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Back in 2016, I created a series on freelancing with kids. Now that my family has grown and I’ve discovered some additional tips, I wanted to create an updated version. My income is no longer just from freelancing, so I’m changing the title of the series a bit too. So here are tips to help you successfully work from home with a baby.
Now, before we dive in, let’s talk about the term baby for a minute, so you know the age group I’m talking about.
In my mind, children go through the following stages before becoming an adult:
Newborn =>Baby =>Toddler =>Preschooler =>Elementary Aged Kid =>Tween =>Teen
So what exactly is a baby?
In my thinking, a baby is six-weeks-old through about a year. They’re no longer in the incredibly intense newborn stage, but also aren’t fully walking and running all over the place. They definitely need your love, attention, and care though!
You’re likely at a “new normal” after having a baby, so you’re in a different state of mind too.
It’s the perfect time to establish some guidelines that’ll help you work at home while taking care of your baby.
Set Realistic Expectations
Before diving into strategies, there’s an essential piece of information. It’s time for a reality check.
Babies need you. And though *the experts* say that they sleep a lot, many do not. You may not have hours of uninterrupted time to work from home with a baby.
You must keep your expectations real. This means you need to think carefully about any position, gig, or business that you begin. Ask yourself:
- Can I do this in the time I have each day?
- Is this something I can find time for consistently? (ie as baby grows)
- What’s my backup plan on crazy days?
- Do I need silence for this, or is some baby background noise okay?
Not all work at home jobs are a good fit for you when you have a baby in the house. Jobs that require specific hours, a quiet work environment so you can make outgoing phone calls, or take too much of your time might be out.
Of course, you may be able to bring in a sitter to care for your baby while you work, or alternate shifts with your spouse.
The good news? Just because some gigs aren’t right for you doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do. You just need to make sure whatever you do has flexibility.
The Actual Job Isn’t the Only Place to Check Your Expectations
Working at home with a baby can be hard! You may not have the time or energy to do everything on your to-do list. So, you’ll have to examine your expectations in all areas of life.
You may decide to:
- Cook simple meals
- Redefine your definition of a “clean house” – clean and fairly tidy are possible, spotless might not be
- Cut out some extra commitments
- Repurpose your TV time
Look at everything you have going on, and decide what is worth keeping, what needs tweaked, and what needs cut. You have the same 24 hours in a day as everyone else, but you get to decide what to do with yours.
Start Encouraging Self-Entertainment and Alone Time
So start encouraging your little one to spend some time alone, not in your arms.
This is easier with some babies than others. Some are very clingy and need a little extra loving before they’re ready.
Now I’m not saying to neglect your child and leave them alone for inappropriate amounts of time in the name of teaching self-entertainment. No, you will be spending a ton of time with your baby. They really do nee you.
But, they also need to learn that even when you aren’t holding them, you love them.
I typically use a playpen or a blanket on the floor for this. The blanket is easier, but with all the other kids I have running around, a playpen offers a bit more protection to a tiny baby…
I just lay the baby in the playpen while I start dinner. Or check my email nearby. During this time, I typically talk to the baby off and on, and offer reassurance that I’m still here.
If they’re old enough to enjoy them, I include a baby toy or two in the playpen with them. This gives them something to do.
You can start with just a few minutes if you need to. Then, slowly work your way up as baby gets used to not being held and not being entertained by you.
Once my babies are ready, I try to set a timer for twenty or thirty minutes. This gives me a chunk of time to get a few little things (or one bigger thing) done. Then, I go back and pick up baby and cuddle and praise.
After doing this consistently, my babies have all really learned to enjoy a little down time by themselves. This is also a habit we continue throughout childhood – just without the playpen when they get bigger and more capable of making good decisions.
Learning to self-entertain is a really good skill! Your baby will continue to use this throughout life.
Wear Your Baby
Some of my babies have loved being held in a sling. Others hated it.
The great thing about wearing your baby is that you have two hands. However, you need to make sure your sling is on correctly and baby is well supported.
While wearing your baby you can:
- Stand up and type a blog post
- Create graphics
- Answer emails
- Take a client call (with understanding clients – I like working with other parents since they get it!)
- Do non-cooking aspects of dinner prep (be safe, and don’t wear your baby near boiling water or anything!)
- Do some clutter control
- Read a post aloud to help you edit it
There are tons of possibilities! Having two hands free while holding your sweet baby is incredible. It feels so free! (Or at least it did for me the first time I tried one. 😀 )
Let a Swing or Rocker Rock Baby for You
If your little one is a mover, rocking probably keeps them happy. But, your arms will wear out if you try to do all the rocking.
I’ve had some babies love a baby swing or rocking bed. A friend passed on a Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play her child had outgrown when my son Bryson was born. That thing was incredible, and I’m looking forward to using it again when this new baby joins the family.
By keeping your swing or rocking bed in your line of sight, you can sit nearby and work while baby relaxes and maybe even falls asleep! You’ll be there if you’re needed, and can do some simple interaction with your baby while you work.
Master the Art of One-Handed Hunt and Peck
There are times you’ll be holding a baby and trying to get an assignment done. You can do both, it just takes a little creativity and practice.
When I was working at a local parent partnership program, I was blessed to work from home several days a week. But, I had plenty of email to keep up with.
When my babies were fussy, I’d hold them with one arm, either over the shoulder, or in the cradle style. Then I’d use my other hand to type. I did what I called the one-handed hunt and peck. Instead of resting on home row, I’d hover my hand above the keyboard with my fingers loose.
Then I started typing. I actually am fairly proficient at typing with one hand!
