Last week, we asked one of our freelance writers, Nicole Mendoza, to write about the challenges of being a stay-at-home-work-from-home mom.
A lot of people tell me I’m living the dream: my husband and I both work from home and we are 100% hands-on parents to our little girl.
What a lot of people don’t know is it’s less dreamy and more nightmare-ish to work from home with a baby—especially so if you’re a mother who works as a freelance creative.
Creative work requires time and focus, which are both luxuries to moms with small children. Infants don’t care about your article deadlines or client calls. They’ll cry and whine until they’re fed, changed, and rocked to sleep (and put back to sleep in every one of the 300 times they wake up at night). Feeling so inspired you feel like revamping your portfolio for hours today? Forget it—your toddler will want a snack or be read a book every 5 minutes.
Then there’s the mental load of a having to remember a hundred different things: her socks don’t fit anymore, she needs to get her booster shots done next week, she needs a new pack of diapers, what do I make for lunch, the laundry needs to get done. Heck, you even have to remember if the baby’s already taken a poop on any given day.
Motherhood is already a 24/7 job that doesn’t give a crap about whether you’ve only had an hour’s worth of sleep last night, so how exactly do you get work done if you’re a freelance creative with a young family?
Get on a schedule, but stay flexible
Routines are great for both adults and children. They offer mental health benefits by reducing stress levels and even anxiety. If you’re a creative wanting to get work done while also ensuring that your family’s needs are met, you need to start scheduling.
Set your work hours ahead of time so you and your family knows when you are working. Considering scheduling these around naptime and after putting the baby to bed at night. If you have other chores or errands to run on weekdays, put these on your calendar as well.
Try to stay as consistent as possible to your schedule so you and your family can get in the habit of knowing what to expect and when. At the same time, be flexible. Naps go away, kids become more independent, and sometimes they get sick or go through growth spurts that make them extra clingy or fussy. Be prepared to adjust your routines when necessary.
Practice working in short bursts
This is easier said than done, especially if you’re used to working continuous hours, but try forming a habit of working in short bursts. It’s practically impossible not to have some form of distraction even during your set work hours, anyway, so getting used to working in sprints can definitely help with productivity.
A good strategy to try is the popular Pomodoro Technique, which is essentially working on a set task for 25 minutes and then taking a short break for 5.
Ask for (or hire) help
You will probably need an extra set of hands with the baby or chores at some point. When that time comes, don’t hesitate to get help. When deadlines are tight, ask a family member or a friend to babysit so you can focus on work. If you know of other work-at-home-parents, you may want to consider shifting babysitting children with them, giving each parent a day to work while the other parent watches everyone’s kids.
Look after yourself
We recently flew with our toddler for the first time and the airline safety card said, “Place oxygen mask on yourself before helping those under your care.” I immediately thought about what a great metaphor that is for looking after yourself so you can take better care of anything or anyone else.
Get away from work and childcare on a regular basis (I try to do this at least once a week). Leave the baby with a trusted caretaker and go out on a date with your partner. Get a massage. Go to your favorite coffee shop and enjoy your drink. Meet up with friends. Your brain will thank you for the few hours that you’ve given it to relax and recharge.
Kids are only little once, so it’s a real privilege to watch them grow while also being able to keep your creative career. While distractions are aplenty, the mental load is tough, and the responsibilities of being a working parent can be stressful, these tips may be able to help you make your work and family life run more smoothly.