Having a job where I can make up my own hours makes me feel incredibly lucky because I know that there are so many who are not able to be in this position. When I was pregnant, being my own boss made me think that working and looking after a baby at the same time was going to be a breeze. In my mind, in those early days, the baby would be sleeping most of the time so I could get right back to work and juggle both like nothing had really changed. Oh, how the reality hit me so hard!
I started getting back into work again when Aiden was roughly 3/4 weeks old, this may sound too early for some, but I felt somewhat ready and had some upcoming projects that I had committed to. Plus, I craved that creative outlet that I thrive on and it gave me some time in my own headspace for a few hours.
They’re no use trying to pretend, it was tough. I’ve touched on this previously in a post about battling mama guilt. I wrote…
Being a mum and running a business are not mutually exclusive, you can do both equally well. But I needed to work, for my family and even more importantly for my sanity. It may sound selfish to some, but sometimes you have to put yourself first before everything else in your life and my work was that. I’m constantly haunted by the guilt about having a burning need to do something that isn’t parenting and I don’t think that it will ever go away. I feel selfish that I put my baby in nursery just so that I could follow my dreams, but I needed this, in fact, I think we both did.
I still stand by these words, I needed to work to reclaim my sense of self that you tend to lose when you become a mum. Everything becomes about your baby, they’re the centre of your entire universe and looking after your own needs slips down the priority list. I’m a fidget, always have to be doing something even when I’m relaxing on the sofa my mind is elsewhere creating or busy being inspired. It’s a mindset that I’m constantly trying to break and I am getting better, slowly.
I’m not even sure how I managed both for so long. The mama guilt was strong. It pained me to be constantly torn between wanting to be the best mum to my newborn son and grow my small business. When he was really small, I knew childcare wasn’t an option for me at the time because we had no family around and I just wasn’t ready to make that leap to put him into a nursery. Like all you mama’s know, you just carry on because you have no other choice. So that’s what I did. It was easier in that earlier days when he slept for longer but as he grew, started to crawl, walk, sleep regression, not napping, waking up early it all became too much. My emotional health was suffering badly and I actually think in some ways my relationship with Aiden was affected too because I was so frustrated that I couldn’t do both.
By 18 months, I knew that we were both ready for our own space, so I enrolled him into a nursery for 2 half days a week. He thrived and so did I. In those times I felt like I could get back to being me again and really get back into my work without the guilt of taking time away from my baby. We’d reached the point where I couldn’t manage juggling him and my business without some help. It was hard to surrender to this fact, but we both needed this.
Until this point, I had managed to work around Aiden, up until 18 months old. By no means was it easy but we got through it and I’m sharing some of the tips that helped me.
Build some routine into your day
Creating a routine for our day is one of the things that was a massive help for me. I would try to wake up before Aiden to get some work done, then we would get ready to start our day and make it to a baby class. Then we would make it home for lunch and he would sleep afterward for a few hours so I could work. We would then spend the rest of the day together until bedtime and I would work after he went to bed.
Try to find something that works well for you both. It becomes difficult if you’re shoe-horning things into your day that just aren’t coming easy for the both of you. Of course, it’s also worth noting that these routines are subject to change as your baby develops or it may remain the same like it has for Aiden and I (on the days he decides to naps!).
Go to groups and classes
Baby groups and classes seriously saved my sanity. They were a nice way to spend quality time with my little one and socialise too. Being a parent and working from home can be incredibly isolating, so getting out and meeting some new people is a must.
Leave housework until when they’re awake
Nap times are precious when you’re working without childcare. Many will tell you to take a nap while the baby is sleeping, which is fantastic if you need to, rest is so important. However, I found it a great time to get some work done without it interfering with my quality time with Aiden. This meant that I left my housework for when he was awake rather than trying to blitz it while he was sleeping and you can get them involved by singing or pulling funny faces while you hoover or wash up.
Only take on projects that light you up
If your work means that you’re going to take some time away from your baby, it’s got to be worth it. I only took on projects that really set my heart on fire and were prepared to pay my fees. There’s nothing worse than working on something that’s you’re not really interested in and then feeling guilty because you want to spend time with your baby.
Remember that you’re doing your best
No matter how things turn out to remember that you’re doing the best that you can and that’s all you can do. There’s no point torturing yourself because you can’t take on any more projects or time with your baby is being compromised. It’s a tough ride, but you really are doing amazingly well. You’re incredible and always remember that!
Alfie was at a conference last month in Cork, which meant I was solo parenting for a few days and I was back to those days of working and looking after my toddler son. Some of the mama guilt reared its ugly head again but using these tips we both got through it just fine. I wrote this post, because back then I thought I was in this alone. You’re not alone. There are so many mums who are running their businesses with no or very little childcare. Just remember that when times feel hard, don’t feel isolated, we’re all in this with you cheering you on.