How to Increase Your Productivity With a Baby At Home
So you want to get stuff done while you’re little one sleeps, or you are just curious because other moms seem to be accomplishing more housework, personal care and getting out of the house more. Here’s what I’ve come to learn of the past year and a half about being productive with a newborn at home.
Is this goal right for you?
First, if your baby is less than 6 months old (as I’m sure everyone has told you) you need a nap too! According to the national institute of health, sleeping less than 7 hours per night may have negative health impacts including increased risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, anxiety, depression and alcohol use. Find the full information from the NIH Here.
While sleeping less than 7 hours a night is temporary while your child is young, I do feel it can still have some long term health impacts. So, if your baby is still getting up every few hours your goal probably should not be to be productive, maybe a good goal is to recover your sleep and stay healthy.
During the first 6 months of my youngest son’s life, I would use one of his naps to shower, one might be to put on a load of laundry, another to flip it, another to fold and that’s it for the day! Those are the chores I accomplished that day. Most days it was just the shower.
For the love of the truth, I do not think I cooked a homemade meal for my son’s first month of life. I was recovering from a c section and the sleep deprivation was hitting me hard. My husband was in another state for work and we were in survival mode.
I did the best I could and I know you are too. The most important thing is that your baby is growing and healthy and to make that happen mom has to be sleeping too. Everything else can wait.
Keep Expectations Low
When you are in survival mode and experiencing sleep deprivation months , keep your expectations for yourself to accomplish tasks beyond basic self-care very low. If you are not yet able to shower as often as you would like, or do your hair/make up whatever it is you do to take care of yourself pre baby, make those your goals first.
Having a baby really simplifies things if you let it, I remember when my to do list only said – shower. Ha, I’m so serious!
Once you are completely taking care of yourself to a level that you feel is appropriate for long term then you can move on to accomplishing other tasks regularly. You are much more valuable to your family then running the dishwasher timely.
The easiest way to get back into the groove of feeling accomplished each day is to keep a list on your phone of chores that need to be done and work up to doing 1 per day.
Keeping the list is important because sometimes we actually do accomplish things and we don’t realize how much we do in a day. This list can help you to stay organized and complete a task before moving onto the next that way you do actually feel accomplished.
For example, Monday might be all self-care and baby and zero dishes in sink before bed. Tuesday you add in taking out garbage, Wednesday cooking two meals, Thursday cleaning the bathroom, these are just examples. Everyone’s productivity list will be different.
If you are doing more than one task a day on your list before your baby is 6 months old, you are a Rockstar!
When we expect ourselves to be doing much more than our body can handle, this sets unrealistic and unreasonable goals that we will never be able to obtain and also are not healthy.
This is a time to listen to our bodies and nurture not only our babies but ourselves. Think positive thoughts about yourself and your efforts in caring for your family. You are doing all you can and that is enough!
Communicate With Loved Ones
It is important to communicate with those around you about your needs, wants and feelings. If you are getting external pressure to get more done during nap time or daytime in general, perhaps some honest conversations about your overall health and need for support might be in order.
Taking care of a baby 24/7 is much easier said than done. Most people can go a weekend with little sleep but when you are pushing month 4 with no more than 2 hours of sleep at a time…. That’s a really tough space to be in and it is important to let those around you know what that is like so that they can be understanding.
I realized I was doing a poor job at communicating my frustrations and how I was feeling about myself to my husband. He was not pressuring me at all, I was internalizing these feelings of guilt and insecurity and putting high expectations on myself.
Once I communicated with him about what was going on he made it a goal for us to work into our budget for me to have help with childcare/household duties because his job did not really give him the opportunity to help me with that (he was in another state for work).
Also, even if your baby is older than 6 months, if you are not productive during their nap, I honestly feel that is ok. When people go to work they have their commute both ways to zone out/decompress, they have lunch breaks, they can use the bathroom alone LOL. They don’t worry while they shower to get ready for work that they will have to get out of the shower quickly to get the baby. Being at home with your little one is not easy and I don’t think you need to be “productive”, you can use nap time as your lunch break!
