How to work at home when you aren’t getting paid—yet {How She Does It}

How to work at home when you aren’t getting paid—yet {How She Does It}

How to work from home when you aren't getting paid (yet) | Modern Mrs Darcy

We’re continuing a guest post series on the blog today called How She Does It (just like the book). Read more about the series here. (If you’d like to submit, email me at modern mrs darcy at gmail dot com. I would especially like submissions from those in more traditional office-y job. Thank you!) 

Today’s post comes from Hannah Vanderpool. Join me in welcoming her to the blog! How She Does It: an everywoman's guide to breaking old rules, getting creative, and making time for work in your actual, everyday life.

I’ve always been a creative type. Music was the language of my family of origin, but writing was my private joy. I didn’t analyze it or imagine what type of future job I might land if I developed my skills. My love of the written word was just mine, like the fact that I was petite and had dark hair.

I never stopped writing, but it has taken a backseat in my adult life for several years. Having married fresh out of college, I promptly had three babies in three years, then helped my husband get through grad school, moved our entire family to India for three years (learning Hindi in the process), and began homeschooling when our firstborn was old enough. It was a jam-packed season, and there were times when I could focus only on the task at hand (read: survive).

But now we’re back in the States, the kids are pre-teens, I’m close to 40, and I’m ready to return to one of my dearest loves: writing. While I’m still teaching my kids at home, I’ve found that space for creativity has opened up in my life.

I’m pursuing my writerly passion while not yet getting paid to do so. It’s a tricky and freeing place to be and it requires its own kind of discipline. I’ve learned that I have to make time to create, and that sometimes I’m tempted to quit.

How to work at home when you aren't getting paid (yet) {How She Does It}

Here are some ways I’ve carved space in my days to get better at my craft instead of waiting for “someday” when things get easier:

  • I include the kids. This year I wrote a first draft of a massive personal project. I knew this would mean that I spent more ‘quiet’ time away from the kids, and that this would be an adjustment for them.  I sat them down before I started to let them know how important they are to me and my success. I promised that when my project was complete, they could read it and give me feedback. This made them much more cooperative when I had to remind them not to interrupt me while I was working.

  • I take time to think, without interruption, every day.  (My kids are older: I haven’t been sleep-deprived in several years, and can afford to wake early most mornings.) The time I spend alone, dreaming, musing, and praying is golden to me.  It means I’m already primed for inspiration, even when I’m in the middle of helping my middle-schooler with his math assignment.  Without this focused time to let my mind settle on things that are deeply meaningful to me, I can’t quickly tap in to what helps me be better writer.

  • I focus on the big picture. Life as mom, especially when my kids are always—or often—with me, is full of the (blessed) mundane. I remind myself that I am practicing my art for me, now and not later, because I want to improve, to stay open to future possibilities, to grow. Writing reminds me there’s a lot of life to be lived, even after the kids are grown.  It’s important enough to make it real in my day-to-day, without putting it in front of my kids’ needs now.

Pursing a passion when there are kids at home, especially if that passion has not translated into dollars (yet), can seem indulgent and frivolous. And, of course, sometimes the tyranny of the urgent temporarily overrides my personal pursuit of excellence.

But including the kids in my goals, creating space for quiet reflection, and keeping an eye toward the bigger picture can help me find the courage and rhythm for my creative goals and passions, even when a paycheck hasn’t come in—yet.

Photo on 4-18-14 at 12.08 PM #2

Married to her college sweetheart, Hannah Vanderpool is a Jesus-follower, a mom of three interesting kids, a writer, teacher, and world-traveler. She can’t imagine a world without sisters and books. Find her at her blog,  Praying with One Eye Open.

Check out more posts in the How She Does It series here.

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31 comments

  1. Scott says:

    I agree with this! I’ve written two books and I am currently trying to get them published. I am a stay-at-home-dad who home schools two of his four daughters (all of them are 9 and under). It is difficult trying to find peace and quiet in the home to write. So my wife encourages me to go out several times a week at night to Starbucks to work on my books. It’s difficult when you feel your writing is done in a vacuum. You wonder if it is worth it. Books are meant to be read, but if no one publishes your book or reads it, it feels like you’ve written in vain. You just have to push through and hope your efforts will be rewarded.

  2. I’m not a Momma (yet!), but I love this! Its similar to my own story–except substitute performing in musicals around the country for the years of raising a child. Now, close in age to Hannah, and settled in one place with a husband, my private writing joy is becoming a new and beautiful creative outlet. Thank you for the inspiration this morning!

    • Hannah says:

      I sit down with them before I start a project and explain what it will mean for the family in terms of time, daily rhythms, etc. I try to share when I accomplish little milestones and I include them in mini-celebrations (sometimes ice cream). My husband helps by talking positively to the kids about the work I’m doing so that it feels like something we’re all in together. Finally, I hold the line when they complain because I want them to see that Mom doing something and sticking to it is important–for them and for me.

  3. Amy says:

    I love the idea of “practicing my art for me, for now and not later.” Right now, my kids are still super-little (2 and 4) and I imagine I’ll have more time to devote to writing when they are in school. Some days it’s easy just to think it would be easier to wait until then to try to make a career out of writing, but then I realize that I need to write for me, and that all the time that I put into writing now will make me a better writer in the “then” of the future.

  4. Bronwyn lea says:

    Hi Hannah! Yes to all this 🙂 my kids are just getting to the age where I can wake up early to read and pray, and it is golden, I agree. I HATE 5:15 when the alarm goes off, but I LOVE 5:20 when the coffee is brewed and the house is quiet and I know I have an hour to think and pray. And p.s. I’m looking forward to your guest post at my place soon 🙂

    • Anne says:

      Okay, it’s been a while since I’ve planned on seeing the 5 o’clock hour (though occasionally I pop out of bed that early anyway) but YES to the difference between 5:15 and 5:20. 🙂

    • Carrie says:

      Ha! Love it. I’ve been up since 5:30 working on my French lessons… and this sentence struck me:

      “Pursing a passion when there are kids at home, especially if that passion has not translated into dollars (yet), can seem indulgent and frivolous.”

      Seem being the operative word… because self-improvement is NEVER indulgent and frivolous!

      By the way Hannah, I LOVE your haircut. I’m going to check out your blog just to see if I can find a better pic!

  5. That’s how it was for me at first…it took me a year to earn enough to just cover my small hosting fees! But what helped me is that I didn’t start my blog specifically to earn money. My passions for writing about my topic is what carries me and is especially what carried me through that first year.

  6. Jenn says:

    For me it’s so hard to keep blogging when you feel no one is reading. I keep writing in my notebooks of course but the computer/ tech side is so hard for me. Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone and to keep pushing!

  7. sarah beals says:

    Hannah, I could relate with so much of what you said. The childbearing season of life was a blur for me and while I enjoyed creative pursuits, they were more creativity for sanity, rather than creativity for productivity. Thanks for your insight.

  8. Taking time to think, without interruption, every day — that is so, so important to me, for sanity as well as for creativity! I have both big and little kids (13, 10, 8, 6, 3, and 1yo), so there’s a lot of interruption in the day overall, but earmarking of my one chunk of thinking-and-writing time every day as a necessity helps so much.

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