This January, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I’m starting the new year without a fancy new planner, a pile of fresh notebooks, and a long list of goals.
It’s not because I don’t want any of those things, I hasten to add. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be one of those sanctimonious “new mum” posts about how I finally have my priorities straight, and, why, I just don’t know what I used to do with my time before I had a baby! Because, the fact is, I know EXACTLY what I used to do with my time before I had a baby.
I worked. I read. I went running in the middle of the day. I had guilt-free showers. I slept for as long as I wanted to. I shopped. I washed my hair every single day. I planned my outfits in advance. I spent time with friends and family. I kept up with current events. I cleaned my house, and organised things exactly how I wanted them. I spent a lot of time mindlessly scrolling through Instagram on my phone, but it was OK, because I had all the time in the world, and it was technically part of my job. I had days out, and didn’t have to plan them around someone else’s nap time. I did all of these things, and more.
But mostly, I worked.
The reality of self-employment, you see, is that you spend most of your time working: partly through necessity (When you’re a one-man band, there’s literally no end to the work that needs to be done, because there’s no one there to step in and take over…),but also because I enjoyed it. And, honestly, there was a time many years ago, back when I was in regular employment, and hating every second of it, when I wouldn’t even have believed that was possible. I didn’t think I could ever actually LIKE working: but then I discovered blogging, and finally I had a job I didn’t just do because I HAD to, but also because I WANTED to. It was like some kind of miracle, really.
And so, every January, I’d start the year by sitting down with my newest notebook (Er, once I’d photographed it for Instagram, obviously…) and start planning out my year. Now, I’ve never really been one for New Year’s resolutions, but I am very goal-orientated, and, when it comes to work, I’ve always liked to set various targets throughout the year, and then try to beat them. It’s one of the ways I motivate myself, and I actually really enjoy it: and, of course, every year there’s that spark of hope that maybe THIS will be the year I smash all of my targets and end up making my fortune. Well, a girl can dream, right?
But this year has been different.
This year, I didn’t even bother to buy myself a new planner, let alone fill it in. I learned my lesson from the fact that last year’s planner remained largely un-opened, with all of the goals and targets it contained well and truly un-met. In fact, by around about March, I’d stopped even bothering to look at my blog’s analytics – partly because I was too scared to, and partly because I knew that, realistically, there wasn’t really much I could do to change them, anyway.
It was our first year of parenthood, and the worst year I’ve had as a blogger in a really long time. And, of course, this wasn’t remotely surprising to me, really. I mean, I’m not stupid: I knew the switch to mostly parenting-related topics would alienate readers who weren’t interested in parenting, and that I’d lose followers because of it. I also knew that I’d be unlikely to be able to post as often as I did pre-baby, and that, as much as I wanted to continue to do things like outfit posts, I might not be able to find the time for them with a baby to look after. I knew all of this, and I was OK with it, thinking that it would just be for a few months, and then I’d slowly be able to get back on track.
I’m still waiting for things to get even CLOSE to being “back on track.”
And, the truth is that it’s now one year later, and things aren’t getting any easier: in fact, if anything, it’s only getting harder as time goes on, because, the older and more active Max gets, the more of my time and energy he takes up. He’s never been the kind of baby who’s content to just sit and play with a toy: he wants you to play with him, and he requires – and deserves – my full attention, 100% of the time. And that, of course, makes working from home downright impossible. Yes, even when your work is “just” blogging. And, yes, even when your partner works at home too.
I know quite a few of you will probably be rolling your eyes at this post: I actually hesitated to post it, for that very reason. I mean, when I was pregnant with Max, people kept telling Terry and I how lucky we were to both work from home, and how much easier it would make it to look after the baby, and, of course, there’s a lot of truth in that. We ARE lucky to be able to both be at home with our baby, 24/7, and we don’t for a second take that for granted, trust me. At the same time, though, it has to be said that there’s a huge difference between simply BEING at home and WORKING from home, and trying to reconcile the two has been the biggest challenge of the last year, by far.
In Terry’s case, it’s been particularly difficult, because his work (Web design) is client-based, which means he has deadlines and meetings and phone-calls to deal with all day long: so, the fact that he’s at home doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s free to look after the baby at any given time.
