Today I was feeling a bit tired so instead of my usual HIT routine at the gym I opted for some steady state cardio (aka – really slow cycling whilst reading social media). I came across a post on mumsnet asking if you can work from home when you have a baby.
As always the comments were polarised, some people were saying “no way” and others “yes, for sure”.
I fall in the second camp but there are caveats. As I frequently say the best way to work and be productive is to do one thing at a time and be wholly focused on that, when you have a baby with you this is impossible. Even when they are asleep you will still have half an eye and ear on the baby.
I worked throughout my second maternity leave and can recommend what to do and what not to do. This is what I have learnt:
1) The first thing is don't overcommit, in the first six weeks the ideal is to have no time off work. If you are building a new business (like I was) or you have an existing business that you can't bear to completely switch off from just do the minimum. For me this was some bits on social media and speaking to a couple of pro bono clients every week.
If I had my time again (and if we do have number three) I would not schedule anything for those first six weeks, I would get my VA and social media manager to take control and I would sit back and snuggle in with the baby.
When you are starting to get into more of a routine you can work around naps and in the evenings / at weekends. The key is to be realistic about time and make that time count. In the early days I had a lot of clients in the evenings and booked discovery calls at weekends.
2) The next thing I would recommend is asking for help, if you have a big meeting or call coming up call in favours – if you have family brilliant but alternatively get a babysitter or a friend to watch your baby so you can focus.
I was lucky enough to have my brother in the UK (he lives abroad) and a friend who is a nanny who did ad hoc child care. It meant that I knew my baby was in the house and safe but I could feed her and then do a good stretch of work knowing that if she needed me then I was there.
3) Another thing is scheduling, when your baby is un more of a routine you can start to schedule when you will work and do other things, obviously this is more fluid when they are babies and the key is flexibility. If you have an idea of what you need to do in a day it will help you focus and get it done.
Being a new mum is hard, wanting to build a business is also really hard work. When you combine them the key is being kind to yourself and not overcommitting. Sometimes you need to learn the hard way (I did) and find out what is going to work for you.
I work with lots of women who have continued to work when they have a baby and have worked throughout their “maternity” leave. It is about focusing on what you can do (and is realistic) and how you are going to make that work. I certainly don't advocate working 12 hour days with your baby strapped into their bouncer but you can make it work for you.
Whether you choose to work when your baby is a baby or wait until they are older is ultimately a personal choice. As with anything in life what you do is based on what is going to work out for you and your family.
On this valentines day I want to say a big love to all mums – whether you choose to work around your kids at home, go out to work or stay at home you are all amazing and unique.