I’ve been working part-time from home for nearly 10 months now. I love it. I love being home with Ben and I love that I still have work that ties me to my pre-baby identity, gives me meaningful work that doesn’t involve Ben, and allows me to contribute financially to our family.
I’ve also learned (and am still learning) so much about myself.
For a while Ben was kind of in a sweet spot where he didn’t need much active entertainment, he just kind of chilled. Or if he was doing something (like the Jumperoo or hanging in the Lovevery Baby Playmat) he could amuse himself for quite a while. I even wrote a post about it. I’d just kind of cycle him through the various activities and I’d be able to get some things done.
Boy, have things changed.
These days Ben needs much more attention, amusement, activities, and supervision. He wants to put everything in his mouth, he frequently tips over, and he can move just enough that he can get what he was reaching for but can’t get back to sitting (he is still in physical therapy for his motor skills). He’s certainly getting better at independent play but he still needs me to help facilitate and prevents me from fully focusing on other things.
My new normal looks something like the below.
If I took all my own tips and used them every single day, I’d probably be golden. Please know that I don’t but I’ve at least learned what would work in theory if I was able to do it every day. I strive for it and I try not to beat myself up too much when I don’t do every one of these things (which almost never happens) or when our day goes off the rails (teething will do that).
I guess this list is kind of the advice I’d give myself 10 months ago, if I could. If you’re considering working from home (especially with kids, although not all of this is baby related) or you’ve already started on your work from home journey, maybe this will help.
Don’t do both half-way.
I still sometimes attempt to get work done here or there while Ben is awake and hanging out. Every time I do this I wind up feeling like I’m half-assing both parenting and work. For me, it can’t be done.
I can answer the occasional email or have a quick call but I can’t fully check in to deep work mode unless Ben is asleep or in someone elses care (which rarely happens). Instead of checking in and out of work throughout the day and never fully committing to my tasks, I wait until work can have my full attention and I give Ben my full attention when he’s awake.
This isn’t realistic for some people who may have more structured hours. I’m lucky enough that I’m able to work any hours I’d like so that might mean I work 12-2 (nap time) and/or 8-10pm (post-bedtime). It might mean I work less during the week and an additional hours on weekends. I can’t do both at the same time and I’ve made peace with that (most of the time).
You need your own space.
For the first few months of working from home, I had the option of working from the couch or from the couch. We had no kitchen table, no dining room table and no desk. It was hard.
Creating an area of the house that’s just your “office” can really be a game changer. Even if it’s a specific chair at the kitchen table that is your go-to work space, having a spot that puts you mentally in work mode can really help.
I recently added a desk to a teeny tiny nook in our bedroom (I shared it on Instagram here) and I’m loving having a space that’s away from the kitchen and living room that is just where I work. I don’t do anything else there but work and it puts me immediately in the zone when I sit down there with my laptop and cup of coffee.
You’ve got to ignore the housework.
I struggle with this. I work so much better in a clean space.
In talking with others who work from home, this seems to be a universal issue. If there are dishes in the sink or baby toys all over the living room, I’m tempted to clean them up.
Since nap time is my work time, cleaning up once I put Ben down for his nap eats in to my work time. I have to learn to put him in his crib, check in to work mode, and ignore the housework. It’s easier said than done but if I did do this all the time, it would be the single biggest productivity booster.
Your eating habits might change.
My eating habits are now completely dependent on what I buy at the grocery store. What is in my cabinets is what I have to eat. I don’t buy junk food (I didn’t grow up eating much of it and I am not in the habit of buying it) so therefore I don’t have it around to snack on.
Besides breastfeeding, I think this has been a major contributor to me maintaining my weight. I walk less than I used to (because I used to have a mile and a half walking commute) but I’m no longer tempted by the constant stream of donuts in the staff lounge.
I basically need to make good food decisions once a week – when I’m at the grocery store. Walking to buy food out is not a part of our budget (I’d rather save our food/entertainment budget for meals I can enjoy with N or friends) so I’m forced to eat what I bought – healthy stuff.
Get up and get ready.
I learned quickly on maternity leave that getting up and getting ready every day really helped me feel productive and made me feel better about myself. Once I started working again, I knew I had to continue the habit.
Every morning I get up and at the very minimum, wash my face, brush my teeth, and change my clothes. And that is really only if it’s pouring outside and we know it’s going to be an inside kind of day.
