With spring right around the corner, and what feels like a bad case of cabin fever from this winter, I’m itching to get out into the woods and set up camp for a weekend. I’ve been planning and waiting for the day that I can take Forrest camping for the first time, but he’s still got awhile before he’ll be ready. At 3 months old, I don’t think my wife, Jessica, would approve. Plus, I want him to remember it to some extent. I just really cannot wait to pack up the Range Rover and head out toward the mountains and set up in camp in one of Jessica and I’s favorite spots, Black Balsam Knob in the Pisgah National Forest. It’s such a great spot, right along the Appalachian Trail and I know Forrest will love it when he is old enough. Until then, I guess I’ll keep making wish lists of all the great stuff out that there we’ll enjoy on our camping trips once that day arrives. Until then, here is my wish list for our first camping trip with Forrest:
When my wife, Jessica and I decided we both wanted to work together and for ourselves, we were a little over four years away of finding out we were expecting. During those years, we were working together full-time (and we still are). The majority of our time was spent in our home office editing photos, writing emails, compiling blog posts and marketing ourselves. The other portion of time was spent traveling the country and photographing weddings on the weekends. We loved it then and love it now, but the dynamic of how it all worked before a child differs greatly from how it is now. Before our son arrived, it was simply easier. We knew that would be the case, so we tried our best to prepare for the change.
Being a work-at-home parent also means stay-at-home parent, at least for us. We both share a dual role. Our business relies on the both us and therefore, so does our child. We even named our business simply Brett & Jessica because we wanted it to be such a “together” type of thing. So, both of us play a major role in the success of our business and it being our only source of income, we have to make it work or we need to start applying for something else now.
Working from home with a baby is hard. But we love it this way. It’s flexible. We get to witness our sons milestones together. He is able to learn from us and watch our work ethic. We save on caregiver costs.
It just takes extra work and discipline to make it work. Realizing that some days you’ll be more of a work-at-home parent and other days you’ll be more of a stay-at-home parent is a major key to the success of this as well. The following are some tips we implemented into our life and business to make it work and will work for parents who both stay at home or if just one is staying home.
Be flexible, work when you can. Especially during the earlier months of a baby’s life, you’ll need to flexible with them and their routine or their lack thereof. It can be frustrating and your days may be longer than before, but remember why you chose to work this way. It’s a pretty nice tradeoff.
Nap time is prime work time. Since setting definite work hours while working from home is baby or child is nearly impossible, hopefully you’re child naps (recently, ours has not) because that’s obviously going to be your best and most productive time to work. If you’re working together, this is the best time to do any work that requires your collaborative efforts.
Sleep When Baby Sleeps Does Not Apply. How can it? That’s when those of us who work from home do our work. It’s great advice while on maternity leave (and paternity leave if you’re lucky enough to get that), but after that, it’s essential to either work, spend time together or take some time for ourselves whenever your baby or child is sleeping.
Co-work with baby.The Bumbo Seat and the Baby Bjorn Bouncer have been amazing for this. During the time Forrest wasn’t able to support his head, we sat him the bouncer and just used a foot to help bounce him in it while we sat at our desks, which usually helped him sleep. Now that he’s able to hold his head up and is interested in more, we have him hangout in his Bumbo seat on our desks. Both of these were really great, but we’ve been very conscious not to just sit there with a laptop in from our faces or getting lost in the screen of our iMacs while he is needing to communicate or needs our attention. This goes back to first topic, which can be the hardest.
Wear your baby. Yes, some men are actually down with it. I am all for it. I even use Jessica’s Solly Baby Wrap from time to time, although I do prefer our Baby Bjorn Carrier One. Our son can nap right against us and we have both hands free. Sometimes we’ll put our laptops on a bookshelf and work standing up, so his legs don’t get scrunched up too much in the carrier, plus it’s great for our backs and it’s easy to find yourself sitting all day. Simply put, carriers are amazing.
Master multi-tasking. We have had to learn to multitask way better. Somewhat surprisingly, we learned how to utilize our iPhones better, especially while Jessica is feeding. Or emailing clients, taking care of social media, etc while holding our son as he sleeps in our arms because we dare not to put him down in his crib. Make sure to plan ahead if you’re running errands that can be combined. Have to head into town for a meeting? Hit up the post office, bank, supply store, etc on your way back so you don’t have to make another run.
Know/understand each others roles. If you haven’t already established roles within your business together, shame on you and get it done now. Who is going manage the emails? Who is responsible for the website, keeping up with social media or in our case, editing photos? It’s much harder if you’re both trying to tackle the same things or assuming that the other already finished something that you were supposed to do.
