So you’ve welcomed your bundle of joy home. Congratulations! But now maternity leave is over, and you’re diving back into the world of work — from home. Whether you traditionally worked from home or this is a new development due to the pandemic, it’s not easy to work at home with a new baby. Babies tend to shake up our routines and force us to be more flexible.
Helen Brown discusses tips to help you succeed in your work-from-home position while providing the best care for your infant.
Tips for Working at Home with a New Baby
Make the Most of Technology
Working from home usually requires a bit of technology under any circumstances, but even more so with a baby. Having your little one crying for attention at odd times, needing to be fed or changed, means you’ll probably have shorter periods to get work done. Technology can make all of that better.
Keep all of your work documents and files available from one platform (like Google Drive) to simplify work. If you’re working on an important presentation, your progress can save and sync automatically to all of your devices.
Imagine you’re working from your desktop computer and later find yourself held hostage by a sleeping baby. Even with only your phone available, you can open up a file and get work done.
And don’t forget useful old-school technology: the baby monitor. You may work more efficiently in a separate room while the baby sleeps or plays in a safe space — just have a video monitor nearby so you can trust your baby is safe while you work.
Maximize Short Periods of Time
Many of us started our careers on a traditional full-day schedule, with perhaps four hours of work, a lunch break, and another four hours of work. If you’re planning on caring for your baby while you work from home, you’ll have to adjust your expectations of a “normal” workday.
Make sure your employer understands how the baby will affect your work availability and productivity as well. You won’t be available for six straight hours of Zoom meetings with your baby in tow. Communicate clearly with your employer to keep expectations realistic for all.
You probably won’t get long, uninterrupted periods in which to accomplish your work tasks. With a newborn, you’ll likely have to find a way to make progress in small windows of time, such as 10 to 15 minutes. When your baby is sleeping or hanging out in an infant swing, this can be a work opportunity.
While it can be challenging to get yourself into the “zone” of deep work in such short amounts of time, it may be essential during this period. Make lists of tasks you can complete during small pockets of time so that when your child is miraculously entertained, you can work.
Take Advantage of Naptime
One of the great things about babies: they usually sleep quite a bit. No, not every baby sleeps well at night or takes regular naps every day. But most moms can count on their baby dozing off at least once in a while.
Just as the baby books often tell new moms to “sleep when the baby sleeps,” you might have to adjust your work schedule to “work when the baby sleeps.” Again, make the most of even brief bursts of time when your baby is occupied.
Learn Your Baby’s Calmest Times
Almost no one knows your baby better than you do. So use your in-depth knowledge of your child’s preferences and schedule to help you plan your workday.
Whenever your baby tends to be the calmest and quietest, that’s when you’ll want to focus on your work. Babies usually tend to be the happiest and most peaceful just after they’ve slept or just after eating.
Other times may be more irregular, but pay attention to cues from your baby to learn when you can count on focused work time. Since babies grow and change so quickly, you’ll likely find yourself making adjustments every few months as your baby’s schedule shifts.
Many babies adore being snuggled up close next to Mama. In the first months of your infant’s lifes, baby-wearing offers numerous benefits to both mother and baby. Some babies don’t love being left in a crib or baby seat for much of the day; they love to be held. Baby carriers help ease the burden on not only your arms, but your sanity.
With a safe and adequately secured carrier, baby-wearing can help you feel a strong connection with your child while keeping your hands free to get tasks done. Of course, there will be some work tasks that are more suitable to do while baby-wearing than others, so figure out what makes sense for you and your job.
You may be able to do research or read important briefs while your baby is attached to you. Or you could stand and type at your computer while the baby contentedly sleeps in the carrier.
Get Child Care Occasionally As Needed
Most of this advice is geared towards full-time working moms who don’t have full-time child care. But once in a while, you need to arrange child care for a specific work event, such as an important conference call.
For work tasks where you don’t choose the time and absolutely can’t risk your baby crying in the middle of it, try to get child care. Even if your local babysitter can only come over for an hour, that may be just enough. Or convince your employer to schedule that vital meeting during hours when your partner can take over.
Experiment With Flexible Working Hours
A typical 9-to-5 schedule isn’t likely to work right now (unless you have a very unusual baby). But you might discover you can get up a couple of hours before your baby awakens for the day, using that quiet time to work.
Perhaps your baby takes a long nap of a couple of hours in the afternoon, and that would be an ideal time to focus on your more in-depth work tasks. Or, if you have a spouse returning home in the evening, you might pass baby duty off and lock yourself in your home office until bedtime.
This all depends significantly on the type of job you have, of course, but working from home means you’ll need to adopt some kind of flexibility in your work schedule.
Some parents may shift their schedules to do a large portion of their work on the weekends. This can work well if your partner works a traditional 9-to-5 job during the week. While it may be hard to maintain long-term, you might enjoy a bit more relaxed time during the week with your baby if you know you can put in a couple of long Saturdays and Sundays with no guilt.
Accept Imperfect Days
As a work-from-home mom of a new baby, you must protect your mental health by recognizing that many days won’t go perfectly. Learning to be flexible in your expectations of yourself can help you get through the difficult days.
Women like to pursue this elusive ideal of “having it all.” We want to be amazingly present with our babies and children but also have successful and meaningful careers. But we need to face the truth: We may always feel we’re sacrificing in one area to do our best in other areas.
Working from home will likely mean you’ll deal with a crying child on some days and be unable to accomplish everything you want to for work. Other days, your baby may play happily at your feet while you finish up work projects with ease. More than likely, most days will be a combination of successes and failures on both fronts.
You must take care of yourself and give yourself grace. Accept that working from home can be difficult while caring for your baby. Just focus on the essentials: keeping your baby safe and healthy and doing the best you can at work.
Enjoy This Time
It’s stressful to hear people continually warning you: “Cherish this time.” You may be struggling to just get through each day with a baby and a job. Try some of these tips for working from home to help you accomplish more in less time and still manage to enjoy your baby’s development and milestones.
Author: Helen Brown had her last baby six years ago and remembers all of the highs and lows of working from home with three little ones. She is a parenting consultant and a regular contributor to various Blogs and publications.