Friday, October 27, 2017

How to Get Work Done While Raising Kids: Interview with a Freelancing Mommy - Zara Gonzalez Hoang

Introducing the fourth of four freelance mommies, the very talented Zara Gonzalez Hoang.

Zara has been an illustrator and designer for years but she recently finished illustrating her debut book, Thread of Love written by Surishtha Sehgal and Kabir Sehgal  (Beach Lane Books / Simon & Schuster - Fall 2018). You can find more of her work at When she's not illustrating, she is taking care of her 3 year old.

Me: Hi Zara! 

Zara: Hey Meridth!

Congratulations on finishing your debut picture book, Zara! And thanks for letting me interview you! With all your projects and raising an adorably squirmy kid, how is it that you manage your time?

Zara: Very haphazardly. I’ve tried a number of time-management strategies but at the end of the day I always come back to the simplest things. I make lists (usually on whatever piece of paper is closest by, which isn’t always the smartest idea) and my most consistent tool is Evernote. I have a set of notebooks called “Top of Mind” where I keep my weekly todo list (a list of all the days of the week with my checklist of things to do for each day – at the end of the week I erase it and start over again.), my shopping list, my list of what to make for dinner for the list and my list of what’s in the fridge (to help facilitate what to make for dinner this week). It's simple but it (mostly) works.
How do you make and keep your goals? 
Zara: Pretty organically. When I am between projects I try to spend some time evaluating where I am and where I want to be and then try to make small goals to try to push myself towards a bigger goal. I’m constantly re-evaluating where I am and what I am doing to keep moving forward.
I’m sure I could be doing much more to facilitate this but since my time is limited this is what works for now and I am content to know that I am making slowly making progress.
Zara's ToDo List.

Be content with where you are at and be patient with what you can accomplish... I love that! How do you balance your life between the demands of a freelancer and the needs of your spouse, kids, and your personal needs?
Zara: Poorly. I rarely feel like I’m doing everything in perfect balance. Something is always getting more attention and other things are being neglected. I have tried to make peace with the fact that nothing is ever in balance though. As a freelancer projects are never consistent so sometimes there is a lot of work and that needs most of my attention other times my family needs more attention and I don’t get to do as much work as I’d like. In every case I tend to short my personal needs the most but I’ve been making more of an effort to take “me” time even if that means stealing the time when my son is napping to read a book instead of working on something that would be better for my career. 

I totally identify with that.
Zara: Things have been a bit easier to balance since my son started going to a half-day preschool 5 days a week but even then things still get crazy.

I'm glad to hear it. What do you do about the mommy guilt?
Zara: Try to ignore it. The choices that I’ve made to be the primary caregiver for my son and be a freelancer mean that there is tons of guilt to go around. If I’m working too much (or if I want to work more) I feel guilty I’m not spending enough quality time with my son and planning super awesome activities for him and if I am spending a lot of time with my family then I feel like I am shorting myself and my goals. 
It's such a tough balancing act. Any tips on keeping a clean house? (It’s definitely something I struggle with.)
Zara: I’m not sure if this is a tip exactly but my best advice is to just accept that you can’t have everything. If my house is spotless then I am probably not spending as much time working as I’d like or not spending as much time hanging out with my family. Honestly, I’d rather have a messy house and a bit more time to work. That being said for my sanity we have a cleaner come in about once a month to do a deep clean and our house is not enormous so we take an hour or two on the weekends do a bit of a “reset” of the house. (put things back where they should go, vacuum, wipe things down, empty out whatever has gone off in the fridge etc) 

Good point! Spotless house means less work done... What have you given up to make more time to accomplish your goals?
Zara: Time with friends, time with family, time at the gym, sleep, a steady paycheck, a clean house. I’ve given up all sorts of things to make more time for my goals. The key is to not give anything up for too long. As a creative person I need external stimulus to keep me inspired. If all I do is work (even if it is towards something that I want) I find that my work becomes lifeless or just impossible to do. So while I do still give up things I try to make time for things that seem frivolous once in awhile.
 How long has it taken before you felt like you had your major breakthrough?
Zara: My major breakthrough in my career or in life? In my career I feel like I’m constantly having major breakthroughs. My career has gone through so many different iterations I feel like I am constantly reinventing myself and figuring out new things about myself. I think my best breakthroughs have come from just consistently sitting down and working towards some goal. I don’t believe breakthroughs come from nothing but from consistently working towards something.
That is such good advice! You can't get anywhere in your career if you are stagnate. Are their any resources that you've found helpful?

Zara: I like this article. It very much expounds on my philosophy of "just keep moving forward." 

Thanks! That is a good article! :) 

Any more advice to us freelance mommies? 

Zara: Be kind to yourself. Everyone is struggling to find balance and the best thing we can do is just accept that we are doing the best we can.

I need to remember to do that! Thanks Zara for all the advice! 

All art posted above is (c) Zara Gonzalez Hoang.


Interview by Meridth McKean Gimbel, a kidlit writer, artist, & champion taco cruncher who is currently building a time machine. They are also represented by Linda Pratt at Wernick & Pratt. You can follow their work at:

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