Juggling kids and career – is it easier when they’re teenagers?
Think parenting gets easier once you’re past the terrible twos? Obviously you’ve never lived with a teenager! Find out how to manage your career when you’re living with a teen.
As our children grow they become more and more independent. But that doesn’t mean they need us any less – or become any easier to work out or live with!
Copywriter and mum Mel Fenson shares her advice for balancing the demands of a career, with the demands of living with a teenager.
The downsides of living with a teenager
Juggling a teething toddler with a client deadline is stressful. But it’ll be easier when your child is a teenager, right?
Hmmm, not really. Because when your child hits teenage, a whole different set of challenges kick in. Here’s a snapshot of the negatives that might be coming your way, and tips for juggling a freelance career with the teenage years.
Sleep deprivation comes back to haunt you
Tragically, sleep deprivation (yours) returns when your child gets teenage insomnia. There are physiological reasons for this as the teenage brain goes through its huge changes, but it’s still a pain in the arse.
It means your child will stay up until the small hours, make messy midnight snacks and invite insomniac friends for sleepovers (that involve no sleep).
Tips – draw on the lessons you learned when your child was a baby:
- Nap when you can and invest in ear plugs.
- Adopt their nocturnal habits and work into the night (you can meet up for a chat in your 2am coffee break).
- Insist that sleepovers happen at someone else’s house.
Calamity is always five minutes away
Teenagers do dumb stuff. And that means that there can be calamity at any moment.
This ranges from missing a bus or not coming home and not calling, to you receiving a call from the school or authorities. And the calamity can happen with no warning – which is pretty inconvenient if you’re in a client meeting, or up against a deadline.
Tips – put ‘calamity plans’ in place:
- Network with other parents, so that you can always call on them for help.
- Give your teenager emergency money for the bus and check regularly that it hasn’t been spent on cake (true story).
- Store the number of a taxi firm in your phone, so you can always get your child home in an emergency.
- Build great relationships with your clients so they’ll be understanding if you can’t make a meeting or deadline.
You won’t be working from home. You’ll be working from the car
Your teenager will be busy. Either partying and making mischief, or busy with horse riding/competitive sport/insert time consuming passion.
So your taxi service is always required, which means a lot of time waiting in the car at some random venue.
Tips – it’s crucial to think ahead and plan work that can be done on the hoof:
- Beg for the Wi-Fi code of the stables/ swimming pool /wherever, so you can carry on working.
- Find the nearest cafe/pub that offers free Wi-Fi.
- Ensure your laptop/tablet/phone is always charged.
- Download documents so you can work offline.
- Catch up on client calls from your car (you might need a blanket in winter).
Teenagers are expensive
You might have started working from home because you wanted to pay for holidays or needed the mental stimulation.
But with teenagers in the house, you’ll be working in earnest to fund their expensive hobbies, habits and mishaps. They want expensive kit, they’re always going to parties/shopping and they lose their phones. And of course they attract calamity and might need a taxi ride home (see above).
Tips – teach your child that there’s no such thing as a free lunch:
- Make them work for any money you give them. (Side benefit: they do the housework for you).
- Don’t be swayed by what other parents do (other parents have money to burn or your child is lying).
- Don’t set your client rates too low. You definitely need to be paid what you’re worth.
The upsides of living with a teenager
Is living with a teenager all negative? Nooo. Here are the good bits.
Teenagers sleep late, which is bliss. You can either catch up on sleep too, or get up early to work in a quiet house. And remember, when they’re asleep they’re not asking you for money or a lift.
Tip – never wake a sleeping teenager.
Teenagers are more self-sufficient than younger kids and you’re no longer tied to the 5pm teatime routine. They can cook their own meals, and yours (although incentives might be required). This frees you up to work longer hours.
Tip – invest in an easy-to-follow cookbook, teach your teenager to ‘batch cook’ and freeze, and don’t feel bad; you’re preparing them for life.
Teenagers can babysit for younger kids or pick them up from school, which can elongate your working day. Factor this service into their monthly allowance (if you pay one) or just guilt them into doing it.
Tip – teenagers need to be taught responsibility. It’s reasonable to ask them to pull their weight.
Despite all their mess, chaos and attitude, teenagers can be very entertaining and incredibly witty. They’re often fun to be with, and provide a welcome break from tedious, serious clients.
Tip – remember your teenager will leave home relatively soon. So don’t work all hours, you need to enjoy them before they’re gone!
Need more help?
If you need more help with your teenager, you may find this advice on coping with teenage tantrums helpful, as well as these books and website:
- Get out of my life but first take me and Alex into town
- Whatever! A down to earth guide to parenting teenagers
- Teenagers explained: A manual for parents by teenagers
- Mumsnet’s ‘parenting teenagers’ page
And your teenager may benefit from these books:
- The Teenage Guide to Stress – Nicola Morgan (a brilliant book, highly recommended)
- Blame my brain – the amazing teenage brain revealed – Nicola Morgan
Mel Fenson provides copywriting services to small businesses in Leicestershire and beyond. She’s a firm believer in smart, straight-talking copywriting and is allergic to waffly advertising-y speak.