I quit the rat race to stay home and raise my son. I always keep that in mind when I take on anything new, including building my business. If it takes away from my ability to be present and available for my child(ren), the cost is too high. But, when my son was still an infant, I found a way to start a business, and bring in extra money, while still being an attentive, intentional, and present mama to my little one. I have also made it a point to not rely on screen time to fill in any gaps, or buy me time.
Something that applies to every stage of development, when trying to grow a business while parenting is to set aside intentional time to invest in your child(ren) every day. If they feel secure in their bond and connection with you, they will be less "needy" and "clingy". I try to make the first hour when my son wakes up all about him. I put my phone down and let him take the lead, one day he will want to be ninjas, sliding behind couches and throwing stars at imaginary enemies, or go on a walk and see how many squirrels we can spot... Whatever we do together, I make sure his tank is full, and our day goes much more smoothly.
Children are always growing and changing, so as parents, we have to constantly adapt to fit their needs. In order to offer support for parents of all aged children, I will break this up by developmental stages of the little ones we are raising. Feel free to skip ahead to your current stage!
Step one, don't even think about starting a new business within the first three months of having a new baby! You are going through such a big life change, just enjoy these sleep-deprived, emotional, months of bonding and healing.
Okay, so the dust has settled and now you are ready to start working on your business....
Naps: Infants need a lot of sleep. Use this to your advantage! Use every naptime as an opportunity to work on your business. The dishes can wait, so can the latest episode of This Is Us, if you want to reach your goals, you need to make them a priority!
Babywearing: This was an absolute lifesaver for me during the first year or so. Once the baby is up, now is the time to catch up on household stuff (told you the dishes could wait). Strap that baby on and get to work! Meal-prep, clean, work-out... I like wraps for the newborn stage (Moby or Boba, for example), and the soft structured carriers starting at around 3 months (I loved my Tula). The soft structured carriers are pricey, but I still use it for travelling with my now 3 year old, definitely a great investment.
There is some debate about how long this stage actually lasts, but let's say from about 3 months to a year old, for the purposes of this article. Of course, the strategies used for the newborn stage still apply here, but now we can incorporate some new things as well.
Baby Led Weaning: A quick google search will give you everything you need to know about this, but to summarize; starting at 6 months, you start introducing solids, and allow the children to feed themselves. I believe in this method for other reasons, but it turned out to be extremely helpful in running a household and business, while momming an infant! My child would sit happily in his high chair, exploring the textures, colors, and flavors, while i tidied up the kitchen, meal prepped, or packed up some orders nearby.
Play Yards: This stage gets tricky when the baby gets more mobile, and giving them a safe space to explore was very helpful. I used the Summer Infant Pop 'n Play (get one here) and would put sensory toys/tables in there with him, and changed them out often (novelty is key). This gave me piece of mind to be able to accomplish a task, while the baby played happily, without worrying that he'd get trampled by the dog, or find something dangerous the second I looked away.
Naps are diminishing and baby is now walking, and likely doesn't want to be confined to a play yard. Congrats Mama, you have made it to the most challenging stage of working from home while taking care of your little one.
Call For Reinforcements: Now is the time to call in a few favors "Hey Hun, remember how I have been killing it this whole year, taking care of the baby and home, while bringing in some extra income to our household? Well, I could use your help..." Ask Dad to take little one to the park for an hour after work, or to take shifts with bath/bedtime. Ask grandma or auntie if they want some one-on-one time with the baby, and find yourself some time.
Wake Up Early: "But the baby is FINALLY sleeping through the night!" I know, but you have big dreams, right? You'll need to make big sacrifices to see them come to fruition. I made a habit of waking up at 5:00 am, at least 3 days per week (still do), to get a chunk of work knocked out before the baby is up. You can do it mama!
Novelty, Novelty, Novelty: Toddlers are ravenous for new information and experiences. Get creative! Set up a sensory bin in your office and fill it with something new each week. Set them up at the table with play-doh, fingerpaints, markers, anything with water, books, puzzles, etc...
Let Them "Help": Toddlers are imitators and love to be a part of what you are doing. let them "help" with anything that isn't dangerous. They learn new skills, you get stuff done, and you are spending time together, everybody wins! I love toys that imitate real life, Melissa and Doug have some great ones; we love the Let's Play House set, and their play food sets.
Your child is now much more independent, and you have made it through the toddler stage. Things are getting a little easier. They are craving autonomy more than ever, which can really make life as a work from home mom, much easier.
Encourage Autonomy: It's amazing how much 3, 4, and 5 year olds are capable of when given the opportunity to try. Encourage them to take responsibility of their room, their hygiene, and dressing themselves. It is really great for the child's self-esteem to be able to accomplish something themselves, and it frees up more of your time to accomplish your goals.
Chores: we have a magnetic behavior chart/chore list https://www.etsy.com/listing/579364310/magnetic-chore-charts-responsibility?ref=shop_home_active_55 with a reward system that my little one LOVES. I will ask him to pick out his pajamas and put them on, and 45 minutes later, he comes out with them mismatching, inside out, and backwards, but with the biggest grin on his face. He is proud of himself, and I just got a task on my own list knocked out! I also have him "do the dishes" which is basically him playing in the water for 30 minutes, and then putting a few cups in the dishwasher. Same thing with "water the plants".
Set Up A Work Station: My little one knows that I work from home, and because I do the bulk of my work while he is asleep, I only have to do about 2 hours of work while he is awake. During that time, I set him up at a table nearby and he "works" too. He loves using scissors, glue, paint, play-doh, or coloring books. We chat or listen to music, while we both work on our projects.
Have you tried any of these? Leave me a comment and let me know what works for you!