Solid Goldberger

Parenting, childcare and the freelance lifestyle

24 posts in this topic

Hi Friends,

As of this past summer, I became a father to a pretty great little girl named Zoe, which has been an unbelievable joy.  However, it has not come without its fair share of stress, and a whole lot of new expenses that are starting to become a heavy burden--the slow times have never seemed as terrifying as the do these past couple months.  My wife works full-time, and quite long hours, so we needed to find a childcare situation that would acommodate her whole schedule for when I'm gone for work.  However, that has left us with seemingly few options besides 50+ hours per week of a nanny, and at New York City prices, its enough to make one's head spin.  We looked into daycare, but it neither covered the hours we needed, nor was it particularly less costly (maybe $100 less per week for worse hours)    While it is certainly quite convenient for me to be able to still run to work (or the gym, grocery store, etc.) whenever I need, its actually quite awkward to have a stranger there all the time raising my kid while I try to make myself useful around the house (I'm running out of things to paint).  

Clearly this situation is not ideal, but I don't really know a better solution, so I thought I'd throw it out to the hive-mind to see if any of you have encountered this particular problem (one spouse with a "real job", and the other one doing Production Sound).  In an ideal world, one could hire a nanny the same way we get booked, as a freelancer, and then use them only on the days we need coverage, but I imagine for a number of reasons this isn't possible. 

Anyways, to the other Moms and Dads out there, any thoughts?

Thanks in advance!

Ethan.

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I live it everyday... same thing... It's a big deal and very very difficult.... I have a newborn and a Toddler...  My wife works a regular job...Brutal... There are few options... the same for everyone in our position...  My kids with strangers is not an option... My toddler is in school... It's expensive as hell..  I have no magic option for you...

 

Don't worry, it will all be a bit better financially in 25 years...  but, maybe not...LOL

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6 minutes ago, Solid Goldberger said:

Hi Friends,

As of this past summer, I became a father to a pretty great little girl named Zoe, which has been an unbelievable joy.  However, it has not come without its fair share of stress, and a whole lot of new expenses that are starting to become a heavy burden--the slow times have never seemed as terrifying as the do these past couple months.  My wife works full-time, and quite long hours, so we needed to find a childcare situation that would acommodate her whole schedule for when I'm gone for work.  However, that has left us with seemingly few options besides 50+ hours per week of a nanny, and at New York City prices, its enough to make one's head spin.  We looked into daycare, but it neither covered the hours we needed, nor was it particularly less costly (maybe $100 less per week for worse hours)    While it is certainly quite convenient for me to be able to still run to work (or the gym, grocery store, etc.) whenever I need, its actually quite awkward to have a stranger there all the time raising my kid while I try to make myself useful around the house (I'm running out of things to paint).  

Clearly this situation is not ideal, but I don't really know a better solution, so I thought I'd throw it out to the hive-mind to see if any of you have encountered this particular problem (one spouse with a "real job", and the other one doing Production Sound).  In an ideal world, one could hire a nanny the same way we get booked, as a freelancer, and then use them only on the days we need coverage, but I imagine for a number of reasons this isn't possible. 

Anyways, to the other Moms and Dads out there, any thoughts?

Thanks in advance!

Ethan.

Ethan I feel your pain brother. Extended family has made the difference for us, not sure how we'd have coped without. Until they're in fultime nursery/school enjoy the special time with them and try not to worry about the money/career. My oldest is 16 in the summer, they grow up so quick (like in a blink), don't let our particularly niche form of wage slavery undermine your family life.

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We thought about it quite a bit, too. We looked at it mostly financially, and the result was that my wife has effectively quit her job - I know it's a cliche, but I make more money than her, and with all the extra things her job just doesn't pay off. We are almost as well off without her job and without a nanny. So now, in the morning we've got a daycare. These are publicly co-funded, so you have to pay according to your income. My wife is trying to freelance now, too (she is a music teacher) and can take care of the children for the rest of the day. When I work, I take over the weekends (so ro speak), and when I don't work, we share the "work".

My wife's not entirely happy, because she wants to contribute more financially, but it's getting more and more with her teching. She only started this a few weeks ago.

I wouldn't recommend to you to quit your job, but sometimes a sober look at the cold numbers can help you come to a decision. I think as you noticed, there is no easy solution, so it will be tough

 

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Hello,

I have twins of two years and half old, my wife too have a full-time work. We manage the situation with a kindergarten (9 to 16) (they do the lunch at kindergarten), and some times we have a neighbour that acts as nanny if we need to work after 16:00 (We pay the hours). We pay a average of 800€ at month of kindergarten (public) and nanny. But I know that in USA is much more expensive, my sister lives in Portland and have two childs.

