Your coworker says she loves working from home. She doesn’t have to deal with traffic, virtual meetings are shorter than in-person ones, and she doesn’t have to deal with Gossiping Grace in the breakroom every day.
Why does your coworker love working from home so much? Because she doesn’t have any kids!
When you only have to worry about yourself, you can set your own at-home work schedule, work without being interrupted, and even take a relaxing lunch break. But working from home as a parent isn’t as glorious. As nice as it is not having Annoying Andy in the cubicle next to you, your baby isn’t exactly the ideal coworker either. She’s adorable, but she’s still a baby. She can’t do anything for herself.
Working from home with a baby, whatever your reason may be, is like juggling two full-time jobs. It’s hard. It’s messy. It’s draining. But it’s not impossible. Moms and dads everywhere are doing it now during the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve done it in years past, and they’ll do it in the future. I’ve been working from home with a baby (and now with two young kids) for several years. I don’t claim to be perfect at it. It’s still not easy, but we’ve learned to make it work – and so can you!
Follow these 6 tips for how you can stay productive and on top of your tasks while working from home with a baby.
1. Discuss a tentative schedule and expectations with your boss.
It’d be nice if you could give your full attention to work from 9-5, but that’s not realistic as a parent working from home. Your work hours may be all over the place – a couple of hours early in the morning before your baby wakes up, an hour during his afternoon nap, a few hours in the evening when your partner can help out, and maybe even a weekend here and there.
Let your boss know when you plan to tentatively work each day and do your best to be available at least via email and text during regular business hours as much as you can. But also remind your boss and coworkers that the time of day you work isn’t what’s most important. Your priority is making sure you meet your deadlines, which you will, even if that means working crazy hours.
2. Find what works for you.
Before you can work and live by a schedule, you may have to do a little experimenting. Maybe you thought you’d be really productive early in the morning before your baby wakes up, but after a couple of weeks, you’ve learned that’s not the case. You, of course, will have to work around your baby’s schedule, so find what works best for the two of you. That may mean your baby’s nap and bedtimes are your dedicated, heads-down work time.
Just remember that every circumstance and every child is different and that you’ll have to adapt your work schedule as your baby grows and her developmental stage and schedule changes. But after a little trial and error, you’ll be able to better balance the daily demands of work life and family life.
3. Learn to work in short increments of time.
I know, another time-scheduling tip. But that’s because in order to effectively work from home with a baby, you have to know how to best manage your time. Unlike your coworker who can sit down and work for 3-4 hours nonstop, you’ll need to learn to work in much shorter increments, especially if you have a newborn. Train yourself to be able to focus and knock out a task or two in 10 or 20 minutes, stop, help your baby, and then reengage with work again. It may help to set a timer on your phone.
4. Take advantage of a baby carrier and baby sleep products.
A real lifesaver as you work from home with a baby who just wants to be held is a baby carrier. The benefits of babywearing can be a real stress-reliever for work-from-home parents. This hands-free baby gear means you don’t have to miss out on baby snuggles or miss that work call. Take your laptop to the kitchen counter and stand and sway with your baby in his carrier so he’ll sleep and you can get more work done.
Speaking of sleep – don’t listen to your mom on this one. As a working parent, you don’t have the luxury of napping when your baby naps. Those precious hours your baby sleeps are the perfect times to work uninterrupted. Want to ensure your baby sleeps long enough for you to get into deep work? Put him in a swaddler or sleep sack.
5. Pull out the right toys.
While a newborn can’t entertain herself, older babies can. If you don’t already have an activity mat, activity table, bouncy seat, swing, teething toys, stackable blocks and cups, and books, get some now. These interactive toys provide entertainment when you need to hop on an online meeting or complete some of your more monotonous tasks.
6. Give yourself some grace.
No matter what you do, you’ll likely have days where you feel guilty for working and your baby playing alone, or you’ll feel guilty for taking care of your baby when a big project needs your attention. Working from home with a baby is hard. But don’t get down on yourself, and don’t feel like you’ve failed one or the other. Give yourself some grace. Have patience with your baby, with your partner, with your coworkers, and with yourself. The best thing you can do during this season of life is to be adaptable and embrace imperfection.
What have you found helps you more effectively work from home with a baby?