More and more women are taking the leap into freelancing in order to be more flexible with their time and to be there for their growing families. But what happens when a new baby comes along? Unless they are very organized, freelancers don’t often get great maternity pay. Home businesses can suffer and even fail if the boss takes six months or a year off. Sometimes, freelancers need to get back to work when their babies are very young.
If you need to work around your baby… or if you simply want to, there are a few things which can help to make it less stressful for you both.
Accept Help at Home: Yes, you can do it all. But it will soon stop being fun if you are the only one getting up at night, doing breakfast, dropping kids to school, freelancing, cleaning, helping with homework… Your body will soon begin to feel the effects of stress, and your kids will feel it too.
Use a Sling or Backpack: Babies love to be held, and we love to hold them. Babies who are held often cry less and have better motor skills than their peers, so strap your little one in a sling while you are on the move. When they are older, a backpack can be a great option. My middle boy spent a few hours every morning in a backpack as a toddler, while I stood and worked as a designer. He watched over my shoulder as I drew large tropical designs on tiles and he loved it. Now, he is a fabulous artist himself! Toddlers in a sturdy backpack have a grownups-eye view of the world and usually find it really interesting. If you get a backpack, make sure that it will distribute your toddler’s weight so as not to injure your back, and that your child can see over your shoulder.
Breastfeed: I harp on about this all the time. Once those first difficult and tiresome weeks are over and your breastfeeding technique is working for you and your baby, breastfeeding becomes an efficient, effective feeding method. You can take baby to your studio or home office with a spare nappy stuck in your purse, and work one-handed as you feed. Breastmilk is still the best food for babies. If you are having problems breastfeeding, it is worth it to get the help of a lactation consultant from the NCT or La Leche.
Give up on the housework: Well, not completely! Unless you have a housekeeper or a fabulous partner who loves to dust and vacuum, forget about keeping your house spotless. Turn a blind eye to the cobwebs, and learn to live with that weird mark on the carpet. From time to time, you can do a blitz and really clean, with the help of older children armed with dusters. But day to day you will have to cut down to bare essentials cleaning: The kitchen, the bathroom and the clothes. Yes, the Lego and dog hair explosion CAN stay under the sofa until next weekend. Really. It’s not going anywhere.
Sleep: A good night’s sleep is essential when you are burning the candle at both ends. Try to go to bed early, even if your favourite TV show is on late. You can always get the DVD once baby is older and you are sleeping through the night! Getting a little exercise in the afternoon may help you fall asleep, and in the morning you will have the energy to be supermom. If you can possibly make the time to nap during the day with your baby, a fifteen minute doze will make the evening routine easier for you.
Have a Moan, and a Laugh: I remember when an artist friend called me once and announced that she had her Christmas cleaning and decorating completely sorted. “Good grief, how?” I squeaked. “Easy!” She replied. “If I just fling glitter and those little star thingies into all the corners, they’ll stick to the cobwebs, Right? Instant Christmas”. Of course, she did no such thing, but a good dose of sarcasm and a laugh with a friend was what we both needed at the time.
Remember, it Doesn’t Last: Kids grow up so quickly. Taking care of a baby is a 24-hour job, and there will be days when you despair that even the spiders have moved out because they can’t bear the dust. You may feel that your work is suffering and you will be exhausted for ever. But I can promise you that the little snuggler who insists on sleeping with his foot in your ear now, will one day grow up to be a helpful child who knows that “he who vacuums the lounge and puts out the recycling” gets extra computer time as a reward. It does get easier!
Have you got tips for busy working mums? Do share them with us!