Working doesn’t always afford you quality time with your family. Learn how to spend time with the baby, even if you work long hours.
It’s that tug we all feel on that first day back from work after maternity leave.
The 40 hours at work (and maybe even a commute) mean we don’t always get to spend time with the baby. Some of us may not even be done with work until late in the day, at which point the baby is ready to fall asleep (if she hasn’t already done so).
With washing bottles, making dinner, bathing the baby, and packing for the next day, we feel deprived of time we want to spend with our family instead. Your emotions could even get so bad that you worry your baby might not “know” or bond with you as well as you’d hoped.
And while many of us work from home these days, this still doesn’t always ease the guilt or struggle to balance family time. You might feel guilty for working when she needs you, or have work on your mind when you’re actually with her.
How to spend time with the baby
The switch from spending all day with the baby during maternity leave to a handful of special moments can be jarring for many of us. On one hand, you wish you could focus on him 100% and not deal with work at all. But on the other, you also need or even want to stay in the working world.
If this sounds familiar, read on. Whether you work from home or not, the guilt of not spending enough quality time with the baby can feel heavy. Below are several tips for finding that time, whether actual time or a change of mindset, to spend with him:
1. Do chores another time
The thought of my pump parts sitting in my work fridge for hours did not sit well with me. I hated leaving them unwashed for much longer, so the first thing I’d do when I came home was wash them in the sink.
Problem is, washing pump parts—along with other chores I did right away—took time away from the baby. I knew I had to make a decision about what I wanted to do when I got home, and I realized that washing pump parts wasn’t exactly one of them.
So, as much as I wanted to hang those washed and cleaned parts on the drying rack, I instead stuffed them into my own fridge to sit even longer. I’d get to them at some point, I figured, but not right then and there.
What chores can you put off until later? Maybe you can cook after the baby is asleep and eat that meal for the next day. Sure, fresh-cooked meals always beat leftovers, but that’s precious time you could spend with her.
Chores don’t have a set schedule the same way your baby might. Bedtime is at 7:30pm, whereas you can always cook dinner or wash pump parts any time after that. Move the hours around and find ways to tend to chores besides right after ending the work day.
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2. Batch tasks together
Do you run through your tasks on a one-by-one basis, like packing the diaper bag, cooking meals, or preparing baby food? One of the easiest ways to cut down on time is to batch tasks together.
Rather than preparing baby food for the day or even the week, batch several meals to last a month. Instead of cooking every day (even after the baby is asleep), prepare freezer meals on the weekend to last the whole week.
Save time on chores by doing similar tasks at the same time. Empty and refill all the trash cans in your home instead of doing them individually. Set aside paperwork to get filed on the same day every week. Doing the same tasks in one chunk can save you time in the long run.
3. Outsource tasks
Outsourcing didn’t always make sense to me at first, especially for tasks I knew how to do. But sometimes, you find yourself so strapped for time that keeping your sanity as a mom is worth hiring out tasks someone else can do.
And the tasks aren’t always for home maintenance, either. You can outsource someone to:
- Prepare baby food ingredients so you only blend and serve
- Deliver your groceries instead of making the trip yourself
- Manage your landscaping and backyard
- Clean your home, even if for a one-time deep clean
- Babysit or help you in the evenings after work
4. Ask for a flexible schedule
Depending on your job, you might be able to ask for a flexible or part-time schedule that allows you to spend more time with the baby.
Working earlier so you can end the work day earlier will give you a few more hours in the afternoon. Four 10-hour days can give you one full day to be home. Even reducing your hours can make a huge difference, both in how you feel about work and your home life.
When asking for a flexible or reduced schedule, frame the request as a benefit to your employer as well, not only you. Make it a win-win situation, and offer a trial period so she doesn’t feel locked in to anything.
And as always, leverage your role and highlight your “career capital”—it’s hard to make requests when you don’t have a history of performing well at work.
Check out these flexible work arrangements you can do.
5. Remember the time you do spend with the baby
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The guilt of balancing work and home takes such a toll that we assume we’re not spending any time with the baby. But according to author Laura Vanderkam, we actually have more time than we think.
In her book, I Know How She Does It, she shows you how to look at your schedule to determine how much time you spend with your whole family.
Looking at a “typical” work day, you not only get an inaccurate picture of your working hours, but you likely pick the “worst” days to base your estimates on.
For example, it’s easy to overlook that time you ended work early or the vacation days you take off. But you likely focus on the 12-hour work days, even if they aren’t the norm. And this doesn’t even take into account the weekends, which is also yet another opportunity to be with the baby.
6. This season will pass
In these early months, your baby likely spends a majority of the time sleeping and taking multiple naps. This is also when she’s so dependent on you for everything that you can’t imagine a time when you’re juggling fewer tasks.
Rest assured, she won’t always nap four times a day, nor will you wash pump parts or mash baby food forever. She’ll eventually be a toddler who can entertain herself while you make dinner, and play in the living room so you can actually prop your feet up.
This season, like all seasons, will pass, hardships and all. As difficult as it is to project that far into the future, know that whatever difficulties you now have will go away.
Here’s your working mom pep talk.
7. Your baby will know who you are
The biggest fear you might have about working long hours is that your baby won’t know who you are. That he’ll prefer others over you, or resent you for not staying home with him.
But your relationship runs deeper than the number of hours you work. He won’t keep tabs on whether you were home after school or how late in the day you picked him up. So long as you cherish the time you have with him, he’ll know that you’re doing your best in the ways you know how.
He’ll relish the sweet, simple moments you have together, whether that’s 10 minutes or 10 hours. It’s these ordinary moments that matter more than clocking in enough time to be with him.
As I say in my book, You Are Enough:
“All those times you lounged on the couch, read book after book, or ate together as a family? Those are all moments to connect with your kids. In fact, they may even be better ways to connect because you don’t have distractions or grand plans. You have only one another.”
Don’t discount those regular moments, from diaper changes to bathing him at the end of the day. They may seem like hassles, but they also provide a wonderful opportunity to bond. He doesn’t care if you’re changing diapers or playing at the park—all he sees is you.
This may be your new reality, one that could even have come as a shock, as you go back to work. The hours away from your baby is especially worse if you didn’t like your work to begin with. No wonder those first few weeks back at work can feel tough.
But rest assured that you won’t always feel like this. You’ll find creative ways to hack your time. You’ll make a mindset shift to ease the guilt and remind yourself of the simple moments that matter most.
And you’ll focus on the time you do have with her—after all, she isn’t counting hours, only memories, with you.
Get more tips:
- How to Work from Home with a Baby (And Actually Get Things Done)
- How to Spend Time with Your Family (Even as a Busy Mom)
- 13 Ways to Cope with Newborn Sleep Deprivation
- 7 Reasons You’re Not Enjoying Motherhood
- How to Establish a Baby Nighttime Routine
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