When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I was already semi-working from home. I, like many newly expectant mothers, had an unrealistic idea of what motherhood was going to be like.
I daydreamed that I would be rocking my little one during a midnight nursing period and dictating articles quietly into my phone. I fantasized about that books I would write. I would be so productive with my newborn.
Productive with a newborn…please!
Let’s just say I wasn’t very productive before my first baby came, and I didn’t automatically transform after giving birth. My post-partum productivity looked more like me being attached to a double breast pump while I stared blankly at my laptop.
Thankfully, my second time around, I was very productive and much more experienced. I will share what worked for me, not because I am an expert, but because I took the long, dirty road to figure it out how to work at home with a baby, so someone should benefit from it.
1. It Is All About Them Schedules
Schedules – hate them or love them, they are a must. I am a type A personality, so scheduling myself and my babes were mandatory. I’ve had other moms tell me that they just like to go with the flow and don’t want scheduling to ruin that. Whether you are type A like me or like to ride the waves of fun like other moms, I truly believe scheduling gives you the freedom for both.
With a scheduled baby, it is quicker to know why the baby is crying. Scheduling my babies gave me more confidence as a mom. For example, if the baby was crying, all I had to do was look at the clock. In an instant, I could tell if they were crying because of hunger, tiredness, or something else.
Also, once I put them down for a nap, I knew that if they cried before an hour was up, then they had to stay in there. My second baby has never been a good sleeper, so having the hour nap rule eased some of my anxiety. Usually, she would fall back asleep anyways and eventually started taking solid 1.5-2 hour naps all together.
Knowing when nap times and bedtime happen allows you to plan your work hours and gives you something to look forward too. Schedules do take work, and they change often, but they are worth it.
Currently, my 16-month old takes two 1.5-2 hour naps, one at 8:30, one at 1:00, and then bedtime between 6-6:30. My four-year-old only takes a nap if she is staying up late, but usually has a quiet time at 1:00 for an hour and is in bed between 6-6:30. Both girls wake up at 6-6:30 a.m. Sometimes my four-year-old will sleep until 7.
2. Streamline Everything Not Baby
Even if you do not plan on working those first few months, I highly recommend streamlining tasks like cooking and cleaning. Before the baby came, I made 2-3 months’ worth of easy freezer meals and hired a cleaner to come right before and a month after my second.
3. Make Time for Rest and Adjustment
You need to carve in time for extra rest. Your body will get the rest it needs so that you can give in the easy way or the hard way. Stupid me has chosen the hard way both times. Both times I had lost most of my baby weight within the first few weeks. However, since I did not rest and take care of myself, the weight came climbing back on with the stress. I am still paying for that.
It is better to take work matters slow than to try and recover from burnout.
4. Dictation Is Your Friend
I love using dictation to help me write articles and emails. I just use my iPhone for most dictation, so it is only about 75% accurate. I would dictate articles while carrying my little one in a Moby Wrap.
5. Pump While You Work
Many moms can breastfeed while they work on the computer, which is great. I was never good at breastfeeding, but for the duration I pumped, I used a double pump and a hands-free pumping bra. I felt like a dairy cow, but it was nice to have something to do while I pumped. Even if you have no issues with breastfeeding, try doing one or two pumps like this. It will help boost your supply and also give you some milk to store.
6. Baby Carriers Are Life Savers
Baby carriers have saved me in so many ways. Sometimes I would wear my baby and write articles, either by typing and bouncing on a yoga ball or by bouncing while standing with my laptop on my high counter. Other times, I would wear my baby and get as much housework as I could get done, so that I didn’t have to worry about it when nap time came.
I have discovered that the more snuggle time my kids get, the better they are for independent time. For example, if one of the girls is being extra clingy and following me around the house, I usually just have to hold or snuggle them for 20 minutes, and then they are better able to play independently afterward.
7. Learn to Work in Short Increments
Long gone are the days you can work for hours at a time. Train yourself to work in shorter increments. Even if you only have five minutes, use it to the best of your advantage. I have found that as a mom, you don’t get a lot of large chunks of time to yourself, but there are always pockets of 5-10 minutes. These pockets of time add up. Don’t waste them on Instagram or Pinterest!
8. Ask for Help
You don’t have to do it all. Take advantage of family and friends who want to visit with your new baby (because their desire quickly wanes). Ask them if they wouldn’t mind watching the baby while you grab a few minutes alone. Even if you don’t have helpful family members, try to budget for a babysitter or house cleaner. If your budget is tight, try hiring a mother’s helper, who is usually a 12-14-year-old girl. Mother’s helpers are usually cheaper since they are just assisting you rather than fully babysitting. You will be able to work in the other room and know that you are only a few steps from your baby if anything were to happen.
Working from home with a newborn or an older baby is a learning curve. You must go into this with grace. Your life just completely changed and you need to learn new things, even if this is your 5th baby. There is always an adjustment period, so don’t get too frustrated with yourself as you get in the work-mama groove.
How do you balance working at home with a baby? Share your tips and experiences in the comments below.