Nine months ago, I went through a major life change. I had my first baby.
My baby is a fun and spunky little guy named Carter. Prior to having Carter, I had no idea how work and family life would mesh together. But looking at my situation now, I couldn’t be happier having both. Sometimes the balance between the two can be tricky, but the reward far outweighs the headaches.
Since every working parent’s story is different, I thought it would be good to interview a few other people in the “biz” (developers and designers), and have them share their point of view on combining work and family life. To kick this “Working with Baby” series off, I first wanted to share my own story.
What was your work schedule like before having a baby? What was it like during maternity/paternity leave? How has it changed post-baby?
Before having Carter, I worked Monday through Thursday from eight to four. After having Carter, I took nine weeks of maternity leave and then slowly eased back into work. For the first six months, I worked from home on Monday and Thursday a total of ten hours a week. Now I work fifteen hours a week—a full day on Mondays and from ten to two on Wednesdays and Thursdays. I work from home most of the time, but on Monday, I go into the office from eleven to four. While it can be a bit tricky for my co-workers to remember when I am around, I have really enjoyed the variety in my schedule.
Has your job position or type of work changed since having a baby?
One of the things I take pride in at Q Digital Studio is all my co-workers do their jobs very well. For example, all the front-end developers know the latest CSS3, HTML5 and mobile development tips and tricks. Working only fifteen hours a week, I found it challenging to stay current.
But when my boss approached me to see if I would be interested in helping her manage more projects while still doing some design work and HTML/CSS updates, I said, “Heck, yes!” In this new role, I feel like I can serve our clients better, while still making a contribution to the Q Digital Studio team.
What were your expectations about becoming a working parent, pre-baby? How have they changed after having a child?
I knew I would be a healthier person, and thus a better mom, if I took some time away from Carter. I just wasn’t one hundred percent sure work would be the best outlet.
To be honest, I didn’t know if I was going to like working once I had a baby. I have friends who intended to return to work after having a baby, but within the first few months, they quit and chose to stay at home. I knew I would be a healthier person, and thus a better mom, if I took some time away from Carter. I just wasn’t one hundred percent sure work would be the best outlet.
Now post-baby, I can say working part time is a perfect fit for me. Taking care of a baby is a lot of new things all at once. And with my work, I feel a lot of comfort in the familiarity of doing something I have done for eight years. I find work to be stimulating -- whether it be interacting with my co-workers, clients or the projects I am working on.
Tell us about a typical day in your life as a working parent.
As you can see from my work schedule, there really is no “typical day.” But since my schedule is at least the same on Wednesdays and Thursdays, I suppose one of those days is my “typical day.”
Carter and I generally wake up around six to hang out with his dad before he goes to work. During this time I do laundry or dishes, feed Carter and eat breakfast. After dad leaves, Carter watches me work out. In particular, he thinks it is a fun game to scoot in between my legs while I do lunges. Around nine, I lay Carter down for a nap and jump in the shower. Right before I start work at ten, I feed Carter one more time. From ten to two, I work in the spare bedroom. And around two, I close down shop and hang out with Carter the rest of the day.
How have you arranged your child care (daycare, nanny, work from home, etc)? How would you arrange it in an ideal world?
I feel incredibly fortunate to have a couple friends, who either nanny full time or are in graduate school and need a part-time job. One friend watches Carter on Mondays and then another friend watches him on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Since both girls watch Carter at my house, I get the pleasure of hearing Carter interact with his nannies. I can’t help but smile when I hear him squeal with delight at them. Not to mention both nannies have strengths which are unique and different from mine. I feel like Carter is better person for spending time with them.
How do you try to achieve a happy work-life balance?
I can’t stress it enough—check in with someone who can help you set boundaries.
Every once in awhile—especially when first I took on the new role of client management—I found myself struggling to separate work and family life. So I told my boss that I don’t feel fully present with work nor fully present with Carter. So she and I created some boundaries that help me preserve my time with both. Even if your boss isn’t able to assist you in creating these boundaries, I highly recommend talking to a friend or family member who will help you brainstorm ways to set them.
What's one thing you wished someone had told you before you became a working parent?
I just have to tell myself when I get into my crazy, anxious spiral, “Breathe. It will all be okay.”
Sometimes I get pretty stressed at night when I start thinking about work, the chores I have to do at home and finding time to hangout with Carter, my husband and friends. But I have found that in the end, it all seems to work out without having to jump through too many hoops. I just have to tell myself when I get into my crazy, anxious spiral, “Breathe. It will all be okay.”
Any other words of wisdom or thoughts you would pass along to other future working parents?
I had a friend tell me that if there are any major decisions or life changes you want to make, give it two months and make sure you really feel that way before you do anything. I think this is great advice.
I won’t say I haven’t had moments where I thought working with a baby is too complicated, and I just want to give up. But those thoughts only last for about one minute. For the other fourteen hours and fifty-nine minutes of work I think, “I love being a working mom.” So give yourself time.
The adjustment to having a baby is huge, but the adventure is well worth it.