Keeping mum: being a contractor and a parent

Parenting is mad. It changes you. It’s a lot of sleepless nights, limitless obligations and unidentified fluids over your favourite things. You learn a lot about yourself once you’re responsible for a child, not all of it flattering.

However, one thing being a mum or dad does do for you is tell you quite starkly what matters and what makes you happy. This may mean that you want nothing more than to retreat into the sweet, warm sanctity of being a stay at home dad or full-time mum.

It also might reveal to you that to stay sane, you absolutely need to leave the house and be in adult company.

Whichever end of the spectrum you find yourself at, many parents see contracting as a way to re-enter the world of work under their own terms.  A contractor with the right skills can select and pursue part-time jobs allowing them to section off more time for family and still earn money from home to keep the family chugging along.

Why choose the contracting lifestyle?

 

Access to work from home jobs

One of the great things about contracting is that a lot of the time, you can define where you work as well as when. So, if you’ve got a cushy home office, you can set up for work and, if it’s your desire, NEVER LEAVE THE HOUSE AGAIN. This will seem especially enticing if the prospect of a Soft Play outing rears its sticky, vinyl-based head.

The flexibility of freelance without the precarity

Yes, being a freelancer is a pretty sweet deal, but when you’re responsible for putting food on the table for your entire family, it can be a nerve-shredding way to live.

From a tax perspective (because now you’re the kind of person who has to say phrases like “from a tax perspective”) personal services self-employment/freelancing means that you have to follow PAYE procedure when it comes to your tax and national insurance – the more you earn, the more tax you pay.

If you do the same work as a limited company contractor, PAYE doesn’t apply and you could potentially pay thousands less per tax year – money that goes straight into your take-home pay.

If you do the work as an umbrella company contractor, you’d still have to use PAYE but you’d be classed as an employee. You’d have all the benefits of permanent employment: sick pay, holiday pay and, if you stayed with the umbrella for 6 months, you’d be eligible for paid maternity/family leave.

Whichever way you slice it, you’re almost certainly better off as a contractor than you are a freelancer.

The practicalities

 

Deciding to dedicate yourself to flexible working jobs is an exciting way to parent – you know that you can arrange your life around the kids in a way that more traditionally employed parents simply cannot.

But like any big life change, a return to work will result in challenges  Being prepared for the roadblocks ahead will help you transition into parent/contractor mode with minimal disruption to you and your family.

  • A room of one’s own
    Gone are the days when you can work from the sleepy cocoon of bed. If you don’t have the proper separation between your work and homelife – even if it is just a few feet – you’ll find it extremely difficult to draw up boundaries and achieve the productivity you need. That, and your bed is almost certainly brimming with stray toddlers and crumbs.
  • A supportive partner
    This could be your spouse, a family member or paid help. Whoever it is, you need someone as back-up. And cherish them, because that person is precious, a rare and lovely jewel. If you think you can run a business and perform parental duties at the exact same time, you’re heading for a world of pain.Let us repeat: a WORLD OF PAIN.It doesn’t matter if your kids are newborns or pre-schoolers, they will intrude on your working time. Whether it’s a screaming desire for milk or just a little check-in, if you work from home you have to work out how you’ll handle being so close and yet unavailable to your children.A supportive partner will provide the love and care that children need in your absence. If you’re working in the same building as your baby, it can be especially wrenching to hear their cries, especially if you’re breastfeeding.

It’s smart to schedule small breaks throughout the day so that you can connect with your kids. Equally, if your work is demanding, it is worth arranging some solitude by getting your partner to take them out for a long walk or a day out.

Only you will know the rhythm of your work and it can take a while to iron out the kinks in the arrangement. Which brings us to…

  • It will go wrong sometimes
    Understand the inevitability of this: The cat will get ill, your partner will get ill, there’ll be building works next door, a client will flake on you, an invoice will dangle, unpaid and your child will ask plaintively why mummy/daddy is never around.Contracting, and parenting as a whole, is a complicated business. Please, be kind to yourself. You’re doing your best. And you’ve got this.