Working from home as a mom is tough.
Working from home with a young baby is really challenging.
Especially when you’re a mom.
During my first pregnancy, I assumed I would go back to the office once my maternity leave was over. Mentally I was prepared to ship my baby off to childcare, go to the office and have clearly defined boundaries.
Then the pandemic hit. And no one was going anywhere.
So when my maternity leave ended, I was a mom working from home with a young baby to care for.
The struggle is real.
There are a lot of demands on your time. You are still recovering from a life-altering experience (giving birth), and you are completely sleep deprived.
In all honesty, my return to work (from home) after I had my baby was one of the worst and most brutal times of my life.
It’s not for the faint-hearted.
But I rallied, pushed through, and I’m here almost two years later to tell the tale.
The struggles are still there, but with the right tools, they are manageable.
So to survive being a work from home mom with a young baby, be brave, be prepared, and empower yourself to manage those challenges like the badass mama you are.
Here is a summary of the top struggles. I will dive deeper into each of them below:
- Mom Guilt
- Judgement From Others
- Healthy Eating
- Being Taken For Granted
- Your Expectations
- Physical Health
- Your Appearance
- Work Hours
- Long-term Career Prospects
- Social Connections
- Mental Health
- Time Management
1. Mom Guilt
It feels like no matter what you do, you could do more.
Give more attention. Be more present. Prepare better, healthier food from scratch, fresh, every day. Have more activities (hand-made!) available to help your baby develop. The house can be cleaner and tidier.
Society puts a lot of pressure on moms to be perfect. You only need to look at any social media platform, TV show or advert related to moms.
And the lie they sell is that a mom can and should do and be everything while looking like a supermodel with a smile on her face.
And we’re sold this lie from the moment we are born, and the tragedy is we end up believing it.
Mama, listen to me carefully: You have done enough if your baby is fed and clothed.
If you have the time, energy and inclination to do more, go for it. But don’t fall for the guilt trip.
Babies are resilient. They will develop just fine playing with (safe) kitchen utensils and random crap you have lying around your house.
And they will cry for more attention, but they are not going to be scarred if you’re not around them 24/7.
The housework can wait. The house will be untidy and dirty again within minutes of you cleaning it, anyway.
I could go on, but you catch my drift. Here are some practical tips for managing mom guilt:
- Whenever you beat yourself up for not doing more, take a deep breath, remind yourself you’re doing your best and that that is enough.
- Print out affirmation cards and stick them up around the house for a constant reminder that you can do this.
- Divide your home into sections and clean each segment on a different day. For example, you clean the TV room on Mondays, bedrooms on Tuesdays, bathrooms on Wednesdays etc.
- Cook extra and either have the leftovers for lunch the next day or freeze the different portions to be eaten at a later stage.
- Fill a box with random things around the house that is safe for your baby to play with. I have keyrings, a spatula, an empty egg carton, empty toilet rolls and more in my box, and it never fails to amuse my baby (now a toddler – it still works!). You can remove and add items any time you think of it, which will keep the contents fresh and exciting.
2. Judgement From Others
As if it’s not enough that we blame ourselves for not doing enough, other people will judge us, too.
Your colleagues will frown in disapproval when there’s a disruption to a virtual meeting (and there will be disruptions).
They will feel the need to comment on your decision to breastfeed or not. Or until what age you breastfeed your baby.
You will get judged for working instead of caring for your baby all day, every day.
And you know that women who quit to be with their babies full-time are also judged for not being able to “do it all” (have a career and raise a baby).
People will judge when you decline meetings or events because you need to be with your baby (for appointments or whatever).
Mama, the point I am making is that other people will judge. And they will judge you no matter what you do.
So the best advice I can give you is to try not to pay attention or care about what they think.
The affirmation cards I mentioned before will also help.
3. Healthy Eating
There are a million and one tasks to keep you busy every day. (Never mind that you have to actually do your job!)
It feels like an impossible task to find time to grocery shop, cook meals and prepare healthy snacks.
Obviously, you prioritise food for your little one because that is a basic necessity you need to provide.
