I’m sure there are people out there who manage to stick to a 35-hour (or 25-hour or 10-hour or whatever) week, every week of the year, except the five weeks when they go on holiday. Well, yes, there are. They’re called employees. Even then, there are plenty of employees who don’t manage that, anyway.
Running your own business, though, generally means you have to deal with fluctuations. Seasonal fluctuations. Tri-annual fluctuations. Fluctuations from one client and different fluctuations from another. It is very difficult to balance this out so that you can provide a consistent workload that keeps you happy, your children happy and the house clean.
Since R was born, we have been fortunate (in some ways) to have one average year and one not very good year. In terms of our finances this is a bit of an issue. In terms of quality time that R has had with both of us in her first two and a half years, this has been pretty darned good. This year is looking like it’s going to be a very, very, very busy year. The kind of year where we might not be able to do all the work ourselves and will be using freelancers to help out.
But we come up against a problem that faces many self-employed parents. We will need extra childcare. On an ad hoc basis. So that, when we have a calm couple of days we can shower R with attention and take her swimming and to the zoo and fun things like that. And not have to pay someone for not looking after her.
We are fortunate that, this year, the nursery school where she goes is pretty quiet (2006 was a low birth-rate year, apparently), so there are certain sessions when we can phone the day before, or even that morning and say ‘Do you have the ratios for R to come?’
But, if it weren’t for my mum, I honestly do not know what we would do. She already looks after R three mornings a week, though that will be less when R starts at playgroup in May. But she is happy to keep for an extra couple of hours, at short notice. She’s happy to have her for the weekend, at short notice. She’ll even come and look after her here for a bit, if necessary and give her her bath and put her to bed.
This week, for example, she has swapped her days round, because it’s half-term and we have plans on Thursday and Friday. In the summer holidays, she will be called on a lot. And, in March, when we are going to have to work double the hours we currently do, she will probably have to an extra couple of hours most of her days and at least one weekend, possibly two. Thank you Mama!
So… Do you need flexible childcare and, if so, where do you get it? Do you use grandparents or other informal childcare? What do you do in the holidays? Do you take the whole time off? Do you cut back your hours?