How to Make Working from Home with a Newborn Manageable
Ok, almost manageable, or barely manageable, yet manageable all the same, well, kind of, sort of…
This post was born as my answer to a question posted on clarity.fm -
“How can I balance time between my kids and startup?”
I thought this was a fantastic question and one that I was in a position to answer, since I’m actually living through the experience as I type this.
- My son was born two months ago and I want to be there to support him and my wife, while experience the joys and hardships of becoming a new parent
At the same time, I need make financially responsible decisions so that we have the financial foundation necessary to support a growing family. I’m currently too far down the road of an entirely new career and life path to turn back, although not so far down the road that the income I left behind has been replaced by the income I’m pursuing.
This means I’m working —
- From home to pay the bills and generate income
- On launching a new company that, for the first time, aligns with a passion of mine
- On a few creative projects along the way, that I’ve learned are necessary for me to be effective at generating income and launching the company
It’s been hard and that’s the truth. That said, it’s been rewarding as well.
I have to remind myself how rewarding it is by thinking about how fortunate I am for things like -
- Going to doctors appointments with my son and wife
- Giving my wife a break from a rigorous breastfeeding routine, by taking him outside for a walk
- Just being able to take a 30 minute break during the day and play with my son and make him smile (at least I think I’m making him smile, it could be that he’s just taking a poop…actually that’s probably what it is, but, oh well…)
While it’s been hard, I’ve found that there are a few things that are making the entire experience more manageable. Like everything I’m experiencing as a new parent, what’s working falls in two categories that would seem like they’re paradoxically opposed.
Category 1 — Set a Structure
1 — Setting very clear boundaries in my day
When I’m working I’m working. When I’m not working, I’m not working.
This includes putting the phone away, in a drawer, out of sight, when I’m not working. (I’m still working on this part, however that’s the goal!)
2 — Set aside time for work and family. Maintain the clear boundaries
Communicate these times to my wife, consistently, so she knows what to expect in advance.
3 — Go somewhere physically separate when I’m working
I’m still working from home, in an NYC apartment. Fortunately, the apartment building has a comfortable common area for me to use. I go there when I work.
Making the separation clear and obvious helps avoid frustrations that me or my wife may experience, by me not being fully present with them when I am physically present.
4 — Finally, set my work priorities each day
Fortunately, I set up a system a while ago that helps me be more productive and reduce my stress each day, by setting 3–6 priorities, first thing every morning.
This has been a life-saver since my son was born by helping me -
- Focus back on what’s important throughout the day, as I inevitably get pulled away unexpectedly during the day
- Set realistic expectations as to what I can really get done, rather than set unrealistic expectations I can never meet, which would only leave me in a place of frustration, that would inevitably carry over into my personal life
- Prioritize what’s really, really important to get done, since there’s no time for anything else
- Remember that I am actually getting the important stuff for work done, while balancing the family responsibilities and enjoyment!
Category 2 — Be Flexible
- Accept the fact that my schedule is not my own anymore
No matter how much I try and control or plan, my son’s going to do what he wants, when he feels it’s right to do it. There’s probably a lesson in that, however I’ll shelve it for a different time.
For now, I just have to accept that my best laid plans can be smashed to bits in a fraction of a second. The more I can accept this when my plans and schedule go off the rails, the less frustrated I become and the more present I can be with my family.
2. Let go quickly and often, readjust, then gradually return to my plan
Once things start going off the rails, letting go of any perceived control is the first step I try and take.
Trying to grab the reins tighter and steer things back to my original plan or schedule only leads to greater resistance and frustration.
Accepting the deviation, giving it time to develop and eventually clear, readjusting and gradually returning to my original or updated course, feels like a much more effective and less exhausting way of getting back on track.
This is My Experience — What’s Yours Look Like?
This is what’s almost working for me after 8 weeks. One thing I’m learning is that there’s no shortage of advice out there for new parents and no shortage of people ready to share it. I guess that includes me now :)
Another thing I’ve learned is that everyone’s experience is an intensely personal one and what works for one person isn’t going to work for everyone or maybe even anyone else.
So that said, I’d love to hear what’s working for you, to make working from home with a newborn almost manageable. Drop a note in the comments to let me know.
P.S. — If you found this post helpful, could you please hit that little heart toward the bottom left to recommend it? Thank you.