12 Tips for Work at Home Moms of Babies and Toddlers

Working from home is both amazing and amazingly stressful. You get to be home with your kids while contributing to the family income, but you also have to do the work of contributing to the family income while taking care of your kids. It’s awesome and hard all at the same time.

Woman sitting on couch with laptop on her lap and feet on ottoman.

I’ve been there and done that through all three of my kids – two essentially regular kids and one kid with complex medical needs – and I’m here to share my wisdom! Take what you can use, leave the rest.

Establish a predictable rhythm

Notice I didn’t say “schedule.” I think every other “how to be a work at home mom” article I’ve ever read tells you to get that baby on a schedule. But I am one of those moms who doesn’t believe babies operate on a schedule, and I don’t operate on one, either. But you’ll both do better with a predictable rhythm to your day.

How do you establish this? Start with any hard and fast regular time commitments. Need to start dinner around 4:30? Like to get out of bed at 6 am? Whatever your established times are, build your day’s natural flow into that. First breakfast, then personal care, then play time with the baby, then a short work period, then lunch, then more work time with breaks as needed, then start dinner at 4:30. You don’t need a schedule with set times, which can lead to feeling overwhelmed and behind, but having a predictable rhythm has several benefits. First, it helps your child(ren) know what to expect from the day. Second, it helps ensure you do the things you need to do. If you always do work after lunch, it just becomes a habit and you’re less likely to put it off and get backed up in your work. Third, it gives you a general sense of how your day will go. If your child is generally quiet and content in the afternoons, for example, you know this is the best time to work, and this is NOT a good time to schedule a pediatrician appointment.

Plan to be interrupted

I mean, it’s just going to happen. When kids are young (babies, young toddlers), they literally cannot wait patiently. In my experience, when I was working while caring for babies and young toddlers, things seemed to go easier, better, and faster if I just accepted the interruption immediately and handled whatever it was. A feed, or a diaper change, or some interaction. Feed the baby while they’re still relatively happy, and all you have to do is feed them. Wait until they’re really unhappy about it, and now you have to calm them down AND feed them – your interruption is twice as long. (Yes, I’m kind of referring to your kid as an interruption.)

Plan for uninterrupted times

As your baby gets older, naptimes will start to become less frequent but longer. Have a plan so you don’t waste this precious time! Plan in advance what you’re going to do at naptime. Then as soon as you can sneak away from them, run – don’t walk – and get ‘er done.

If you need longer stretches of uninterrupted time, you’ll have to make it happen with the help of someone else. Grandma, a friend, another work at home mom with whom you trade childcare, your spouse, a paid sitter. Personally, I found that it worked best for me to get the kiddo to sleep at night then sneak away and work until he/she woke up for his/her first night feed. It was usually several hours. We coslept so my husband was right there with them and could take care of any non-breast needs if they should arise. Working in the middle of the night may not be ideal, but it worked well for us.

Woman working on a laptop in bed.

Get and stay organized

Keep a good to-do list. Keep your supplies well-organized. Keep your workspace organized. Keep a good, current calendar, and use email folders and labels, and all of those time management and organization tips. I know this doesn’t come naturally to some people, but let’s look at two people I know well. (OK, it’s me and my husband.)

One of us maintains a to do list. Several, actually. When I get up in the morning, I know exactly how I’m going to spend my work time that day. I also know what non-work tasks I need to accomplish. I mentally budget my time so I know, for example, that if I want to shower before dinner, I need to wrap up my work by 5:30. And I know that means I need to plan to wrap up by 5. When I’m working, I start at the top of my list and work my way down. While I’m finishing up one task, I look at what’s next and start mentally planning what I need for that. I move from one thing to the next thing to the next thing. And when I need tools, they’re right where I expect them to be, because I put them away when I was done using them.

The other of us does not use a to do list. Well, sometimes he does. In his head. He gets up and thinks about what he’s going to do for a while. Then he goes to see if he can find the things he needs to do whichever thing sounds best to him. That usually takes a while, and half the day’s usually gone by the time he’s gotten started. Once he’s finished one task, he sits down somewhere to decide what to do next. An hour later, he starts the next thing. He has no plan, so he doesn’t get as much done because he spends so much time trying to plan in the moment.

I’m not saying one way is better than the other… but one way is definitely more productive.

Make your workspace safe

Make your workspace safe for your baby or toddler and establish a special spot for them. Before my babies were able to crawl, I had a soft pad on the floor of my office and I dangled toys for them to play with from various office equipment. As they started rolling and scooting, we moved more toys down to my office, and as they became toddlers, they each had their own special spot in my office with crayons and a chalkboard, dolls and cars, whatever they were into.