For me, my work is obviously much more flexible, but it’s still proven very, very difficult to try to fit it in around childcare. As things stand, Max’s morning nap just gives me time to shower and dress (But not to wash and dry my hair), while his afternoon nap gives me time to eat something, and maybe catch up with a few emails, before he’s awake again. For the rest of the day, Terry and I basically play pass-the-parcel, with one us looking after the baby, while the other one frantically tries to work. My parents also help out a couple of times a week, which is an absolute Godsend for us, but, ultimately we’re still trying to fit a week’s worth of work into just a few hours scattered throughout the week – and to to fit it around all of the usual life-admin stiff that has to be taken care of, too: the dental appointments and haircuts (And, er, eyelash extensions…) and endless loads of laundry, etc. It’s hard. In fact, some days it’s absolutely impossible – and by the time Max is in bed, and I’m sitting down at my desk for the first time that day, knowing that it’s now too dark to take photos for that post I have to write, and that I’m probably just going to have to spend the next couple of hours trying to clear the email backlog anyway, I just want to give up: to admit defeat, and walk away, knowing that I tried my best, but it just wasn’t enough.
I don’t, though. Because, crazy though I know it seems, this blog is my job – and I don’t want to give it up.
So I work in the evenings, and in all of those snatched moments of time when either my parents or Terry are on baby duty, and Terry does the same. In this way, we’ve somehow managed to stay afloat this past year, but that’s pretty much ALL we’ve managed. So, the work gets done, but it always gets done at the last minute, and in a panicked kind of rush: gone are the days when I’d schedule all of my blog posts at least a week in advance, and take high-quality photos to go with each one, for instance – these days posts are frequently published on the same day they’re written, and accompanied by a grainy iPhone photo that has nothing whatsoever to do with the topic of the post. Most of the time, I feel like I’m speed-typing rather than actually writing, and if you’re thinking that all this proves is that it’s totally possible to run a successful blogging business in just a few hours per week, then I will respectfully refer you to my blog stats, which prove that, actually, NO, IT FREAKING ISN’T.
Obviously, you can keep a blog running without putting in too much effort. But you can’t really hope to keep it growing, which is why 2018 was very much a year of treading water for Terry and I – and 2019 will probably be the same. We’ve somehow managed to keep afloat despite all of the challenges, and I guess that’s a small victory in itself, but it’s still not exactly ideal, and, I have to admit, I really miss being able to work in the same way I used to: to getting stuck into new projects, and trying to meet new goals. I feel like all around me right now, people are declaring that 2019 is going to be their Best! Year! Ever!, while listing all of the exciting plans they have for the next 12 months, and here I am, still just treading water, and hoping that the opportunities I’m having to turn down right now, because I just don’t have time for them, will still be there when I finally get back on my feet – whenever that may be.
(Probably not until Max goes to nursery, to be honest. And yes, I know that sending him early is an option that would certainly give Terry and I more time for work, but we just don’t quite feel ready for that yet. I’m not saying we won’t change our minds, obviously, but for now at least, we’d rather keep him home with us, while we can…)
And, I mean, it’s not ALL doom and gloom, obviously. While I haven’t set any specific goals for 2019, that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to look forward to. We have a holiday booked for May, for instance, and are hoping to fit in at least one more foreign holiday this year, as well as another trip to Kent, which we’d like to make an annual thing, if at all possible. Our biggest aim – for life in general, not just for 2019 – is to be able to travel more, especially over the next few years, when we’re not restricted to school holidays, and we’ve been talking a lot about ways to potentially make that happen. The main thing here, we think, is to figure out ways to work smarter, rather than harder, and to try to create income streams that aren’t reliant on me taking on sponsored posts, or Terry taking on new clients. (Hey, anyone want to buy my book? Or this very short, and slightly random book on press releases, which came out last week? Anyone?) We do have some ideas to that end, which we just need some time to make happen: and, yes, I am very aware of the irony of saying I need more time, right at the end of a 2,000 word blog post about how I don’t have time to write blog posts. To misquote Oscar Wilde, though, please excuse the length of this post: I didn’t have time to write a shorter one…
And, on that note, Max is just about to get up from his nap, so all of those plans and ideas will have to wait until he’s back in bed. Wish me luck…