If you have a newborn, some of the top reasons to consider working for yourself include:
More time to spend with your family
Flexible working hours that fit in around your changing life
Avoiding those enormous childcare fees that can eat up your hard earned cash
But running a business with a new baby may not be as simple as you’d hoped. The stresses and strains of caring for your child as well as the recovery from pregnancy and birth can be enough for anyone to cope with; throw in the pressures of working for clients or a big to-do list, and you can soon find that you’re drowning.
I’ve been there, and it’s not easy, but it is rewarding. What I’ve learned is that you need a strategy that protects your health, lets you focus on your family and grows your business.
Here are my top tips for working from home with a baby:
Manage Your Time
With a newborn, you have less time, plain and simple. So making the most of the moments you do have to work is going to be really important for your business to survive those first few months and keep growing and thriving, just like your newest family member.
If you don’t use a task tracking app now could be the time to set one up. My favourites are Asana, Trello, and Wunderlist:
Asana helps you keep track of your to-dos, as well as work in progress and completed tasks. You can upload documents, keep notes and share projects with others – great if you have someone helping you out while you get used to working with a new baby.
Trello is great if you need a visual idea of your workload. Create cards that move across your Trello board as well as keeping track of to-dos, in progress and completed tasks.
Wunderlist is an easy to use to-do list app that can help you keep on top of your tasks. Share lists with team members, create sub-tasks, add links and files or comments.
Create the Right Space(s) to Work
A great way to be more productive while juggling kids, work, and other commitments, is to create spaces where work happens easily. Think about changing your working spaces to make it easier to care for your child while working or shut out distractions while you get things done.
I have a space set up where I can rock my little one in a pushchair, and I’ve seen a hanging crib that can be nudged if your baby stirs. I also have a high desk, so I can work standing while my baby is snug in a sling or carrier. I can gently rock and continue working, knowing my child is safe and happy.
It won’t take long to recognise the little things you can do to comfort your baby while you get a few things done and to set up your space to make it easy for you to work when you get the chance.
Prepare for Interruptions
One thing you’ll need to get used to is the almost constant interruptions that come with caring for a baby. You’re just sitting down to write that new blog post or complete client work when the little one needs a hug, a change or a feed. The most important thing I learned about interruptions is that they are inevitable, but they don’t have to be as disruptive as you may think.
When you have to put down work to care for your child, take a few seconds to think about what you are doing, make a note of what you did and what’s next. This way you can return to your task and get going straight away, no more wondering “where was I?”
Seize the Moment – Sleeping or Feeding
When your child is sleeping, it’s an ideal moment to catch up on some vital tasks. Be ready to seize those moments and get productive while everything is calm.
If you’re breastfeeding, you can also take advantage of the quiet moments. I use my phone to flesh out blog posts, find shareable content for my social media pages or keep up with best practices for my industry while I feed my baby. Sometimes I write a whole blog post or make action plans and structures for content I’m planning.
When my first child arrived, everyone told me to sleep when they did, and it was good advice! But I needed to build my business and pay our bills, so I had to find some middle ground.
Listen to your body and take that rest when you really need it. Don’t feel guilty or stress over the work you have waiting, just focus on yourself. Only work if you feel capable of working and you’ll be much better prepared to cross some tasks off that to-do list or keep up with important communications when you do sit down to work.
Understand your Limitations
You’re going to be tired, and caring for your baby will be a full-on task, so fitting in work won’t be easy. Many of us have little choice but to get back to work soon after the baby’s arrival, but if you try to do too much too soon, it’ll show. The last thing you want is for clients to be asking about missed deadlines or sloppy grammar.
Take time to assess your limitations and revise deadlines as needed to give yourself room to manoeuvre and avoid extra stress. If you can, think about hiring a VA (virtual assistant) to take care of some of the work you can’t manage, so you can keep your clients happy while you get back on your feet.
Build your Network
A big challenge for me was having people I could turn to when things got tough. I had only been off-grid in Spain for three months when my daughter was born, and my family and friends were two thousand kilometres away.
It’s important to build a network of people who can support you, give you space to catch up on work or just help out around the house, so you have time to focus on your business as well as your family.
Now that I’m juggling my second child and my toddler with clients, business admin and a farm, I’m lucky enough to have a great support network to turn to. A friend watches my kids one day a week, and my neighbours are there for me if I need to fit in a meeting or a quick technical task. If you have family or friends that are willing to give you a helping hand, you’ll find things a lot easier to cope with. Make sure to take people up on offers of help instead of trying to go it alone!
Childcare swaps and co-working spaces where you can share the responsibilities of looking after the kids are great opportunities for creating time to dedicate to work. Reach out to other online entrepreneurs in your area to build your network and work together.
If you're not lucky enough to have any like-minded business owners close by, it can still help to connect online and chat to folks who are experiencing similar challenges. Join The Farmish Collective Community on Facebook to connect with other rural entrepreneurs.
It isn’t easy to be a work from home mum or dad, but if you plan your time, understand your family’s rhythms and take advantage of the right opportunities, you can succeed.
What has helped you balance work, family, and farm? Let us know in the comments.