The purpose of this article is to:
- Help folks realize that working from home and taking care of a child is not as easy as you might think. It’s actually much easier to drop your kid off at daycare.
- Discuss ways to be a better parent and more efficient producer while at home.
- Encourage the 3% of the male parent population who are stay at home dads to speak up about their experiences. And of course hear from stay at home moms as well.
- To recognize there is no one way to raise a baby since every baby and family situation is different.
According to Pew Research, two-parent households where both parents work full-time today make up 46 percent of the population, compared to 31 percent in 1970. We didn’t want to be one of the 46 percent so we carefully planned for a life where we could both spend much as time raising our son while also keeping intellectually stimulated. We’ve only got one chance.
Working from home is more efficient than working in an office. You don’t have to waste time commuting. You’ll never get interrupted by colleagues and there aren’t as many meetings. I can get done in four hours what it takes 10 hours to do in the office.
Before my son was born, I thought it’d be relatively easy to be a stay at home and work from home dad as well. But I was wrong. Here are some reasons why it’s difficult to do both:
1) A life is in your hands. One look away and your baby or toddler could suffocate from a pillow, fall off the sofa, bonk his head while trying to stand, impale his eyes with a stick, or die in his sleep. You are always on duty as a stay at home parent. The only time you can rest is if your little one rests. Even then, rest may be a rarity as he may wake up constantly for the first several years. If you slack off at work, like most people do, generally nothing bad happens. If you slack off with your baby, it could be a disaster.
2) It’s impossible to create good work and provide quality care at the same time. Because you can’t lose sight of your baby for more than several seconds, the idea of concurrently working and caring is impossible. I can hold my baby on the floor and read my phone at the same time, but that’s about it. Goodness forbid you have to do something like write, draw, or design for work. When taking care of a little one, it’s best to be 100% present.
3) You lose your independence. There is never a regular schedule to follow when you are a stay at home parent. Your day is dictated by your little one’s sleep schedule, bathroom schedule, eating schedule, and doctor visits. You are working whenever there is a glimpse of free time like I’m doing now at 11pm. The more independent you were before having kids, the harder the adjustment.
4) You relive all the unpleasantries of life. Most of us who are healthy don’t see the doctor more than once a year. But if you have a little one, you are visiting a pediatrician about every three months and visiting other specialists if your baby has other developmental issues. While at the pediatrician, your baby is examined thoroughly and gets injected with vaccines, which hopefully cause no harm. And if you have to visit the hospital or a specialist, you may see other patients with issues much worse than your little one’s.
5) You are always tired. Getting enough sleep is one of the keys to a happy and productive life. Your cognitive ability literally declines by 80%+ if you are sleep deprived. Having to take care of your little one while also having the responsibility of financially providing for your family drastically cuts into the amount and quality of sleep you can get. For the first three months of my baby’s life, I felt like I pulled an all-nighter at work every other night. You get through the exhaustion by telling yourself, “this too shall pass.”
6) You feel their pain. If you are a normal, sympathetic human being, you will feel the pain your child goes through as if it were your own. When your baby or toddler is crying, your body will naturally tense up trying to figure out what’s wrong. Is he hungry? Is he tired? Does he have a tummy ache? A cold? Is he too hot? Does he have a blocked nasal passage? The longer your little one cries, the more pain you feel until it sometimes becomes unbearable where you also start crying.
Division Of Labor
Having a partner makes life easier. For all the single parents out there, you deserve ALL the respect in the world for trying to make things work. Your ability to multi-task is truly extraordinary.
My wife and I work well together because I spent my career in a client facing role that was responsible for revenue generation and she spent her career in an operations role to help make the system work. I would not be where I am today without my wife.
