Since George came along, I’ve received some e-mails and messages asking whether I’m working, and, if so, how I’m making it work now that we have two young kiddos at home. I’ve responded to many of these messages individually, but I thought it would be nice to collect all of my thoughts in one place. (And just to be clear, I still believe there’s no such thing as “doing it all” no matter what you do. Just see the bottom of this post for all of the things I’m not currently doing.)
The last time I wrote about being a stay-at-home/work-from-home parent, Miles was 13 months old. Today, Miles is 2 years old (26 months), and George is 6 months old. I started working again when George was about 8 weeks old.
Let’s start with a big dose of honesty: Before George was born I wasn’t sure whether I was going to return to work. I didn’t think it would be possible to continue doing my job as a freelance health writer with two babies at home.
Financially, not working was going to take some major changes for us. We were willing to make those changes. I wrapped up my work when I was around 36 weeks pregnant, and a part of me really thought that I was retired—at least for the foreseeable future.
George was born a few weeks later. About a month and a half after that, a few editors reached out via e-mail asking whether I was taking any assignments. My brain said no, my gut said maybe, and my fingers typed yes. I think a part of me wanted to see whether I could actually make it work. Today, I’m still working and, happily, it’s working.
I also made some BIG changes in the work that I do and how I do it (more on that below–see #4), which has made working feel more pleasurable and less stressful. That’s also made a huge difference in being able to juggle so many things.
So here’s how I’m making it work right now:
- I’m working less than before. I’m not working at the same capacity as I was when we only had Miles. Our budget reflects this change. When I first started back to work after George was born, I was writing about 10 articles per month. Lately I’ve been writing about 20, on average.
- I do most of my work when the kids are in bed. Besides keeping up with e-mails from my phone throughout the day, I don’t work while the kids are awake. George goes to bed by 6 p.m. Miles is in bed by 7 p.m. I try to get to work as quickly as I can after that. Before Gorge was born, I used to work very early in the morning (5 a.m. to 7 a.m.) until Miles woke up. George is starting to sleep through the night more consistently lately so I’m hoping to add in some early morning work sessions again soon.
- I don’t depend on nap time for work time. This is one of the biggest differences from when I was working with only one kid because I used to always work during Miles’ naps. Although I’m usually able to get both of the boys to nap at the same time (12 p.m. to 2 p.m. or 3 p.m.) most days, relying on that time to work is way too challenging. Instead, I use that time to eat lunch, cook dinner, take care of house stuff (like laundry and dishes), and if I happen to have some time left to work (I usually do), then I do it. But any time I need to work during that time—for instance, finishing an article that’s due that day—it ends up backfiring.
- I stopped doing the work I no longer enjoyed. THIS. IS. BIG. It was a really difficult decision for me, but it’s made all the difference in how I view my work today. Because frankly? I started hating my job right before George was born and I really wanted to quit. I’ve been doing this work for 11 years. At first, I absolutely loved it—I was doing my dream job! Over the past few years, however, those feelings changed. The type of writing I was doing no longer felt like it resonated with where I was in my life (such as writing another article about a “new” way to lose weight—life is about so much more than what the scale says, isn’t it?) It also killed me that even though I was doing the same job for more than a decade I was getting paid less per article than when I was just starting out. I got real with myself about the work that I enjoyed doing and felt I could do with two babies at home and that’s the work that I mostly do now. The change, while scary, has also been incredibly freeing and rewarding.
- My husband helps a lot. I’ve probably made it sound like I do all of the work in our home, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Robert does a million things both big and small and he’s the most incredible dad I know. I couldn’t ask for a better or more supportive partner.
- Encourage independent play. This is a topic that could be its own post, but I’ll just sneak it in here. I spend the majority of my day interacting with our kids and we also have playdates with friends almost every day. However, the kiddos (especially Miles) also get a solid amount of solo play. I don’t work on my laptop while the kids are awake, but having them play independently allows me to do some household stuff like unloading the dishwasher and folding laundry so I can get to work as quickly as possible once they’re asleep at night. One thing we did before George was born was help Miles become better at playing by himself. It was actually pretty simple: Any time we’d see him playing independently—often first thing in the morning and after meals—we did our best not to interfere (even if we really wanted to play with him). It has definitely paid off. Give the kid a car, truck, or train and he can occupy himself for a long time. When it comes to babies, I feel like there’s so much pressure to be talking to and interacting with them every single second of the day. Then they turn a certain age and we suddenly expect them to be able to play by themselves. I’ve read and learned that independent play is a skill that they can develop pretty early on and we’re not neglecting them when we allow them to explore the world on their own terms for a few minutes. So, just like Miles, if I see George happily playing with toys on the floor or rolling across the living room as long as he’s safe and content I try to let him be until he needs me.
- I meal plan and make quick and easy meals. If a meal takes more than 30 minutes start to finish it isn’t happening. I rely on the slow cooker, one pot and sheet-pan dinners, and anything else that requires minimal prep, cooking, and clean up. I often cook dinner during nap time, but many days Miles helps me cook in his kitchen helper (<– best thing ever) while George takes his morning nap. It’s one of our favorite things to do together. For more on what our meals look like, see @food4tots on Instagram.
Here’s what I’m not doing:
Just like last time, I thought it would be fun to include the things I’m not currently doing. They haven’t changed much.
- Exercise. I chase a toddler, haul and wear a baby, and take both kiddos for a 30 to 60 minute walk or hike at least once a day. So I’m active. I’m just not doing any formal kind of exercise at the moment.
- Cleaning. We try to pick up toys and tidy the kitchen every night and occasionally remember to vacuum. We also have a cleaning person come every few weeks.
- Getting ready. Let’s just say my “morning routine” takes approximately 3 minutes.
- Relaxing. If it seems like there’s little time left in the day to put my feet up and watch TV, well, you’re right. This pace isn’t for everyone, but it seems to be working just fine for us right now. I know that life won’t look like this forever—it really is just the phase we’re in right now—and I’m okay with it. I get to spend my day with our kids, I earn income and exercise my writing muscle at night, and we spend time together as a family on weekends. And while I often feel completely exhausted at the end of the day, I’ve never been happier in my whole life.
So that’s how I’m making it work. Do you have any tips for how to be a stay-at-home/work-from-home parent?