Good luck

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11 minutes ago, Constantin said:

We thought about it quite a bit, too. We looked at it mostly financially, and the result was that my wife has effectively quit her job - I know it's a cliche, but I make more money than her, and with all the extra things her job just doesn't pay off. We are almost as well off without her job and without a nanny. So now, in the morning we've got a daycare. These are publicly co-funded, so you have to pay according to your income. My wife is trying to freelance now, too (she is a music teacher) and can take care of the children for the rest of the day. When I work, I take over the weekends (so ro speak), and when I don't work, we share the "work".

My wife's not entirely happy, because she wants to contribute more financially, but it's getting more and more with her teching. She only started this a few weeks ago.

I wouldn't recommend to you to quit your job, but sometimes a sober look at the cold numbers can help you come to a decision. I think as you noticed, there is no easy solution, so it will be tough

 

In a perfect world we could maintain our lifestyle on 1 salary, but unfortunately that is not in the cards if we stay in the city.  Unfortunately (in this particular case) my wife earns significantly more then I do, so I can't just figure out a way to support them on my own without totally upending our lives and/or living somewhere cheaper.  

e.

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My kids are long gone so my story is somewhat stale.  My wife made very low wages at her jobs and didn't like them much, so we went the "Leave It To Beaver" route and I worked and she watched the kids.  As a mid-level soundie in a mid-level market I had to pretty much go after the sure things--ie give up chasing features and episodics and work the commercials and 2nd units that came through town (when possible) and ride the tech boom on corpo video etc. the rest of the time.   I also had to develop some other income streams, since there were lots of very slow patches, resulting in very low bank balances.  Audio post of any kind, location music recording, VO recording, anything I could scare up that I could cobble the gear together to do.  Among the things I did a lot of were traveling doco series: low $ but lots of days.  But when the kids got into the Difficult Years in high school that had to stop--we needed a full court press here to make sure they got that diploma and went off to college.  So there were some sacrifices made to make it work, and life here in the SF area, while expensive, had not become quite as stupidly expensive as it is now yet.  When I worked on the "big" jobs, with mostly LA crews of very experienced people, I was shocked at how many of them were divorcees.  Everyone here knows why that is...and it takes work and some sacrifices to avoid that.

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My wife stayed home. Similar story. 3 kids and my wife's earning potential wasn't enough to make childcare sensible. 

My advice is to simplify your life financially as much as possible so you can enjoy your time off. I regret being so stressed out when I wasn't working. I hated weekends because I couldn't look for work. I was miserable. 

The greatest thing I ever did was not to increase my expenses after moving up to mixing and starting to make a decent living. 

I learned to enjoy my time off. 

I wish I could go back in time and enjoy those weeks and months off with my kids, knowing that in the end everything will be ok. 

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Time flies and children grow up fast. Don't stress too much or as Phillip said you will regret not enjoying your time off. They feel your stress too! Take lots of video and use your sound gear to capture those precious early years/sounds. Too often we value money/comfort over what's important, our kids. Keep your wife happy too or you will learn quickly that there is no gender equality after divorce when it comes to being a parent. Being home while paying for a nanny is a recipe for disaster! I've worked many bullshit jobs in between gigs and even did overnight office cleaning just so I could be there for my son/share the parenting during the day. There's no easy solution!

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A sound mixer friend has what is probably the nearest to an ideal solution:  His wife works full time and her employment allows her to work from home, plus they also have extended family nearby.

Nothing makes parenting while working easy, but his scenario gives options that alleviate some of the anguish.

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Totally understand where you are coming from. I've been freelancing since 1995, married in '03 and we had our first child in 2006. My wife was a full time school teacher AND had full health-care benefits with NYC. After the pregnancy leave she went back to full time and we hired someone to watch our child. This only lasted three months as my wife was stressed with work and with the cost of childcare/her salary we felt why are we paying someone to watch our child so that my wife can go watch 28-30 other people's children. That's when we decided she would stay home and it's been this way since early 2007. We had another child in '09 and are still going.

Now with that being said, living in NYC is expensive, commuting to work (I would drive in), owning a home, taxes, etc. Finally last year we decided it was time to change, so we sold our place and moved to central Florida.

