finding your way · freelancing · inspiration · kids · life lessons · mom · parenting

The bear and the baby


I am not exactly a fan of cartoons. But I have learned to embrace them.

I run a freelance business and a lot of my work gets done while my 6 year old is at home with me. When the projects I work on have tight and overlapping deadlines, I find myself stopping right before I go pick my little one up from school and then I continue working after dinner until hitting late hours depending on the project, how (not) tired I am and if I took a midday nap. Working on the weekends is always a possibility and that is when I wish I had my mom or mother-in-law around. But I do not dwell on that thought too long because it is just self harming.

Now that my 6-year-old is attending first grade at the elementary school, more juggling is required due to the homework that needs to get done. On the other hand, a more disciplined routine is in place to accommodate this new phase.

Our TV is in the kitchen, which is where I work and where my little one watches cartoons. Basically, we spend most of our time together in the kitchen. Working and listening to cartoons has become something like a second nature for me. Or you may say, it is my “working background”. We all got to start from somewhere.

That is how I became familiar with Masha, a cheeky, mischievous, exasperating little girl, and the Bear, a retired Circus entertainer desperately seeking for peace and quiet. I love that show. It’s so real about what many parents go through. Sit down, get up, go save baby, run like mad, wash, give instructions, feel worried, tired, infuriated. Or happy. Yeap. The happiness is indescribable actually as compared to the juggling required.

For those you haven’t watched this Russian cartoon (it’s pretty famous in Italy where I am writing from) please visit the site here.

I feel sorry for the old Bear. And I always say to my 6 year-old “hey, don’t you dare act like Masha, she’s naughty and a lot younger than you are”.

The Bear and Masha story is actually rather educating for adults, if you see it from another perspective.

The Bear doesn’t have a strong voice. He is not firm enough. He is too good with no particular patterns that would help him cope with that heavy-duty little exasperating girl.

As a parent, you need a voice that gets heard. You can’t let your children be the captains. You are the captain. You manage this ship. You need a clear plan and follow it with determination.

If you are looking for better ways to communicate, it would be wise to work on developing a clear and firm parenting style. If you are investing time into your children’s education, you can definitely invest time in getting the message through.

For example, my little one since some time ago would not let me speak on the phone. When it was friends who called me, they would understand why we got interrupted but not being able to talk is annoying and, above all, unacceptable, especially if the person who calls is a potential or existing client. That said, I am not much of a phone person so this would only apply for incoming calls. If I need to say something, I send an email or send a message via WhatsApp. For friends I try to use the phone more. On another note, I have realised that my direct-approach by phone (and in person) phobia is rather unfortunate for getting direct translation clients because writing emails can never be as powerful as talking to a potential client. At least this is what my experience has taught me. Maybe I need to write more effective emails. Perhaps I need to find the right people to email. Actually, I think I should stop thinking about all that. I have great clients. End of parenthesis.

The Bear, to me, represents those tired and overly nice parents some of us are, not realising that we can do something to change our Mashas.

And before changing your Masha, you need to work on the Bear. On how you perceive your role as a parent. If you are too nice, you are only going to be feeling wretched when your children get older as their demands will be a lot higher. Since I didn’t want to see myself any near to that situation, some time ago, I knew I had to get myself a firm voice and a clear plan. The results have been positive. My little one is listening.

With a specific training approach, tailored to your needs and those of your child’s and your family’s (never forget that every situation is different and there is no rule that fits all!), children are more likely to understand and respect boundaries You will feel better. Less anxious. I am not saying it’s easy because I know what it took me to work on this “Bear”. And it is still a work in progress. I don’t want to give out the impression “I know this inside out” but I think it’s good to start doing something about it as soon as you realise that your voice is not heard. This leads to baby steps in effective communication.

Talking of baby steps, I wanted to let you know I wrote a piece for the Bulletin of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting back in January this year on the topic of specialising in the pregnancy and parenting market. To write this article I used some of my translation experience in this field, my personal experience as a parent and, last but not least, my fearless observation skills and sociological “radar”.


freelancing · kids · mom · motherhood

A freelancing mom’s interlude

September is almost over. Oh and I heard that Summer was here too. Did you see it by any chance?

People love Summer. I think I like it too but it puts my life into derail mode that I am not exactly looking forward to it, besides for wearing shorts, tees and sandals. I am not much of a Winter fan either but being a homebody, I am okay with rainy and cold days. When you freelance, you don’t really care about the weather. Well, maybe you could be a little bit jealous of those who take holidays without fearing of losing clients (now, try to explain that…). It gets worse if you freelance full-time including weekends because you have a rent or mortgage to pay.

