This post is part of an ongoing series I’m doing about how I get writing done with a baby in the house. See the first installment here.
Against my own predictions, the last four months have actually been easier than the first two in terms of getting work done. As my daughter gets older, I spend a lot less time feeding her, which means I have more time with my hands free to do other things. The most wonderful development happened somewhere between three and four months, when she became interested in objects, and developed enough coordination to play with toys. Suddenly she wanted to do something with her time besides smile at us all day. (Though we still get plenty of smiles. All day long. It’s distracting and adorable.)
I’ve found that the most important thing I need to do in order to get work done while Cori is awake is to give her frequent spurts of focused attention. If I give her half my attention all day, she gets whinier and clingier as the day wears on, and then she refuses to nap or sleep. If I give her all my attention for five minutes, and then ignore her for the next fifteen, she’s happy to babble and chew on toys and roll around on the floor without me. As long as she feels like the center of the world some of the time, she’s happy to let me get other things done the rest of the time. I don’t know if other children do that, but I’m grateful that mine does, because it lets me get writing (and shipping and accounting and cleaning and and and…) done while she’s awake.
We’ve set up our house to accommodate both our daughter and our work. We have a play pen and an activity center set up next to Drew’s work table, where Cori can roll around and play with toys and practice standing and generally put everything in her mouth, and also be safe without our full and total attention. We spend a lot of time talking to her and singing to her while working, which makes everyone happy.
These days, most of our work looks like this:
(You may notice my computer screen is not featuring any writing. Shame on me. The internet is more distracting than my baby. By a lot.)
I can and do write while Cori is awake, but I’m working on a draft right now that’s taking a lot of brain power to form up. This means that I tend to avoid it, since writing sessions are draining. I get intimidated and don’t work. So for a while I made an appointment with myself that I would write as soon as Cori took her first nap. Between three and five months she had difficulty napping, so sometimes this meant I didn’t do it until five o’clock, but I’d sit down and write first thing after she fell asleep–no excuses. This really had nothing to do with her–the failure to focus was mine, and I’d gone through similar things before Cori was born. But nap time was a scheduled event, so I tied my writing to that to motivate myself.
More recently I’ve started getting up an hour earlier to write, because I find that if I write first thing, I’m not anticipating the work all day. If I’ve already gotten it done, I feel like the day is a success when most of it is still ahead of me. Also, since I’ve already jumped into the work, I’m more likely to do more of it in small snatches of time as the day goes on. Again, this is more my personal issue than a parenting one. I could be doing a lot more writing than I’m doing time-wise, but my brain rebels if I try to force through the hard work too fast.
This means that Drew takes care of Cori while he’s doing his internet work in the morning. Then he feeds us all breakfast. At ten o’clock I take over the childcare, having already written for the day. This means I have all those little bits of time when she’s happily playing on the floor, or in the pen, or in the activity center to do all the other work that piles up, clean the house, etc. Drew talks to the baby while he works, I run her around the house and feed her, and at six o’clock we both stop working and spend some more time together. Work gets done, and everyone is happy.
Honestly, I think at this point it’s the co-parenting that makes all this possible. Cori sleeps twelve hours at night–she usually gets up once during that time, Drew feeds her, and then she goes back to sleep and so does he. Then he takes her for the first two hours of the day, and I take the next eight, two of which she naps. Then we share childcare for the last two hours before she goes to sleep–he usually does most of the work in that time, though, including putting her to bed. So I’ve got her six hours of the day, and Drew has her five, and during all of that we can switch back and forth as need be. This means I only have to be the (almost) primary care-giver for six hours a day, and my daughter is still being taken care of at home, by her parents, full time. It’s a pretty wonderful set up, and we all love it. It also leaves plenty of time for us all to get work done.
I feel bad that most people probably can’t extrapolate this into their own situations, but that’s life. It works differently for everyone. As for us we’ll just keep adapting as circumstances change (the crawling is coming–any day now), and making sure that everyone’s needs are met.