YOUNG CHILDREN AND FREELANCING: CAN THE TWO MIX? By Shanna Bartlett Groves

I didn’t think so two years ago before I had my son, Weston. The office environment suited me well. I was working for a women’s organization and writing for its magazine. There were weekly planning meetings, phone interviews and research projects to occupy five days a week.

In fact, I knew very few women who didn’t work outside of the home. Two-income families were a vivid reality within my circle of co-workers and friends. And I knew that being confined to a home-based job would be very boring and, at times, stressful. I mean, who do you run to talk to when deadlines are mounting and you’re feeling frazzled?

Then it happened. Weston’s birth. Maternity leave. Ten weeks of staying at home. A strange thing happened during this time. As I held this beautiful little boy with strawberry blonde hair and eyes shaped like his Daddy’s, I started to envision being with him. All the time.

Then I started doing the math. With my income and my husband Scott’s, we were living comfortably at the time. Subtract from this combined income the cost of full-time day care, and finances would be tight. There was no way we could survive on one salary alone if I decided not to go back to work.

My head was telling me, ‘You have to go back to work. How are you going to pay the bills?’ My heart was saying, ‘Look at this little boy in your arms. Surely you can find a way to stay home with him.’

I called two of the only friends I knew who were stay-at-home moms. One friend suggested I read a book called So You Want to be a Stay-at-Home Mom? by Cheryl Gochnauer. After reading it, I became inspired to find ways to trim living expenses and how to live frugally. My other friend said she would start praying that I would be able to stay at home.

After maternity leave, I went back to work. Not because I wanted to – but for financial purposes. As I sat at my desk at work each morning, I thought about Weston. I wondered what new things he was doing and if he was saying a new word or smiling for the first time. I plastered my desk with pictures of him. And I called my day care provider at least once a day to see what Weston was up to.

One day when I went to pick him up from day care, I got stuck in heavy traffic. I panicked because the day care closed at six o’clock and the traffic was moving very slow. Finally after making it through the bumper-to-bumper cars, I got to the day care right at six. Weston was the only child that hadn’t been picked up, and it was almost dark outside. Where had the day gone? I would only have two hours with my son before he went to sleep that night.

That was the final straw. I would find a way to stay home with Weston by his first birthday.

I looked into various work-at-home options. I looked into selling products from my home and concluded that selling isn’t my strong point.

Then I thought, ‘Wait a minute … how about writing from home?’ I had heard of freelance writers who write for magazines, newspapers and other businesses – and who had been quite successful.

I decided that this would be the right work-at-home option for me. I invested in a new home computer and bought a fax machine. I began subscribing to WritersWeekly.com and discovered some interesting freelance work opportunities. I typed query letters and made photocopies of my writing samples. Then I starting faxing these letters and samples to probably a dozen different publications.

Within a couple of months, I heard from a major local newspaper. Surprisingly, they were short on freelance writers at that time and desperately needed new writing talent. I got my first assignment from that newspaper within a month. After seeing my name in print, I experienced a self-confidence boost. I got the courage to contact a magazine I had worked for before that began giving me assignments. Slowly but surely, I was making the freelancing thing come to life.

One year and three months after Weston’s birth, I finally got to stay home with him. I watch Weston during the day, make business calls during nap times, and work on writing assignments at night and on the weekends.

Recently, I embarked on my next work-at-home adventure. It is a Web site called Mommy Tales which contains ideas and inspiring stories for all moms out there. In addition, I put out a free Mommy Tales newsletter that is e-mailed to moms each month. I love writing stories, particularly about motherhood and parenting – what a great way to combine interests! (And I must confess: The WritersWeekly.com newsletter that Angela Hoy produces was my inspiration for doing this.)

Yes, working from home is a constant juggling of time, but I wouldn’t change it. It’s the fact that I get to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with my son. I get to watch him play outside in our backyard on a warm, spring afternoon. Most importantly, I am more a part of his life. The bonus part is I get to continue doing what I love – writing – from the comfort of home.

After I’ve worked all evening on an article, I’ll tiptoe into Weston’s room. As I watch my sleeping little boy, I am convinced that my decision to work from home was the right one for me.

Shanna Bartlett Groves is the publisher of Mommy Tales Web Site and Newsletter. Read more and subscribe at: http://www.mommytales.com