Primary Dad Responsibilities
* Writing articles and creating podcasts (iTunes channel link)
* Revenue generation and business development
* Social media
* Mass media outreach (giving written and oral interviews mostly)
* Accounts receivable – following up with vendors who have a propensity not to pay on time
* Attending business functions
* Reading and researching about a baby’s developmental milestones
* Driving the family
* Ordering and preparing food
* Cleaning bottles, dishes, kitchen, and dining room
* Investing cash flow and managing our net worth, which can be a full-time job
* Gardening and home maintenance
* HS tennis coaching (3.5 months a year) and foster kid mentoring (once a week)
* Provide ~6 hours of care for our son (1-3 hours in the morning, 1-3 hours in the afternoon, and 2-4 hours in the evening, depending on afternoon/evening functions)
Primary Mom Responsibilities
* Business accounting and bookkeeping
* Calculating and paying business taxes and California state business filings
* Managing business office
* General operations including payroll, health insurance, dental insurance, workers comp insurance
* Graphics and working with graphic designers
* Miscellaneous business related functions such as coming up with promotional codes, coordinating with our system administrator to fix bugs, customer support
* Taking care of our son from bedtime to morning (this is is huge because he wakes up multiple times a night)
* Ordering all baby food, clothing, diapers, supplies, toys, carriers, strollers, chairs, and books
* Scheduling doctors appointments
* Handles all communications and troubleshooting with insurance agents, back end partners, and vendors such as Aweber, Comcast, AT&T, utility companies etc.
* Manages all back end functions for the e-book store
* Occasional editing of articles
* Diaper changing
* Working on achieving gross motor and fine motor milestones
* Keeping the house tidy
Phew! After writing out all the responsibilities, it’s no wonder why they say a stay at home parent is worth about $100,000 a year in salary while working 90 hours a week on average. There’s a lot to do!
A Day In The Life Of A Work From Home And Stay At Home Parent
After about the third month, I could not take staying up all night and working all day anymore. As a result, I asked my wife to be the sole caretaker once our little one went to bed. Thank God for her because I wouldn’t have been able to continue my writing cadence on Financial Samurai without her. So please give my wife a big THANK YOU if you’ve enjoyed Financial Samurai this year.
My wife is the CEO of our little one, and I’m the COO. For our business, I’m the CEO and she’s the COO. Since I’m an extrovert and she’s an introvert, this works well.
Here’s a typical schedule PST:
6am – 8am: Freshen up, read comments, respond to e-mails, follow up on loose ends, write a post, check investments, and make investment allocation decisions. My goal is to get 80%+ of my work done before my wife and my baby wake up so I can relieve her for 1-3 hours in the morning.
7:45am – 8:00am: Wash bottles, put away dishes, clean kitchen countertops, clean dining table. The goal is to do as much cleaning before our little one wakes up.
8am – 11am: Watch the little one for 1-3 hours so mama can shower, change, pump, catch up on news, e-mail, and rest. The rougher the night, the longer I will takeover. During this time I or we will change his diaper and feed him breakfast. We try our best to go for a walk outside in our Baby Bjorn carrier to get some fresh air and exercise.
I’ve had to do some major work adjustment this year because I’m a morning person, and for the past 5.5 years, I’ve written the majority of my posts during this time period. The mornings are when I’m most creative. By the evening, my creative energy disappears because I’m more tired.
11 am – 1pm: Our son will nap between 30 minutes – 1.5 hours in the late morning. We’ll try to use this time to catch up on work or take a power nap ourselves.
1pm – 2pm: Lunch time! Our goal is to feed him 40+ bites of solid food and have him drink 4-6 ounces of milk. He’s not that picky of an eater, thank goodness. But he doesn’t eat that much compared to other babies his age.
2pm – 4pm: When we have the energy, we’ll go for a walk in the botanical gardens, the science museum, or go to a local playground. Otherwise, we’ll just let him roam the house and discover the new things we’re constantly getting him.
4pm – 6pm: More time spent diaper changing, playing, and helping our little one reach milestones. We’ll also do a lot of fun cognitive exercises like trying to stack toys and constantly read stories. Currently we’re working on clapping, waving, finger pointing, and walking at 11 months old. Around 5:30pm-6pm is dinner time where we try and get him to eat at least 40 bites of solid food and drink 6 ounces of milk.