I also caged them in, but not in a tiny playpen, which gets boring fast and isn’t quite what toddlers need developmentally. When my office was a more or less open space, I bought one of those long plastic modular baby fences and strung it up all around my area. When I moved my office into a room with a better doorway, we used a regular baby gate. I knew my office area was 100% safe for them, and I knew they couldn’t get out, so I could work in peace knowing they were safe and nearby.

Having them in your workspace also allows you to maintain verbal contact if you’re doing something that allows for that, which is a nice way to stay involved and interactive with your kids while still getting your work done. I primarily sew, so I can carry on a conversation with my kids while still working.

Breastfeeding

Nursing time is a great time to catch up on social media (if you do that as part of your work), to read relevant articles, or even to do desk work like accounting or blogging. It all depends on your breasts and your baby, though. I was always able to work with at least one hand while nursing (after that floppy head newborn stage), but some moms are not able to make this work. Try using a My Breast Friend pillow if you find you need more hands.

Yes, ideally, breastfeeding is a time of bonding and eye contact. Until your baby hits that stage where they’re distracted by everything. During that stage, I found that I basically had to ignore them if I wanted them to eat at all, otherwise it was an hour of smiles and spraying breastmilk around the room, but no actual eating took place.

Babywearing

I know moms who work from home and don’t babywear, but it’s so much easier with a carrier or two. I’ve used my carriers to enable me to:

  • wear and bounce an unhappy teething or sick baby while typing by elevating my laptop so I could easily reach it while standing, or by sitting and bouncing on an exercise ball.
  • Hold a child through his nap so he’ll stay asleep longer while I continue to work at my desk or my sewing machine.
  • Comfort a toddler who’s having one of those days when they just want to be held, but I have a hard deadline and can’t devote a day to JUST snuggles.
  • And of course all of the NOT work related uses.

Exercise

Regular exercise helps you work better. Be mindful about giving your body attention – stretch, do some squats, take 3 minutes and jog in place. If you have toddlers, have a dance party with them, or run around the couch a few times. Babies and toddlers are pretty easy to exercise with!

A baby plays on the floor

Playtime

Do NOT get so focused on your work that you neglect the children that you’re staying home for. It’s so easy to get into this “ok, I’ll read to you after I do this. And this. And this.” But, much like with feeding and diaper changes, I found it worked better to stop what I was doing as soon as practical and take care of the need for attention right away. Not only did this reinforce to my kids that they are more important than work, but it also helped me be more productive when I was working. We kept a small stack of favorite books in my office, and the kids would grab one and climb up in my lap for a quick read a few times a day, which was enjoyable for us both. (And I can still recite my 15 year old’s favorite book from this time, lol. It was called A Little Spot of Color.)

Help your older toddlers learn about waiting

There are plenty of resources out there that can help you with this, but I started by simply teaching my children the ASL sign for “wait.” I started by choosing times when I was available immediately, and consciously chose to ask them (nonverbally) to wait, then waiting about 5 seconds before looking at them and addressing their need. I gradually lengthened this, and when that was going well, I added “can you wait five minutes?” to our repertoire. I tried not to push them beyond their capabilities, while stretching them JUST enough.

Using a visual timer can help a lot, too. I have a whole blog post about visual timers you might want to check out. Toddlers struggle with time concepts, and waiting even one minute can feel like forever, but if you use a visual timer, it helps them see the time passing.

Help your older toddlers play alone

Again, lots of parenting resources out there, but what worked for me was sitting down with my toddler to play, but letting them know that I’d need to stop after a little bit so I could do some more work while they kept playing. We’d play for a bit, then I’d stop playing but stay with them, then I’d get up and go back to work and let them play for a bit.

Stop Working

You can’t always be working. You have to not be working sometimes. Establish hard and fast rules for this for yourself. Do you have a morning playtime with your kids? No working during this time, not even if your phone chimes that you have a new message.

Are you enjoying dinner with your family? Again, no working during this time.

You cannot be available to your clients/customers/bosses 24 hours a day. Establish rules for when you are unavailable and stick to them. Reassess how you’re doing with this regularly.

Pinnable image for this blog post

New Diagnoses and Grief

Grief is a normal, natural reaction to getting a new diagnosis. I recently wrote about my own reactions to a new, unexpected diagnosis over at Teddy’s blog.

