The dichotomy between freelancer and family
Can a role in the events industry help build success in both areas?
There are two things I am hoping you will take from reading this article; I thoroughly enjoy every aspect of working in the world of events, and family mean everything to me.
Before I start on subject of work and family, let me tell you a little bit about myself; my name is Karen Edwards, for the last 15+ years, I have worked in the world of events; planning, organising and delivering events for venues, clients and agencies. I married to Andy and have two children, Arthur (6) and Margot (1).
If you freelance in the events industry and have a family, you will understand the struggle. How do you forge a career and be the parent that you have always wanted to be? Is it possible to successfully balance the two? Are they completely different or are there lessons to be learnt.
When people find out what I do for a living, most people say “I don’t know how you do it!” The truth is, sometimes I wonder myself!! Why would anyone enter the freelance world of events, and have a young family? For the challenge? For the reward? Or because simply it is what you love and enjoy.
Being a freelancer (specialising in Ops, Logistics and Planning), the roles I work on, can be varied. Anything from on-site delivery to full event management, from budget control to back-end website/ registration management and anything else in between!
When a role comes up, the ideal situation for me would be flexible hours, working from home and minimal onsite delivery time. This way I can do the school run, organise the house, be on top of life admin, do the washing and maybe even plan meals! Oh, and invite fellow mummies round for coffee!
The reality is rarely like this. You are generally fitting into an existing team, with pre-defined ways of working, time scales and meetings. You can be drafted in late in the planning process, so the pressure is on from the start. Gone are the dreams of school pick up, drop off, planned play dates and slow cooked dinners. Instead, your attention is solely on the project deadlines and getting everything else sorted quickly. Children and homelife have to take a back seat, whilst your attention moves solely onto the project.
I bet you are thinking, why would you do this job, when you know you can’t parent like you want too. Well, I have a few tricks up my sleeve that keep me sane and keep the routine going for my family, and also make me feel like I am being the best parent I can be.
Keeping your homelife routine as normal as possible is a must. School, Nursery, clubs, bedtime all need to remain the same. My little ones thrive on the routine that we have, this makes them feel safe. If I am working away or late, my priority is to make sure that the routine is kept; I will ask a grandparent or friend to step in and help out.
Being Open & Honest
I always talk to my children about what projects I am involved in. It helps enormously if they understand what I am doing, why I am doing it and where I am working. They can ask questions; join calls and we can discuss what happens if I am working away or need to work late.
I do have a husband and he is more than capable of looking after the children whilst I am away or working late! What I try to do is include grandparents and friends as much as possible. My husband has added supported, the children are with other people who care for them, and more than, likely, treat them to an ice cream or two. Having a solid family and group of friends you can rely on to ‘co-parent’ when I am away is essential.
Plan, plan, plan. Now this is where my logistics, planning brain kicks in!! Produce a spreadsheet with all the activities your children are doing whilst you are away – then work out how you are going to cover them all. This is when you need grandparent and friend co-parenting the most!
I always print a copy for the kitchen, so Arthur (6) knows what he is doing and when. The spreadsheet then acts as a countdown chart until I get home or finish a project!
Going away, working long hours doesn’t need to be stressful for anyone. Get all the family involved in how you are going to cover the tasks and make it fun!
The fun stuff
When you are home, planning fun days out and quality time with the children. Doing some cool stuff with the children will give you lots of brownie points with them and get them used to you working, going away, then coming back again.
Your commitment, your abilities and your personality are everything in the events industry and especially when you freelance. Having a young family is an added pressure to your freelancer life; before you even start working, or leave the house, you have planned pick-ups, drops off, made various school projects and wrapped birthday presents! As I have shown being a working mother and a freelancer is possible; you are organised, flexible, good at multi-tasking and can quickly react to a changing situation. All essential skills for the events industry.
The events industry is tough. It is hard work and demanding, so is parenting.
Parenting and Freelancing can work together successfully.