The downside? Capital letters are hard. I found two strategies that worked for me. The first was hitting caps lock and then shutting it right back off. The other was leaning over the keyboard so my holding baby hand could get a pinky on the shift key. Do what works!
Create Lists of Focused and Non-Focused Tasks
Babies do sleep! So sometimes you have uninterrupted time to work on some business tasks. Other times, your attention won’t be completely on your work.
Don’t try to decide what to do on the fly. Instead, have a list of focused and non-focused tasks specifically for your business. That way, when you have some time you can put it to work.
If you’re a blogger or freelance writer, here are some ideas to help you get both lists started. Of course, your brain is different from mine. So don’t feel like my list is how it has to be! Rearrange the items to where you think they should go, and add your own too.
These typically need your full attention. They’re not good to work on while you’re singing to the baby or not able to focus on your work:
- Editing posts
- Talking to some clients on the phone or via Skype
- Detailed planning
- Outlining a post
- Bookkeeping – you really need to get those numbers entered correctly!
- Take a deep thinking course
There are tasks I’ve found I can do when my brain isn’t fully in the game. They’re perfect to tackle while I’m rocking baby in the car seat with my feet, nursing, or just enjoying some baby snuggles.
- Brain dumps
- Brainstorming posts
- Big picture planning
- Proofreading (I love to read posts aloud to my babies! It helps me catch errors and helps calm them and expose them to some good vocabulary.)
- Drafting a post – I’m used to writing in noise and while distracted. If you aren’t, this post can help.
- Social media marketing
- Creating pins
- Sourcing images
- Curating content to share
- Read a business/blogging book
- Work through a low-key course
- Dealing with email (unless of course you have a difficult/super important email to write – then do that particular one when you can focus)
Once you have your lists done, keep them handy. You can either print them out or leave them on your computer/phone in a file. Just make sure they’re easy to get to.
This will save you time when trying to decide what to do.
Watch Your Deadlines
If you’re working for someone else, your deadlines are extremely important. Do not let your deadlines pass without finishing your task, or at least communicating with your client.
To help, pad your deadlines. Tell yourself they’re due before they really are. This gives you a buffer for when life happens.
Also, mom brains can sometimes turn to mush. Write down your deadlines, even if you never had to in the past. It’ll help!
Write Your Ideas Down
Life with a baby is amazing. But, it also goes incredibly quickly. Take time to jot down some notes and anecdotes to use in the future. Even if you don’t plan on writing in the parenting niche or anything, you just never know what direction life will take in the future.
Plus, you’ll love having them for your own records. You can share them with your baby sometime when they’re older.
And if blog post ideas happen to come to mind (What My Baby Taught Me About Marketing or something cool like that), definitely get them written down before you forget.
Keep a notepad or a notes app on your phone nearby so you can capture those fleeting ideas before they pass.
Minimize Your Decisions
Your brain has a ton going on right now. You’re nurturing a new little human, trying to grow a business, AND take care of everything else at the same time.
Your brain cannot keep up at a frantic pace for long. Slow things down and make life simple.
Make your decisions in advance so you aren’t constantly trying to figure things out. This means:
- Make a meal plan
- Write down lists of activities that are safe for baby
- Find four different periods during the day when you can work (I recommend only planning on using two of them to cover those crazy days!)
- Create flexible routines
- Learn to say no to things that aren’t a good fit
Want to learn more strategies for minimizing your decisions and unleashing your potential to get more done? I wrote my course Balancing Diapers and Deadlines with YOU in mind. You’ll find over 30 lessons to help you minimize your decisions, work from home with kids, and increase your productivity. Check it out here!
There will be times you need to work when your baby isn’t in the mood to let you. During these moments, it’s important to think creatively. Here are some ideas:
- Put a piece of scotch tape on your baby’s toe. (They’ll get it off and then it’ll stick to their finger and they’ll work on getting it off…This usually buys me 15 minutes!)
- If your baby is a sitter, let them sit in a stable laundry basket at your feet with some toys. (Support the basket with your feet so they don’t rock it over!)
- Have an older sibling entertain baby with some toys and books.
- Talk in a goofy voice, narrating what you’re doing.
- Play peek a boo for a couple of minutes to get baby calmed down and then get back to work.
- Put a couch cushion on the floor for your crawler to navigate over.
- Have a couple of special toys that only get pulled out when you really need to focus.
Remember It’s Historically Normal to “Work” from Home with a Baby
Some moms struggle with mom guilt over working while their baby (or older kids) are around.
Moms have been rocking their work from home skills for centuries, with their kids by their side. It’s only a recent phenomenon that moms need to focus solely on their babies, coddle them, and give in to their every desire.
Think about the family farm. Moms used to spend HOURS upon HOURS putting up food from the harvest. Do you think they were holding their baby while dealing with boiling hot strawberry jam? Or butchering a chicken for dinner?
No. They taught their babies to play nearby. They made sure they were safe, and made sure to take care of their needs.
These mamas also kept their babies close, teaching them as soon as they were able. The kids grew up knowing how to work hard, and just thinking it was an everyday part of life.
It was good for the kids to see mama work hard.
The same is true for your kids. They really do benefit from watching you (and helping you when they’re older) grow a business.
You Can Successfully Work from Home with a Baby
Remember, whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are right.
Your attitude goes a long way to determining your success.
You can work from home with a baby!
If you know any mompreneurs trying to work from home with a baby, please share this post with them!
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Lisa Tanner is a former teacher turned homeschooling mom with 11 kids. She's also a successful freelance writer. Lisa enjoys helping other busy moms find time to start and grow a side hustle of their own.