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1 hour ago, G Murphy said:

living in NYC is expensive, commuting to work (I would drive in), owning a home, taxes, etc. Finally last year we decided it was time to change, so we sold our place and moved to central Florida.

this quoted scenario is playing out a lot here in nyc and the jersey suburbs. very high and in some cases very unequal property taxes. and tough commutes even if you do live in one of the four outer boroughs.

quality of life and quality of family life are supremely important issues that are linked directly to dual income earners with children.

is there ever a do-able ideal situation or is always bite the bullet and make do??

as far as making do is concerned i would recommend setting time aside--weekly--to calmly and rationally discuss finances--avoiding flashpoint acrimony is key.

the most common arguments between spouses are about money. having a long and short term game plan that both camps are in agreement with and keeping up to date with, helps avoid the flashpoint scenario that happens in those instances when it became necessary to discuss an issue.

discussing the money thing makes dealing with it routine, just another thing to do and makes joint decisions less stressful. not easier, sometimes, just less stressful.

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One of the best topics I've read in a long while. Like most questions, there is no one answer. For me, the answer has always been "somehow".  My story is not relevant to most freelancers, in that I live in a big market and have a big family here in SoCal. Even bigger extended family. A backup network that was always there for me. Many options, but many doubts.  The one thing I do know at 65 years of age is it goes bye too fast. Especially the KID years. Embrace the now and have faith you can do it is my advice. Even when you wake up at 3am in a dread of doubt, remember....... What was I saying?

CrewC

 

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My kids are 6 and 8 years old. For the first three years my wife worked full time, after birth part time for a few months with each kid. I took the jobs that came along and my parents helped out as they don't live too far away. My wife eventually quit her job because the kids missed her too much, and I started to get more and better jobs around then so we managed financially. We don't live in New York but let me just say that these first few years in your kids' lives will never come back. And family is more important than any job. Sometimes one has to sacrifice one for the other. I did pass on jobs that might have given me a better career for my family's sake, and so has my wife. A few years later, we don't regret any of that. We're happy now. Opportunities will keep coming. Kids grow. They'll be big sooner than you can grasp. 

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I went free-lance in 1978 and had 3 children 4/6/8 years, a mortgage and a wife not working

I could earn better money self employed, up to NZ$700 a week but I needed to buy equipment

and when a recorded my first relevant feature in 1980 I had a 4.2 two Sennheiser mikes and two

Audio radio mikes with about the total value of NZ12,000  ( my house value was NZ36,000?)

I traveled away from home on documentaries and feature films and eventually when I started documentary

work for the Cousteau family I would be overseas for 2/3/4 months!!!

Hard but we always enjoyed my return with gifts, stories and slide shows.

Yep I still get blamed for not being there when they were growing up (I was paying the bill - my answer)

I've been married for 51 years, our kids all have degrees, and we are great friends.

I love working still, travel does not excite me but my family and now 4 grandchildren do!

mike

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Good for you (and your wife and kids) for hanging in, Mike.  The biz isn't easy on anyone...

 

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Thanks Philip

But you end up with a great CV, skills, stories, travel experience that few can match!!!!!

mike

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We did the au pair thing. We had au pairs when the kids were from about age 3/4 until they were about aged 11/12. many of our au pairs did a year or two, moved on, and then came back to us for another stint. We reckoned that this meant that we were doing something right, or we were nice people, or we were a soft touch. Many of our au pairs are still very close family friends, and are still in touch with us, and our kids, who are now 27 and 29!!! Somewhere along the way we picked up some other, dear, people, who we now regard as 'family'. They don't read this group, nor would I embarrass them by naming them, but... they are absolutely as dear as our own two boys, and they know exactly who they are. One is with us tonight, and has been for the last few months, because she simply needed some love (her Ma died a few years ago, her Dad is living in Kenya, and her sis has moved to LA). She is the nearest thing I will ever get to a daughter and I am honored that she chooses to live with us old grey mid 50 something year olds in our big (and sometimes rather too cold) house.

So - fill your home with love, and with lovely people. Do what you have to do to keep on keeping on, but don't ever let them (them Production types) take the piss. Do it on your terms, and if it doesn't work to your advantage then just don't play.

I love my job to pieces, but I love my family (my blood) way, way, wtf, more.

Enjoy ;-)  sb

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Hi Bash I love the sentiments on the end

Fondest

mike

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Thanks for your replies, everyone.  While there wasn't a magic bullet solution, it was certainly thought-provoking, and I imagine that will continue throughout this journey.

e.

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Ethan,

First let me say congrats on the baby! 

 

My situation was a little unique, but I'll try to talk about what we did as a family and how it worked out. 

I moved to LA already having a 6 month old. I was very young (22 years old). I was interning for free at a post place and my first paying gig was working as a security guard at the Delux film lab. I was working my guard shift from 3am until noon, and then interning until about 7pm, and I did that for 6 months. I have no idea how I did it. My wife did not work. We somehow got by on $8/hr during that time in LA. If my wife would have worked all of that money would have just gone into daycare, and we didn't like the idea of putting our kids in daycare anyway (that's a very personal decision, and I'm not judgy about that). 

