Doing chores, housework or running errands with a baby can be a challenge. Learn how to get things done with a baby, even if you’re on your own.
I’m going to do it today, I thought. My husband had just gone back to work and I was alone with my baby. I had no idea how I’d get anything done. I could barely find time to load the dishwasher, much less take him out for an errand. Still…
I’m going to drive to the library, I challenged myself. I had books to return, and I figured it’s about time I learned how to run errands even with my baby in tow.
I drove to the library, parked the car and lugged the stroller out of the trunk. Then, to my horror, I couldn’t figure out how to unfold the darn thing. Without the stroller, I’d have to carry the baby around the library with both arms to cradle his wobbly head. I wouldn’t be able to carry the books, or even open the door.
I felt frantic but also disappointed in myself as I wondered, How do you get anything done with a baby?
How to get things done with a baby
Maybe this is typical of first time moms. We feel like we can’t get anything done or run the errands we need to. The thought of being home all day scares us, especially when we’ve never been alone with the baby before.
We now find ourselves alone doing many of the tasks we’d always had a helping hand with. If you can relate, don’t worry—you can still get things done with a baby, even if you’re alone. Here’s how:
1. Do just one thing while the baby naps
If you’re like me, you try to cram everything during the few precious minutes your baby is asleep. Wash the bottles. Fold the laundry. Prep for dinner. It seems logical: the more you do now, the more free time you’ll have later to relax.
Except here’s the problem: All that “free” time? You’ll still find a way to fill it with even more tasks. For instance, my baby would finally take a nap, so I’d figure I should get a head start on stocking up the diaper bin and taking out the trash.
When I had taken care of that, I thought I might as well put the pump parts away so I wouldn’t have to deal with them later. Then once I finished that, I’d dive right into washing dishes so I’d have it taken care of sooner than later.
Well, with all that done, you’d think I was able to relax the evening away, except… the tasks never stop. I wasted the time I could’ve used to relax in that present moment by trying to make up for more free time in the future. Which, of course, never happens.
Instead, do just one thing. However annoying it is to have dishes pile up, deal with it at the next opportunity. Doing it now isn’t going to guarantee you’ll have free time later on. Once you’ve done your one thing, give yourself time to relax, guilt-free.
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2. Bring the baby around the house with you
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Just because your baby is immobile, doesn’t mean you’re stuck in one place. If you had seen my home, you would’ve found more than one blanket on the floors of each room. You’d have also seen bouncy seats, cribs, portable play yards and swings, all ready to hold a baby.
If I needed to be in the living room, I already had a blanket and pillow ready to go. His bedroom of course had the crib. Even when I needed to cook in the kitchen, I’d bring the infant seat to place him in.
A baby carrier also frees your arms to do other things while keeping your baby close to you. I relied on the Moby Wrap which helped free my arms while still holding the baby.
And don’t make the mistake I made at the library and wait until it’s too late to give your baby gear a test drive. Give it a go before your baby arrives, and again during those first few days and weeks. Figuring out baby gear when you’re alone isn’t the best feeling in the world.
3. Ask people to come over to help
This seems obvious but so important that I’m putting it here. Ask friends and family to come over to help. They can watch the baby while you shower and bring you food so it’s one less meal you have to cook. They can even stay home with the baby so you can run an errand.
Don’t feel like you have to entertain, either. Go to your bedroom to take a nap, and don’t bother with offering food or cleaning your home. They’re here to help, not to expect entertainment.
4. Lower your standards (at least for now)
Though our home never looked magazine-worthy before we had kids, my husband and I still kept our home clean. We checked off weekly chore lists, our carpet was pristine, and everything belonged where it should have.
Enter the baby. The weekly chore list became monthly before it eventually became “whenever we remembered.” The windows weren’t squeaky clean, and the baby clutter made its way in.
Here’s the thing: it’s okay. This is the season of messy homes. You’ll find your groove back at some point. For now, focus on the daily essentials like wiping kitchen counters and washing laundry. Accept that it’s hard right now, and that you’ll have your home in order down the line.
5. Do small things at a time
The trick to getting things done with a baby is to do little tasks at a time.
You may not be able to spend an hour on one task any longer, but you can sneak in five minutes of putting clothes away. Your baby may not nap for five hours each time, but the few hours or even minutes can be all you need to vacuum the floor.
Alone time is good for the baby too. We don’t need to play with them 24/7. They can feel overstimulated if we hover over them all the time. Instead, think of the few minutes you’re not directly engaging with your baby as his downtime to process all he’s learning and observing.
6. Challenge yourself
When I had my twins, I met a mom at a farmers market who also had twin boys the same age as mine. We were also both about to go back to work after maternity leave around the same time.
We were practically carbon copies of each other, except she marveled, “How do you do it? How do you get out and about with your twins all by yourself?”
You see, while I had brought my twins alone to the market, she had her sister with her. She admitted feeling terrified going by herself. And the funny thing is, I was very much like her in the beginning. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could or would be out and about with their twins alone.
But however scary the thought may be, I challenged myself to do just that. It was hard, especially at first, but then you get that feeling of coming home and thinking, I did it.
Challenge yourself. You’ll see that you can do things that before had seemed impossible. Yes, it’s tough. That first day alone with the baby is exhausting. I still remember bouncing from one baby to another when I was alone with the twins.
But, like with any challenge, you think to yourself, Wow, I just did that. And more importantly, I can do that again.
Don’t let your preconceptions hold you back from getting things done with the baby. Invite your sister to help make it easier, but don’t think you can’t do it alone, either.
SSBE reader Natalie shared amazing insights into what helped her get things done with a baby:
- Set realistic to-do lists. It feels so much better to realize you got your list done, however small it is, than having a long list with only one item crossed off.
- Plan your tasks according to your day. Making calls when the baby is awake isn’t always going to work, so save those calls for when he naps. Then, do tasks like folding laundry when he is awake since those are easier to get done when he is.
- Don’t beat yourself up even when you get nothing done. Let the days where you get nothing done go and try to remind yourself of the day before when you did get something done.
- Remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. If you’re on maternity leave or stayed home to be with the baby, that is your job. If you do that and nothing else, you have achieved exactly what you are supposed to.
So here’s my pep talk: you can get things done with a baby. Focus on just one thing while the baby naps so you can pace your tasks. Use and practice your baby gear so you can bring the baby with you. Ask people to help—no shame in that!
And challenge yourself a small notch above what you’re used to—you’ll see that you can, in fact, get things done with a baby.
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