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Naps and the Working Mom

August 3rd, 2010 by Emira · 8 Comments

Where to begin? I have so very many thoughts on working (currently from home) with an infant lately. Thoughts that are constantly evolving as the days and weeks go by and the challenges of working with a newborn shift. This awesome post on working part-time with a wee one is a great read for those of you wondering how you might make working work, once a baby comes along.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about sleeping, naps and being a working mom of a babe (currently 5 and half months). Sleep is a big, big topic amongst the new parent set. How much your baby sleeps, doesn’t sleep, how regularly they sleep, where they sleep… it’s all riveting stuff. Prior to having my daughter I pictured my life with her involving lovely stroller walks through the neighbourhood to coffee shops and to get groceries. I thought that once I was working part-time again (which I started back in on at around her 3 month mark), I would alternate between stints working in the basement office during her naps and going out for neighbourhood jaunts on gorgeous summer days while she was awake. My hope was that it would all be quite fluid and just unfold as it would. Now, I wasn’t totally naive. I am a project manager at heart, and therefore a worst case scenario planner almost by instinct, and I had many, many friends with kids so I knew the complications that real-life parenting brings. What I wasn’t really expecting though was how protective of nap time I would become, and frankly, how it kinda takes the fun out of things in a rigid scheduling kind of a way.

This is not to whine, at all. Full disclosure: I love being a mom. About 200% more than I thought I would (and I really thought I was gonna love it, so this is saying something). But my protection of her nap schedule makes me kind of an overly scheduled bore sometimes. You see the way many babies (and certainly my baby) work is that they like routine. I turn, need some semblance of predictability in order to get work done and commit to deadlines/turn around times etc. So, when we’re both being pretty scheduled about life, things tend to work out pretty well. That means a typical day for me looks like this:

  • 7am wake the baby up, if she’s still asleep so that she stays on schedule for the rest of the day (this is only about 1 of every 3 days as she usually wakes up around 5:30)
  • 9am put her down for her first nap & I start checking emails, ticking a few small things off my to-do list for work
  • 10am wake her up from first nap if she isn’t already up (that’s about half the time, the other half she’s woken herself up after 30-40 mins)
  • 10-noon: we play, hang out, get her dressed, do baby stuff, occasionally we head out to run a quick errand like the bank or a doctor’s appointment (my doctor is around the corner) during this time, but the danger here is being out too long and having her fall asleep in her stroller, because then even a 5 minute stroller nap can mess up the next crucial stage…
  • noon: down for her “long” nap. I put long in quotation marks as it is sometimes a misnomer. This is the nap that makes or breaks my work day. If she sleeps for 1 and half to two hours (which is a little more than half the time) I get work done like nobodies business. If, however, she only sleeps for 30 mins, I’m kinda screwed.
  • 2pm: assuming she slept that long, I now go out and about and have my lovely stroller walks and visits with friends, errand running, groceries etc.
  • 4-5pm ish: depending on the length of her afternoon nap, she’ll often have a little 20-30 min cat nap in the late afternoon. This one is so short that I rarely use it to get work done, unless I’m really on a deadline, so I use it for prepping dinner, laundry, housecleaning and general 50s housewifey things (tongue in cheek), sometimes this is when I have my shower for the day. About once a week I collapse and take this mini nap with her.
  • 7-7:30pm: we start the bedtime ritual. These days getting her to sleep takes anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. If the latter, by the time we’re done I’m zonked. But, depending on workload this is when I start working again.
  • 8-10pm: Finish up a few things work wise.
  • 10pm: I = pumpkin. Bedtime.

So that’s a typical day when I need to get work done. What about when I don’t need to get work done? Well the Catch 22 is that if I veer from that schedule for a few days, it will take a few days to get her back on it. So, the danger in straying is that my availability for work becomes really unpredictable, which doesn’t really work for me right now. I do have childcare in the form of my partner and a few days a week, during the summer, my step-daughter, and starting in September through a more formal arrangement, which allows me to have some predictable time every week to work regardless of how much she naps, but still, I’m loathe to get off schedule too much as then I feel unable to commit to deliverables.

How often am I working? Honestly, close to 7 days a week. There have only been a handful of days in the last 2 or 3 months that I haven’t used at least one of her naps to get something done.

The challenge for me arises mostly when I have friends, family etc. who want to visit, go for coffee, spend a day at the beach what-have-you and even though I’m on a quasi-mat leave right now, my availability to visit with people, while also balancing work, and my sanity is kind of limited to these few hours in the afternoon. That said, I love that I can spend as much time with my daughter as I have been able to, and I’m really lucky to have some very understanding clients who have been ok with her tagging along to meetings, or with me jumping off phone calls when she wakes up earlier than expected.

