My number one, top tip for working from home with a baby is DON’T DO IT!
If you’re like me, you probably won’t listen to this advice, but you can better prepare yourself than I did. So I’ve made a list of things you should know before attempting this and some tips that might, hopefully, be of help.
Plan on a VERY Segmented Work Day
Babies “sleep a lot” but newborns also need to eat every 2 hours or so. It also takes 30 minutes to feed them, if you’re lucky, and upwards of an hour if you struggle with breastfeeding like I did. Plus changing diapers and soothing and so on. Realistically, you can plan for maybe 30 minute chunks to try to get work done.
As your child gets older, you’d expect those time blocks to increase, but the number also decreases. At 6 months my son takes 2 naps – a 30 minute one and a 60-90 minute one. So attempting to work during a nap feels like roulette. Will this be the long nap or the short nap? Can I get this project done in this time or should I just answer some emails?
Babies DO Need a Lot of Attention
I emphasize this because I scoffed at a friend when he said it. Surely he was just spoiling his child? Nope. Our pediatrician emphasized that you’re supposed to talk to your child once every 60 seconds that they’re awake. For the record, I find this quite impossible, but you see my point. Kids do take up much more time than you expect and they don’t “play quietly.”
As a 6-month old, my son has gone from needing constant feeding to just wanting attention all the time. I can’t even tell you how many days I’ve spent bouncing back and forth between my computer and the baby, feeling guilty because I’m not following the stupid 60-second rule. But even if he doesn’t really NEED a constant flow of chatter from me, he does need stimulation and interaction to grow. So even if you’ve got ears of stone and an iron will, you can’t count on leaving your baby to entertain him/herself while you work.
It Changes Constantly
You can’t make just one plan because babies are different month to month and sometimes different week to week. I had a couple good days during the second month where I rotated the baby through the feeding/sleeping schedule every 2 hours like clockwork and got in several 30-minute segments of work and felt on top of the world. Then his nap schedule changed.
Even now that we’re on something of a routine, I can’t with 100% certainty count on any block of time to do work unless someone else is watching the baby. The one night I sit down prepared for an all-nighter to meet my early morning deadline, he decides to wake up every 2 hours. Another day I just need a few minutes to get through my email and let my clients know that, Yes I’m still here and I haven’t forgotten you!, and that’s the day he’s so fussy I wonder if this is what teething is like. You just never know.
Give Yourself MORE Time Than You Think You Need
I tend to plan for the minimum. I budget the minimum I need to live, plan travel based on the fastest I’ve ever arrived somewhere, and price my projects based on a best-case scenario. It’s not good planning and, especially in the case of postpartum recovery, could be setting yourself up for a lot of misery.
I planned to take 6 weeks off from going into any offices, and started picking back up with my clients after 2 weeks. Phasing things back in worked fairly well for me, but I had an easy delivery and my body recovered quickly. If anything has gone wrong – a C-section, additional tearing, or even just a colicky baby – my plan would not have worked. It barely worked as it was and if I have any more children in the future, I absolutely plan on taking a full 3 months.
Your Brain Won’t Function as Efficiently
I’ve always rejected the idea of “pregnancy brain” or “mom brain” but, blame it on hormones or sleep deprivation, my brain is still recovering. The first couple months were absolute chaos. My husband and I noticed that we can count the number of photos we took those months on one hand, versus the mountain we take monthly now. Because we were too busy surviving to worry about whether we were “documenting the moment.”
None of which is to say you can’t keep working, but plan on being less efficient and effective and don’t beat yourself up when you can’t think of the word you want, or you know there’s a better solution to a problem. It happens.
Naps are Good for You Too
Severely sleep deprive anyone for long enough and they’ll go insane. Studies have been done. Having a baby won’t drive you to that point, but it can reach dangerous levels of cognitive dysfunction. I’ve had moments when I thought, “I shouldn’t be driving right now” and I’ve made plenty of stupid mistakes.
If you’re like me, naps make you feel crappy BUT according to a few different studies, a short nap once or twice a day can drastically reduce some of the side effects of sleep deprivation. Don’t force yourself to work every single time the baby is sleeping. Use some of those naps to get some sleep yourself.
And my last piece of advice is to find other resources! My experience will be different from someone else’s will be different from yours. Don’t expect your baby to fit into a mold any more than you yourself do. I’ve read tons of advice about “wearing” your baby while you worked – my son hated being in the body sling. Loved being held, just not in anything hands free. Go figure. So you can’t expect any one or even 10 people’s advice to work for you. You have to just keep experimenting.
I found these 2 resources particularly useful:
Hopefully some of this is helpful but if it’s not, the real point I want to leave you with is this: working from home with a baby is hard and it’s different for everyone. Don’t beat yourself up and don’t feel like you have to go it alone.
Have you tried working at home with kids? Do you have any extra tips from your experience?