Sadie is now in her third month of life on this earth, and we really couldn’t be more enchanted. We obviously didn’t know what to expect before she got here, and we kept our hopeful vision of life with a baby deliberately vague because strong expectations are a surefire road to frustration, but life with her has far exceeded the joy and fulfillment that we ever could have hoped for. Since this is our work blog, let’s talk a little about what the freelance life with a baby has looked like for us.
Briefly: it’s challenging, but (SHOCKING!) not impossible.
To get real for a minute, we waited a while to have kids because of the career we chose. We’ve been freelancing together literally since the week we got married—our first inquiry hit the inbox the day before our wedding—and in the ensuing 7 years, it’s been fun but also completely insane. We’ve broken our backs at the computer, drawn until our hands shrunk into stiff claws, strained to follow the scant breadcrumbs of the ever-elusive next client, and nearly drowned in the deep end as we learned to first keep our heads above water and then to finally swim in the sea of business.
We both had always wanted kids, but for years the thought of adding a needy, screaming, pooping little human into the ring made us want to curl up under the sofa and die… until we started to wither away and die from not having one.
During the pregnancy, we were still apprehensive about how we were going to manage the baby/work balance, but we mashed the gas pedal to pad our bank account and beef up our portfolio, and prayed that God would provide only what we needed—nothing more, nothing less.
We now find ourselves both happier and more productive in both our professional and personal lives, with a baby who needs our attention for big portions of the day.
Life is a bit trickier, for sure! There are nights when she doesn’t sleep; there are days when she will only sleep on Ashley, thus cutting her off from work. She has recently started teething, and she’s not shy about telling us how much her mouth hurts. And we have had a lion’s share of challenges; one that comes to mind immediately is when Sadie was two weeks old, Ashley came down with a bad postpartum infection and found herself readmitted to the hospital—right in the middle of a rush deadline for American Greetings that we had said yes to without much foresight. So Joel worked on it with the laptop and tablet in the hospital room, and we both finished it the night we got out of the hospital, staying up until 3 AM.
Thankfully, though, these stories are few and far between, and overall we manage everything better than we did before kids. How on earth are we doing this? Honestly, part of it is a mystery, and part of it is that we were blessed with a really awesome baby. The other part of it, though, is what we decide to do in order to step it up for Sadie:
1. We get up earlier.
No more casually ambling into the studio around lunchtime; we actually gave away our alarm clock because Sadie is our little dawn-sounding rooster down the hall. We’re not saying night owls are less productive than early birds, but it’s undeniable that we do get more done by getting up in the morning rather than just before midday.
2. We make better use of our time.
“What did we do with our time before we had kids?” It’s the classic parental lament. The verdict? You farted around a lot more. Well, that frame of mind got rendered obsolete pretty quickly. Good riddance! It paved the way for taking care of Sadie, getting our work done, tending to the cats and fish and plants and house, and somehow finding more time for the things we enjoy. The rising tide lifts all boats, and though we work harder, we also get more done than we ever used to… because we waste less time than we used to.
3. We take more breaks.
Working hard is great; burnout is not. Before we had a baby, we worked too hard for too long, to the detriment of our productivity. Getting “in the zone” is a wonderful thing, but you also have to relax your mind and body periodically, because living too long in a constant state of tension (even good tension) will always make you snap.
4. We’re more of a team than before.
We’ve always collaborated—we’re a husband-and-wife freelance illustration team who draws on each others’ drawings, after all—but we discovered it takes a lot more coordination to meet deadlines and manage workflows when you have a wee member of your team who doesn’t take kindly to parent-imposed timelines. (“Sadie, can you just sit in that poopy diaper for another half hour? I need to finish coloring this magazine spot.” Righhht.)
5. We’ve got greater incentive to hustle.
We’re not just doing this job because we love it (which we still do, of course), but also because it’s providing for our daughter and her future. We used to think it was amazing what the pressure of rent and bills does for one’s at-home work ethic; with a baby, the pressure grows exponentially, and it’s paired with a truly joyful desire to give it all to her.
We feel good about what the last hew months have brought, and of course, she’s going to keep us on our toes from here on out. We don’t know what kind of tune we’ll sing when she learns to walk. But what we do know is that we’ll all grow into it… and that she’s worth whatever curveballs come our way.