Women today can have it all. Can’t we?
We can be a mother, a wife or partner and have an excellent career.
But trying to juggle work and home life can be tough- especially if they are combined and you’re a work-from-home parent to a young child.
Before having my son, I had naïve ideas about how life would work with a baby…
“I’ll have a nice two hour block around midday where I can get things done!”
Nope. Naptime does not come as easily (or reliably) as I’d imagined!
“Baby can play beside me whilst I answer these few emails.”
Not for long! Who’d have thought that age-appropriate toys wouldn’t keep him entertained for more than 10-minutes at a time and that he would try to eat literally EVERYTHING in his reach!
So how can we make the work-baby balance more manageable?
Why is it so hard?
This might seem obvious , but just what makes working from home with a little one so tough?
Guilt x 2!
For me, this is the biggy! I find it impossible to sit and even respond to a few emails with my little one cooing away at the side of me, without starting to feel guilty that I ought to be playing with him.
- We haven’t sung a nursery rhyme yet today.
- He looks bored.
- He shouldn’t be in front of the TV.
- I should be chatting to him more.
The guilt is two-fold because you’re also always aware that this is the time that “you should be working.”
Anything less than 100% attention to your job and you feel like you aren’t doing it properly!
One of the most accurate pieces of advice I’ve been given about babies is that their only consistency is their inconsistency: Meaning that no day is ever quite the same as the last.
You may have worked hard to establish a solid nap routine (if you figure it out, please tell me how!) but babies are not programmable and are bound to shake things up from time to time.
So no matter how much you try to schedule that conference call around the lunch time nap, it doesn’t always go to plan.
Those who just don’t get it.
Maybe these could be your colleagues. Either those without kids (we were all clueless once upon a time!) or even perhaps those who do have kids but work in-office.
Unless you’ve been there, working from home can seem like an easy option to some people.
They may assume you’re not really working as many hours as they do, or picture you sat reading picture books whilst they’re leading meetings.
Compare this to the tiring reality of not getting a lunch break (or even a toilet break!) to yourself, and you have one riled up stay-at-home mom!
So how can you make it easier?
First of all, if you’ve got this down, please tell me how! By no means do I have all the answers!
But here are a few things that work for me or that friends have suggested.
OK, we’ve already said that babies can be unpredictable, but if there is even an iota of regularity to your child’s day, this will help you as well as them.
Some work tasks really don’t work with a screaming toddler in the background, so schedule the call to your boss when your child is most likely to be napping.
Equally, plan in regular time for you and your child to play and interact. They will appreciate having your undivided attention and it will also help with the parent-guilt we mentioned earlier!
Work with them, not against them.
Once your toddler reaches a certain age, it might be possible for them to sit at the table with you and do a puzzle or a drawing whilst you work. It might only work for ten minutes but hey, every minute counts!
Make the most of childcare.
This may sound obvious and not everyone is lucky enough to have this option.
Is there a family member or a friend you could call on? Try to arrange a regular time slot so you can plan your most important tasks into this time.
If there’s no one you can call on nearby, you could try even a couple of hours of day care a week.
Playgroups often offer sessions that only last the morning, making them cheaper than a full day at nursery and also leaving time for you and your little one in the afternoon.
In-home nannies are also a great option if you can afford one, whilst also keeping your baby close whilst you work.
Have your own space.
We all know too well how our home are turned on their heads after having children: A steriliser here, a nappy changing bag there, toys strewn about!
If possible, try to create a space that is just for your work.
If you can’t afford a whole room to this, even just a desk will do. That way, you can shut work away when you’re done.
Until I did this, I found it much harder to switch off from work and felt like I was constantly answering an email here, marking a few papers there, when it was actually family time.
Remember that you are YOU.
As well as being a mom, and an employee, don’t forget that you are also yourself.
It may sound impossible given the already jam-packed nature of your day, but try to find some time for yourself.
Even if it’s just cup of coffee and ten minutes peace and quiet, this will make the mania of the rest of the day more manageable!
Share and share alike.
Although it may be tough to be away from adult company all day, just remember that there are lots of other parents out there in the same boat.
If you don’t know any of them personally, then the internet is an invaluable tool!
Sometimes, it’s just nice to hear that someone else is finding it tough- because it is tough, very tough at times. And it isn’t just you that thinks so!
Accept the inevitable.
Sometimes (maybe a lot of times!) things don’t always go to plan!
With the best will in the world, you could find yourself pulling in the extra hours when little one is in bed, or even at weekends.
Everything is so much easier if you try to “go with the flow” and accept that the tricky times are all part of having the privilege to be at home with our little ones as well as pursue a career.
So try not to put pressure on yourself!
Recognise that you are doing a fantastic job – two fantastic jobs, in fact!