How to Work from Home with a Baby

by Kathryn on April 17, 2015

SethOur first child arrived on December 3, 2014. I made the decision not to return to my full time job, and to write from home while caring for Seth (the cutie pictured here). I mailed out samples of my work to nonfiction book packagers, and received my first assignment at the end of March — a book on artificial intelligence with a one-month turn around. Yikes!

In order to make that deadline, I figured out how to manage my time and get work done while taking care of a 3-month-old baby.

Rule #1: When baby is napping, I’m working

This is the most important rule I made for myself. Seth takes about 4 hours of naps every day. As soon as I get him to sleep, I start writing. I’m lucky that he tends to sleep well in his crib, but it is definitely possible to work on a laptop while holding a sleeping baby. I did that once or twice.

Rule #2: Eat, shower, and do housework only while baby is awake!

This is the necessary corollary to rule #1. When the baby was first born, I’d wait until he was asleep to do everything I had to do. But as he got older, I realized that I could entertain him and do these things at the same time. Sometimes this takes some creativity — for example, I made a game out of folding laundry: I play peek-a-boo with each piece of clothing while he watches from the floor.

I take my showers with him awake, playing on the floor right next to the shower in an improvised play pen of towels and blankets (I’ll have to change tactics once he can move! For now, he stays put). I eat my meals when he’s up, too – either with him on my lap or sitting in a baby chair.

He didn’t love the baby wrap or carrier at first (and it was the middle of winter), but now that he’s older and it’s warmer outside, I’ve started carrying him around while cleaning, doing loads of laundry, or taking out the trash.

Rule #3: Use the smart phone for research, not games or Facebook

When I’m nursing the baby or rocking him to sleep, I usually have my phone out. It’s tempting to just browse Facebook, play word games, listen to podcasts, or read for fun… but when I had this huge deadline, I used the time for research as much as possible. I’d email myself a list of articles, then read them and take notes (usually just cutting and pasting sections of relevant text) into an email to myself… even at 3AM. In fact, I got some of my best research done during middle-of-the-night nursing sessions.

Rule #4: Embrace interruptions!

Life with a baby generally means that you can’t expect to focus on any one thing for more than 15 minutes. I could be writing away, totally immersed… then, waaaah! Baby’s awake. It’s frustrating when it happens, but actually, I found that these interruptions were helpful for my productivity.

I’d heard in a conference before that it’s a good idea to leave off writing in the middle of a sentence, because it’s much easier to pick up again later. I had tried this in the past, and it worked — but it’s SOOO hard to stop in the middle of a thought. A baby forces this practice on you. When I hear him start to wake up, I quickly jot down the next few thoughts I have, then leave it for later. I find that my brain keeps working on the ideas while I’m playing with him, and during the next nap, I start up again immediately, and often write better than I would have had I not been interrupted.

Rule #5: Nap if I have to

Seth is not a great sleeper. I’m still getting up with him multiple times every night, and he’s ready to wake up for the day at 5:30AM. I go to bed early to help handle this, but after a particularly bad night or a string of very little sleep, it gets impossible to focus. You can’t get much work done while badly sleep-deprived, and it’s better for everyone on those days if I just take some naps.

Does anyone else who’s worked from home with kids have any tips to add?







{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kirsten Larson April 17, 2015 at 11:22 pm

Oh, congrats, Kathryn. You are taking me back to my days of grant writing with infants and my first days of writing for kids while raising preschoolers. Your ability to work with focus during small amounts of time will serve you well. My only additional advice: get ahead of deadlines. Kids always have a tendency to get sick right before the project is due, so don’t save anything until the last minute. I always build a week or a few days of padding into my schedule depending upon how long the projects are.


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