Is it really possible to work from home with a baby? And if so, how do you do it?
If there’s one person who knows the answer to this question it’s Katie M Anderson, a freelance writer who works from home around her nine-month-old daughter.
Working from home with a baby – is it possible?
Nine months ago I welcomed a beautiful bundle of joy into the world. Nine months ago, my productivity levels also took a serious hit.
I’ve been working freelance from home since 2009. In the pre-baby years I developed a routine that worked perfectly for me. I’d start with emails and blogs over a leisurely breakfast, then segue right into the first tasks of the day. Mid-morning, once most of my admin tasks were done, I’d take an energising shower then head back to my desk to get into the real work.
The day would meander along around me while I sat at my desk, working hard on wordy projects with quick cleansing social media breaks. I’d finish up around four with a completed to do list and a solid plan for the following day.
I didn’t plan any maternity leave
When I got pregnant, I didn’t make quite the same plans for maternity leave that many of my friends were doing. Instead, I had the vague plan that I would just keep going.
Obviously I knew my life was going to change dramatically, but I didn’t want to completely step away from a career I loved. I wanted the absolute best of both worlds: to be able to spend my days with my baby and to stay professionally, creatively and financially fulfilled.
Sounds good, right? But was it possible?
What my daily reality looks like now
Let’s fast-forward to now. These days, I wake to the sound of my daughter, not my iPhone. We eat breakfast together, clapping after every successful mouthful. We play, we read, we bounce up and down until nap time.
Once she’s asleep, I silently rush to my desk and get to work. In this time, I have become more efficient than I knew was possible, more focused on key points than you could imagine, more… oh wait, is that the baby crying?
Working from home with a baby isn’t easy
You probably don’t need me to tell you that working from home with a baby is not an easy option. It requires a lot of organisation, a lot of motivation, and the ability to concentrate while surrounded by piles of washing.
Post-baby I work far fewer hours and have a lot less time to spend on supplementary work tasks like my website or my social media presence. On the plus side, I get out of the house a lot more during the day (which is excellent for creativity levels) and I have to be stricter about only taking on work that feels right for me.
Okay, you’re saying, but when do you actually get the work done? Let me break it down:
- I answer emails and social media questions on my phone when I get chance throughout the day.
- I get a solid hour/hour and a half of one-on-one computer work done during nap time.
- I work for another hour/hour and a half in the time between my husband getting home and little one’s bed time.
This routine adds up to around ten hours of focused work time each week; sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. As you can imagines, all of this is a work in progress and I’m still learning what does and doesn’t work for us.
What I’ve learned about working with a baby
If you’re considering a similar experiment, here are a few things I’ve picked up so far.
Charge what you’re worth
When your time becomes limited, you need to be more intentional about how you’re charging for it. One of the few post-baby changes that I did plan when I was pregnant was an increase in my rates.
Be ruthless about prioritising
I sometimes refer to working during nap time as ‘kamikaze working’. The baby could wake at any moment and end that particular computer session. I deal with this by making sure I get the most vital tasks done first: kamikaze working leaves no time for procrastination.
Babies benefit from independent play
It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that you need to be engaging in quality play with your child every moment they’re awake. The reality is that babies benefit from a balance between social engagement and independent play.
My daughter and I spend a lot of time playing together, but she’s also happy to enjoy her toys by herself while I tidy up, finish up a work task, or just enjoy a well-deserved cup of tea.
There is help on offer
Maternity leave may look a bit different when you’re self-employed, but there is some financial support available. You may be able to apply for Maternity Allowance, which can be a real help.
I was particularly pleased to discover that, unlike standard maternity payments, you can still claim a portion of the allowance available to you if you return to work part time.
It’s never too early to establish a routine
Establishing a good routine early on was a real priority for me as a work-from-home mum. As it happens, this also turned out to be exactly what my little one needed. She responded really well to the routine, even when she was super tiny.
Do whatever works for you… and enjoy it
What works for you is likely to be different to what works for me. As long as you and your family are happy, don’t judge yourself by what anyone else is doing. Find a routine that works and enjoy the fact that you’ve created the exact lifestyle you want.
(But accept that it might not last!)
Unfortunately, once you’ve found that routine it doesn’t mean you’ve cracked it! What’s working for you one week (or even one day!) won’t necessarily work the next. Once you welcome a little one into your working life, you’ll no longer be solely in charge of your day. Embrace change: your routine is likely to undergo a lot of it!
When I started freelancing in 2009, I loved it because it was flexible. Six years and a baby later, the flexibility is even more important to me. After a bit of trial and error I’ve been able to find my own personal balance point between baby time and work time… for this week at least.
Katie M Anderson is a freelance writer, trainer and editor based in York, UK. She writes for businesses, organisations and publications, offers training and consultancy services, and is working on a novel.Katie M Anderson