Hey, how have you been?
I decided to take some time to sit down and talk about how crazy 2021 was for me.
You see, I had a lot of big plans for AMWL. I started a series called “Freelancer Horror Stories” where I’ll feature submissions from other freelancers, talking about their worst experiences in the business.
Everything was fully prepared for the next issue – with all submissions polished and contributors paid.
I also built an editorial calendar filled with posts that I’m really excited to share with you.
Unfortunately, I chucked all those things on the back burner for now.
My daughter was born.
Meet Kameron Raine
Isn’t she lovely?
She, Kameron Raine Antolin, is the reason I had to temporarily put every hopeful, inspired plan I had for my blog on hold.
My freelance writing career also took a nose-dive productivity-wise. In fact, I lost a highly valuable long-term client that year.
But you know what?
She’s worth all that.
I decided to face all the consequences and fearlessly take on the mantle of a full-time dad, part-time freelancer.
This is not the kind of post I envisioned publishing early last year. But I feel like my readers deserve an update.
Not to mention I still believe in the potential of this blog in helping and inspiring freelancers worldwide.
Believe it or not, this blog STILL has readers despite a year of inactivity.
Ain’t that the darnedest thing?
Regardless, I wanted to talk about the things I learned juggling the many tasks of a work-from-home freelancer and a stressed-out, weight-gaining dad.
Who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself in my situation one day. Or perhaps there are freelancers out there who are struggling with the responsibilities of parenthood while keeping their careers afloat.
Here are the things I learned:
Your sleep schedule isn’t ruined, it’s just modified
The first two weeks with our newborn wasn’t easy – thousands of brutal, sleepless miles from it.
I kid you not, we were frequently up until 5 in the morning. At the time, I was genuinely concerned for my sanity.
The only silver lining was the understanding that our newborn’s chaotic sleep schedule was only temporary.
Trust me, it will get better.
It may take several weeks or months before you eventually start sleeping through the night again. In the meantime, here are the things that will help you catch some z’s and keep you energized:
- Take naps with your little one (LO) if you’re still sleepy – The thing with infants is they take a lot of naps during the day. Fight the urge to check your phone, do some chores, or watch something on TV and nap alongside your LO – until you’re sure that you got adequate sleep.
- Sleep train your baby – Sleep training a newborn isn’t always easy, but it is a must if you wish to stay productive while babysitting. Our baby fusses and cries as soon as she’s put in her crib, but after several tries, she’ll sleep on her own.
- Invest in a baby carrier and standing desk – Sometimes, using a baby carrier and working while standing is the only way to meet a looming deadline. Look for a durable carrier and standing desk from reputable brands – you won’t regret it.
- Adapt new routines – After a few months, your baby will begin sleeping at specific times during the day. Establish a new schedule around these hours and find pockets of time to be productive.
- Use a white noise machine – We got a white noise machine as a gift and it helped immensely in calming our baby and drowning out the sound of my keyboard as I worked. Alternatively, there are YouTube channels and Spotify playlists like this one you can put on for free.
You NEED to take shifts with your partner – working while babysitting doesn’t always work
The sleep side of things eventually resolved itself by the fifth month.
But as far as freelancing goes, the schedule is still less than ideal.
Here’s the thing: me and my partner both have jobs. But, unlike me, she’s bound by a full-time schedule.
That leaves me caring for our LO from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM when my partner’s shift was over.
At first, I would attempt to write as much as I can while my baby slept. But if you write for a living, you should know what a five-minute distraction could do to your writing mojo.
Our baby, for example, had days when she simply wouldn’t sleep for more than 10 minutes at a time. Due to being frequently interrupted, I often lost focus, forgot what I’m about to write, and grew frustrated.
From that point, I stopped focusing on writing until my partner’s shift (at work) is over.
I still do something productive whenever my hands are free, like watching videos for research, reading, planning outlines, and sending emails. But when it comes to actual focused writing, I wait until my partner can tend to our baby’s needs.
Try speech-to-text if you absolutely must write
If you REALLY need to write and there’s no one around to hold your baby, try using a dictation tool.
Just hold your baby as usual and simply dictate what you want to write via the Microsoft Word mobile app.
I was skeptical at first since I never used dictation before. But if you can speak English fluently and clearly, speech-to-text is a game-changer.
Take a break after your parent duties
I don’t work right away as soon as my baby is off my hands. For 30-60 minutes, I eat a light snack, take a shower, drink coffee, and sometimes take a quick “caffeine” nap.
That’s right after my partner’s done with work.
Taking these breaks allows me to rest physically and prepare mentally for writing. And although an hour seems like a short time, it’s enough “me time” to get in a writing mood.
Get a play pen
By the time our daughter can crawl comfortably, we immediately thought of buying a play pen.
We did, and we knew it was a great investment right away.
During the day, we could leave Kameron to play by herself for hours at a time.
Sometimes, she’d still fuss and cry until someone’s with her in the play pen. During which, I’d simply grab my laptop, sit inside, and try to work.
Of course, I didn’t pressure myself to finish work as early as possible.
Final words: Relax and accept that work can wait
Thinking that I needed to finish everything by a specific time only added to my stress and frustration.
Some days I thought I’ll never get anything done. So, I pressured myself to work whenever I had minutes to spare in front of my laptop.
As a result, I ended up feeling more exhausted than I should be.
In the end, a simple change in mindset made a tremendous difference to my day-to-day productivity.
The goal is to take it easy – rest, nap, and focus on light freelancing tasks while you’re in charge of the baby. Once it’s your partner’s turn to care for your baby, that’s when you should focus on actually writing.
By the sixth month, my body already adjusted to my daily routine.
Daddy by day, writer by night.
Things got better and more manageable over time. But I know that it’ll take a few more years before my “normal” work routine returns.
For now, I’m happy with what I got.
I’m able to hit my writing goals effectively and still be there for my family whenever I’m needed. What more do I need?