At a casual little get-together the other day, someone exclaimed that out of everyone in attendance, I probably had “the best gig.” For the most part, everyone else had a regular 9-to-5 kind of job or they engaged in some sort of shift work. In either case, I was the only one who had a “work from home” kind of career. This statement was then followed up with a question.
What is the most challenging aspect to my professional career as a freelance writer and blogger, particularly in relation to how it intersects with my personal life as a stay-at-home dad? While I am certainly not without my struggles, and they definitely cause me much anxiety and stress, I feel guilty complaining about any of it. As my dear friend Ray Ebersole once told me, “From my perspective, Michael, you have it made.”
It just doesn’t feel like it sometimes.
So, what are my biggest challenges?
This is a topic I feel like I’ve approached ad nauseum at this point. At the same time (no pun intended), it’s far and away my greatest source of stress and anxiety. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: because I can work at any time, I feel like I should work all the time. Intellectually, I know this is absurd. Emotionally, it’s a lot harder to internalize.
I bring many of these struggles upon myself, largely attributed to my tremendous sense of FOMO. It’s hard to resist the temptation to get out of the house every now and then, but then I complain that I don’t have enough time.
Every day is a battle, both with internal decisions and external circumstances.
Here’s another one of those double-edged sword type scenarios. I don’t say this to gloat or to boast; I realize I’m in a rather privileged position. For at least the past several years of my professional career, I have not actively sought out new freelance writing clients. They’ve come to me, mostly by referral, word of mouth, or Google search.
But again, at the same time, I find myself in a rather challenging (albeit privileged) position where I don’t really need more work, because I’m not convinced I necessarily have the time to take on more work. Clients come and go, and my income reflects that, and yet I still struggle with saying no.
A big part of this has to do with ego. I attribute a great deal of my self-worth to how much I earn (and I know I shouldn’t). To be perfectly honest, I could probably work less and we’d be just fine financially, but the shot to my ego would be too much to bear.
We talk a lot about work-life balance and the importance of having leisure time. We should have time to unwind and enjoy hobbies that have nothing to do with work. That’s partly why I’m trying to read more. And now that my daughter is a little bit older, we’re starting (sort of) to play video games together.
I think that was us playing Mario Tennis Aces in the photo above; this was before I picked up some new accessories to make the experience a little more enjoyable. As you can quite plainly see, I wasn’t really “working” while “parenting,” and yet I set up that shot. It’s actually a screen capture from a video I recorded, because I thought it might be good for the vlog. See. Still “working.” Sort of.
At all hours of the day, every day, I place tremendous pressure on myself to do all the things, do them perfectly, and do them now. The third shift probably isn’t sustainable over the long run and yet I do it. I don’t know how to “turn it off,” even when on vacation. I need to give myself permission to breathe and not feel guilty about it.
And if these really are the biggest challenges I face as a stay-at-home dad and small business owner, maybe I really do have “the best gig” in the room.