When I had my first child, I made the mistake of trying to maintain a normal client roster. I was looking after a newborn and trying to recover psychologically from a horrendous birth experience.I coped, but barely. It was no fun. I’ll promise you that.So the second time around, my husband and I knew that we couldn’t do it again. Essentially, I would have to give up my clients and undo 9 years of building up a solid base of work.Right now, work remains at a level where I can keep my finger in a couple of pies, but without killing myself, and that’s all I can really manage.I get maternity pay from my company, which I guess the government will reimburse in one or two years’ time when we file future accounts. It’s equivalent to a very low or part-time wage.But the main reason most women in my position struggle is not really low income; it’s because they’ll lose clients that they struggle to regain when the baby’s older.
Freelance Life Isn’t Fair
I’m now in the position where I need to build my freelance writing work back up from pretty much nothing. Just as I did in 2010.If you freelance, you know the feeling of having only the bare bones of the work schedule you need. It isn’t fun. It’s the sensation of slow, creeping panic that keeps you up at night. There’s a mortgage to pay, after all.But what’s the alternative? I had a rough time in pregnancy this time; I wasn’t particularly happy for any stage of it. But I took on work anyway. Even as my second c-section loomed. Some of it was turned in late. This is not my style. It killed me to put it off.Sometimes you daren’t step off the treadmill in case you can never get back on it. To torture the analogy — I was limping.
We Need More Help for Women
There’s a big drive in the UK to tax self employed people more; to ensure that us pesky freelancers aren’t seen to benefit from our happy-go-lucky status (!). The current government is doing its best to ratched up that feeling of creeeping dread, and make it less likely that the ends will meet.So dividends are now taxed where they weren’t before, for example. And the government has made the flat rate tax scheme so complicated for micro-businesses in the service sector that many are forced to return to admin-heavy VAT accounting instead.But at the core of many of these businesses are women like me, struggling to keep their workload at a reasonable level throughout and after pregnancy. I started the company; I still need to run it. But I have to balance it with the needs of a very small creature that cannot fend for itself. Some days I have deadlines, a crying 8-week-old child to attend to, and a heap of admin to do. (If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll have seen me repeatedly appeal to the ONS to stop sending legal threats because I just don’t have the time to complete their stupid surveys.)We need to make life a bit easier for self-employed women who also happen to be new mums. It’s difficult to avoid the all-too-common slide into post-natal depression and exhaustion. But we are in that pit, there’s a huge cost to the NHS in getting us out. Ignoring that is a false economy. I’d like the government to modernise maternity benefits and support. We could start by taking a more realistic look at the wages freelancers earn, and considering the clients they lose while providing childcare, and smooth that transition a little more with a little bit of extra help.I won’t be having any more kids. That’s partly down to the system for the self employed which simply cannot cope with women who have them. Meanwhile, I’ll continue the hard slog of building my client base up all over again.