But it’s so easy to neglect yourself and your own nourishment. And it makes getting to and maintaining your ideal weight almost impossible.
Try the following suggestions to make it easier for yourself to eat healthily:
- Assign meal types to each day of the week. For example, Monday is Meatless Monday, but Tuesday is Chicken. Doing this will narrow your choices and make it easier to decide what to cook and buy.
- Shop for your groceries online. It will save you time and keep you away from temptations and impulse buys.
- Cook extra and either have the leftovers for lunch the next day or freeze the different portions to be eaten at a later stage.
- Research intermittent fasting. It’s not for everyone, and I don’t practise it every day, but it really helps with my energy levels, and there are fewer meals to prep for.
- Don’t have junk food in the house. If it’s not within easy reach, it’s easier to avoid.
4. Being Taken For Granted
As a mom, you do a lot:
- You work part- or full-time to secure you and your family financially.
- You wake up multiple times at night to care for the baby.
- You ensure the baby (and any other kids) have enough clothes, diapers and toiletries.
- You manage the household and ensure the laundry is done, food is cooked, and the house is (relatively) clean and tidy.
- You keep the fridge stocked.
- You prepare for the future by researching schools, daycare options and the like.
- You put yourself last and always take care of others first.
- You take the baby to their appointments and remember when immunisations are due.
- You care for the baby when he isn’t feeling well.
And pretty much no one will ever say, “thank you”.
But the moment you don’t get to something fast enough, or – heaven forbid – you forget something, all hell breaks loose.
This is a real struggle, mama, and I’m not going to sugarcoat it.
The best advice I can give is that you should make peace with it. It doesn’t help to get upset at how unfair the world is.
You can pass on some of the tasks to your partner. In fact, I encourage you to!
But you have to let go of any expectations of how that task should be done. Because your partner will not do it the way you do it. And if you are going to complain about how they work, you may as well do the task yourself.
And remember: The details don’t matter in the long run. If your partner gets the wrong size clothing for your baby, they can return it. If they get the wrong brand of toiletries, who cares?
Ask yourself whether you will still be upset about the situation a week or a year from now. And if the answer is no, let it go.
It’s the only way to remove some of the responsibility from your shoulders.
5. Your Expectations
Speaking of expectations, most of your frustrations likely stem from expectations you have that are not being met.
These expectations can range from small, seemingly harmless hopes to larger expectations from others.
For example, you are trying to get your baby to sleep, and you’re looking forward to a break. Perhaps you’ll take a shower. Or you’ll just sit and have a cup of (hot) coffee.
Your baby seems on the verge of sleep but then starts wiggling around, and the next thing you know, he is wide awake and not ready for a nap.
This happened to me more often than I can say, and it’s had me on the verge of a mental breakdown.
The only way I’ve learned to cope with a baby that does unpredictable things is not to have expectations. Don’t hope for time to read a book, and don’t dream about putting your feet up for a bit.
If it happens, it’s a bonus. You will feel grateful for it. If it doesn’t happen, no biggie. You didn’t expect it.
Similarly, adjust your expectations of what a tidy house means to you. Instead of every little thing in its place, it means there are no toys underfoot, and there’s a spot for you on the couch.
That way, you don’t feel despair whenever your house is a mess – which will be almost always – and you won’t put so much pressure on yourself to be “perfect” all the time.
And accept the fact that your output at work will not be what it was pre-baby. You can’t have a baby and expect everything at work to stay the same for you.
You can’t put in extra hours at the drop of a hat. You don’t have the energy for extra projects or additional responsibilities.
If you are an overachiever like me, that is a bitter pill to swallow.
It’s a real struggle to adjust your expectations. It’s my primary tool to stay sane, but it took me a lot of tears, breakdowns and silent wailing to get there.
And the struggle is never really over, and I have to constantly remind myself not to set my hopes too high.
But it gets easier.
6. Physical Health
You would think that it would be easy to look after your physical health when you work from home – even with a baby.
I find the exact opposite to be true.
When I have a spare moment, I use it to do a chore, check-in on my son, buy groceries (virtually) or do any of the other million tasks on my to-do list.
Before I know it, the day is over, and I never made time to exercise. And my back, shoulders and neck are killing me from sitting in front of a laptop the entire day.
The only remedy here is to prioritise exercise. Any exercise. Take a walk around the block, do 30 minutes of yoga (like me), or dance like no one is watching to your favourite music.
And be strict with yourself. When you have the time, do your exercise before doing anything else. If possible, do it in the first gap you get in the day.
The goal here is not necessarily to lose 10kg or look like you’re still in high school.
The goal is simply to get moving, get the blood flowing and do it consistently. Even if it’s just 10 minutes a day.
The other tip I can give you is to get a standing desk.
I have this foldable laptop stand I can put on any desk to transform it into a standing desk. And I simply have to fold it up and put it away to sit down again.
Alternating between sitting and standing while I work is fantastic for my posture and helps prevent aches and strains.
Prioritise your physical health, mama. Who else will do it for you?
Breastfeeding is a struggle just to get right (for many women). But when you breastfeed your baby, and you have to work from home, it feels nearly impossible.
Your baby will need to feed the moment you are in a (virtual) meeting. And you can’t feed your baby during the meeting.
Even if you put your camera off, you are distracted. Or your baby is playing with the cords of your headset. Or babbling when you respond to the other attendees.
And if you try to delay the feed, your boobs will start to leak milk, and the baby will cry. This will make it impossible to hear what the discussion is about.
And heaven forbid it’s a meeting that you host. You may as well cancel the meeting and reschedule. For the fifth time.
Sure, you can express milk with a breast pump and feed it to your baby with a bottle. But expressing takes longer and is not nearly as efficient as when a baby suckles.
And depending on the brand of the breast pump, you won’t be able to work while pumping either.
So, what to do?
- Adjust your expectations (see the point above on expectations).
- Be patient. Your baby will get into more of a routine as she gets older, and it will get easier to know when is a good time to schedule a meeting.
- Decline meetings that are not essential. Ask for a recording or the meeting minutes to catch up.
- If all else fails, politely excuse yourself from the meeting and go feed your baby. She’s your first priority, and you can always catch up on work later.
Besides breastfeeding, when you work from home, there are many – many – other distractions and interruptions in your day.
It’s a challenge to focus on your work when there are constant demands for your attention. Things like:
- Requests for help from various members of your household.
- Your baby’s cries.
- Your baby’s giggles (oh, hello, mom guilt!).
- All the chores that need doing.
- People that talk loudly around you.
- The lawnmower.
- Your neighbour’s annoying dogs that will. not. shut. up.
If possible, find a spot in the house that you can claim as your own. A room with a door would be ideal, but even a corner somewhere will do.
But make sure it’s not in a spot where people will constantly walk past, like close to the front door.
And invest in sound-cancelling headphones.
As for the chores, see the sections above on mom guilt and adjusting your expectations. Prioritise the chores and set aside a specific time in the day in which to do them.
And whatever doesn’t get done during that time, tough.
You can do them the next day.
9. Your Appearance
You may work at home, but you still have to maintain a good appearance for any work-related virtual meetings.
Plus, it’s good for your mental health to get dressed in the morning.
But it’s a struggle to keep your clothes clean when you have a young baby.
Babies – and toddlers – spit up, smear food, and wipe their hands (and mouths!) on your clothes. It happens because you are constantly picking them up and holding them. As one does, with a little one.
So the messes are usually on your neckline and sleeves. You know, the parts of your clothes that actually show on video during a virtual meeting.
You can only change your outfit so many times in a day before you run out of clothes. So at some point, you will resign yourself to walking around with dirty clothes and only changing (maybe) if you venture out into public.
The only suggestion I have for this is to keep your nice tops and dresses specifically for meetings. Change into them before the meeting and take them off as soon as it is done.
It’s not very practical, I’m sorry. But it’s the best I can come up with.
