Written by Jenny Farrington.
The truth is, working from home with a baby is tough… really tough.
So, we decided to speak to some parents who are – just about – surviving doing it. They shared some tips to help those of you in the same boat.
Find your work and baby rhythm
Jen, mum to 6-month-old Lilly, told us that she aligns her work pattern with her baby’s routine. She said:
“With a young baby, I’ve found you really need to go with the flow. The key is to only concentrate on your work when they’re asleep or calm.”
She added that short sharp bursts of work are better than trying to do it when your baby needs attention. An email that would usually take 10 minutes to write, can end up taking an hour if you’re distracted.
Early riser or night owl?
Mum of two, Lorna, told us that she finds fitting in work while her young children are wide awake really tricky. She said:
“After a stressful few weeks of being unproductive during lockdown, I realised the only way to survive was to go to bed early, so I could get up at 5am and get 2 hours of uninterrupted work in before my baby and toddler woke up. Then my partner and I took turns looking after them for the rest of the day.”
Although not ideal, if you’re the type of person who functions best in the morning, getting up earlier guarantees you time to do the tasks you have strict deadlines for.
Or if you’re more of a night owl, fit in a couple of hours work after your baby is in bed. Though it’s important to make sure you schedule in down time too, of course!
Make a work priority list at the start of each day, including which jobs need to be done ASAP and which can be pushed back if necessary.
Housework to do? If they’re not down to their last babygro and you’ve still got some clean underwear, let the washing and other housework slide until the weekend. This is about survival after all!
You need to manage your own, your manager’s and/or client’s expectations. For example, telling them you’re only available for conference calls at certain times of the day – preferably when your child is napping.
Lou runs a business with her husband, so they both had to go back to work straight after their daughter was born. She recommended setting up an auto email response saying you’ll respond within 24 hours. She explained, “that way if we don’t have time to reply during working hours, we know we can when the baby has gone to bed.”
When your baby is awake, make sure you give him/her your undivided attention for focussed periods of time.
By doing this, you’re more likely to get some quiet time with them occupied with a toy for example – giving you an opportunity to focus on some work.
Don’t forget to give yourself some attention too, even if it’s just to have a cuppa!
Rotating toys and activities
Clare, mum of a 1 and a 6-year-old, said she finds rotating toys and activities leads to more time for her to work. She discovered her children are more likely to play happily alone for longer when she keeps toys fresh and exciting.
Use real objects from around the house too. If it’s something they’re not usually allowed to play with, it’s sure to keep them occupied for a while! You can create a safe space for your baby to play nearby your workstation.
Check out some original and fun ideas to occupy children of all ages here.
Find extra time where you can
Look closely at your weekday routine to find which parts you can save time on, then get creative, for example:
- Batch cook meals at the weekend to freeze for the work week and treat yourself to a weekday takeaway once in a while.
- Put a basket in every room so you can quickly tidy up clutter that’s bothering you, then sort it out at the weekend.
- Let Rockit and Zed lend a hand. They can help soothe your baby to sleep, extend their naps, or keep them calm, giving you those extra minutes you need to finish an important email or meet a deadline.
Time flies by quickly, but with a bit of planning you’ll get through this.
Hats off to all you mums and dads working from home with a baby – you rock!
All names have been changed at the request of our interviewees.