JCT

#40 No rest for the self-employed

In Homeworking, Kids on April 12, 2010 at 12:48 pm

‘Enjoying the Easter break?’

Let us look at this seemingly innocent sentence. Although the people who have asked you this over the past week have probably used the word ‘break’ to mean ‘rest’, as any self-employed homeworker – especially those with children currently on school holidays – knows, the Easter ‘break’ is very rarely restful but more literally experienced as an ‘interruption’. A crack in one’s life.

Or perhaps the speaker means ‘brake’, a thing that slows you down and prevents you from getting on.

While the workaday world carries on bombarding you with emails and issuing deadlines, children demand entertaining and feeding, the house gets filthier, and routine goes to pot. Blackberrys and iPhones have become essential for replying to enquiries while supervising trips to the park – simultaneously pretending to potential employers and clients that you either don’t have children or won’t let them hinder your dedication to the work, and pretending to your children that you are actually paying them attention. Minutes are snatched in between making sandwiches, buying groceries and shouting at people to tidy their rooms.Writing anything longer than a paragraph in one go becomes impossible.

Full-day childcare can be so expensive it wipes out most of one’s wages. That is if you are actually getting paid for what you are doing (which if you are pitching ideas or applying for jobs or studying for a further qualification, you aren’t). Instead we get by on a complex network of child swaps, though I’ve also bitten the bullet and signed mine up for one of those sports day camp (AVP Sports) reasoning that although after taking off fees, income tax and NI, my net profit on a day’s work will be about a tenner, a) it’s good value, including a swimming lesson, bouncy castle, arts and crafts, and sports tuition, b) if I paid for them to do these classes separately, it would cost even more, c) and I would have to go with them, d) it is possible to spend about the same amount on a day trip to town once you’ve been talked into taking them for pizza, e) they have a good time, make friends, and avoid obesity,  f) with freelance work thin on the ground, if you aren’t available 24/7, people aren’t going to call you back.

If you work in an office and need a break, you simply switch on the auto-reply and voicemail, direct the extra workload to an unwitting colleague, collect the holiday pay, and tell everyone to leave you alone for a fortnight. But there’s no rest for the self-employed, no holiday pay, no fallback colleague.

In the mean time:

HTBU is temporarily away from their desk at the moment, but will get back to you as soon as they’ve made lunch, tied football boot laces, hung the washing out, supervised a homework project and practice SATs papers, hoovered the stairs, given in and taken the kids to a playground, broken up a squabble, bought something for supper, made supper, put children to bed, tidied up supper, and poured a large glass of wine. If anyone has bought any.  Thank you for your interest. Hope you’re enjoying the Easter break.

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  1. I laughed heartily at this one. Especially the bit about being down at the park and trying to appease both sets of timelords. My own Easter ‘brake’ was just the same.

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