Bringing your newborn home is one of the most joyful experiences you will ever have. Your first few days is pure bliss as you watch those eyes or grab those tiny hands. When reality sinks back in and you need to get back to work, especially from home, finding a routine that works for you can be difficult.
Trust me, I know. As the parent of a five-year-old and a seven-year-old, I’ve been there, done that. I’ve worked from home for the better part of the last decade, and it can be crazy. Trying to juggle work with feedings, naps and playtime will push you to your mental and physical limits. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be all stress and tears. There are tips to help you find a workflow that help you get everything done without missing any “firsts.”
The most important thing to do while working from home with a baby is to set realistic expectations for yourself. Start by telling yourself that no matter what, your routine and work schedule is going to change. Ultimately, you will find the right balance and accept that this is a new normal. The best thing you can do is focus on what results you want to get and not how many hours you want to put in. Working a 9-to-5 schedule from home can be difficult.
The most important thing you can do is find pockets of time to work. Does that mean nights and weekends are on the table as “working hours”? Definitely. You will want to be as available as you can be during the day, but set the right expectations for just how available you will really be.
Take Advantage of Nap Time
For oh-so-many reasons, you should take advantage of nap time as much as possible. While every baby has its own schedule, there is a good chance that your baby will take a nap or two before his/her first birthday. Consider these nap times your chance to catch up and, if possible, get ahead.
Prioritize the most important tasks and schedule them for these nap times. For the most part, nap times should be somewhat predictable as part of a schedule so you have at least some awareness of what times you can get some peace and quiet. If you can create a routine around nap times, they will be your absolute best friend.
Have a Plan for Interruptions
This one is critical because no matter much you try and plan, plans can quickly go right out the window. Of course, those unpredictable moments are going to happen midway through an important call with your boss or client. Have dedicated toys (Fisher-Price is your best friend) to distract them so you can finish. The more prepared you are to handle sudden ends to naps or hungry babies, the more successful you will be at not letting them grind your entire day to a halt.
While single parents make it work, if you and your spouse or partner can share the work, take turns. Look at your schedules for the next day each night and divide up responsibilities. Who can better manage the morning? The afternoon? Is someone free to handle feedings while the other handles natptime? Who has fewer conference calls the next day? However you need to split the work, splitting the work can make all the difference.
When my first child was born, my wife was still teaching. I took care of all the work during the day, and when she got home, it was my time to turn off the world and get work done. These are the types of compromises you have to make in order to make working from home successful. Truth be told, you are never really “off duty,” but it’s good to know that someone is there who can share the load. If you do not have a spouse or partner to help, look to child care or help from family or friends. Even a break for an hour or two can help you take not just a mental break but also help get work done.
Have Entertainment at the Ready
The reality is that you cannot shy away from doing work when your baby is awake. That’s why things like cribs, baby swings and bouncy sets are available. Take advantage of these products to help you find something that allows you to do your job, even if it’s only for 15 or 30 minutes at a time. Can you create a safe space in your home that provides baby-appropriate toys where you also have a little work space? If you have the opportunity, finding a space like this can be a huge help.
On the other hand, try a standing desk. I cannot tell you the number of times I worked while holding a baby or putting the baby in a carrier. You will be surprised how good you can get typing with one hand when you have no other choice. Babies love to be rocked from side to side, and, while it can be tiresome for you, it’s endlessly entertaining for them. Even if the idea of a standing desk and baby carrier sounds crazy at first, believe me when I say that it can literally save your day from falling apart.
There is no one-size-fits-all plan for successfully working from home with a baby. There are a lot of suggestions and best practices out there and advice that is well worth taking. Ultimately, you need to find the schedule and routine that works for you. Most important is that you remain flexible with your routine. A one-month-old baby and an 11-month-old baby do not have the same napping or sleeping habits. Be flexible, be ready and be prepared. If you plan properly, you will find that working from home with a baby does not need to lead to mental breakdowns. Trust me, I know.