6pm – 7:30pm: We give him a warm bath to signal it’s sleep time within the next hour or so. I’ll either make the bath or watch over him while my wife makes the bath. We’ll then dry him up and try and feed him a 6-8 ounce bottle. If we are successful, my wife will sit him upright for 20-30 minutes while we read him several of his favorite books. During this time, it’s important to get a burp out of him to minimize his chances of spitting up during the night and choking.
7:30pm – 12midnight: My wife and I try to spend at least one hour of alone time together each night. 60% of the time it works. 40% of the time we’re either too tired or have to catch up on work that we missed during the day.
I’m awake until midnight to provide assistance if my wife needs a bottle warmed up, a diaper changed, or some tag team soothing. All she has to do is text me. If no assistance is needed, I do about an hour of online work and unwind.
Midnight – 7:30am: Despite a long day, my wife is now flying solo. She is waking up to soothe our son, feed him, and pump. Sometimes he cries out for no good reason and then goes back to bed. But the random stirs always wake up my wife because she is so in tune with his rhythm. Knowing my wife takes care of the entire night now is the reason why I’m motivated to keep working hard on the business during the day.
Tips For Better Work And Childcare
Here’s what we’ve learned to make things better at home for the first year. They say that the first year of care is the toughest. Feel free to share whether you think this is true or not.
1) Get as much sleep as possible. Without enough sleep everything goes downhill. You will be dumber, slower, crankier, less patient, and less attentive. Your relationships will suffer without sleep. Therefore, if it’s a choice between going down the Facebook rabbit hole or sleep, always choose sleep.
2) Find help. If you have a spouse that works or you have work to do at home and don’t have a fellow stay-at-home spouse, find help ASAP. It is a PITA to find someone you can trust and depend on. Therefore, you must start the interview process as soon as possible. The cost is well worth it. Further, this cost won’t last forever as your child will eventually go to school.
3) Set time and space boundaries. If you don’t set boundaries, there will be constant interruption when it’s time to work. Lock yourself in a room to work more efficiently. Nobody can bother you unless it’s an emergency. You will feel so much better if you can get the most important work out of the way in the morning. If not, your mind will wander about the things left undone when its your turn to take care of your little one.
4) Communicate, communicate, communicate. There can never be enough communication. Always remind your partner about your upcoming schedule so they don’t make assumptions about your availability. If you have a particularly long day in the future, let it be known so your partner can mentally prepare beforehand. Use shared Notes and Calendar reminders on your phone.
5) Divide and conquer. Try to split things 50/50 as much as possible. It’ll help reduce resentment and increase appreciation of each other. Having a baby is very difficult on parents. But if you guys both pitch in, if you are lucky enough to have a partner, it makes all the difference in the world.
6) Consistently celebrate the wins. Your effort as parents and income producers must be celebrated. Celebration will help remind you why you are trying so hard every single day to care and provide for your family. Celebrate your baby’s first crawl, first step, first giggle, first wave, first word, first teeth, and first trip to the zoo with a video recordings and a journal. Celebrate winning a new client, reaching a new revenue milestone, getting a positive media mention, or cleaning up old files. When you are constantly focused on the purpose, you’ll get through the hard times easier.
Things Get Better Over Time
I’ve noticed an improvement in the quality of our lives as each month goes by. The first three months were brutal due to the tremendous lack of sleep for everyone. By the sixth month, our son would often sleep at least three hours in one stretch, and sometimes 4-5 hours at a time.
We made a conscience decision NOT to sleep train our baby using the cry-it-out method because we have nowhere to go the next morning. Instead, we use a softer sleep training method. It hurts us too much to abandon him in the crib and hear him cry until he hyperventilates. As a result, our days and nights are long. But we believe that by the time our son is 3, he should be able to sleep at least 8 hours a night uninterrupted. So we soldier on.
Even though it’s hard being a stay at home parent who also has a business to run, I’ve never felt so much love, satisfaction, and gratitude as I have during the first year of my son’s life. My son has crystallized the value of financial independence and having a lifestyle business.
We’ve had our rough moments mostly due to my lack of patience, a loss of freedom, constant worry as first-time parents, and her sleep deprivation. But we know that in the end, we will look back and know we did the best we could no matter how our son turns out.
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