Which translates to… an overwhelming freelance lifestyle.

The truth is I don’t have time to write a blog post these days but a few days back one evening while listening to Else Gellinek’s podcast interview with Paul Urwin, I said to myself: You can do this. Go and finish up that post you drafted.

Right. Where was I?

The Summer.

Work wise it was busy with only a few “clouds” of urgent projects lasting a couple of days due to a fashion translation which proved to be more tricky than it seemed, though definitely more fun than anything else!

But in July and August this year I also received some translation requests impossible to accept. Out of the new prospects who contacted me this Summer, I only accepted new assignments on the grounds of feasibility, reasonable rates and subject-matter.

During the Summer holidays when the schools (or kindergartens or day-care centres) are closed, when teachers take time-off for the whole Summer while being paid for it (sorry, had to vent about this), us freelancing parents need to find solutions for combining work and having our kids around.

The options vary according to your family’s needs and of course financial status but if there is another female figure in your family (usually your mom or mother-in-law) who can give a helping hand, it makes everything a lot easier. Actually it is a blessing and not just because of the baby-sitting involved.

If you live abroad, you simply pack your luggage and move your office to your parents’ house with your children. However, having a female figure around to help you all year round or throughout the holidays, is not feasible for all freelancing parents. Regardless of whether living grandparents live next door or in another country, if they can’t help or if they are not around (anymore), there is little you can do.

What’s a freelancing parent to do?

This Summer I chose a combination of options:

  • Sent little one to Summer camp for one week
  • Accepted assignments that were important and turned down offers that I saw no potential in
  • Worked on the staircase of our building facing the courtyard, while watching my kid play
  • Stayed with friends in a town by the sea for a few days

I must admit that the most exhausting part was not working on the steps of the staircase, even if I did get a sore back for a few days. It was staying with other people. Exhausting in the sense that besides working, I needed to pay more attention to my 5 year old who needed to adapt to an entirely new environment.

In fact, these new surroundings have shed a light on my own parenting strategy in some areas like working towards better discipline and respecting a parent’s need to be (talk) with others without interruptions. There is always room for improvement. Staying with my friend was a wise holiday alternative at this point of my child’s life. I may not have been able to tour Tuscany because when my translation was delivered, sunny days were over (can you believe it?), but my revamped parenting style might help towards achieving greater balance and less stress.

Before I go, I have a tip for future moms. Please understand me. It is given with love.

Running a business from home with children is a truly rewarding experience but it’s hard work. Therefore, before jumping head and feet into it, you may need to consider that one of the risks of having kids, especially nowadays when women have kids at a later age or when women live away from their parents, is related to raising your children without your mother or mother-in-law. If she lives in another country, you need to consider that in times of real need, she might not be there, whereas, throughout the Summer staying at your parents’ or mom’s house might not be a holiday option for you. Imagine if your parents’ house is in a huge and stressful city very far from the beach or if they go away on holiday too. What’s more, if your baby is small (not a newborn) and is not used to being with his grandmother and other people, it might be difficult to focus on work without being interrupted all the time. One way to prevent this is to visit your parents’ house more often. The attachment of a baby to his mother all year round is a lot greater when there is no grandma around. At least, this is what I think and of course I might be wrong.

Notwithstanding everything, parents have powers they only realise while raising their children. They can miraculously handle lack of sleep, impatient children, activities, overlapping deadlines meaning that they can become really good at freelancing.

***Like it? Share it. Have something to get off your chest too? Share it! Also feel free to send me a personal email at mgdp05 (at) gmail (dot) com in case you want to vent off-line).***

picture: Woman at the Virginal Jan Miense Molenaer 1630 – 1640

freelancing · kids · mom · motherhood · parenting · work life balance

Being a freelancer and a mom is a double act of courage

From the film “Motherhood” (2009) with Uma Thurman

Dear all,

You often hear about “work life balance”, juggling life and kids, trying to fit everything into 24 hours and into a lifetime. Most of it is true. Actually it’s more than true. We all do need to have balance even if in effect it’s not balance that we are targeting at when waking up in the morning to prep our kids for school. We do what needs to be done. If we are lucky to have “balance”, it will show later.

I am not so sure if terms such as “juggling” and “balance” can best describe what freelancing with kids is. I would go for other terms. It is an act of courage, patience, strong will and fearlessness.

