It’s a balmy 47 degrees here west of Boston, and my kid is sleeping peacefully apres baby gym class and a lunch out on the deck with some friends. The dog is lounging in the sun on the driveway, and I’m camped out at the kitchen counter with a ginger beer and my computer. Ah, this is the life!
These are the moments people think of when they imagine what daily life is like for us stay-at-home mamas. I know because I’ve read plenty of books and blogs written by parents of small children, even infants, who have peaceful moments like this scattered throughout their days. Some of these mamas (and papas) even “work at home” while taking care of their kids full time. I even imagined I could do such a thing, once-upon-a-time, when Charlie was a newborn and was happy to just hang out in the sling for hours at a time or lie in her crib kicking her legs unto oblivion.
Those days are over. I took an informal poll of a couple of mamas I know, one of whom* runs her own business out of her house in her spare time. I’ve always wondered how so-called “work at home” parents (i.e. those who work without child-care) manage their time. Although I think the answer differs quite a bit from family to family, here are some ways people make it work.
- Be realistic. Taking care of a child, and especially an infant, is a full-time job in and of itself, but there will always be moments here and there when one can squeeze in some other activities. Good time-management (only grocery shopping once a week, timing naps during a dog-walk) helps, of course. So does having realistic expectations for how clean your house will be (not very) or when dinner will be on the table (later than planned, always).
- Take advantage of friends, family, and spouse. I know many a mom who stays home with her babe but has a mother or in-laws care for the child at least once a week, often for a full day (woah!). Similarly, mornings and evenings are key blocks of time when dad might be available for 30 minutes here or there. I hire a babysitter once a week, and may be soon enlisting my good friend and neighbor to give me another hour or so Charlie-free to work on my writing (and maybe take a shower).
- It helps if your kid sleeps. Some babies nap and sleep better than others: that’s just reality. While Charlie has been a good night-time sleeper for some time now, her naps still tend to be short and erratic (30-minutes or so). If your child sleeps for good 2-hour chunks twice a day… well, that’s nearly four hours of “work” time that I don’t usually get.
- With age comes… time. As newborns are happy to sleep in slings, so preschoolers go to, well, preschool, and 5-year-olds spend the day in kindergarten, etc. The first 2-3 years are the most time-consuming for the parent, or so I hear.
This coming week I’m planning to work on my own time-management. I’ve been inspired to re-read Laura Vanderkam‘s 168 Hours again, this time with the eyes of a new mother. (Perhaps my favorite post ever from Vanderkam’s blog recommends cutting down on your laundry by basically just not washing your clothes.) I started keeping a time log this morning, to see where my days go, and I’ll update you all next week, when I get some results.
I’ve also started searching for some part-time child-care options for Charlie. This may be as simple as trading off babysitting hours with a local mom, and we’ll see how it goes.
Do you have any tips and tricks for finding time in your busy day? Are there things you’ve been able to cut out (eating and showering come to mind, for me)?
*My friend also has a blog in which she has documented what her daily life is like working and taking care of her infant daughter.