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’d be alone with the baby.
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 with a baby in tow.
So, 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. I couldn’t not use the stroller, either—I needed it to carry the baby so I could hold the books, much less 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 you can relate.
You can’t get anything done or run the errands you need to. The thought of being home all day with the baby scares you, especially if he doesn’t sleep or cries all day. And with so many things to do and the baby taking up all your time, you feel dejected and disappointed at how little you’ve done all day.
And we’re just talking about daily upkeep—dishes and groceries, for instance—not deep-cleaning or planning too far ahead.
If you’re overwhelmed and frustrated at the lack of things you’re able to get done with a baby, you’re definitely not alone. Nor are you without help. Stumbling along as a first-time mom, I learned that you can be productive with a baby, with a few hacks and mindset shifts.
Take a look at these tips that saved me when I found myself alone with a baby (and later, twin babies). I’m certain they can help you, too:
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’re supposed to enjoy later? 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 stock 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 during each nap or free moment. However annoying it is to see dishes piled in the sink, 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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Even if your baby prefers to be held for just about everything, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck in one place, either.
For instance, 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.
Planning ready-to-go places to lay your baby around the house can be a huge lifesaver. No longer are you stuck in one place, or heading to the nursery to set him down.
Maybe you’ll place a thick blanket or nursing pillow in the living room to set him down while you fold laundry. Or perhaps bring an infant seat to the kitchen so you can cook dinner and keep an eye on him. A baby wrap also frees your arms to do many tasks while keeping him “held” nearby.
You’re not stuck in one place just because he insists on being held or needs you nearby. By placing convenient places to set him down, you can still move around the house with baby in tow.
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 scheduled due date, and again during those first few days and weeks. Figuring out how to open a stroller alone—in a parking lot, no less—isn’t the best feeling in the world.
3. Ask people to come over to help
A quick remedy to getting things done with a baby? Ask people to come help.
This might not be your usual ask, especially if you’re past the newborn stage and people have stopped visiting regularly. But parenthood goes beyond those first few weeks and months, and relying on a village never ends.
So don’t be afraid to ask friends and family to come over and help. They can watch the baby while you shower, or bring you food so it’s one less meal to cook. They can even stay home with him while you run an errand, or take a break from the baby madness.
Don’t feel like you have to entertain, either. People won’t expect you to offer food to tidy your home for their arrival. You can even go to your bedroom to take a long, uninterrupted nap. They’re here to help, not to expect you to host and entertain.
4. Lower your standards (at least for now)
Not that our home was picture-perfect before kids, but my husband and I kept our home pretty clean. Weekly chore lists kept us on schedule, our carpets were pristine, and everything belonged in their places.
But then… the baby arrived. The weekly chore list turned into monthly before eventually becoming “whenever we remembered.” The windows weren’t squeaky clean, the carpets were hardly vacuumed, and the clutter made its way in.
If your house is just as messy, know this: It’s okay.
This is the season of messy and chaotic homes, and you’ll find your groove back at some point. Letting your standards go, for now, doesn’t mean you’ll spiral into bad habits forever.
If anything, focus on the daily essentials like wiping kitchen counters and washing laundry. But accept that it is hard and different right now, perhaps more so than you’ve ever experienced. Your home won’t always look this way, and down the line you can always go back to those weekly chore lists.
5. Do small things at a time
Long gone are the long stretches of time to focus on one activity uninterrupted. Nowadays, your time is likely broken into small pockets, little opportunities throughout the day.
The trick is to do little tasks at a time during those small pockets.
Of course, this isn’t ideal, especially for tasks that need your full concentration. And I get how annoying it gets to try to finish something, only to get interrupted. But during this season in your life, these small pockets can add up.
So you might not be able to spend hours on one task, but you can sneak in five minutes to put laundry away. Your baby might not nap for five hours each time, but the moments he does can be all you need to vacuum the floor.
And besides, alone time is good for him too—he can feel overstimulated if you hover over him 24/7. Instead, think of the few minutes you’re not directly engaging with him as his downtime to process all he’s learning and observing.
6. Challenge yourself
I met a mom at a farmers market who had twin boys the same age as mine. As such, 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 go out 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 that she felt terrified going by herself, unsure of how she’d manage alone. 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 might have been, I still challenged myself to face those fears. It was hard, especially at first, but then you get that feeling of coming home and thinking, I did it.
I encourage you to do the same. Challenge yourself. You’ll see that you can do things that before had seemed impossible. Yes, it’s tough, and 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 assumptions and fears hold you back from getting things done with the baby. Sure, invite your sister to make it easier, but don’t think you can’t do it alone, either.
Fellow parent 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 when you get nothing done. Didn’t get anything done? Let it go and simply remind yourself of the times when you did get plenty done.
- Remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. If you’re on maternity leave or stayed home to be with him, 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, mama. Focus on just one thing while he naps so you can pace your tasks. Use and practice your baby gear so you can bring him with you on errands. Ask people to help—no shame in that!
Lower your standards—at least for now—so you don’t beat yourself up when you can’t get much done. Do small things at a time, and set realistic to-do lists rather than idealistic goals you likely won’t achieve. Plan your tasks according to your day to make the most of it.
Remember why you’re home with the baby in the first place, and finally, challenge yourself a notch above what you’re used to. You’ll see that you can, in fact, get things done with a baby.
Get more tips:
- How to Work from Home with a Baby (And Actually Get Things Done)
- Adjust These 3 Factors to Stop Your Baby Waking Early
- What Having a “Spoiled Baby” Really Means
- How to Get a Sick Baby to Sleep
- The Biggest Reason Your Baby Will Not Sleep (Even After All This Time)
Don’t forget: Join my newsletter and discover the 5 mistakes that are keeping your baby from self-soothing! Whether you’ve tried to teach him to self soothe in the past or are just now considering it, take a look at the 5 key mistakes to avoid. Download your PDF below—at no cost to you: