You've been working for hours and your bladder is full. You hurry to the bathroom and pee as fast as you can. You flush, wash, and are on your way--only to find that your 10-month-old has climbed up onto your desk chair and used a bright orange color pencil to color all over your nearly completed drawing. #artistmomlife
I thought about writing a “Day in the life of an artist with a baby” post, but the truth is it is constantly changing. A day with a 3-month-old looks very different than a typical day with a 9-month-old. So I’m writing a series of posts breaking down the challenges of each stage of working at home with a baby.
The main characteristics of this season (9-12 months old):
- Baby is on the move, getting into everything and everyone’s business.
- You will have limited time during the day to get work done.
- Basic tasks will take longer as she is now a very “active” participant with opinions.
- You will have to adjust your workload to adapt to fewer available hours.
- Consider getting up an hour or so before the baby wakes up to get work done.
- You may experience a drop in physical and mental energy.
Your baby is constantly changing. But you will learn to adapt, roll with the punches, and figure out how to keep being your awesome creative self.
Here is the obvious disclaimer: each child is completely unique, with his or her own personality and speed of development. I am simply sharing my own experiences of raising three babies while working from home as an artist.
When my babies were first born, I spent hours on the internet looking to see how other artist moms were doing it. How were they taking care of a tiny human and still producing such beautiful work? “They” seemed to be doing it so easily. But I felt like I was drowning. I wanted to know what they were doing hour by hour, minute by minute so that I could copy them.
The truth is, your situation will be unique to you and your child. No one can tell you how to navigate it, but I hope that hearing about my experiences will give you some insights and inspiration.
Baby is on the move constantly, getting into everything and everyone’s business.
She’s probably pulling herself up now and starting to cruise, or even walking. Which means that she can reach a lot more stuff--like tops of tables and desks and chairs. She might’ve mastered the art of trying to pull chairs and small tables over on top of her self. She wants to know what everything is, what it tastes like and what it sounds like if she slams it against the floor.
This means mama has to be on guard all. the. time. The reality is, you’re not going to be able to do any deep work while the baby is awake unless you can contain her in a safe space AND keep her entertained.
No more working lap baby.
She will eat your phone and keyboard and mouse--pretty much anything that is expensive that she can get her mouth on. Baby E has learned that she can crawl across my lap, and keyboard and desk to get to my computer monitors. Or climb up my body to get to my headphone microphone and eat it.
She is eating more foods, which means more cooking & cleaning for you
It is super exciting when your baby is ready to eat more solids and finger foods. She might be able to get the food in her mouth on her own or holding food her own pouches.
The downside is, that food will be everywhere--in her ears, in her hair, in her diaper, ALL OVER THE FLOOR. Meals will take twice as long and you spend half the time cleaning up the post-meal disaster.
Also, now that she has figured out that the stuff you are putting in your mouth is FOOD and it is good to eat, you will never eat a quiet meal again.
The mental load is greater
See the section on baby being into everything ALL THE TIME. You may have less energy as you are always on alert. Your brain is going to be toast by the end of the day, and by the time she goes to bed, you are going to crash hard.
Think about getting up early before the baby is awake
Hopefully, your baby is sleeping longer stretches at night. Baby E is sleeping (most of the time) from 7:00 PM to 6:30 AM, which means I can get a solid night's sleep.
This was not the case with my first two, who woke up all the time and wouldn’t sleep unless they were attached to my boobs. (We finally did sleep training with them at 10 months and it was the best decision I ever made.)
Now, the only way for me to get deep work done is to do it before anyone else is awake. The trade-off is that I crash early in the night.
I have always been a natural night owl, so I would plan on working when the kids were in bed. The reality is by then, I am so mentally and physically exhausted that I can't get my mind into the right space.
“But I’m not a morning person!” I would complain whenever I read the advice to get up to work before the kids were awake. Do I like getting up at 5 am when it's still dark out? UGH, no! Do I like having the house quiet all to myself? Oh, HECK YA!
Rely on your Road Map and be patient with your progress
I will say it again, say it a hundred times, “Planning is everything!” ESPECIALLY when you have limited time and lots of distractions.
You need to know what your finish line is and how to get there, otherwise, you are going to end up lost. I will be writing future posts on setting goals and breaking them down into easy quick tasks. But one of my favorite ways of doing this comes from Rachel Hollis. Check out this break down of how she creates a road map, from her book Girl, Stop Apologizing.
So, here is an example of what my day might look like (if no one is sick, or teething, or feeling really really cranky):
5:00 AM: I wake up, stumble to the kitchen and get my fix of coffee. While it’s brewing, I do a quick check of my calendar/agenda to remind myself what is the plan for the day.
5:15 AM: Sit down and start to work. This might be writing, or painting, or research, depending on the project I’m working on.
6:30 AM: Baby E wakes up. I change her and give her a bottle. I might be able to get some more work done if she is agreeable. Some mornings she will be happy to play around my desk area, inside of a large baby fence area. But this is not deep work as I am constantly checking to be sure she hasn’t figured out how to get Daddy’s earphones and eat them.
When Daddy gets up, I get dressed and take a quick shower. Then he gets ready and leaves for work.
7:30 AM: The three-year-olds wake-up. We do potty and milk.
8:00 AM: If it's a preschool, I get clothes on them, brush their hair, and I load them all up in the car at 8:30 AM. If it’s a day where the twins are home, we’ll do breakfast at leisure.
9:00 AM: Baby E goes down for her first nap. She sleeps from 9-10:30, so this is my first blitz period. I set up the older girls with all the things they need. They play nearby (my desk is in one corner of the room, their toys and TV are in the other) or watch cartoons while I work.
11:00 AM: Baby E gets up from her nap. I strap her into a high chair with a selection of snacks to keep her busy. Then I knock out the basic house maintenance tasks.
12:00 PM: I fix lunch for the kids, then for myself. I put small bits of my food on Baby E’s tray so that she will let me eat without yelling at me.
1:00 PM: It’s Nap/Quiet time. This used to be my golden hour when all three kids would sleep. But the 3-year-olds have recently decided to stop taking naps. Now, I find a quiet activity for them to do (like coloring or laying on a pile of pillows while watching cartoons). Baby E naps and I get more work done.
2:30 PM: Baby E wakes up. I'm done working for the day, for the most part. I spend the rest of the afternoon playing with the kids and doing any out-of-the-house adventures or errands. I might do work-related things that are easy to pick up and put down. I could respond to emails, do social media, research ideas, or do quick sketching.
6:00 PM: Fix dinner for the kids. Make the kids put away the toys.
6:30 PM: Bath time for Baby E, pajamas and bottle.
7:00 PM: Baby E is in bed, and bath time and pajamas for the three-year-olds.
7:30 PM: DADDY TIME! Daddy gets home and spends time playing with the preschoolers.
8:00 PM: Teeth brushing, story and prayer time. Then bed.
8:30 PM: Grownup time. Hopefully, I have a plan for dinner or it's in the crockpot. Mommy and Daddy get to sit down and eat together and watch an episode of something. Or if its a crazy day, we crash and veg on our own computers.
9:30: I’m totally drained by this point, so it’s pointless to try and push myself to do work. I put away dinner, clear counters, and get ready for the next morning. Then I make a quick game plan for what I want to get done the next day, shut down my computer, and get ready for bed.
10:00-10:30 PM: TO BED!