Friday, April 27, 2007

The fearless freelancing mother

Back in 2000, I hated my job at a university computer help desk so much that I was willing to do just about anything to get out. So I did: I started my own freelance writing business. My birthday present to myself was leaving the workplace. I figured if it didn't pan out, I could always go back to tech support - in a different company. But it did pan out. Within two months, I made my first sale. My first article appeared in October 2001, and the following year I got contracts that carried me through 2002. I felt I'd arrived. You could say I was, in a word, fearless.

That all changed in late 2002, when I found out I was pregnant with my first child. Even though I'd started to freelance with an eye toward staying home with children, reality scared me badly. I got an inkling of what it might be like when I totally lost my brain, when the hormones made me so scattered that I had to wonder if this was what it was like to work around a talkative, active little boy. (It is, only louder, though it is slightly easier to pick up the thread of what I was doing.)

Fortunately, I was working for editors who were also parents - or becoming parents. One was pregnant with her fifth child, due not long before me. The other's wife was due with their first, just a few weeks after me. They were sympathetic and supportive, and they waited for me during my protracted maternity leave.

Pregnant with #2, I found I wasn't quite so fearful. The placenta brain wasn't so bad this time around, and even though Hamlet had dropped his nap the year before, I was able to take on other work that didn't necessitate blocks of quiet time. Fearlessness came once I realized the most crucial aspect of working at home with children: to succeed, I had to find ways to be flexible. To be willing to change the type of work I was willing to do, to change my expectations about my time - and my kids'.

This year sees me blogging for a Disney subsidiary, continuing the work I did for an architectural PR firm, and a few other odds and ends to keep my irons in the public-safety fire. In other words, six years after I first quit my "real" job, I'm still a successful freelancer - and a successful mother, too. That knowledge keeps me fearless that whatever life throws my way, I'll be able to handle it and still survive.

* This post brought to you today by MotherTalk, which is promoting the release of Arianna Huffington's new book, "Becoming Fearless." Thanks to Miriam Peskowitz for inviting me to participate!

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Blogger Stephen Blackmoore said...

Be proud of what you're doing. It takes a lot of courage to go freelance at the best of times and now juggling children along with it. Not an easy thing to do. Anybody who can make all those things work, to whatever degree of success, has my utmost respect.

27/4/07 10:40 AM  
Blogger PT-LawMom said...

Fantastic post, Christa! You're a real inspiration to those of us who want to take an alternative path. I'm so glad you're feeling like it's working well with the two rugrats. ;)

27/4/07 1:46 PM  
Anonymous Sheri said...

looking forward to reading more of your blog. i have a 4-year old and a 6-month old, both boys, and i've been freelancing while holding a side PT job for benefits for over two years. on may 15th, the PT job officially ends, the paying for not-cheap benefits through my husband's work begins, and i'll be solely freelancing. not sure how it's all going to work out but looking forward to reading how you do it (and don't!).

27/4/07 2:09 PM  
Blogger Christa M. Miller said...

Stephen, LawMom, you're gems. Thanks for the kind support. I am proud - when I'm able to think about it! ;)

Sheri, thanks for visiting. I don't get to update as often as I want to, but the Disney gig is generating traffic, so I'm going to try to make it more of a priority. Very much luck to you - my boys are similar in age. Do you subscribe to Writers Weekly? That's a great source of new freelance work. Looking forward to seeing more from you!

27/4/07 4:36 PM  
Blogger pattinase (abbott) said...

Yeah, Christa. You always put a positive spin on life. My daughter-in-law has decided to go your route rather than return to the heartless law firm. She's looking for freelance law work now.

27/4/07 6:43 PM  
Blogger greatexpectations said...

Good for you!

I'm just impressed that your platform is police and fire news ... sheesh. You are my hero.

I quit journalism because I had had enough of that kind of coverage. : )

Freelancing and motherhood .... it only takes those who are fearless to make it work, IMO.

28/4/07 8:58 AM  
Blogger Christa M. Miller said...

Patti, your DIL deserves huge kudos! That's quite a major change - my job wasn't what I'd call a "career," so it wasn't hard to leave. Much luck to her. And have her check out PTLawMom's blog (above) - she's a legal secretary going to law school, and she talks about exactly these issues.

GE, my job is actually very positive. I write for those markets, so my articles are geared toward innovations and such (both technology and ideas) that help them do their jobs better. I'd have a hard time with the negative stuff, too - I already write crime fiction to deal with the stuff that filters in through "everyday" coverage!

28/4/07 9:45 AM  
Anonymous norby said...

Go Mama!

2/5/07 10:11 AM  
Blogger Christa M. Miller said...

Thanks Norby!! :)

2/5/07 5:42 PM  

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