If you feel you are ready to start being more productive but are struggling to figure out how to make it happen, here are some tips.
Sample Chore Schedule
Once everyone is sleeping a bit better and feeling more energetic to get some things done here are sample tasks broken down by the best time of day to do them :
- Create your to do list
- Accomplish Self Care Tasks Regularly first (I have realized moms who shower, do their hair and make up daily typically start these tasks before their babies wake up, so they are getting up early but this only works when your baby is sleeping through the night consistently)
- Sample Mornings tasks: after self -care
- unloading clean dishwasher (toddler “helps”)
- putting on a load of laundry into the washing machine (my son is good about going to the basement to do this with me, but it can be a little stressful if I have to carry him and the hamper so sometimes I leave it until nap)
- grocery shopping
- Sample Nap Time/Lunch
- Flipping laundry to dryer
- Cleaning floors (my son used to slip on the wet floors so doing this while baby is sleeping lets them dry before the baby wakes up)
- Put dirty dishes from breakfast and lunch into dishwasher/hand clean the things that need it
- I use nap time to clean areas of the house that we never spend time in. Typically, those are the areas of the house where my son is not comfortable or does not remain entertained long enough for me to do anything or he just generally doesn’t enjoy being there so we are not in those rooms much.
- Parents’ bedroom
- Basement etc.
- Help my teenager with schoolwork
- Do my work/hobby/interest/read
- Exercise if I was not able to do it in the morning
- Fold laundry (I can usually do this while my son plays)
- Clean floors
- Finish loading and run the dishwasher so when you wake up the dishes are clean
- Quick 10 minutes per room on the main floor picking items up and putting them away (for a long time this worked and was great, but now at 1.5 years old my son literally walks behind me and dumps things out even worse then they were before I fixed them… so after an hour of frustration I realized I can quick pick up surface areas he can’t reach and leave the rest for when he goes to sleep….. or not!).
- Read a book, do something for mommy’s interests/hobbies
Breaking the day down into sections helps to organize your time and efforts into more manageable blocks of time. Otherwise, the day can go by quickly and then you realize you did not accomplish your 1 task!
Focusing On One Room Per Day
Another great option is to pick one room in the house per day of the week that you can focus on. I try to do a deep dive in the kitchen cabinets once a month, same with the bathroom/hall etc. Right now my garage is a total disaster but it’s too cold for me to spend much time outside, so that will have to wait until spring.
By focusing attention on one room per day it can help to avoid just quick clean ups that do not five you the time to actually organize or figure out how things could be better placed to help you function better.
At first, whenever my baby was napping but I didn’t want to I really had a hard time getting motivated. I felt like I needed some me time as a reward and if I did chores first and then sat down I felt like my baby would wake up as soon as I sat. I get it! It is ok to do that once in a while. What I started doing was setting a timer or have an agreed upon time for myself to start doing a task and I would pick the simplest task that I could zone out doing.
One of the best ways for me to remain productive during nap time is to call a family member or friend and talk to them while I do my chores. Some days I will listen to an audio book, some of my favorite youtube channels or a podcast. Having this little bit of entertainment while I am knocking things off my to do list helps to keep me focused, makes the time pass quickly, and avoids boredom.
Another thing to remember is as you do certain chores your baby is learning and they can participate with you. My son loves to sweep, clean up spills, his favorite is washing dishes in the sink! These are good lessons for your child and can allow you to be productive while playing with your baby.
BUT the tasks that you’re able to do with your child will change as your child moves into different developmental stages, so just be aware if you are getting frustrated/no longer able to do something with your child, it’s ok. Just move that now to a nap time task and see if they can help you with something else while they are awake (or maybe they can’t and you need to be with them in their world for a bit).
Remember, be kind to yourself and take it one day at at a time.