How To Work From Home With a Baby (Practical Tips from Mums)

How To Work From Home With a Baby (Practical Tips from Mums)

By Radhika Basuthakur

Working from home is the best thing ever…until a baby comes along. Suddenly you’re running on two hours of sleep and four cups of coffee while trying to change a diaper with one hand and type out an email with the other!

As cute as they are, babies and toddlers aren’t always the most compliant colleagues. So how can new mums or new dads work from home effectively while also making sure their little ones are well cared for?

I asked four mums—who are also freelance writers—for their best advice on how to work from home with a baby in tow. Below you’ll find their best practical tips and insights from first-hand experiences with their own children.

1. Be flexible and adaptable

Working from home with a baby to care for can take a little getting used to. The most important advice to remember? Be flexible and adaptable.

Some days, a sick baby may take precedence over a Zoom call. On other days you may be so tired from the lack of sleep that you fall asleep mid-morning while the baby naps too. It’s okay! Don’t beat yourself up over it.

B2B SaaS writer Stella Mwangi shares advice from her own experience with a newborn: “While I had done some prior planning, when the baby came, I realised that reality was far from what I had envisioned. I would highly recommend that every wannabe work-from-home parent adjust their mentality toward work while they have a newborn baby on their hands.”

Don’t expect work to be as straightforward as it used to be pre-baby. B2B and e-commerce writer Laura Bosco’s advice is to “give yourself lots of grace. Every day, especially when they’re little, is different. What you’re capable of each day will vary. Lean into productive days, and be okay throwing in the towel on hard days.”

In the advice that follows, you’ll notice that flexibility is a common thread. Productivity may not look like it used to, so be open to learning, adapting, and just going with the flow. It’ll make the work-from-home-with-baby life a lot less stressful.

2. Develop a routine

Routines can be helpful for you and your baby. A fairly consistent routine can help create some order in an otherwise chaotic world of parenthood. As you get to know your baby and what works for them (and you!), try to create—and keep—a similar schedule from day to day.

Parenting and lifestyle writer Tracy Rawlinson says it’s important to “establish good routines. Speak to other parents and health professionals about hints and tips for setting sleep routines. It’s really important to know that what works for one parent may not work for you. Test out what works best for you and your own family.”

Mwangi, who advised us on remaining adaptable, says, “Try to plan your weekly routine ahead. I use a weekly planner that I update every Sunday morning. This gives me an idea of how the week will look and allows me to adjust my work and personal schedules accordingly.”

3. Take turns with your partner if possible

If the option is available to you, and both you and your partner work from home, sharing the load may be a good idea. You could take turns, with one parent feeding and entertaining the baby while the other one uses the time to get some focused work done.

Share a calendar and planner with your partner to keep each other informed of important meetings and work commitments during the day. By taking “shifts,” you can both get work done while also making sure the baby is looked after.

4. Work different hours

When you throw a baby into the mix, your workday may not always follow the traditional 9-to-5 schedule. If your job offers you the flexibility to do so, working non-standard hours may be a better option for you.

Some parents like to catch up on work while the baby sleeps at night. Others will choose to wake up at the crack of dawn to get their most productive work done before the baby beckons.

Mwangi reiterates the need for parents to remain adaptable. She shares, “I’m a night owl, so I find it easier to work at night after everyone, especially the baby, has settled in for the night. However, take into account your deadlines and time zones. For some, it might be better to wake up early before the baby wakes up and get your most urgent work done then.”

5. Learn time blocking techniques

Parents of infants often have very limited productive hours on their hands. Always remember how important it is to maximize your time without getting lured in by Instagram—or worse—your email inbox!

Time blocking can be a helpful time management method to learn. Simply put, it works by dividing your day into blocks of time. Each block is focused on accomplishing a set task only.

This way, you approach your workday with a specific set of tasks to complete within each time block. You’re not tempted to multitask. Even with limited time, you may actually get more done. 