Parenting teaches us

Actually, this fearless nature of parenting can show us ways to develop our business skills as freelancers not to mention that parenting can be a school of adults. With lots of exercises! Parenting represents a mirror of your psyche because it is through raising your kids that you get to really “see” who you are. And it is through parenting that you learn to “undo” or improve aspects of your personality.

Freelancers are no ordinary parents.

There are moms who juggle a job in the office with kids, moms who juggle a highly demanding career with a personal life without kids and ….there are women who juggle freelancing with kids. And for some reason, I think the latter is the most challenging of all because it means two unpredictable roles into one.

Freelancing with kids entails unpredictability

Unpredictability, work wise, usually has to do with overlapping and/or urgent projects, replying to urgent requests, receiving work from new clients (add your own). Unpredictability with kids… well, if you are a parent and you read this you know the drill.

But unpredictability is only a piece of the pie. Maybe a big one but the more time goes by, the more I realise that freelancing and kids entails another “risk” for moms who love to work and want to run their own business from home.

The need to do things

It’s the risk of doing too much and at the same time the risk of having people expect too much from us. Because they know we want to help. And we want to. It’s a genuine interest. They know we always squeeze time in. Until one day we see reality with bare eyes. But it’s not their fault. It’s us and our perfectionism.

That’s how – I humbly believe – you can at least remotely approach the issue of balance. By doing something about doing too much! And you need to start from yourself. The people around us, our clients, family, friends cannot be in the position to see that you are doing “un passo più lungo della gamba” (bite off more than you can chew) unless you put a stop to it. For example, it’s been a while I started emailing my translations very late in the evening so that they can be in my client’s inbox next morning. I do it for a specific practical reason but this way I also let them indirectly know that I am doing what I can so they can be more… gentle with delivery dates. 🙂 I think it works.

The image others have of freelancing moms

And what is it that people think we do? We freelancing moms sometimes get to be labelled as doing a bit of freelancing while raising our kids. Try tell this to that mom who delivered a translation at 11.59am which was due 12.00 after a very hectic day involving proofreading another text, prepping her kid for school, taking the laundry at the self-service laundry, replying to emails. Sounds crazy. And still, some parents do it.

I get the impression that by the “naturally blendable” nature of the two roles, we come off (not by everyone of course) as “moms that do some freelancing too”. But if this is the case, we are at least recognised as women who work full-time as moms! This type of recognition doesn’t happen everyday…

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in Italy freelance translators don’t have their own pension fund but pertain to the infamous “gestione separata” which translates to…. paying the highest rate for social contributions because (this is my own interpretation) we are deemed as people doing some freelancing on the side and not a real job.

A freelancer’s “full-time” job

Guess what! Freelancing can be a full time job and worst (full time is usually 8 hours a day while some of us work 10-18 hours a day). A mom can be freelancing (e.g. translating) from 9am to 5pm and then from 10pm till 2am, during weekends, while being sick and this isn’t freelancing on the side.

Of course, some of us may well start “on the side” whether we have kids or not.

But eventually our business grows. We grow, our business grows and our kids grow too.

Not courageous enough?

Along the way, we need to have a huge amount of courage. Personally speaking, I have a lot of work to do in this department. I am not sure if I am courageous enough for all this. But I try.

One day you might even find yourself say “Today it was cool. Today I didn’t run too much”, while enjoying a cup of coffee looking at the sea from the balcony of your dream house. That is when you might find yourself doing a bit of freelancing. Who knows?


– Share your thoughts! Do you also feel that you need more courage to face it all? How do you find it?

freelance translation · freelancing · kids · mom · parenting · translators

7. The right words

image source


Lessons in freelance translation, n.7

When I explain what my job is, I usually get a smile of amazement often followed by “what do you translate” or “where is your office“. I have learned to be proactive and normally give a brief description of what I do based on what I was asked in the past to avoid feeling awkward. Which translates to… feeling as if the world cannot understand a simple concept:

Freelancing has no stable working hours and parenting is a 24/7 “job”.

There was one occasion when I was told by someone that if a mom of three, whose personal and family circumstances I am not aware of, can manage alright, then I shouldn’t be having any issues with only one child. That someone was not a parent, of course.

In that specific moment I didn’t respond to say that a mom of 3 who works in an office and returns home has a completely different lifestyle from a mom of 1 who needs to stay alert, be available, respond to emails while her child or children are home.