—-

Recently, my kiddo’s picked up a fair number of new diagnoses. Three were not surprises, one was. Sort of…

And I’m full on going through the five stages of grief over this.

And it’s ok.

I think, too many times, special needs and/or medical needs parents feel like the process we go through when we get a new diagnosis is weird or unacceptable or weak. But it isn’t.

It’s grief.

—-
Read the rest of this article over at Teddy Bear’s Journey.

Somebody Asked…What are the benefits of a two piece diapering system?

At Wallypop, we primarily make – and champion – fitted diapers with covers. Somebody recently asked us about the benefits of a two piece diapering system over something like pockets or fitteds.

There are so many.

What is a two-piece diapering system?

Let’s start by defining a two piece system. A two piece diapering system consists of either a fitted diaper plus a cover, or a prefolded diaper plus a cover. The absorbent part and the waterproof part are completely separate.

Customization

Since the absorbent part and the waterproof part are completely separate, you can easily adapt your diapering system to fit your needs. Do you need super absorbency and breathability, and prefer natural fibers? Use an extra absorbent fitted diaper with a wool cover. Need something super trim? Pair a trim fitted with a thin PUL cover. Is your child a super wetter? Nothing beats the overnight pee-a-thon like a fitted plus fleece cover.

Fit

Two piece diapering systems typically are sized – just as Wallypop’s Perfect Size diapers. This allows a superior fit over one-size diapers, and reduces leaking issues.

Cost

Believe it or not, two piece diapering systems are actually usually LESS expensive than pocket diaper systems or all in one systems. First, covers can be worn several times before they need to be washed, so you don’t need to change both pieces every time. Second, they just simply cost less, generally speaking. Woot!

Reuse

As mentioned above, you need to own fewer things overall, because you don’t need to change the cover every time you change the diaper. Make your cloth diapering even greener!

Absorbency

A two piece system can easily be made more absorbent to suit your needs. Pockets and All in Ones can be hard to stuff with enough absorbency, but it’s easy to increase the absorbency of a fitted diapering system – either purchase more absorbent fitteds (we make extra absorbent fitteds especially for those heavy overnight pee-ers), or simply add doublers – the cover will still fit snugly over the diaper without gaping around the legs, as can happen with pockets and all in ones.

Drying Time

Because they are a two-piece system, fitteds with covers tend to dry faster than all in one diapers.

Natural Fibers

Fitted diapers are made with all natural fibers, and if you prefer to use 100% natural fibers, you can use wool covers.

Easier to Wash with Less Stink

Two piece diapering systems tend to be easier to wash and experience less stink as a result. All natural fiber fitteds don’t require any special treatment in the laundry, and most covers can simply be washed and set out to dry. (Wool covers DO require special treatment!)

There you have it! If you’ve never tried a two-piece diapering system, we’d encourage you to give it a try. Wallypop fitteds and covers are an affordable way to diaper your baby!

Tula Covers – Give yourself variety without breaking the bank!

You know you’d like to own five or six (or more) Tula baby carriers – there are so many fun prints, and wearing the same carrier every day gets kind of boring, right? But your bank account says “absolutely not!” Right?

Slipcovers to the rescue!

Are you thinking about your Great Aunt Gertrude’s sofa? Our slipcovers are way cooler than that.

Show off your fandom:

Support your favorite team:

Show support for a cause:

Simply add some of your personal style:  

Let everyone know how awesome your taste is:
(OK, that’s a Doctor Who print, for those of you who don’t know that.)

Our Tula slipcovers are fully reversible, so you get two looks for the price of one!

Yesterday!

I spent the day yesterday talking to two Family and Consumer Sciences classes at a local high school. The topic? Natural Parenting. We covered cloth diapers, babywearing, breastfeeding, natural birthing, positive discipline, and many other topics. The kids seemed really interested and asked some good questions, including:

– Don’t you HAVE to breastfeed for 3 months? (How I wanted to answer that one with “yes.”)

– Why do people eat placenta? (i did not bring this up!!) (this led one confused young man to ask if we were talking about eating our periods. Um, no. I’m very glad you asked, though.)

– Did my husband agree with the way we raise our children. In my answer, I deftly skirted the issue of religious beliefs about the role of husband and wife in marriage, and stuck to “in our family, my husband has delegated all child-related decision-making to me, as the primary caregiver.”

The students were incredulous that an epidural might affect a baby, or that homebirth can be safer than a hospital birth. I encouraged them to research the issues themselves. I hope they do.