Usually I shower (washing my hair every 3 ish days), moisturize, and put on concealer and mascara. Sometimes I’ll quickly fix a few of my waves with my curling iron. I get dressed and put on real pants (not leggings, not joggers).
It’s incredible how much just putting myself together can set me up for a much better day. The entire process takes me maybe 20 minutes and it’s 100% worth taking the time.
Get that workout in early.
I always assumed that if I worked from home I’d be able to easily get a workout in every day. Turns out, I’m not that motivated. Even when I had every intention of doing a Youtube video workout or going for a power walk with Ben in the stroller, I rarely did.
Until recently I’d been doing Fit4Mom Stroller Stride classes (which I loved) but the timing was eating in to our day and made it super challenging for me to keep Ben on his nap schedule and get work done.
After struggling with the scheduling and always ending up behind, I canceled my membership. I’ve learned to love running (here’s how I became a runner) but have never been a morning workout person. When it came down to it though, I value my health and frankly, the alone time.
Now a few days a week I get up and go for a 2 mile run before Ben wakes up. Two miles, that’s it. I don’t put pressure on myself to do more because I know Ben will wake up soon and N has to get to the train so it’s just a 20-25 minute run and done. It isn’t easy but I feel so much better once it’s done and it helps me start my day awake and clear.
Have a plan to see other humans.
The more I work from home, the more I embrace my inner introvert. I’m a social person but usually talk to Kaylin (my best friend) on the phone each morning so it’s not like I don’t talk to other adults ever.
Truthfully, I make it a goal (and put pressure on myself) to get out in the world every day for a few hours. To chat with another Mom (or nanny) at the park or to go to a music class with Ben. By the time he wakes up from his nap we both need a change of scenery and I try to make that happen daily. I do it for him but I know it’s for me too.
If I wasn’t actively trying to expose Ben to new people, places, and experiences, I might be tempted to not leave the house as often and I think that wouldn’t be good for my mental health.
You’ll make a mess.
I’m home all day and I eat all my meals here and therefore make three times the dishes I used to make. I walk around the house more. We all go outside, then inside, then outside agin, then back in, tromping our shoes all over the house and making the floors dirty so much faster.
I chop food in to tiny pieces to feed a tiny human who then drops them on himself, throws them on the floor, or feeds the dog. I wash dozens of toys every day, as it seems every rubbery toy becomes a magnet for dog hair the second it hits the floor. There are three people to do laundry for now, not two.
Being home and having a kid is just messy. It’s easy to spend massive amounts of time trying to stay on top of this but like I said above, ignore it if you can and try to stay on top of it when you can.
I’ve found that if I make a plan for what I’m going to do during the times Ben is contained (high chair) or playing independently, I can kind of stay on top of this. If I do laundry every other day and don’t let it get to that third day, I’m much better off. And if I clean up the dishes I used to make food while Ben is eating, I have less to do at the end of the night and less to be tempted to do during nap time.
In truth, often there’s about 30 minutes worth of cleaning that happens every night and it’s often a team clean with N post-dinner.
Find your work method.
When I’m working, I work. I use the Forest app which is a fun version of the Pomodoro method. It locks your phone out for you and forces me to just focus on one task, something that’s so much more important and valuable when my time is limited.
Know that you might feel like you’re failing some of the time.
At least one day a week I feel like I’ve failed, to some extent. I usually feel good about my parenting but it’s easy to feel disappointed in myself when I see a big pile of laundry, I don’t get enough work done, I didn’t get a workout in, or I didn’t post on this blog.
I’ll often ask myself – “I’m home all day. How can it be this hard to accomplish simple tasks?”
The truth is this: being the kind of Mom I want to be to Ben consumes much of my day, in the best way possible.
For me, the single biggest and most important part of this has been having a partner who is supportive and appreciative of my time, work, and efforts.
N consistently tells me that I’m doing a great job, that I’m a great Mom, and that I should put less pressure on myself. He’s said that sometimes he feels like he has the easier job. When I’m really beating myself up about feeling like I haven’t done enough in a day, he reminds me “But look at this little boy! He’s alive and he’s so happy!”
Not to get super cheesy but words of affirmation is my love language so it really helps for me to hear this and be reminded of it. I need that for it to really sink in and to let myself breathe.
I also know that I’m incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to be home with Ben and for our family to avoid paying for childcare. I have a job that I enjoy and that allows me immense flexibility. I know this isn’t the average family’s reality and I’m supremely grateful.
If you work from home, what are some of your tips? Is there anything that you’ve found that has been a game changer?