You’ll note that with the exception of her late afternoon cat nap I don’t “nap when she naps”, which is a piece of advice that pretty much everyone from your midwife to your old Italian neighbour will give to new moms. In my fantasy world, I’d be napping with her daily, but in my reality, it’s just not doable. I can say however that she’s a pretty decent night-time sleeper (up 2-3 times but right back to sleep after being fed), so I manage to get by.

Tags: Motherhood & Business

8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Sylvie de Sousa // Aug 3, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    Hi hear you Emira!
    I still catch myself thinking this is going to be easy peasy, working from home… and my kids are 11 and 8!

    This summer for example, has been so much fun, yet exhausting! I want to spend time with my kids, so we do all these cool things together and they get to have a nice refreshing summer at home with me. What that means in terms of work though is that I get alot less done than I should be getting done and I wake up super early and go to bed late. Oh well, I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I wouldn’t say it’s all that easy…

    Hang in there, it does get a tad easier though with time… and know you are not alone!

  • 2 Valerie // Aug 4, 2010 at 7:17 am

    This rang so true for me, I couldn’t help myself from commenting!

    First off, congrats for the wee-one :) She is very cute! I started to take on gradually work in the 4-5 month time, I was too spent out before that to take on more than diapers, laundry and naps :)

    I guess managing a baby routine is an important aspect of my work now as a freelancer. I am lucky as my now 15 months old sleeps a lot (and always have), taking generally 2 big naps in the day (2-3 hours nap!) So I can get work done in one of those naps, and recently, I allow myself to take the second one for some me-time for working out or reading (I also work in the evening after he is asleep).

    So, for me the baby schedule is important as you said, a finely balanced one that could get out of whack with a missed nap, but I also keep in mind why I decided to keep junior with me (I don’t send him to daycare), to be able to see everything he does, learn, etc, so the balance is also to keep my workload manageable in a 21 hour week.

  • 3 Mya // Aug 4, 2010 at 8:02 am

    Hi Emira,
    Naps were so sacred with my first born, and it was in everyone’s best interest for us to be that way as our little bundle was SO much happier on a good sleep routine. I totally relate to your post! It worked out for me to put in the hours of computer time when she went to sleep at night, which would give me a more lengthy stretch of, on most nights, uninterrupted work time. And if she did waken, hubby was there on backup. As always, thanks for the post!

  • 4 Emira // Aug 4, 2010 at 9:58 am

    Ya, I know a lot of people who do it that way too (the evening work). For me that’s supplementing work, which is partly because I have a team/clients who need me to be in touch during the day. But also, I have to say I don’t know how you did that! I’m so toasted by the time she’s asleep, but maybe if I was using daytime sleep for napping I’d be less fried :)

  • 5 kerri twigg // Aug 4, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    I managed to write my thesis (including literature review and writing an original one-act play) in my daughter’s first ten months of life.

    I found it easiest to not have a schedule. If I made the day about satisfying her needs it went smoother. the days I woke up and planned to finish a book, or write a chapter — always failed. It was like she could sense I needed her to sleep.

    I did a lot of work in the evenings when my husband could watch her. It was easier in the last four months, than the first six.

  • 6 Amber // Aug 5, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    Neither of my children have ever been good nappers, and so I learned to work around it. Plus, I found early on that I had to get out of the house to save my sanity. And so, for me, attending playgroups and so on was more important than adhering to a strict schedule.

    What really helped with my second, though, was babywearing. This is especially true since my older child delighted in waking him just as he drifted off so he needed to be out her reach. I could put him on my back in a soft carrier and he would doze on and off for long stretches. And even if he was awake, I could get stuff done because he was safely contained. It was awesome.

  • 7 mari // Aug 10, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    I think I’ve been lucky; our daughter is a great napper and I’ve been able to get work done while she’s snoozing. Getting nice chunks of time to really focus on work, whether it’s an article for a publication or copy for a client, has been really, really nice. I’ve reduced my work load to a realistic level so that I can complete assignments and look after the baby.

    I have followed the advice of napping when the baby naps, and I’ve even told a few clients that I often doze off around 4 p.m. for an hour…a bit risky, a bit selfish, perhaps, but they’ve all been really understanding. And Sylvie is right: it gets easier with time and you’re not alone. I seldom stop to think how overwhelming this new life is!

  • 8 Meredith // Oct 27, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    Thank you for this post! I was just laid off last week, one week before I’m due with my first child. Despite the distress this has caused (loads), I’m looking at it as a way to finally put some energy into creating my own business (which is currently a side-job at best), although I realize my time will be incredibly limited in the next few months.

    Still, I hope to spend those nap times doing the work I need to get things going, and finding this post could not have come at a better time!