How to Juggle Parenthood with Freelance Translation

November 3, 2011 by E Bagyary

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An interview with Laura Lucardini, Translator Extraordinaire!

Earlier this week I had a little catch up with one of our trusted and valued translators about how she manages to juggle being the mum of a ten year old daughter and  providing high quality translations for demanding clients, hoping she wouldn’t tell me that we were the most demanding of the lot!

Laura studied languages in Italy, then worked in the Sales Offices of a number of corporates, dealing mainly with foreign customers and/or suppliers. She has always loved writing and languages, and about 14 years ago, when she met her partner who is an IT consultant, she decided to give up her office job and become a full-time translator, so that she could follow her partner on his business trips around the world.

I was lucky enough to start working very soon with an Italian publisher specialised in computer books, as well as with an Italian computer magazine” explains Laura, who is familiar with the difficulties involved in setting up shop as a freelancer.

When Laura had her daughter 10 years ago, she worked until a couple of weeks before the birth and then took a year off, a definite perk of the freelance world.

When asked about the things Laura most appreciates about being a freelance translator Laura lists her top 3 as:

  1. 1. I love being able to manage my time and manage work around my daughter’s schedule.
  2. 2. I like being able to do my shopping during off-peak hours, when everyone’s at work, and the occasional coffee with a friend when work is not too busy.
  3. 3. Finally, I like the idea of financially contributing to my household doing something that I really enjoy.

However, work as a freelancer is not always so rosy, when Laura decided to pick up her freelance translation work after her maternity leave she found that the Italian publisher she used to work for had ceased trading, and she found herself having to start her business from scratch.

I started to send my CV to lots of translation agencies, and slowly started to build up a client base. Work has been growing year after year, and now I work full-time.

Keeping afloat as a freelancer has meant that Laura has had to be increasingly flexible and constantly develop her skills to suit a range of translation jobs.

Freelance work has got an element of uncertainty and fear of losing clients, which makes me very rarely turn down jobs, and there have been a few occasions when I have bitten off more than I could chew! Also, because the workload is unpredictable, I cannot always attend every single event at my daughter’s school, although I do my best not to miss these precious moments. I also find myself cancelling appointments at the last minute because of work.

Having to turn down the odd meeting with friends is one thing, but missing events at her daughter’s school is obviously upsetting for Laura. When asked how Laura manages to put aside some time to spend with her daughter, she takes me through a typical work day:

I get up at six o’clock, and make the most of the first couple of hours of the day getting most of the house chores out of the way and getting my daughter ready for school.

Because my workload is quite unpredictable, I cannot always fit all the work in the school hours, and end up working at night, or at the weekend. During school holidays, I cannot afford to give up work completely, but take on a bit less work than usual.

When my daughter was younger, I used to play with her and entertain her much more, but now if I need to work, she’s old enough to understand and keep herself entertained, or is independent enough to have a friend round to play and not need my help at all. During school holidays, I normally don’t work in the morning, and do things with my daughter, then in the afternoon I will have organised a play-date for her, so that I can work. I often end up working in the evening and at the weekend-the amount of ‘juggling’ during school holidays is double!

Not only is freelance work unpredictable and requires a lot of flexibility, it has also landed Laura in a few sticky situations with her family.

Holidays are always tricky, as I always end up having to work a bit for those clients that do not have a large pool of Italian translators, or who just don’t trust trying someone else! On one hand it is flattering to be valued and relied upon so much, but on the other hand I never seem to be able to completely ‘switch off’, which doesn’t always go down well with my family! Let’s say that I’ve done many translations by the side of a pool!

I remember being invited to a very fine restaurant in London on a Friday with my partner, and doing a sudden very urgent translation on his laptop literally minutes before going in! Or being called on my mobile by a client while I was at the supermarket, fleeing without finishing my shopping and rushing home to translate a birth certificate that was needed within the hour!

I am the mum who very discreetly and surreptitiously will be checking her work emails on the phone during a school play or during Sports Day, but I guess that this is the nature of freelance work, and particularly of translation work, where jobs sometimes are needed with a very quick turnaround.

But then again, it’s not all bad news…

Freelance work allows me not to worry about childcare during school holidays or when my daughter is ill. Despite both of us working, my partner doesn’t need to take time off if our daughter is not in school, and can carry on as normal, and I think he appreciates not having to worry about that!

I love my job, and I think my family is happy that I am passionate about what I do. I often have stories about my clients, or about unusual or interesting translations that I’ve done, and my daughter loves to hear them and feel involved.

Freelance work, and working from home especially, has allowed me to raise my daughter whilst working at the same time. It has sometimes been a stressful combination, but I feel I have been very lucky to choose this professional path at the time, because when parenthood came along, everything fell into place and things have worked well for all involved!

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