I got my little boy about 14 months ago and only was about 2 months on maternity leave due to financial reasons. My friends that have little kids themselves always asked me how I managed being a mom of a newborn and working full time from at home. My answer always was that if you really want something, you can do it. And begin a productive mother was important for me.
I was fortunate enough to have a boss that let me work from at home for the first year. Also, I haven’t used up any holidays that year so I could take over 2 weeks as soon as my 2 months maternity leave were over. During those 2 and a half months, I found a routine with my little sweetheart that worked for us and which turned out to work perfectly for later on as well. W was a bad sleeper and used to only sleep during the day if I carried him while walking. Therefore, I started putting him frequently in my carrier, stepped onto the treadmill and walked. I then started placing my laptop on the treadmill and worked for as long as W slept. That way, I got about 4 hours of work done during the day.
The rest of the work hours I did in the evenings when W slept. The evenings used to be the hardest for the first 9 months or so. W tended to wake up a lot and cry. Usually, if he laid down at 8 pm and I stayed up till 2 am, I got about 3 1/2 hours of work done (on good days). The rest of the time I laid next to him and calmed/caressed him. Did I have weekends off? No, the only way to get my work hours done was by also working Saturdays and Sundays. Was it a fun time? You will have problems believing that but for the most part, yes. W made me and my husband laugh so much every day (and he still does), so that the hard times weren’t quite as bad. Furthermore, I love working and I enjoyed being able to still do some programming every day.
Did I get enough sleep? Nope, but which mother with a newborn does? And I’m lucky that I can fall asleep within minutes. I’d stop working at around 2 am and fall asleep 1-2 minutes later. I’d say in average I still got about 5 hours of sleep daily. Don’t take me wrong, I used to sleep 9 hours and more, but I found out that I still function properly with about 5 hours. Anything below for more than a few days and I’m a wreck.
One thing I’ve learned is that it’s important to not stress yourself with work, especially when you have to look after a newborn which can be quite exhausting at times. You still want to enjoy the time with your baby. On days, where I needed a break, I took it (just took a spontaneous holiday from work). Therefore, even if you have a big todo list (work or home related), don’t force yourself to fulfill it up to exhaustion. There are days/weeks that are just really hard (baby hardly sleeps, is maybe sick, cries a lot for no obvious reason, etc.) and the more you feel stressed, the less patience you have with your loved ones (and patience is extremely important with little as well as with older kids). If possible, ask your partner for help. Maybe you have relatives/friends that can help you out here and there.
Another thing that comes to my mind that helped me was to be flexible. I now have my office in the bedroom and work next to my sleeping baby at night. That way, I can react right away when he needs me and I get some work done. I also put my baby in the carrier and wipe the kitchen floor and do other chores around the house during the day. My little one enjoys it since he is close to me and gets to watch close up what I’m doing. Don’t set yourself timeframes. You might be like me a morning person, but if your little one wakes up early and wants to be held and played with for hours, then don’t stress yourself with an unrealistic morning todo list. Having a detailed day schedule might be very helpful when you don’t have to look after kids, but with kids, the best schedule is a very flexible one.
I can honestly say that I’ve never been as productive as now. You wonder why? I used to waste a lot of time in front of the TV. After a hard work day, I would flop onto the couch and stare for hours at the big screen. As you might guess, I haven’t seen a single movie/episode for, hmm, I don’t know how long. I just don’t have time for it and honestly, I don’t even miss it. Of course, I still need some relax time here and there. In the evenings, before and after work, I read the news, eat a snack or just simply watch my little one sleeping (while trying to stay awake myself). It’s important to have some off time but the danger with TV is that the off time tends to extend to hours at a time (at least for me).
You don’t get to read magazines/books anymore? Listen to audiobooks and podcasts instead. You can do that while playing on the floor with your sweetheart.
I’m not saying that it is easy to be super productive while watching your baby, but if you really want to, you will find ways without sacrificing time with your newborn nor your own sanity. Consider what’s important for you and what makes you happy. Don’t stop everything you’ve enjoyed doing now that you have a baby. Be creative! But don’t have unrealistic expectations either. Your life will change (there is no doubt) and you hopefully will love the change with your newborn. In my case, I’m as busy as I’ve never been in my life and I love it. I love being able to spend so much time with my son, but I also enjoy getting back working/reading when he is sleeping.