My little boy Flynn just turned 1 yesterday and I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on working from home with a new baby. I’ve read many posts either preaching for or against working from home. Simply google “Why working from home..” and the autofill will tell you all you need to know. Like many things, there are pros and cons, but I find as a new dad the pros definitely outweigh the cons.
A New Baby is Rough.
This was our first and, boy, I hardly remember last year. Between diapers, making bottles, learning to swaddle, burp, and all the other new baby things you blindly stumble into, I had to work. Whether sleep deprived or with a baby/wife making noise, I had to design. Teaching yourself to be creative and approach work with fresh ideas through true exhaustion and constant noise is a life skill you have to quickly master as a work-from-home dad. You will be tired. You will be so tired you’ll forget how to do basic things. I found that taking time to work out most mornings and read every night were essential. It’s counter intuitive, but spending 30 minutes doing a basic cardio was the best way to wake up. It made me fresh and ready to sit at my desk without the chemical haze and shakiness accompanied with over caffeination. Working out also helped me fall asleep easier and get what I felt was better sleep. I woke up less, was less worried about checking on our son like a frantic new parent, and slept longer if I was able.
Take a Few Breaks to Move.
I’m lucky enough to have my best friend Henry (a golden retriever) work with me most days. I’ve heard a lot of new parents say that their attention to their pets falls off with the first child. Henry is an old man, 10 years, but still acts like a puppy. Weather permitting, we make sure to walk him every day. It’s a great excuse to get everyone out of the house midday. I’ve also found that a few tug of war sessions and throwing the ball around in the back entertains both my boys and helps revitalize my design juices.
Stick to a Schedule.
I’m lucky enough to have married a managing editor. She’s used to sticking to and making schedules and she helped craft one for our kid as soon as we could. Around 2 months in, Flynn was bounced into a 3 nap a day schedule (eventually down to 2 naps) and to bed every night at 7pm. He fought us. He fought us a lot. In fact it took 2 months of fighting us before he started to stick to the schedule, but after that it was great. All of sudden we had 3 nap times to get caught up on house stuff and work, and our evenings free. When we had a get together with our old baby class we were both amazed by how many new parents let the baby dictate the schedule. When we told them our routine, their response was: You can do that? It’s a lot of work, most of which was done by my wife, but it was worth it for our sanity and Flynn’s.
A schedule also helps craft your work day. I know Flynn will be napping (or battling my wife) at set times. It helps to throw on headphones and work on through these periods for maximum productivity and less distractions.
Invite People Over.
One thing we did most of last year that helped keep our sanity was an open dinner night. If you can, or have the space, open your doors once a week. Every Wednesday we had an open dinner night. We invited everyone we knew and usually did large easy-to-make dinners like spaghetti or crock-pot chili. It gave us both some needed adult time and some extra hands to hold Flynn. We’d alternate who put him to bed and then get a few hours of time catching up with our office-bound mates. Working from home you lose a lot of those office connections and banter. A weekly dinner night helped us maintain that connection to our old colleagues and friends.
Set Boundaries…and Buy Good Headphones!
My office shares a wall with Flynn’s room. The layout can’t be helped, we’re all RIGHT THERE all day! It’s hard to not go down and help when I hear him crying, or shoot next door to add a second pair of hands when I hear a diaper change happening. I make it a point to close my door when I really need to concentrate, otherwise Flynn is crawling into my office to look at the bobbleheads and legos on my desk (yes, I have a geeked out desk). Make it clear that when your door is closed, you’re working and there shouldn’t be any babies knocking on the door. When I have it open, I’m wide open to distractions, helping, taking over for a break. It sounds like going from work to work, but it’s great! Flynn is cranky past 5pm, if I didn’t work from home and get to take breaks with him, I’d think he’s a cranky monster. During the day, he’s a rambunctious sweetheart. So, as it happens, is my wife! Even with the door closed, I can hear them romping around the house. I have music or radio playing most days constantly to help. Good headphones are a must. It’s worth the cost to get those noise cancelling ones.
It’s Worth It.
Working from home, I got to see my boy learn to crawl, I was there for his first smile, first steps, and first word (“DaDa!” much to my wife’s dismay, but it’s just easier to say!). I get to see him through his moods, learn his schedule, and generally watch him grow in a way I wouldn’t be able to in an office. It comes with a lot of distractions and different set of stressors, but in the end, it’s the best thing I could have done as a new father.