A more conventional career path would have seen me going to school for something practical. Something that would lead more directly and more obviously to a specific profession. Perhaps I would go on an internship before taking on an entry-level job somewhere. I’d work that 9-to-5, establish an everyday routine, and ascend the corporate ranks into middle management.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with such a career path. It works for the vast majority of people. It just doesn’t work for me. I’m not normal, nor is my everyday routine. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a work-at-home dad and a freelance writer, here’s a glimpse into my typical day.
No Alarm Clock
When I was still in university, and when I had a “normal” job, I relied heavily on my alarm clock to get my butt out of bed. I’ve never been a morning person and I don’t think I ever will be a morning person. Freelancing, to a great degree, has afforded me some freedom in this respect.
In my years as a freelance writer prior to fatherhood, it wasn’t out of the ordinary for me to wake up at noon most days. I didn’t need an alarm clock; I’d just wake up when I felt like waking up. I also wouldn’t go back to sleep until some time in the wee hours of the early morning.
These days, I still don’t rely on an alarm clock to wake up in the morning… except I don’t get to sleep in until noon anymore. That’s because my daughter effectively acts as my alarm clock. “Wake up, daddy! Wake up!”
No Work While Daddying
With flexibility comes great responsibility. Or something like that. Because I can work at any time, as I’ve said so many times before, I feel like I should be working all the time. I’m oftentimes asked how I managed to get any work done while taking care of the kid. The answer is that I don’t. I can’t.
This will probably change as she gets a little older. As it stands, if I’m working, I’m working. If I’m on daddy duty, I’m on daddy duty. Trying to juggle both at the same time is an exercise in futility and frustration. So, I’ve been making an effort to do just one thing at a time. Easier said than done, of course.
No Caffeine After 4PM
A tagline I use in a few places — you can see it in my Twitter bio — is that I am fueled by caffeine and Wi-Fi. It’s a bit tongue in cheek (but not really).
While I follow these rules very imperfectly, I do try to avoid caffeine after about 4 o’clock. And I try to stay away from all screens — computer, smartphone, TV, etc. — for at least an hour before bedtime. Sometimes, the third shift is necessary, but I always end up paying for it.
And sometimes I’ll start a cup of coffee around 3 o’clock and not actually finish it until almost dinnertime. And I always end up paying for that too. But I try to avoid doing that if I can.
No Cable Television
For better or for worse, I watched a lot of television growing up. Bob Barker taught me the value of a dollar, so to speak, and the WWF taught me that violence is always the answer. (Violence is never the answer.) But in these last few years, I’ve been watching less and less TV.
Realistically, we spend way more time watching children’s shows on Netflix than anything else. I stopped following professional sports a couple years ago (I might pick it up again later), and the only network programming I watch now is The Good Place… but I usually only watch that on demand the next day.
A normal, everyday routine for most people would see them indulging in some prime time television after dinner. But I’m not normal. Not anymore.
No Sleep Before Midnight
Well, that’s not strictly true. But it’s generally true.
Back when I was still waking up at noon, I’d still only get the standard 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. It’s just that my sleep schedule “shifted” from the typical norm. And while these days I usually wake up by around 8 a.m. or so, I still find myself going to bed some time after midnight. And that’s “going to bed” and not “falling asleep.” I’m nowhere near as gifted as some people in that regard.
And because I no longer have the opportunity to take afternoon naps either, I’m perpetually tired. Something needs to change (see coffee and screen time above), but in the interim, that describes my everyday routine: lack of sleep, crippling anxiety and guilt, and another cuppa joe.
But hey! At least I don’t need an alarm clock!