If there’s one thing that can cause a ton of stress in your life, it’s not having enough money. When times are tight, the prospect of not having enough cash can add a tremendous weight to every single decision.
Can we afford to buy organic produce?
Should I wait to pay this credit card bill?
How should we pay for a hefty car repair?
Will I make enough money this month to keep a good savings buffer for a rainy day?
Throughout the fall of 2012, I just couldn’t find the time to keep on top of my writing work. I’d slipped on my advertising and query letters. I wasn’t able to write for the publications that I wanted to target. My book project time had plummeted.
I didn’t know how to keep things going with a kid around the house—namely a kid who didn’t like napping. I always felt like I was playing catch up and distracted when I needed to be completely focused.
As my focus slipped, my regular income dipped as well. We weren’t broke, but it was the wrong kind of trend for a few months.
I’ll admit, I’m used to this up and down roller coaster of freelancing to a certain degree. I at least expect it. But that doesn’t make it easy. You always wonder when things will pick up and when you can rest your head in the evening, knowing that you’ve done enough for one day.
Even if I spend the entire day writing and working on queries, I really can’t let myself relax until I’ve hit my weekly income goals. That can take its toll on how I spend time with my wife and with Ethan.
What Does Stability Look Like?
As we returned from family vacation, I had a strong sense that God wanted to give us stability this year—especially with my writing work. That has been my prayer at least: stability with God, my family, and my work.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve been flooded with emails about book projects, articles, and blog posts. My schedule filled up, and I’ve hardly been able to keep up with it. In fact, with Ethan’s limited nap schedule, especially his taste for naps in the stroller, I didn’t know how I’d ever figure it out.
A little over a week ago, it finally hit me: I needed to wait up early. REALLY early. 4:00 am early.
Will I Survive 4:00 AM?
I was reminded of the season a few years ago when I woke at 5 am to start working on a novel, and it was a wonderful, focused time where my creative energy felt particularly powerful.
Since most of my friends are asleep, social media can’t tempt me. No emails have arrived. Twitter is dead. The rest of my family, Ethan especially, are sound asleep until 6:30 or 7:00 am.
I naturally end my work day earlier and go to bed between 8 and 9 pm, but this shift has been a life saver. I never would have tried it unless Ethan’s sleep/nap schedule demanded it. However, it’s more effective than any other schedule I’ve ever had.
Better yet, by the time I take Ethan from my wife and she resumes her PhD work, I’ve completed a bunch of items on my to-do list and have the resulting high of feeling on top of my day. Just knowing that I’ve hit some of my goals makes it all the easier to focus on Ethan during the day.
It’s a funny thing. The more I’ve put Ethan first in one area, the easier it has been to put him first in other areas. I just needed to think of ways to organize my work around his needs. Once I figured that out, I didn’t resent him for not napping or worry about an unchecked to do list while playing with his trucks on the living room carpet.
This feels like stability, even if it’s sometimes exhausting and bleary eyed. It’s working. I’m making progress on my work, and I’m learning to put my family first as I juggle marriage, fatherhood, and a freelance career.
Getting a head start on the day sure helps, but I would never try it if the baby didn’t want it. Isn’t it strange when it turns out that giving your baby what he wants ends up giving you what you want as well?