6. Eliminate other distractions

Distractions are a normal part of everyone’s workday. These distractions might significantly multiply when working from home with kids. While you may not always be able to predict baby-related distractions, you can try to reduce others. Some tips:

  • Have a plan or a set list of tasks to focus on each day
  • Set yourself specific email-checking times
  • Block or remove social media sites and apps from your computer and phone
  • Set your status to ‘do not disturb’ on instant messaging apps
  • Keep your workspace tidy and in order
  • Save laundry and other household chores for after work

For B2B tech writer and content strategist Clair Belmonte, creating a clutter-free space is essential for her productivity. “A clean house will set your mind at ease when you’re working from home. Once the baby is down for a nap, set a timer and take 10 minutes to reset your space. A clear space can help you refocus without distractions.”

For more productivity advice, check out these tips on how to work from home effectively.

7. Communicate with clients or your team

While you may try your best to work as productively as possible, disruptions will happen when you’re working from home with infants or toddlers. Instead of pretending everything is okay and dropping the ball, choose to communicate honestly.

Be open about your situation and your schedule with clients, managers, and colleagues. For example, if you’re working a non-linear workday or non-standard hours and need to take time off to tend to the baby during the day, communicate this to anyone who needs to know.

Communicate your meeting availability and core working hours, so there’s no confusion. Being clear about your availability sets realistic expectations for those you work with. It also helps you spend guilt-free time with your baby without feeling like you always have to be responsive for work items as they arise.

8. Work while the baby naps during the day

Your baby is going to (hopefully!) nap a lot during the day. Get your most important work done while they sleep. If your baby has a sleep routine, you may be able to plan ahead and schedule important meetings or focus work for when they’re snoozing.

For Mwangi, working non-standard hours has become the norm, as she previously shared. She advises that it can be helpful to “work around your baby’s sleep and feeding schedule. What’s important is that you leave enough time for the baby during their most active hours.”

9. Take advantage of playtime

Similarly, you may like to get work done while your child occupies themselves with play. Of course, this may not be a time to get deep work done as you might get interrupted. However, if you can squeeze in short bursts of work while your baby’s attention is occupied, consider it a win!

10. Use a baby carrier while working

Make the most of babywearing if you can. For many parents, having the baby securely cuddled against a chest is an opportunity to allow snuggling while still leaving their hands free to get work done.

Belmonte, who previously highlighted the importance of clutter-free workspaces, believes babywearing can be a great productivity tool for parents. “Wear your baby as much as possible to stay close without diminishing your productivity. This is especially good while the baby is napping since they often stay asleep longer when they’re sleeping on you.”

11. Make the most of your phone

Your best work may not always happen at your computer once a baby is in the picture. Learn to rely on your phone to support your work needs as well.

In addition to wearing the baby while working, Belmonte also makes the most of voice-to-text technology. “As a writer, I use voice-to-text a lot when I’m with my little one. It can be helpful to record thoughts or ideas while I’m in the car, on a walk, etc. Then I use Temi to transcribe my notes and support my writing process.”

You may also find downloading work apps on your phone helpful so you can do some work one-handed. Need to review an article? Get Google Docs on your phone. Have multiple emails that need responses from you? Your phone is a good place to get started on them.

Need to do some work-related reading? Read it aloud to your baby. It helps you get through required reading and helps the baby by exposing them to spoken and read vocabulary. Two birds, one stone. Experts say reading aloud is beneficial for the baby and it doesn’t matter if it’s not child-focused content.

12. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Even if you and your partner share the load, sometimes the new baby and everything else at the same time can feel overwhelming. You don’t have to do it all alone. Lean on family, friends, and other parents for help.

Bosco, who earlier recommended parents give themselves grace, also reminds parents that “they say, ‘It takes a village.’ I can’t overemphasize how true this is. Find other parents to talk with. Lean on family, partner, and friends. And generally draw others close around you. You need them, and that’s okay.”

Belmonte agrees. “Ask for help liberally! Whether your partner can work from home more often or you can gain support during calls from friends, family, neighbors, or other parents in your local parents’ group, those are all valuable and can offer peace of mind for important meetings or simply for an hour of silence.”

Through her work as a parenting writer, Rawlison has learned a lot about different styles of parenting. But one thing all parents have in common is that they need support. “It’s so important to ask for help and not cope with working and having a baby around alone and unsupported. Ask, ask, ask for help! If you have friends and family, share the load together and have regular times when you can look after each other’s baby!”

