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Translations and babies
Thread poster: Claire Titchmarsh
Claire Titchmarsh  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:40
Italian to English
+ ...
Jul 11, 2005

as the intro to this forum says "independent professionals face unique challenges" I am posting here but please tell me if it should be somewhere else!!

Having just had no. 2 baby I would just like to hear the experiences of anyone who has small children and how they fit translating around childcare. This is not just a classic working mother's dilemma as translating is not a classic 9-5 job, I'm sure you will agree, and my biggest problem is knowing where to draw the line and turning work down or not while still trying to earn a living.

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Local time: 20:40
Member (2005)
English to Arabic
+ ...
A good working schedule and a good father are most important Jul 11, 2005

Hello Claire,
I've had my second baby few months ago as well, and indeed having babies is one of the most challenging factors. The best thing is to try to set a working schedule setting the number of hours you will work each day, and try to determine when will these hours fit best in your children's day. I, for example usually work, shortly after dawn (around 6 A.M.) till 11 A.M., or noon. This suits me best because my children, still in pre-school stage, wake up relatively late. If you have a child that goes to school and wakes up early, it might suit you best to work right after he/she sets off to school. But I guess in any case, extra help with your kids,is very useful. Actually, I'm lucky enough to have my mother around most of the time. Anyway, you'll concentrate best if you work when you're children are asleep, but still, you'll have to be around when they wake up. You may also try to put them to bed early enough, (around 8 O'clock if possible), and work till midnight perhaps, and then wake up around 7 A.M., and work till 10 or 11 A.M.. That gives you seven hours of sleep and 7-8 hours of work, then you can dedicate the rest of the day to your kids. Just do not accept jobs entailing more working hours that you can handle each day, it will eventually take its toll, not only on you, but on your kids as well.
Most important though, is a husband that is understanding and thoughtful enough to give you a hand with the housework, and with your kids.
I wish you all the best,

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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:40
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Translation probably easier than most other professions Jul 12, 2005

As you do not have to travel yourself to a working place you just take care that your children get to where they have to get, daycare or school, and then you are free to work.
If children of school-age have no place to go afternoons they can be at home with you doing their homework.
I'm a former single father of two. Things would have been much easier if I had been a translator already then. Now I seldom have to work more than 5 hours per day, compared with the normal 8 hours most people are bound to spend away from home plus travel. And look at the many days I'm totally free, though I earn better on a month-to-month basis.
We translators have no reason to complain.

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Beth Dennison  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:40
Chinese to English
+ ...
Work around your children Jul 12, 2005

I am a single mother of one (who is four now - she was two when I started as a freelencer).

I find that I can easily fit my work in around looking after my daughter. I work in the morning when she is happy to watch TV or is at playgroup, a little after lunch when she is happy to play quietly in my office(which doubles as her "art studio"!) and then in the evening when she is in bed. This is far easier than a regular 9-5 job, and I get plenty of time to play with her.

There are, of course, the occasional hectic times, but things generally work out well.

I wish you luck.


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United Kingdom
Local time: 19:40
English to Italian
+ ...
Sigh! Jul 12, 2005

I admire colleagues who manage to work with children in their office and I admire their children... because my experience is quite different. One of my children has always been a volcano and always wanted company ever since I can remember. Whenever I have tried to sneak to my office he has done all sorts of things, from painting the walls in the living room (it was a rented flat) to - more recently - trying to lit a fire under his bed or jumping over the garden fence to go to the local shop without my knowing it.

My other child cannot stay away from the computer and if I try to write she comes and presses the keys, pulls cables and screams when I am on the phone with clients.

Also I can't concentrate if I can only work an hour or half an hour here and there and I can't plan the amount of work I am able to take on.

So this is my experience: I decided that my priority was keeping my two main clients, who pay well and are very friendly and understanding. With no relatives around and an ever absent father, the only option was to pay someone, a childminder and later an au-pair. This has cost me dear but it has allowed me to stay sane, produce quality work, keep my deadlines and ultimately my clients, while still having a good half day with my children. In September my daughter will be going to school, at last, and I will be managing without help while translating 8-9 hours a day (partly late in the evening) and teaching.

The main thing is to try and plan a few hours for yourself, otherwise you will end up being tired, nervous (because of the deadlines) and frustrated (if work quality decreases). Try to get help from relatives (if any) and friends, maybe 'exchanging' children once or twice a week on a regular basis, asking your partner to step in a couple of times a week in the evening etc.

All the best


[Edited at 2005-07-12 11:16]

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Antje Harder  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:40
Swedish to German
+ ...
Working with(out) children Jul 12, 2005

Some thoughts, not really coordinated, because my kids are playing at home...