Parents who do “normal” non-freelancing jobs know that the moment they step into their homes, regardless of the noise, no freelancing project is going to invade those precious family moments. Sometimes it takes me a while to react. I mean to things people say. What about you? The only positive thing about reacting late is that the lesson is not only learned but an “official” reply is ready to be served next time. I don’t recall how I responded but it certainly wasn’t along the lines of my carefully thought out reply, now well embossed into my mind:

– “Freelancing has no stable working hours” (simple) or “Freelancing never ends” (edgy) or “Freelancing moms, compared to moms with non-at-home jobs face a variety of challenges throughout the day” (precise)

Communicating effectively with everyone, including non-clients, is also a way to improve self-awareness and increase self-esteem (and avoid unnecessary anxiety) But – hey – the Spring is here and it seems as if the blossoming around us will show us the path to maturity and prompt responses.



freelancing · kids · mom · motherhood · parenting · translators

Keep calm and don’t panic (for parents who freelance)

keep_calm_and_don__t_panic_by_miss_cupcake1102-d4rzhud{be calm and help
your kids be calm too}
Parents learn the hard way. (Okay, sometimes, they learn the panic way. It’s wrong but it’s normal.)

Same way as most freelancers do. We can get iffy projects, suspicious projects, clients that don’t understand the work we do and expect lower prices and fast deliveries. We can’t afford to be too emotional. And most important of all: We need to give an image of calm, of self-restraint, of being cool.

Most of the time we only realise how crucial it is to be able to maintain a certain level of calm and self-control until we come across situations which test our patience.

How we react to those high hazard challenging situations shows how fragile we really are.

With kids, things get a bit more complex.


It’s daily routine!

Today’s tip is very simple yet very tough to always follow.


Which translates to enjoying a peaceful day of freelance work.

No surprise how “Keep calm and carry on” and a variety of versions has gone viral!

The name of the GAME is CALM.


Your baby cries desperately because he/she cannot find a favourite toy. Keep calm and in a calm way explain that we are going to find it. You know you probably won’t but if you see desperation, show hope. Avoid saying things like “it’s nowhere to be found”. Don’t panic. Don’t try looking into the bin for it. Keep calm. It helps your kid to stay calm. Then, under a calm situation (can be the day after) you will say “still can’t find your toy, have we looked everywhere”?

The moment “it gets to you”, is when you know how fragile you still are.

And you want to be less fragile.

You must work on being less fragile.



freelancing · kids · mom · money

How Peppa Pig and Hello Kitty make your translation money disappear

{You have to admit she’s cute.}

When you have kids you get to become acquainted with a variety of personaggi that you have nothing in common with. But you get to accept them because your kids love them. In the end, you get to like them to or at least accept how nice and cute they are. For your kids.

Even if they make your hard-earned translation money disappear just like that.

The other day, we went to buy a couple of sweatpants which we are running short of (it’s always for my 4 year old). She wanted Hello Kitty pants. Duly noted.

And so we went. We reached the kids area in the store and surprisingly there was nothing that she (or I, to be honest) would like. I think we went to the wrong place. What I mean by that is that we wanted to buy something cheap because kids clothes don’t last long. No sign of any decent pink sweatpants for a 4 year old girl. And I had no intention to go to Chicco or try other brands.

After a while, our eyes caught a Peppa Pig puzzle. We were rather motivated to buy it (price: 12.99 euro) but my little one was interested in something else. Another Peppa Pig product of course! And …what… could… that… be?

An ice cream maker!

This ice cream maker, which my daughter refuses to put into the freezer so the whole thing starts making sense (in order to make granitas the machine must go into the freezer for 24 hours – a rather impossible mission since she keeps it close to her day and night), cost 22 euros. Not very expensive you would say. But when you are filled with a variety of giocatolli and bits and pieces of giocatolli, you begin to wonder if those 22 euros are worth it. What am I saying? You know that you are throwing 22 euro down the drain the MOMENT YOU BUY the game which translates to Peppa Pig making translation money disappear just like that.

I am not exaggerating. Both her birthday and Christmas is approaching and there are at least two Peppa Pig products on my little girl’s mind.

This is why a few days later, we went to another store (we did some research first), without her and bought a Hello Kitty sweater, Hello Kitty pants and Peppa Pig sweatpants. Price: 30 euro this time. It’s for my girl’s birthday after all.

So, the amount of 52 euro has disappeared just like that and this is not over yet.

But I must admit this:

I have never been HAPPIER when giving away money than now just thinking the smile on my little girl’s face when she sees them.

But still, Peppa Pig and Hello Kitty do make my hard-earned translation money disappear….

– Are there any similar things and objects of desire you wish wouldn’t make your freelance money disappear?

A presto,