Take a step away from your work. If you find yourself getting stressed, overwhelmed or frustrated whether it be from feeling like you are being pulled in a million different directions or because you just cannot get focused, just walk away. Take a minute or two or even a half hour and just regroup yourself.
Make some time for yourself. We all need a little downtime. We need to decompress and clear our minds. Carve out a little time during the day to leisurely read a book or magazine, cook up a nice meal for yourself or go for a walk/run. Work with your partner to help ensure you’re both able to make sure this happens. It’s vital.
I wish there was a magic formula that worked for the work/life balance of dual work-at-home parents, but there just isn’t. Each case is different, let alone each day. The struggles are absolutely real and some of the challengers are more than some can handle. It’s not for everyone and that’s okay. So many people do great with working from home before kids, but after kids, the pressure, stress and anxiety is just too much. But if you’re looking to give it a go, hopefully the tips above will help.
If you have any tips about being a working-at-home parent or couple, I’d love to have you share them in the comments below!
Even if you are usually not the type that participates in this holiday or you just go through cliché motions, year after year, with doing the standard roses and variety box of chocolates, it’s never a bad idea to step it up once in awhile, especially if your lady is pregnant. It’s the least you can do, besides reassuring of her beauty and your love for her, which you should already be doing. She’s either been carrying around your child for months now or has months of doing just that ahead, so get her something for herself. Something that’s about her, not about the baby she growing for you. Here are some Valentines Day gifts for the expecting mother in your life that she’ll be sure to love and can enjoy during her pregnancy and after. These gifts also tell her you still see her as more than just a tiny human making factory.
This new label for pops and tots recently caught my eye on Instagram. At first it was their simple fleece crewneck sweatshirts that simply read “POP” or “TOT” in what resembles the classic collegiate font famously worn by John Balushi in Animal House. Somehow, Tosan pulls it off in a way that just works. I admit that I would probably be pretty hesitant to even consider purchasing a companion outfit for my son and self, even though tons of moms out there sport theirs. But this set is one I would (and will as soon as Forrest is big enough) wear with pride. Plus, I just love what this brand stands for, “Curated goods for the adventure of fatherhood”.
The Tot crewneck ($30) sizes start at 2T and go up to 6T and comes in navy. Both pop and tot versions are super soft, eco-friendly and made in the USA. The Pop crewneck ($65), which comes in your standard sizes, comes in a heathered navy. Good call on their part for not making them both the same color! Tosan also offers a pop and tot set that is nicely priced at just $75. So, my advice is if you want them, grab them now, before they are all gone!
It will be great watching this brand grow and seeing what they do. They’ve already expanded into some other great and fun products like their Tosan X Salemtown child and adult sized skateboards ($300 for both. $160/$170 individually). And their convertible adventure pack ($250) looks just incredible. It’s looks are amazing and is full of function. Keep an eye out for other goods like carriers, bags, swaddles coming this spring.
As soon as we found out we were expecting, I was obviously overcome with excitement and joy. All kinds of thoughts began to flood my mind. I was eager to know the sex right away and decide on a name and I began to think about who he or she would look more alike. All of those fun sort of fatherly thoughts!
Quickly, after my mind and heart settled a bit, I took a look around our home and thought to myself, “how are we going to be able to do this in our 1950’s 900 sq ft, two bedroom (one is our office) home?” At the time, we had already been living here for five years, so things naturally accumulated and being that it’s a small space with garbage for storage, we had already felt maxed out even before finding out we were expecting. And if I’m being totally honest, we just weren’t in the position to buy a bigger place and we loved the location and still do. It’s walking distance to downtown and it’s rather quiet for a downtown neighborhood and I’m not sure we are ready to let go of that yet. So, we had to make due with what we have right now and understand that we’ll obviously need to make comprises where need be in the future.
I knew we had to pair down and rid of ourselves of as much as possible to make room for our little guy and all the things that come with a baby. The first thing I did before touching anything was grabbing a copy of Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. It was a saving grace. It found me at the right exact time, as if it fell from heaven itself. Pro-tip: I also purchased the audiobook via iTunes so that I could listen and follow along in the book while working at my computer or driving. I finished the book in a few days, which I hadn’t done since procrastinating a reading assignment in high school. Kondo has also recently released a illustrated companion book, which I’d also highly recommend.
