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!