I was chatting to a new acquaintance the other day when she asked an innocuous question that completely and utterly threw me. It was only the second time we had met, so we were mid-way through exchanging stories about our kids and families, our travels and work histories, when she casually asked, “So, what do you like to do in your free time?
I could only stand there and blink.
After a few seconds of silence I knew I had to spit something out, anything. But there was only one thing that came to me. “Um, I just work,” I mumbled feeling ridiculously lame.
What do I do in my free time? What do I like to do? Honestly, as a mum with two kids in my 30s the answers to those questions are so deeply buried under emails and nappies, Woollies shopping and laundry, I can only laugh. After all, the idea of work life balance for mums ultimately sounds like a huge joke.
For starters, what’s free time? Do you mean time the hours between 9pm – 2am when the kids are finally asleep and I work on my business? Or do you mean the 15 minutes I spend doing a few yoga stretches before I get their lunches ready in the morning? Or do you mean the minutes I stand at the school gates researching photography ideas on Instagram? Or the coffee catch-ups I schedule to hustle potential clients on the weekend?
I am always working.
Right now I have three jobs: on Mondays and Tuesdays the kids are at school/in care and I work as a photographer. In the evenings during the week I retouch the photos and liaise with clients for next week’s shoots. On Fridays I write freelance stories for Mumtastic. On the weekend, I run social media workshops or meet new clients.
Between my paid gigs, I do all the normal stuff that mums do to get their families through week (aka my real, full-time job): ferry the kids to school and sports, do the laundry, clean the house, lug the shopping up, bath the kids and get dinner on the table before dad comes home.
And I’m not the only one.
A friend of mine with kids recently picked up a job as an Arbonne consultant on top of her four-day a week job in town. A neighbour recently added a few nights a month as at a fancy restaurant to her roster which already includes working in her family business and looking after her two boys.
In her story Side Hustle Shuffle, writer Kali Hawlk describes a large-scale social movement towards working multiple jobs – and she talks up the benefits. You know, the extra income, the improved career prospects and personal happiness, all of which are absolutely true for me.
But there’s a flip side, particularly for mums. The exhaustion (the physical workload of caring for kids combined with the mental alacrity demanded of running or contributing to other businesses), the confusion of being in new territory all the time (it’s hard to know what to do as a parent in lots of situations, ditto for getting a handle on new jobs) and the conflict that comes from being in a relationship where both partners are working like maniacs.
For example, my boyfriend works a traditional yet demanding full-time 9-to-5 job and his weekends are sacred. They’re a time to switch off and recharge for the week ahead. For me it’s the complete opposite. All of a sudden I have childcare on tap (something he has all week) and it’s an opportunity for me to pack in more work than ever. I need his support with the kids to make it happen, but he needs his weekend surf just as badly – who wins?
Are you working multiple jobs on the side of your full-time gig as a mum?
How do you manage your various gigs?
Do you feel your side hustle is a blessing or a curse for your family?
More heartfelt writing from Jade: