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Freelance Interview Series – Navigating Childcare as a Small Business Owner with Maria West

Maria West is a copywriter, self-proclaimed hype woman for parenting brands in DTC, e-commerce, and tech, and mom to two boys. 

She regularly shares her freelance experiences with her community and today we’ve asked her to share her top tips for navigating remote work, parenting, and childcare.

Navigating Childcare as a Small Business Owner

How has your remote work schedule shifted since starting a family?

I was laid off from my full-time job as an in-house content marketing manager early pandemic (April 2020), only six weeks after returning from my maternity leave with my first son. Once I started freelancing after that, it was a struggle to balance a baby at home and work when things ramped up beyond being able to fit it in at naptime. I hired a babysitter a few days a week — my husband’s company at the time covered a sitter service for a certain amount of days, which was a huge benefit for us. Then we started him in full-time daycare when he turned one, even though I wasn’t working full-time hours. It worked for us, though!

What does your current child care situation look like? What steps did you take to decide what was best for you and your family?

Right now, my oldest son (almost three years old) goes to full-time daycare. He thrives there and is learning so much, and I’m not the kind of mom who is going to plan 1,398 learning and sensory activities at home every day. I love daycare because I know the teachers are qualified and love the kids. When I have sitters at home, I tend to get anxious about everything I can hear (e.g. they didn’t put on the sound machine for a nap so he’s crying, etc.). My seven-month-old is still home full-time with me, but I book a sitter a few hours a week if I need it using the SitterTree app. He’s pretty chill and naps a good bit so I can still manage things (for now 😅). I went past my limit last month with work and felt how hard it was to juggle everything — do not recommend.

Talk to us about ramping up a freelance business after taking maternity leave.

Coming back from maternity leave was a lot harder than expected. My situation was unique in that I told (lovely!) existing clients that I would no longer be working with them when I returned because I was rebranding my biz to DTC Mom and focusing on the parenting/consumer space. So I lost some momentum, which was to be expected. I had a few brands lined up but ended up not working with them for one reason or another. The catch? Postpartum emotions are also 10x more intense. I flung around, interviewing for full-time roles and questioning everything. But my rebranding and networking paid off — the seeds I had planted came to fruition eventually. Only two months later, I was turning down opportunities due to not having the capacity.

This article from Kat Boogaard is awesome for leave planning.

What scheduling tips and tricks have you implemented to help you manage your day-to-day?

I use Calendly to book meetings and only open two-hour blocks on two days each week. This helps me easily align with my husband’s schedule if he needs to help with the baby during meetings. I also knock out whatever needs my “best brain” in the morning during my son’s first nap, since that’s when my energy is at its peak. Afternoons are optional work time if I need it, otherwise I will play/do errands, etc. Also, BLESS the schedule Gmail feature. 🙏🏼

I’m taking the full month of December off because I want to have some de-stress time with my baby when he’s more mobile and appreciative of things we can do together vs. just waiting for the next window to work (this isn’t good for anyone). It was important to me to have him home for his first year since I unexpectedly got that with my oldest (thanks, pandemic).

I AM STILL FIGURING THIS OUT. It’s not easy! My workouts, self-care, etc. really suffered when I took on too much work. There’s no “One Best Way.”

What advice do you have for freelancers with children at home who are trying to figure out how to balance it all?

Just because you work from home or work less than 40 hours per week doesn’t mean you have to have your kids with you. Don’t be afraid of childcare, and don’t be afraid to mix-and-match your childcare (like one kid in daycare, one with you or a nanny or grandparent). Also, don’t lose sight of your WHY. I wanted my baby home for his first year (like mentioned above) and one way I chose to not overload myself with work and make the most of that was by taking December off. You have to say no sometimes to make room for the yes.

If possible, have a partner with a steady/flexible job. 😜


About the Author
Samantha is co-founder of Harlow. Previously she was a marketing and demand gen freelancer. She enjoys traveling, connecting with new people, spending time with her dog Karl, and throwing back an extra dirty martini every now and then.

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