In late November, 2015, when I found out that I was expecting my first child, I had to decide that if, once the baby got here, I would continue working freelance at home or stop working for a few years while I dedicated 100% of my time to my baby. Before getting pregnant, I never really thought that I would have to choose between working and being a mom. Honestly, I never knew if becoming a mother was actually going to become reality for me. But there I was, having to make that big decision.
However, it really did not take much time at all to decide that I wanted to really try to continue working part-time at home, AND dedicate my time to my baby. I just didn't know how exactly I was going to pull it off.
I bought a swing to put in my upstairs office, bought a smaller MacBook to make my work a little more portable than it was (the MacBook can actually fit in my diaper bag!), and created a schedule for myself to follow.
In July, 2016, my baby boy, Storm, was born. I took about 2 months off to heal and focus on my newborn, but then I started slowly diving back into work. At first it was a bit hard to adjust, because for the last couple months I literally just took care of my baby and cleaned the house, but I started to get the hang of it after a couple weeks. I stuck with my schedule, not allowing myself more than 10 hours per week for work, then upping it to 15 hours per week, and then to 20 hours, which I am now set at. I worked around when the baby slept. I worked while feeding the baby. I even took my laptop and baby to McDonald's or Panera Bread because the background noise would actually help him sleep better and the free WiFi allowed me to work.
Now, 7 months later, I think that I have found a happy balance between working and devoting time to Storm. Some days are better than others, that's why having flexible clients is important for me. When he's sick or just plain crabby - I can work in the evening when my fiance is home from work. I am so happy that I have found that balance because having something productive to do, other than take care of a baby, is important for me. I didn't want to lose years of my professional life and have to start over again later, but I also didn't want to go back to work full-time and lose valuable time with my baby. I get the best of both worlds, as far as I am concerned.
Is working at home AND being a stay-at-home parent something that everyone can do? Probably not. It does take a huge amount of dedication and time-management skills to pull this off, but if you are willing and able to do so, it can be quite rewarding.
Here are some tips from one stay-at-home + part-time work-at-home mommy:
1. Take a couple months off when you have your baby. This is extremely important because not only will you be exhausted from the constant feeding, changing, etc - but you need time to adjust to being a parent. You can resume work once you feel that you are ready, but definitely take that time to get to know your little one and transition into being a parent.
2. If you don't have a home office, I strongly suggest creating a space where you can work without distractions. I work in my upstairs home office while my baby naps. I either have him up with me strapped in his swing, or I have a video baby monitor with me to know when he wakes up in his crib. I also work in the home office in the evenings when my fiance is taking care of the baby. You can hire a sitter, if you'd like, and work in the home office while he/she watches the baby. Whatever works for you, but dedicate a space that is work-only.
3. Be portable, if your profession allows. I am a graphic designer / virtual assistant, so I can literally work anywhere there is an internet connection, whether that be on the couch, or in a coffee shop, as long as I have the right equipment. It's important for me to get out of the house at least once per day with the baby. Get a laptop if you do not already have one and take it with you if you run errands. You never know when your baby may nap and you will have time to get a few things done. I have even worked in my car while the baby slept in the backseat. I will work anywhere I have to, as long as the baby is comfortable, safe, and I have an internet connection.
4. Don't get angry. It can be really easy to get frustrated and angry at a fussy baby when you have projects to complete, but don't let yourself get to that point. If the baby is fussy or crying, take a break from work for a little bit while you calm him down. Plan to take breaks whenever your baby needs it.
5. Have a plan. It is possible to work at home and take care of a baby, but it takes some adjusting and planning. Don't expect to just dive right into it and have it go perfectly. I also wouldn't plan on being able to work full-time hours and still take care of a baby at the same time. If you want to work full-time at home, you will need to hire a sitter. I worked at home for years before attempting to do this with a baby, and I will not allow myself to take more than 20 hours worth of work per week. I also have my mom come over once per week to help out. Don't stretch yourself too thin.
6. Remember that your baby is priority if you are the sole caretaker at that time. Work can wait if your baby is awake (or when he/she is napping - just have that baby monitor with you). NEVER try to work without your baby in sight. Your child's safety is your number one concern. If you find that you just can not get enough done, hire a babysitter or have a back-up plan (like working in the evening when someone else is there). I can not stress enough that your child's safety is your number ONE priority.
If you find yourself unable to properly care for a baby AND meet the demands of your job, you will have to have a backup plan. Either work less hours, hire a sitter, or reconsider working at home altogether. Some professions and/or clients just do not allow the flexibility that you need.
7. Be honest with your bosses or clients. I always tell my clients ahead of time that I am a work-at-home parent and that my time has to be flexible. You would be surprised how many clients do not mind at all, as long as you meet deadlines (this is where proper planning and schedules come into play a lot).
8. Learn to work one-handed. Aside from a few things that I work on that require a lot of typing, most of my work can actually be done one-handed while I feed the baby or let him nap on me.
9. Take time for yourself - away from the baby, and away from work. It's really easy to get sucked into the never-ending work, baby, work, baby cycle, but for your own health and sanity, take time for yourself at least once per day. Give the baby to your partner, or hire a sitter if you have to, but get away from it. Take a long bath, play a video game, take a walk by yourself...anything to get some you time.
10. Understand that you're not going to have it "all together" all the time. Your house may get messy. You're not going to make every social event you're invited to. You may not have the money to live the lifestyle you were used to before the baby. No one has it all together. We all just do our best with what we have.
One extra tip: Know when it's time to try something else. Working at home with a baby is definitely not for everyone, and that doesn't make you a lesser person. You may learn that you would prefer to work those few hours away from the baby to clear your head and keep your sanity. That's okay. You may realize that you want to quit work altogether and become a stay-at-home parent. That's okay, too. You may even find that your decision will change as your child grows. Decide what is best for you and own it, rock it. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to things like this. Do what is best for you and your family.
I am living proof that you can work-at-home (part-time) AND be a stay-at-home parent, and I am extremely lucky to have found work and clients that allow me to be flexible enough to do both. It just takes planning, patience, and a lot of dedication. I hope these tips help. If you have any tips that you think should be added to this list, leave a comment below.
A Proud Work-at-Home Mommy
Victoria (Tori) is a freelance graphic designer located just outside of St. Louis, Mo.