The result of the book led to a lot of helpful insight. Here are some quick tips plus a few things I found helpful for prepping a small space for a baby:
Declutter your entire home. Set aside some time to knock it all out within a few days. Don’t try to declutter room by room, but by categories instead. Think clothes, paper, cleaning supplies, etc. This makes the process much easier and much more effective. (Note: we took a total of 14 bags of clothing and shoes out of our house, leaving us with a ton of room and emptying an entire dresser, which is now used to store baby supplies and clothing and also doubles as a changing table)
Opt for clever and adaptable furniture. Since we knew our son would be rooming with us for awhile, we knew we’d have to be smart about our purchases. So, we opted for a smart, small and expandable crib. The Stokke Sleepi system was the best option for us and we love it. We also spent a lot of time researching other products that were innovative, space saving and pleasant on the eye. Products that are easily stored like the Puj Tub, Stokke Scoot stroller and this Phil & Teds hook-on highchair. In our living room, we opted for a glider that played the part of living room furniture nicely, since we don’t have room in our bedroom for it (and obviously don’t have a proper nursery). The Gus Modern Sparrow Glider is one we wouldn’t think twice about keeping in our a living space after we are done using it for baby related reasons. And yes, the glider was a splurge, but we knew Jessica, my wife, would be spending a lot of time in it, feeding our son. And if you want to get on your wife’s good side, go ahead and splurge on a great glider.
Think before you buy. Before pulling the trigger on anything, we asked ourselves questions like: Can I borrow this from someone or share it with someone? Can/where will I store this item? Do I already have something that is like this item? Will I actually have time to use it and keep up with it? And most importantly, why in the world do I need this item?
Learn how to fold your clothing properly. Yes, there is a better way to fold your clothing and it saves a lot more space than hanging clothes, freeing up closet space for storage you’ll most likely need.
Get rid of paper clutter. Simple as that. Just get rid of it! What sort of papers do you need to hold on to that you cannot access online these days? It takes up valuable space, is easily disorganized and causes stress due to it’s visual clutter, at least for me anyway. On the other hand, my wife does’t mind the paper and actually organizes it very well and enjoys a very well organized filing cabinet, so just find your compromise with her before tossing it all. I did learn that the hard way, fyi.
Paint before the baby arrives. Buy the soon-to-be mum a spa day and have a couple friends come over and help to get the job done quicker. Even though its safe for mom, the paint odor still made Jess nauseous while pregnant. And think not just about painting your walls, but go as far as kitchen cabinets, etc. We wanted our house to feel fresh and airy before our son arrived, so we painted everything white. It makes our space feel bigger and cleaner. We opted for the BEHR Premium Pure White Interior Flat because it’s self priming, easy to clean and touch up, mildew resistant, has a lifetime guarantee and most importantly, is low oder and zero VOC.
Get in the habit of rewarding yourself (and your family) with experiences instead of things. Whether it’s because you cut back on your spending, finished up a big project or just because you feel like you need to reward yourself and/or your family simply because, opt to do so with experiences that create joy and memories versus tangible items that will inevitably only work against your decluttering efforts. Early on in Jessica’s pregnancy, we chose to take a trip (i.e “baby moon”) out to Portland, OR instead of buying a new, larger sofa right away, since we’d rather wait until we got into a new, larger space that could better accommodate the sofa we really wanted. Ultimately, we felt like it was the wiser choice as it gave us a great experience and created unforgettable memories instead of taking up more space in our tiny living room.
Smarter storage. Absolutely only if you have already decluttered, paired down and really only have things left that you actually use, need, truly love and/or can be easily stored, take a trip to somewhere like The Container Store to buy yourself some smarter, better looking storage/organizers for what’s left that needs to be handled. I say absolutelyonly because that stuff is expensive and a huge mistake a lot of folks make is spending too much money on storage and organizers they don’t actually need or even know how to properly put to use. So, you have to rid yourself of the stuff that doesn’t deserve to go into your new, nice storage containers beforehand. Think about the places you can store your items and consider where you’ll store your new child’s needs such as diapers, wipes, bathing supplies, etc. Get clever and find or build new means of storage.
Stop worrying and start thinking more positive thoughts. Worrying and dwelling on the past and things that are out of control is never good. For me, I almost began to worry about the fact that we didn’t have the picture perfect home to bring our son in to, but then I snapped out of that and realized that I needed to focus on what I could control instead of what I couldn’t and make do with what I have. Of course, it’s okay to keep your general concerns (i.e. will I have enough for retirement, am I living a healthy enough lifestyle, etc), that come with life, but don’t let those outweigh the happy and memorable moments in life. Keep your mind and heart open and hopeful and work on making situations better when they do go wrong or don’t work out the way you imagined. This will ensure you’ll be more level headed and be able to figure out how to make things work.