I have to admit, the days of caring about my appearance are pretty far behind me. Currently, I show up to virtual meetings just the way I am and hope my messy appearance isn’t too obvious to others.
10. Work Hours
Why do most employers insist on the traditional work hours of 8 to 5? It is such an old-fashioned concept.
I believe that as long as the work gets done, I could care less what hours you worked.
But alas, I’m not the CEO of any company.
The traditional working hours are a struggle for moms working from home. Unless your baby is in daycare, they need regular attention.
And you need time to do chores, take your baby to appointments (which are only available weekdays between 8 and 5!), cook and so forth.
It would be a lot easier to take care of your baby and work from home if you could work flexible hours.
Sadly I can’t influence your employer. But I can offer some tips to help manage your time:
- Share chores with your partner. You are not the only one capable of doing laundry.
- Book out sections of your calendar to keep people from scheduling meetings during those times.
It’s difficult to do anything productive if you only have a few minutes between meetings. But if you know you have a solid two or three hours free, you can smash out your work and have some spare time for the other stuff you need to do.
You won’t deliver the same amount of work as pre-baby, and your house won’t be tidy. Don’t sweat it. Your baby will get older, and it will become easier.
11. Long-term Career Prospects
You may have realised by this point in the article that as a work-from-home mom with a young baby, you most likely won’t be able to sky-rocket your career growth.
At least not in the short term.
Typically, to progress your career, you have to:
- Put in extra hours (or at least be willing to).
- Be proactive.
- Be creative.
- Be available 24/7 to your manager and team.
- Always have a decent appearance.
- Always have a smile on your face.
This is hard to do when you are the mom of a young baby. Especially if you want to stay sane and avoid burnout.
The main problem is lack of sleep. And what that does to your cognitive function.
You are in survival mode, simply happy to show up to work. But to have the energy and mental capacity to make the extra effort for a career boost feels like an impossible dream.
Sure, you may have it lucky with a baby that sleeps through the night. But for most women, that is not going to happen.
Babies have tiny tummies. Their food (milk) digests quickly, and they become hungry again. So, they wake up frequently. That’s just how it is for most babies, and it’s natural.
And typically, it’s the mom that wakes up at night to care for and feed the baby.
It’s difficult to accept. I know.
But say it with me – adjust your expectations. This isn’t forever.
It will get better. You will at some point have a whole night’s sleep again. And you will once again be able to put in all the extra effort you want at work.
12. Social Connections
When you work from home, it’s a challenge to build genuine relationships with your colleagues.
That social connection is missing because there are no random chats or coffee breaks. It’s the minor interactions that make a relationship with someone more meaningful.
Put a young baby into the mix, and it gets even more complicated. Because now it’s also challenging to see your friends.
It’s a real schlep to pack the diaper bag, get the stroller in the car and remember all the other little things you need on hand for the baby.
Then, when you manage to actually get someplace, your baby will take most of your attention, interfering with your ability to have a meaningful conversation with anyone.
Yes, you can get a sitter or ask your partner to help. But beyond someone to look after the baby, you need the energy.
Long story short, it can be extremely isolating to work from home, especially when you have a young baby.
My advice: Get a sitter, dress in something nice and go out with your friends every now and then. Even when you don’t feel like it.
It will do your mental health a world of good.
13. Mental Health
As a mom with a young baby, your mental health is already under strain.
You are severely sleep-deprived, your hormones are out of control, and your body is still busy recovering from being pregnant and then giving birth.
And in addition, you and your household still need to adjust to the new little person in your lives.
So even before you add an 8 to 5 job into the mix, mothers are at risk of postpartum depression (PPD) and postpartum anxiety (PPA).
Then you start to work from home. You have to deal with challenges such as blurred boundaries, a new routine, adjusted expectations and everything else we cover in this article.
It’s a LOT.
And most companies do not provide adequate – or any – support for new moms that return to work.
So you have to take a multi-faceted approach to manage your mental health.
- Adjust your expectations. It’s hard to be a mom with a young baby, especially when you work from home.
And while it may feel like you are the only one struggling, I promise you, you’re not. Moms don’t talk about our struggles openly enough.
