My kids are almost 14 and almost 4 so I’ve gone two rounds with time to think in-between.
My advice is to plan but keep your expectations open and flexible. It’s so hard to know how you will feel and what the temperament of your baby will be. I was so surprised by how much FUN I had being pregnant, having small babies and now a toddler and teen. I admit that everything has been easier with #2.
Your Maternity Leave Can be Whatever You Want
I had easy pregnancies and easy babies. I had already given up the 9-5 before I had children but I work more than full time on my businesses. Most newborns sleep a lot so the babies would sleep next to me in my office when they were tiny and I actually got a lot of work done while still being with them. I wore them A LOT for the first six months. I used a Baby Bjorn but there are many options. I would also nurse them on a pillow on my desk and keep right on typing.
The important point here is that when you work for yourself, your maternity leave can be whatever you want or need. It’s up to you to decide!
For more on maternity leave see Maternity Leave? What Maternity Leave?
Create a Safe Haven
I create a portable safe haven for my babies. It has some similarities to crate training a puppy. Used appropriately, a crate gives a puppy a sense of security and a consistent place to enjoy some down time while preventing him from getting into trouble when you can’t supervise directly. I introduce the safe haven gradually with lots of positive reinforcement just like you would with a puppy. I use a Pack ‘n Play and rotating toy stock.
I started doing this with Baby #1 because I take dance class several mornings a week and didn’t want to stop or pay a babysitter once I became a Mom. I would set up the Pack ‘n Play in the corner and bring a large bag of toys she only got to play with in the Pack ‘n Play. This worked so well that I realized I could also take my baby to business meetings and speaking engagements if I needed to or wanted to. I have even taken my babies to important board meetings. I now have three large bags of toys which I rotate. I currently use this set-up three or four times a week. You think your baby would never do this but you’ll be pleasantly surprised if you try it. You need to start putting your baby in the Pack ‘n Play when they are very young so they get used to it.
For more on taking baby along see Oh Yes You Can Bring the Baby.
The Childproof Playroom
At about six months, I find it very useful to have a large, baby proof play area where they can learn to play independently. If you start young, you set up good habits for the future. We gated and childproofed our living/dining room area. Everything in the room is baby/toddler safe. It’s a little odd when we have people over for dinner but it works well for us. We can clear it for a fancy event but that’s rare. Our friends with kids love to come because they can let their kids down to play and not worry.
We have lots of toy stations around the room including a toddler sized table with chairs and 24 square cubies filled with toys along one wall. The cubies are from Target and they are not very expensive. New board books are expensive so I bought two lots from eBay which gave us a lot of great books. I also add age-appropriate, low mess art supplies.
This room allows me to work while my child is playing. It’s also great for getting chores done and taking a shower. It’s good to start putting your baby in the playroom alone for short periods of time when they are very young so they start getting used to it. Build the time gradually as they get older and stay out of site so you don’t interrupt their stream of play. I get a couple hours a day with this set up.
Pinterest has some great child proof playroom ideas if you’re looking for ideas on how to set up your space.
And when you’re ready to move beyond the playroom here are the Billable with Baby® Child Care Tools.
My Secret Toy Stash
My secret toy stash has saved me so many times. I always keep a few new toys hidden away. A new toy can occupy your child when you have important phone or video meetings come up, if the nanny doesn’t show up, if your child is sick or just extra fussy on any given day. Hide it away again at the end of the day and you can use it another half dozen times. This starts around 6 months and still works at 13.
The Power of Like-Minded
Never underestimate the power of like-minded people. Working with a new baby is easier when you’re surrounded by other mothers doing the same thing. Join our Billable with Baby® Community! We are a group of ambitious mothers starting and running successful consulting businesses. We empower working mothers to have meaningful careers with the flexibility to raise their children the way they wish.
Trust Your Instincts
And last but not least, trust your own instincts. Trust your instincts about everything and try not to worry too much about what people say you “should” do. For me this meant ignoring some of my Mother’s advice which was outdated.