5 things I've learnt doing the naptime hustle
Working with or around a baby is HARD. In those newborn days when they sleep for England (during the day), it can be a bit easier to get things done but as soon as weaning, sitting, crawling (let’s not mention teething….) and all the other major milestones kick in, your baby - quite rightly - damns more of your time and energy which can lead to major frustration and burnout when you’re desperately trying to create a better life whilst caring for your family.
I’ve been there. I’m still there, but starting to come out of the other side so with a little bit of reflection I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learnt along the way…
1. SET EXPECTATIONS LOW
If you’re working for clients and think you can get something done in an afternoon then double it as inevitably you’ll be disturbed and things won’t go to plan. So better to set everyones expectations as low as possible and then (hopefully) over-deliver or at the very least you’ll deliver on time.
I also always let my clients know what the deal is - I'm working around my baby which will involve being flexible with a deadline. If that's a problem for a client then they are not the type of people you need to be working for at this time so best to part ways (if only temporarily) as otherwise it will become one big stress mountain for you and your baby.
2. GO WITH THE FLOW
In the beginning I would always get frustrated when something didn’t go to plan - ‘but you normally sleep for 2 hours now, why are you not asleep?? Why?’ but quickly realised that this is the path to unpleasant-ville.
Once I gave myself extra time to meet deadlines (see above) I was much more relaxed about the schedule not going to plan as let’s face it babies are unpredictable - well mine was at least so that takes some adapting to.
3. DITCH THE MUM-GUILT
Spending your days waiting for your baby to sleep just so you can get some work done brings in all kinds of guilting feelings. One way to get over these feelings is to make the most of when your baby is awake.
Working around your baby is hard but one of the benefits is that you still get to spend time together, even if you are pulled in a few directions. By staying present and enjoying the moments when you are together makes working in nap-times or when they’re in the Jumperoo a lot more guilt-free.
4. PLAN WHAT TO DO & WHEN
Maximise those naptimes by planning what you want to get done before the nap begins. I would work roughly to a 3 nap plan - planning jobs that suited a short nap or the longer lunchtime nap. It’s difficult to stop and start a work activity so if you can plan jobs that fit in to 30 min for example, you’ll feel a lot more satisfied ticking things off before your baby awakes.
5. SEND FOR HELP
Us women are all very good ‘getting on with things’ - the housework, the cooking, looking after the family and on top of this working on a side project or just simply taking on paid work. But there needs to be a limit - especially when sleep deprived and frazzled. So admit when it’s too much and get some help in or practice saying ‘NO’ (something I’m working on). Ask grandparents, friends, neighbours ...or if the sums add up then a temporary babysitting service can be a Godsend, you can often book for as little as 3 hours and there’s no financial commitment like nursery so great if your work ebbs and flows. You may find that an afternoon of help is all you need to feel like you’re winning and getting ahead.