So be kind to yourself and take it easy.
- Prioritise exercise (as mentioned before) – even if it’s just a few minutes a day.
- Avoid social media. Social media reinforces the belief that everyone else has it all figured out.
But who’s going to post a selfie of themselves at 3 am with a wailing baby in their arms, dark circles under their eyes and boobs leaking through their spit covered shirt? No one.
Everyone has struggles. So don’t buy into the social media myth that women get back to their pre-pregnancy bodies within days of giving birth, and it’s all sunshine and roses.
- Put a support structure in place. Talk to your partner, your mom, your friends – don’t keep your feelings bottled up. I would even suggest you talk to a psychologist regularly.
There are a lot of resources online lately to help people with their mental health. There are apps and virtual therapists you can utilise if you can’t find someone nearby to help.
Don’t underestimate the power of talking about your feelings.
Once your emotions are spoken out loud and no longer take up so much headspace, they don’t have the same amount of power over you.
14. Time Management
Being a mom is unpredictable.
Any time management tricks you know fly out the window when your baby is born.
Why? Because you don’t know when your baby will need you (and only you).
Your baby gets hungry, needs to be put down for a nap, gets sick or will have a poop-splosion at the most inconvenient times.
So no matter how much time you planned for some work project, or to do chores or whatever, that time will most likely be interrupted.
Mama, that is how it goes when you have a young baby. Make peace that all the interruptions will interfere with your ability to time-manage effectively.
Put as many time management tools and tricks in place as you like, and try your best to stick to them. But don’t get upset when there are interruptions which means you don’t get to finish what you wanted to.
It’s about adjusting your expectations.
When you work from home, it’s a real challenge to set and maintain boundaries.
It’s so easy to blur the lines between work and home, and if you’re not careful, the lack of boundaries will quickly lead to burnout.
When you’re at work, work. But once you’re done for the day, close the laptop, switch off notifications and be present with your family.
This way, you switch off from work, take a mental break, and you will return to work refreshed the next day.
Don’t work overtime. The work will not get less if you do, and you will always have something else to do. So, don’t work overtime.
Most people think that to multitask, they can be more productive. In fact, the opposite is true. The more you multitask, the less you get done.
Instead of doing one task well, you do multiple tasks poorly, and you end up without much to show for the time you spent.
As a work-from-home mom, you have a lot on your plate.
And when you try to get it all done simultaneously, but you’re not progressing, you can get overwhelmed quickly.
This can also demotivate you, and you could end up not doing anything at all.
I suggest you time block and “single-task” instead of trying to multi-task.
Time blocking is where you assign a certain amount of time to each task you need to do.
The idea is that you limit yourself to a set time to complete a task — let’s say 2 hours — and if you’re not done when the 2 hours are up, you move on to the next job.
Time blocking moves you from one task to the next, so even if you didn’t complete the one task, you’re not stuck on it the entire day. You can get other things done.
It is easy to lose motivation when you are constantly struggling just to get through the day alive.
All you see in your future is piles of laundry, no sleep, and impossible targets at work. It can feel like there is no end in sight.
You need to remind yourself that this won’t be forever, mama.
Find joy in the small moments during the day, like your baby’s smile or meeting a deadline.
Keep a gratitude journal and write down at least one thing you are grateful for a day. Review your journal regularly to remind yourself that it’s not all doom and gloom.
Things will get better, and you are doing enough.
There are benefits to working from home as a mom, such as:
- More flexibility.
- Less commuting.
- Ability to run errands during lunchtime.
- More time with your family.
But there are some significant challenges, and it doesn’t help to sugarcoat it.
When you know and can recognise the challenges, you can take steps to combat them.
I didn’t think I would last when I started to work from home with my baby on my lap. I even seriously considered quitting my job.
But now, almost two years later, I’m coping. Some days are more difficult than others, but overall I’m happy to work from home.
And I actually don’t want to work in an office anymore.
So don’t be overwhelmed. You got this, mama.
Are you a mom that works from home? Tell me about it in the comments!