It really is a great advantage to have a home office, that saves a lot of travelling time - and time becomes the most precious thing when you have children and a job.

However, it is impossible for me to really focus on my work
when my children are at home (awake, that is). About half of my attention is always with them, checking what they are up to. (They are 3 and 5 1/2 now.)

Fortunately we have great day care opportunities here and so I have regular "working hours" between 9 am and 3 pm, with additional "late shifts" if necessary (often).
When my younger child still was a baby she would not sleep in her bed so I spent many evenings working on jobs for some regular customers, with my daughter in the baby sling in front of the computer...

Of course having a home office does have its drawbacks too - folk tend to think you're available all the time (family members ringing, friends dropping by...). This is why you ought to make sure everybody understands that during certain times this indeed is your "office" and you are not "at home".

Another thing you have to bear in mind when you have small children: don't accept schedules which are too tight. My nightmare is the combination of an approaching deadline and a child who just woke up with a feverish head - meaning two days away from day care...
This is why I always keep some time in reserve when calculating the time needed for a new job. I'd rather deliver a little too early (or take on an extra minijob) than letting the customer down and having to apologize...

Just a few thoughts from another mother.

Best regards from Sweden

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Benno Groeneveld  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:40
English to Dutch
+ ...
We hired a day care person Jul 12, 2005

to come to our house five days a week when our son was little and I was working at home while my wife went to her regular 9-5 job (which also provided the family health insurance!)

The woman came in around 9, left around 5 when I would put the baby in the backpack and go shopping for food so that dinner would be on the table when mom came home at 6.

During the day I could jump up from the computer, hug the kid and go back to work.

We also hired cleaners who came in every two weeks to do the cleaning neither of us had time for.

Not the cheapest solution, but it was well worth it (and our son has become a good cook into the bargain).


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Adriana Caraccio Morgan, Dip Trans IOL  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:40
Member (2010)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Our arrangements... Jul 12, 2005

We have a son, almost 2 now, and I work at home, and my husband too (although he teaches English at night time, in our school).

When my son was born, I could cope with my assignments when he was sleeping. If I had a tight deadline, then my mother came to look after him. But I have to say that in the days that I needed the most, he was a nice little boy and slept the whole afternoon! (I used to keep the push chair by my side, in the office).

When he was 4 months old, and getting more active, and we started to get more assignments (after Carnival here in Brazil!), then I decided to hire a part-time girl to help me out with him. She came in the afternoons, leaving me with 4 hours to work, and my husband helped me in the mornings as well.

When he was 7 months old, I decided to put him in the nursery school, a 3-minute walk away from our home. At first, he went only in the mornings, and we kept the part-time girl in the afternoons. When I saw that he was happy in the nursery, I decided to leave him there for the whole day (he can go from 7am to 6:30pm). I can work full time, and I know he is well, playing with kids his own age.

As someone wrote before me, when he is at home, he wants to play with us (mostly with me, though, if I'm around), draw with us, he loves the computer (the office room is maintained closed whenever he is in the house...), and I would love if I could have him drawing near me in the office - maybe next year or so...

I agree that we have a much better situation than a regular 9-5 job, and I wouldn't trade this life style for nothing.

Good luck!

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Andreia Silva  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:40
English to Portuguese
+ ...
So far do good.... Jul 12, 2005

I have 3 children: 8 and 4 years old and a baby 19 months.
They are always around. At least in the afternoon. My oldest daughter has school in the morning and the other goes to pre-school whenever she wants!!!
I work many hours a day, around 10-12 hours. This is because I stop whenever is possible and needed. I have a housekeeper/babysitter who takes care of them and also a all day husband around to help. My parents spend lots of time with us too. But of course, sometimes they decide that they only want me and I need to be with them for a while. But I've been working for 7 years like this and so far so good. Despite some crazy days!!!!
I think that with love we can always find a solution. I thank God to have this profession since it allows me to watch them growing!!!!

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Natalya Zelikova  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:40
Member (2003)
English to Russian
+ ...
Babysitter Jul 12, 2005

We hired a babysitter when my daughter was 10 months and now she is 17 months.
We just had to do this as it became impossible to concentrate on work with a 10 months baby around.
We just did this all of a sudden, hoping to have at least few hours a day to work.
But everything turned out to be much better: I can still spend some time with my daughter or keep an eye on what they are doing, but when needed I can fully (almost ) concentrate on work especially when they go for a walk.

Sometimes I can ask her to stay 2 hours longer and she really saves much time.