I managed to get a gig at Coffey Sound (now Trew LA), and that paid a little better, but we weren't swimming in cash. During that time we added child number 2. After that I went freelance as a sound editor. As we all know, it's feast or famine in the freelance world. 

Long story short, I got hired as a sound designer at different places doing game sound. Had two more kids. Got hired, laid off, hired, laid off. My wife stayed home with the boys during this entire time. I eventually made the decision to seek regular full time work and I got a gig at K-Tek. Getting out of the feast/famine circle was the best decision...for me. I was tired of the stress of not knowing if I was going to be working, or knowing the hammer could come down any time, or having to move in the middle of the school year..again..and uproot my boys. 

I currently live in Middle Tennessee and I've been here almost 2 1/2 years. For me, getting to an area of the country that is affordable was the best decision I've ever made. The amount of stress and anxiety that I felt living in California evaporated when I moved here.  Now that my boys are older (my oldest just turned 16) my wife can work full time and I work from home, so we have that extra income, which is nice. 

I thought about getting back into production work (I did a little of it during my freelance days), but as much as I love the people, the gear, and the work, I don't think we could have handled the long hours and the potential of me being away from home for long periods of time. With 4 kids it's really hard on my wife if I'm gone for a week for a trade show. I couldn't imagine being gone for months at a time. I now work a gig that I really like, from home, so can keep my own hours while getting done what I need to do, but it took me about 15 years to build up the street credit and ability to get to this point. I know that seems like a long time, and it is, but it doesn't seem all that long ago that I was just starting out and doing Deva II demos for people. 

The point of all that is, this is a very personal decision in terms of how you balance work life and home life. We all have different situations, and I've seen guys with families go through bitter divorces because of long work hours, and I've seen other guys with families thrive. One thing I'd say is that it is VERY difficult to have a baby and two working parents in an expensive area to live with expensive child care. It's not impossible, but I can tell you from experience that we had to make $20 last a week sometimes.  If knew then what I know now, I would have made a very strong effort to live in a part of the country that is more affordable...but then again, I might not have made the connections I have. We all make the best decisions we can with the information we have at the time, and even if something doesn't work out in the end, you'll have hopefully learned something you can apply to future big life decisions you need to make. Every decision I've made when it comes to work is "what is best for my kids?". Sometimes I've had to set aside what I felt was my "dream" gig for something more stable, and at the time I may have thought I didn't make the right decision, but years later I can look back and see what would have happened had I gone the other way and I know I made the right decision because, again, I was always thinking "what's best for my kids?". 

 

 

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I have a one year old now.  My wife is full time. We were lucky enough to have a family member that can work as a nanny 3 days a week(or more sometimes).  The nanny usually works Wednesday- Friday for consistency of schedule.  If I get a call for a Monday or Tuesday job, I can usually switch one of the other days.  If there is a busy week the nanny is usually available to work extra days but not always.  Sometimes the logistics of coordinating my wife's works schedule(she travels occasionally) my potential schedule and the hours we need child care get a bit crazy.  It definitely results in me turning down work.      At 3 days a week for baby care just one normal day(full rate) of work covers that cost.  

  The working less as a freelancer is tough. It is not just the money, I spent a lot of time and energy to become a  working sound mixer.  Saying no to work is not that easy.  I worked 30 less days last year then I did in 2015. But the being home with my son is far better than listening to a barking AD all day.  The best sound in the world is your child laughing.   Enjoy the moments, long days short years.  

Brian

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Late to this thread but I'm in the same boat as you Goldberger - wife works, I freelance and live in NYC and had our daughter 2 years ago. It was really rough - but what everyone here has already said is very true: 

• time flies by. It feels like being on a runaway train that stops for nothing. I obsessed about work in the beginning because I was worried about money and now she's two. I wish I could freeze time so she can be this age a bit longer. 
• I don't do feature or long doc work much now but it's ok - I love being with my family. 
• we chose daycare and it's worked out well for us. It's expensive as hell (as I'm sure you've found) but once the kid hits 2 years, it gets more affordable and there are more options. We're really happy with her daycare and she blows our minds with what she learns there.
• we wish that the US would follow other countries in helping with childcare costs. Childcare in Japan is $400/month (!) Right now, we pay $1700/month but started at $2k when she was an infant. 
• most importantly, what Brian said: the sound of your kid's laughter is the best. No schoeps, dpa, sound devices, zaxcom, etc. comes close. I started recording her and editing what she says into little ringtones (though recording her through those things make her sound better). There really is nothing better than listening to your kids be happy.



 

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