Hazel Davis and her fella have decided to home-educate their kids. This week, she’s discovering the new work/school balance has pros and cons.
“So how on earth do you manage working for yourself and home-educating?” It’s not so much the elephant in the room as the breathlessly uttered second thing anyone says – once they have suggested our children will grow up to be unsocialised little freaks.
The answer? We’re still working it out. Granted, there’s an element of ‘We’ll sort that out when the time comes’ about it all, despite the fact the time has kinda come and it’s here. Well, sort of.
My other half works two night shifts a week so he can spend the rest of the week yawning and complaining. I mean looking after the children. As far as we’re concerned that won’t change dramatically anyway. We’re managing financially (touch wood) because he’s around to accommodate my ridiculous “Can you pop from West Yorkshire to Bracknell for an hour?” work schedule and I tend to do a lot of late-night writing, which suits my temperament and our lifestyle.
But here’s the thing. Now is the hard bit, SURELY. One of our children is four and the other one is still two. And the difference between them is currently massive, or “SO MASSIVE” as the two-year-old is fond of saying (if you imagine it in a toddler’s voice it’s well cute. No really, it is). I am confident that in about three years’ time it’s all going to shake out a bit better. The younger one is cleverer by far (it’s OK to say that in print, right?) in some ways so that might make joint projects and activities easier a while down the line.
For now, though, they’re still at the stage where they can’t read on their own, they need help with models and projects and they can’t go off for a self-directed walk. When we’ve sorted that little lot out then they can fuck off and leave me alone to write about laser printers, right? No, seriously though, we’re all about independent learning and not just because it means we get to knob about on Twitter and drink coffee while they do it. One of the reasons we don’t like the idea of school is that we don’t think they should be sitting in a row in a hot room and would like them to be a bit freer to explore the world. And them being a bit freer to explore the world dovetails nicely with me being freer to work.
“In the last few months, if I’d had to factor in a school drop-off and collection into my days, I don’t think I’d have got anything done at all.”
OK, I KNOW it’s not that simple but… listen: I once went to a board meeting for a large copywriting job (which I got) with Clem strapped to the front of me. I write about enterprise and small business matters a lot and I have realised that having a child tag along is almost compulsory these days. It’s practically a badge of honour and if you try to use childcare as an excuse to an editor these days they tend to say, witheringly, “Yes I’m breastfeeding as we speak.”
I remember the first time I did a celebrity interview with a month-old Clem bellowing in the background (it was André Rieu and he was very sweet), I was mortified. Nowadays, if – actually, let’s say when – Matthew Macfadyen personally asks for me to do his “I’m finally going it alone!” double-page spread, I’d probably think nothing of asking whether I could just spread out some felt-tips on his kitchen floor.
Since having children, my work has changed a bit anyway. For example, if you open last week’s Observer magazine you’ll see a huge picture of Clem with a lion painted on her face and a piece talking about our family day out at Chester Zoo. The freelance life can be kinda odd like that.
But seriously. In the last few months, if I’d had to factor in a school drop-off and collection into my days, I don’t think I’d have got anything done at all. Having a flexible schedule (OK, not that flexible, you already know how I feel about that) has freed me up to do all sorts of different jobs and also enabled my children to see me while I am working. As I look up every hour or so (kidding!) from my laptop to check they’re not stabbing each other in the eye with a pencil, I think how lucky I am that I am writing this at the kitchen table and spending time with my kids. Actually not many people can say that about their work.1967 Views
Hazel Davis is a freelance writer from West Yorkshire. She has two tiny children but the majority of her hours are taken up with thinking about Alec Baldwin singing sea shanties and the time someone once called her "moreishly interesting".