When my wife and I became first-time parents recently, we made a decision to split up child-rearing responsibilities throughout the week. While avoiding daycare in favour of extra morning-time snuggles is a wonderful thing, working and caring for a baby simultaneously can be a truly daunting challenge.
Image via Oksana Kuzmina (Shutterstock)
This is a guest post by Anish Majumdar
As an author and freelance journalist, I'd grown accustomed to uninterrupted stretches of time to work on projects. Now my boss isn't a looming deadline but a cherubic mini me whose shrieks have the power to instantly disrupt phone calls and whose bad moods can have a fatal effect on a day's output.
Here are my recommendations for parents juggling work with the needs of a new child:
Use A Cheat Sheet
The day before my wife returned to work from maternity leave, she taped up a cheat sheet in the living room with clear, "if this, then that" instructions. Although it looked a little funny at first glance, that cheat sheet became a godsend during the initial weeks. When a baby gets fussy or starts to cry, the answer is usually a major need going unfilled. A good cheat sheet cuts through the anxiety all new parents feel to bring things back to basics.
Here's an all-purpose cheat sheet to get you started:
IF BABY IS FUSSY:
- Hungry? Warm up a bottle in the kitchen.
- Dirty nappy? Should be changed Every Hour (2 at Most)
- Cold? Check Hands and Feet. Bundle with Blanket and Hold.
- Need Some Activity? Set up toys and supervise a 10-15 minute play session.
- Tired or Need Cuddles? If sleep, use a swaddler.
- Uncomfortable? Check for tight clothes.
Sync Your Work Habits With Your Child's Routine
All babies eventually fall into a routine that works for them. The key is to work within their naturally occurring rest periods, as opposed to trying to make your child conform to an adult's schedule.
A laptop and smartphone can accomplish a tremendous amount on short notice, and can easily be set up wherever your child is. If your job requires you to be in a specific room of the house, transform the space into a part-office and part-nursery filled with toys and a place for your child to nap.
Outsource Non-Critical Tasks
Prioritising what's essential and finding ways to offload everything else is key to maintaining your sanity as a new parent. Freelancers on sites like Elance, Odesk, Airtasker and Fiverr can take on everything from website updates to social media marketing and research.
Lump Similar Tasks Together
Taking a scattershot approach to ticking items off your calendar simply won't work with a baby — there's too much risk of things changing at a moment's notice. Instead, focus on one particular task for each break period that presents itself. Checking and answering emails can be one. Writing a blog post can be another. Just try to see one task through to its end before beginning another.
Use The Right Tools
- For Multitasking: Pognae Baby Carrier. This nifty carrier allows you to slip your child into a front-facing pouch with ample room to look and move about, while also leaving your arms and legs free to get things done. Some particularly nice features include a sleeping hood to block out sun/wind and a design that makes getting it on and off dead simple — very important when you want to transition a sleeping baby to the crib.
- For Soothing: A Balance Ball (Gaiam makes a good one). A good balance ball can work wonders with an upset child. I keep mine in the living room and have used it at 4:00 in the morning when my son won't fall back asleep, when he's fussy on the bottle, pretty much any situation when my usual tricks have failed. Bonus: regular use of a balance ball is a great way to sneak in some exercise.
- For Play: Fisher-Price Infant-to-Toddler Rocker. This versatile product allows your baby to enjoy some "me" time while offering built-in toys for entertainment. The vibrating motion is fun and it's very easy to transport between rooms and into your car if necessary.
Remember What Truly Matters
As adults, it's second nature to approach things from a "me first" perspective. Becoming a parent means gradually letting go of that mentality. During the first few weeks, I was incredibly hard on myself when I fell short on an assignment or had to reschedule something at the last minute.
But the truth is that all of the occurrences which initially appear to be obstacles, whether it's taking an extra half-hour to soothe your child or taking a detour to show him a part of the world he's never seen before, are actually the most important things you can do. Being there for your child is what matters — if you can view your work as a supporter of that ultimate goal, everything else will fall into place.
Besides being a proud new dad, Anish Majumdar (@dashamerican) is also an author and speaker. His first novel, The Isolation Door, which is based on his experiences growing up in the shadow of a schizophrenic parent, is available now.