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Claire Titchmarsh  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:40
Italian to English
+ ...
Thanks Jul 12, 2005

everyone for your input. I do have a part-time babysitter and there are family members I can rely on to some extent but it just seems like there are never enough hours in the day. I think I'll adopt Lucia's solution and just concentrate on my best clients for now !

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Mirella Soffio  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:40
English to Italian
+ ...
Don't ask too much of yourself Jul 12, 2005

Claire Titchmarsh wrote:

it just seems like there are never enough hours in the day.

Hi Claire

don't be afraid to say "no" to clients. They will understand - and if they don't, well, there are others who will take their place in due time.
The first months are the toughest - unless you're blessed with what I call "low-maintenance kids". Mine wasn't! He was a "napper", meaning that he rarely slept for more than two hours in a row (day or night). To this day, I still don't know how my husband managed to wake up and go to work day in day out after spending two thirds of the night awake. As for me, I was barely able to function on the most basic level, and I found that working was utterly impossible. I suspect that breastfeeding also played a role in this - I felt tired and light-headed and unable to focus. When my son started to walk, I sent him off to day-care in the morning, hired a baby sitter to stay with him in the afternoon AND a cleaning lady, rolled up my sleeves and started my career anew. Old clients were happy to have me back, and I had the time and energy to look for new ones too.
My son is 4 and a half now; he's in pre-school from 8.30 to 16.00, but I still have a babysitter and a cleaning lady to help me when my schedule is crammed (like, always). I try not to work over the week end, and to spend a lot of time with him when he's home. He never falls asleep before 10 pm, so that means that we have a lot of time for bedtime reading.


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Jean Martin  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:40
Member (2004)
Italian to English
Don't be afraid to take some time off! Jul 17, 2005

I had my first baby in Italy 24 Years ago and was back translating within 3 weeks! I then returned to the UK and had baby no. 2 and didn't return to translating for 6 years! Both due to general exhaustion and wishing to spend time with my children. They are now 24 and 22 years old and just come home after University - hopefully as a temporary measure! I certainly don't regret the 6 years I took off and am now working harder than ever in the translating field. So give yourself a break - the work will be there when you want it - children are a precious commodity and should be enjoyed!

[Edited at 2005-07-17 16:48]

[Edited at 2005-07-17 16:49]

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Nikki Graham  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:40
Partial member (2003)
Spanish to English
Flexibility and part-time work Jul 19, 2005

Before I had my daughter, I could only work if there was silence and hardly any interruptions. I used to get up at 6 to read through my work before sending it off, as that was when I felt most alert. After taking 3 months off, I found it very difficult to adjust to working with her in the same room and there was no point trying to do any work early in the morning, as that is when she required lots of attention. My mother helped a great deal, but basically I had to change the way I worked completely and for two years I mostly worked in the evenings, often until 2 in the morning.
Now she's at nursery school in the mornings and I can just about cope in the afternoons with her around if I still have to plough on with things. I still work in the evenings (when my partner comes home and can help with chores if necessary), but try to get to bed at a reasonable hour. So far, so good, and I am gradually working up to being full-time again. But I'll have to invent another schedule when she goes to school, etc. I have had to learn to be flexible and to teach myself to work in conditons that I would never have even contemplated three years ago.

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Local time: 20:40
Member (2003)
English to Danish
+ ...
You become a better negotiator Jul 25, 2005

My daughter has just turned 6 months, and I must admit that it has been rather stressful at times, but things are about to get better (she will be in daycare).

The first 2-3 months were rather easy, because she was sleeping a lot, but now she only sleeps around 2 hours total during a whole day, and this makes it rather difficult to get things done.

Easy to say, difficult to do: It's all about planning!
I have learned to say NO to very tight deadlines - and to this date, I have not lost a single assignment doing this! Go figure!!! Also, I have a rather good idea about how many words (approx.) I can translate per hour, and knowing that she only sleeps 2 hours per day, I only take in work that will fit into this time frame (I really can't concentrate when she's awake, and she does demand a lot of experiences all the time).

As Lucia, I have concentrated on keeping my regular clients, and I have (somehow) managed to keep them all! Many of them are very understanding, and others can be pushed when it comes to deadlines or even rates at times, and this is not a bad thing for you to learn. I have benefitted greatly from realising this, and when my daughter starts daycare in about 3 weeks, I will try to keep my new negotiating style.

I am sure, I have become a much better negotiator from this, and I believe my working day will become a lot shorter than before I had her (6 am to approx. 12 pm and sometimes longer).

I wish you the best of luck with your translating and your children!

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