13. Consider hiring help

If you don’t have access to help from family or friends, you could consider hiring a nanny or an hourly babysitter during the week. Having someone watch your baby gives you a chance to get deep work done while making sure your child is cared for.

Mwangi has found a nanny to be invaluable for her productivity. “As the baby grows they demand more attention and juggling work and baby duties may become difficult. I greatly rely on nannies to help me out with this. I have a very active daughter who demands attention for as long as she’s awake. Having a nanny full-time ensures that there’s someone to take care of her as I work.”

14. Make the most of the weekends

If you want to get productive work done with a baby around, learning how to manage your time better is key. You probably know that by now. This includes making the most of your weekends.

For some parents, the weekends are an opportunity to catch up on work while their partners are at home to take over caregiving responsibilities. However, working isn’t the only way to get a head start on the week.

You may like to prepare for the days ahead in other ways. For example, you could cook in big batches so you have your meals ready to go for the week. You could also consider planning activities, clothing, supplies, and other considerations for your baby so you have to spend less time on these items during the upcoming workweek.

A little bit of preparation and forward planning can go a long way toward helping you feel more in control of your time during the workday.

15. Take breaks

It’s easy to become overwhelmed while trying to balance your work-from-home and parenting time. But to be the best parent you can be and do your best work, you need to make time for self-care as well.

Prioritize taking breaks and recharging yourself. Rawlinson’s reminder to parents is that “there’s no such thing as a perfect parent, but a million ways to be just good enough. Take away some of the pressure and prioritize regular time for yourself.”

16. Ditch the expectations

Circling back to the first piece of advice, it’s really important for parents of babies to reframe their expectations. Things may not always go the way you want them to when a baby is involved.

In addition to encouraging parents to ask for help, Belmonte and Bosco advise parents to lower their expectations of themselves.

“Accept that it won’t look like what you imagine. Most of the time, you won’t be nearly as productive as you know yourself to be capable of. Know that you’re doing important work both in your career and with your child. Choose the most important one or two things that need to get done in a certain day (regardless of if they’re done on time or as expected),” says Belmonte.

Bosco’s advice is to “Identify what HAS to be done. Therapists sometimes call this glass vs. rubber balls. When you’re juggling a lot, some of the balls are glass (they shatter when you drop them) and some are rubber (they bounce). Try and figure out what your glass balls are — and then practice dropping the rubber ones.”

17. Be kind to yourself

Parenting is rewarding but also hard work. Trying to balance working from home while learning how to parent is challenging. There’s no doubt about that. Just know that you don’t have to be perfect and have it all figured out.

Be kind to yourself, dear parent.

Bosco reassures parents that it’s okay to “acknowledge your emotions and be gentle with yourself. It’s healthy to say, ‘I feel really frustrated right now but I know that’s okay.’ Saying that out loud is a great first step. You’re not alone.”

Find flexible work through freelancing

Working from home while your child is young is undoubtedly a huge blessing for most parents who are able to do so—even when it feels overwhelming!

Mwangi sums it up well. “At times it’s tough to juggle work and baby but at the end of the day I’d do it all over again because nothing gives me more pleasure than to work with the sounds of my daughter’s laughter and banter in the background.”

She also reminds parents not to lose sight of the advantages that flexible work can offer. “With time, I’ve also realised that having more meaningful work is important for a work-from-home parent. For me, the whole point of being a work-from-home mum is to be able to spend more time with my family. So instead of trying to find more clients that take up my time, I am now focused on only doing work that allows me to remain flexible and doesn’t take away time from the family.”

If you’re not quite getting the flexibility you need from your current work situation, you may want to consider becoming a freelancer. Transitioning to freelancing allows many new parents the flexibility they need as they adjust to caring for the newest member of their family. As freelancers, they gain the freedom to set their own hours, work around their kids, and build businesses that help them create a better work-life balance.

Radhika is a self-confessed word nerd and content expert with over 15 years of experience writing content for businesses around the world.

This article first appeared on the upwork website

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