Navigating life with a newborn can be challenging regardless of your job. It’s hard to imagine working away from the house for long hours at a time or leaving your tiny bundle of joy with another caregiver when your maternity leave is over and it’s time to get back to work. I was lucky with my son, his mom was able to help significantly when he was very young, even to toddler age.
Remote work is particularly ideal for new parents. The dream is that you get to stay home with your newborn, bonding with them as you take care of your job responsibilities while the baby sleeps. But the dream is not always the reality.
If you’re planning on working from home with a newborn, here are a few things to keep in mind.
They Will Make Noise
Babies cry. A lot. And newborns typically don’t have much of a schedule. They eat on demand, and they sleep a great deal in between. When they’re not crying.
If you don’t have a job that requires you to talk on the phone or video chat with others, the noises your newborn makes will only affect you. Can you focus if your little one is cooing into the baby monitor? Will you have to juggle typing and holding a baby to soothe them when they’re distressed?
If your job requires live calls or virtual meetings, the noise situation gets a little stickier. Even if you have someone watching your newborn while you work, the sounds of wails can carry into your office.
Consider this when you’re setting up your office. You may need to move your workspace to a more private area of the home or install soundproofing materials to keep the room isolated from the sounds of your little one.
You May Still Need Childcare
It’s easy to assume that you’ll be able to multitask while you work remotely with a newborn. Your child, office and home responsibilities will be at your fingertips, and you imagine flowing through your obligations with ease.
But newborns are unpredictable. You don’t know when they’ll need to eat, sleep or have their diaper changed. If you’re the only one in the home, your first priority is to your infant. You can’t neglect their immediate needs just because you have a work phone call. But your boss probably doesn’t want you ignoring important tasks to tend to your newborn.
You might still need childcare when working from home with a newborn. This decision largely comes down to the flexibility of your work schedule and on-call availability.
If you’re a freelance writer with long deadlines and no urgent or immediate requirements, you can work when you want and care for your baby as long as you meet your deadlines. But if you’re a team member on a fast-paced project that requires frequent, real-time communication or an inbound customer service representative who needs to be available at all times throughout the business day, you can’t just drop everything when the baby cries.
Therefore, you may still need help with childcare. But one benefit of working from home with a newborn is that you have a better opportunity to spend time with your infant. You may not need to send them to a childcare center or hire a full-time nanny. A mother’s helper or part-time babysitter can watch your baby in your home while you work.
When your baby cries, the caregiver can check whether you’re available to soothe them. If not, they’ll still get their needs met, and you can spend extra time bonding between meetings.
You’ll Need to Be Communicative
Working from home with a newborn isn’t as straightforward as working without a baby in the picture. Your hours and availability will look different. It’s important to address this reality with your boss or colleagues ahead of time.
If you know that you’ll have down time for a specific chunk of time, such as when your caregiver is visiting or when your partner is able to take the lead with your children, let your colleagues know the schedule. Use this time to schedule meetings, have on-call availability or attend to more pressing matters. You may not be as openly available during the other hours of the day, but you can pretty much guarantee your availability during certain times.
Don’t try to hide your new lifestyle from your supervisor or coworkers. Adapting to life with a newborn is stressful enough. If you’re trying to pretend that you have unlimited availability from 9 to 5 but know that you’ll need to tend to your baby for part of that time, you’ll just create more pressure for yourself while attempting to juggle it all.
Being a new parent isn’t an excuse to drop the ball on your remote work, but communicating the reality of your situation with the people who need to know will ensure that you move forward in your career and meet your obligation even if your schedule looks a little different.
Eliminate as Many Distractions as Possible
Your baby is distracting enough when you’re working from home with a newborn. Because your distraction-free time is going to be limited with a little one in the house, you should make the most of the time that you do have to focus. Some tips for dealing with work-from-home distractions include:
- Use time-blocking techniques to focus on single tasks instead of trying to multi-task, which isn’t usually the most effective technique for productivity.
- Use your work time for work and tending to your newborn if necessary; save other household chores and personal tasks for the hours that you’re off the clock.
- Create a tidy, organized workspace.
- Develop routines so that you can better predict and schedule your day.
- Use “do not disturb” settings to avoid getting distracted by notifications.
Take Advantage of Technology
Getting the right equipment to facilitate working from home with a newborn can help you stay productive even when you can’t be by your desk. First of all, investing in a baby carrier can help you achieve more throughout the day. Newborns often need lots of soothing, and they like to be held. Wearing them in a baby carrier lets you pace with them, which can comfort them and help them sleep longer.
If you’re working on a document at your computer and your little one wakes up, ready for some interaction and bonding, you can use a mobile device and dictation software to continue your task while you work in the other room.
A standing desk might also be convenient. If noise isn’t an issue, setting up this type of workspace in a central location in the home allows you to stay connected with everything going on at home and at work.
Take Time for Yourself
Being a new parent takes up a lot of space in your time and schedule. It may seem like all you’re doing is working and enjoying your new baby. Therefore, burnout can happen quickly if you don’t take time for yourself.
Remote work often keeps you inside the house for long periods of time. Transitioning from that to caring for your newborn can make getting out seem like a rare occasion. Avoid the isolation by going out sometimes, even if it’s just to step out the front door and get some fresh air. You could even build an outdoor workspace or join a coworking space that offers childcare to spend some time socializing with other adults.
If you have a partner or help with your newborn, make sure that you don’t spend all of your child-free time working. What do you need to maintain your physical and mental health? Take breaks and make room for the things that nourish you, like exercise, meditation or regular baths after a long day.