Working from home with a baby can be both a blessing and a difficult situation to navigate. On one hand, you get to be with your little one all day, every day, you avoid long commutes, and you don't have to wear real pants. On the other hand, you also have to work surrounded by crying, chaos, and a house full of needs. If work, home, and motherhood have all become one and the same, call on a few (or all) of these sanity-saving ways to set yourself up for parenting and career success.
Keep Baby Happily Occupied
You have to clock in, so have your little one clock in right alongside you. Before you begin your workday, have ample activities readily available to keep tots busy and engaged. Remember that young ones don't have extensive attention spans, meaning many options and modes of learning and entertainment should be available on rotation.
Download a couple of quality entertainment videos for your baby to watch throughout the workday. Attach a baby bouncer to your office door jamb so baby can bop around for a bit. Gather up stimulating toys, either bought or homemade, and have them in a space where you plan to do the majority of your work. Be sure that whatever activities you allow your little one during your work period are safe for them to engage with, as you will probably have part of your attention on your baby, but also have to be able to focus on work tasks too.
Make Breaks, Naps, and Self-Care Part of Your Workday
Bottom line: working from home with a baby is no walk in the park. It is a daily grind, and if you don't look out for your needs, you will run yourself right into the ground. If possible, factor in a few spaces throughout the workday where you can unplug and recenter your overworked, frazzled self. Consider:
- A quick power nap while your baby naps (assuming you have some flexibility in your work schedule).
- A 15-minute stretch session. Look into mommy and baby yoga options.
- Turn on a meditation app when you begin to feel especially stressed and frustrated.
- Pop your tot in their stroller and take a 15-minute stroll in the outdoors.
Utilize All Your Devices to Stay Connected
There will be times during your day where sitting at the computer and reading through emails and documents simply isn't possible. You may have to hang out in the car line while picking older kids up from school, or have a fussy baby to rock at naptime.
Sometimes work can wait, but other times you will be up against a deadline and need to do some serious multitasking. If your baby (or life) draws you away from the work computer and the office space, be sure to have all relevant work programs downloaded onto your smartphone and iPad. Read work documents while in the rocking chair, or respond to emails from your smartphone as you play on the floor with your baby.
Invest in a Hands-Free Infant Carrier
Working parents of infants need both their arms and hands freely available. Actually, they really need to grow a few extra appendages to tackle all the tasks they face every moment of the day! Invest in a quality infant carrier for those times in the day where your baby wants to be close to you, but you need your hands to get working.
You can type, file, and take phone calls with your baby strapped to your chest. Need to pace so that your infant calms down? No problem. Pop your tot in the infant carrier, and pace around as you work from your personal device or listen in on a conference call.
Create a Productive Space for You & Baby
When working from home, you need to have a designated workspace, but also have your baby close by. This may mean creating a space that functions as a play area AND an office. Clutter can be distracting, so be sure to put plenty of storage in the office for your baby's toys, and for your work supplies. Consider putting a cozy glider chair in a corner so that you do not have to leave the office area every time your baby needs to be soothed. Other items you may want to include in your office/playroom are:
- Devices for your baby to watch an educational video periodically
- Blackout shades or curtains and low lighting if you plan to have your baby snooze nearby while you work
- White noise machine or something to play soft infant lullabies on
- A diaper pail and diapering accessories
Prepare Bottles and Snacks
Babies need a lot of nourishment throughout the day, and if you have to stop your workday to prepare bottles or mash up baby food, you are losing out on a lot of time you could be devoting to your job. Carve out a bit of time to prep bottles and meals in the morning. Spend Sunday afternoon cooking, mashing, and freezing homemade baby food if your little one is starting to eat fruits and veggies.
Even running back and forth to the kitchen can detract from work focus. Consider moving a mini-fridge and a bottle warmer into the office/playroom area, so when your baby's hunger bell starts ringing, milk and food are an arm's reach away.
Call for Help and Support
Working parents know that in order to handle their careers and their family's needs, a village of help is most certainly needed. Accept all willing and able helpers that come your way! If grandma wants to come over each Tuesday for a few hours of baby snuggles, by all means, hand her the baby and the related duties. If you have a teenage neighbor who wants a babysitting job during the summer months, hire her to spend time with your tot, playing and taking walks around the neighborhood.
Invest in Sanity Saving Headphones
You can't cancel the baby's crying, but you can cancel out the wailing sounds via noise-canceling headphones. If you have a baby that cries and holds court when they go down for a snooze, or if you have in-home childcare but cannot work when you hear your baby in another room, purchase headphones that will drown out the noise in your home. If headphones feel too isolating or confining to you, turn a white noise machine on full blast to help you not focus on every sound you hear coming from the other side of the office door.
Discuss Flexible Hours With Your Boss
Is it possible that you don't have to work the typical 9-5 shift while remotely earning a living at home with a baby? Discuss more flexible hours with your supervisor. Is it possible that you log hours in during the early part of the morning while your baby is still sleeping, or can you work in the evening after your partner gets home and takes the baby off your hands for a few? Some companies allow working parents to choose the hours that work best for their families, including weekends! If you have the option to set your own hours, then, by all means, do it. Work during naps, when your partner is home, and any other time in the day that fits you and the baby's schedule best.
Create a Schedule
If you are working and keeping track of an infant's constant needs, you will need a solid schedule. Create a schedule that encompasses the daily needs of your baby, like naps and feeding times, as well as the demands of work (meetings and project deadlines). Each day, know what you need to do and when it needs to be done.
You can use a paper calendar, a dry erase board or a Google calendar to keep track of all your parenting and work tasks combined. Digital calendars are especially helpful for busy working parents. They can be easily modified and shared across family members, and alarms can be set to help parents stay on schedule.
Never Lose Sight of Reality
Be realistic in your work expectations, parenting expectations, and really all other expectations. It's easy to shoot for the stars, assume you can do the work of 10,000 men, and then become discouraged and disheartened when you bust your backside to only complete one-tenth of what you had hoped for. Have some grace and go easy on yourself. The reality is, you are doing two jobs all the time, which is no small feat. Do your best, understand some days will be better than others, take care of yourself, and reach out for help when needed.
Benefits to Working From Home With a Baby
Even when working and caring for a baby seems impossible, remember that there are plenty of benefits to this arrangement.
- More quality bonding time throughout the day (even if those moments are interwoven in between projects, emails, and meetings).
- More cost-effective - Many families can save on daycare costs when working from home.
- No commute! No one likes the work commute.
- Freedom to work anywhere. You can log hours from the park, your bed, and even family getaways.
- Oftentimes, more flexible schedules are offered.
Stay Sane While Working From Home
While there are a lot of perks and benefits to working at home with a baby, there will absolutely be some truly trying days. When these days occur, and you think to yourself, "Well, this is downright impossible," know that you've got this! If working from home is a hot mess, take a step back and look at your set-up, attitude, and support system. Use these key sanity-saving tips to set you and your baby up for the most productive day possible.