, I control it in a way I couldn’t if I worked for someone else. That’s where the magic is.

Work for yourself by all means. It will be rewarding and worthwhile. Do it because you will learn so much about yourself and what you can achieve. Do it because of the confidence it will give you. Do it for riding the highs and fighting through the lows. Do it because you will get in your own way and then you will finally figure out how to get out of your own way and that will feel amazing. Do it because you are passionate. Do it because you love what you do.

Just don’t do it for balance. It may not come your way.

Do you work for yourself and struggle like I do?

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Image: Getty