Tip #4: Train your baby for independent play
I learned this one from my mother: when I was just a baby, my mother “trained” me to be comfortable playing by myself. Early on, this involved setting my in my crib with a few books and walking out of the room. Quickly, I learned the pleasures of alone time, and was content to play by myself with a few toys and books for at least half an hour at a time. This gave my mother the opportunity to get some much-needed work done (or, hell, rest for a minute), and taught me early on to use my imagination.
Now, as an adult, I love quiet. I love being alone. I have never felt truly bored. Ever. Isn’t that strange? I attribute all of this to my parents and their emphasis on alone time. As a working-from-home-with-baby mom (I still don’t know what to call it), I’ve found this practice to be essential to my own productivity.
I began when Chloe was young. At about the same time every day, I’d put her in her crib with the book Art for Baby and let her stare at the pictures for a while. If she got fussy, I’d go in and coo at her for a little until she calmed down, then would resume my post in the next room (keeping her baby monitor close by). Very quickly, her baby brain began to recognize this daily ritual of “quiet time.”
Now that she is older, I make sure Chloe has 2 quiet “half hours” (longer if she’s into it) every day. For the first half hour, generally between breakfast and lunch, I let her sit in my bed and read to herself. I make a big show of selecting a stack of books, laying them all out, and letting her pick which one to start. My voice is upbeat and excited, showing her what an awesome opportunity it is to get some alone time! Right now, as I write this, I can hear her making animal noises and babble sounds. It’s been 20 minutes already, and she hasn’t looked for me once. Bonus: this usually leads into nap time, so I get another hour-plus of work under my belt.
For the second half hour, I let her do an activity, independently. Yesterday, I made a batch of homemade finger paint. I played with her for a bit, then set her up with a few more sheets of paper and sat at the table answering emails while she continued to create. Happy as a clam, she made about a dozen pictures, and I only had to intervene once (when those chubby little fingers got a little tooooo close to the walls).
By adding these “quiet times” to our daily routine, I get an extra bonus hour of productivity. This is enough time to reach out to clients, write a press release, or design a brochure, tasks that need quick bursts of focus.
I sometimes think that because moms have the pressure of “being it all,” this negatively informs how we interact with our children. The tendency is to be hovering all the time, watching the baby’s every movement, over-narrating ever gesture so that the baby learns, dammit!, detracts from the very important task of allowing the child to explore their own individuality. I’ve sat in a library with mothers who follow their toddler’s every footstep, narrating along the way (“Left foot! Right foot! Great job, Johnny! Now reach for a book! It’s a red book! Okay, the blue book! Now open it!”) As well-intended these narrations are, I sometimes wonder if in Johnny’s little baby brain he’s thinking “will you be quiet for just one second?!”
One thing a working-from-home mom lacks is quiet. By instituting some (mandatory) independent play into your child’s day, you may be one step closer to achieving even the most fleeting moments of silence.
Little disclosure: I am not a child development expert, nor claim to be an expert of any sort. I am just sharing the things I’m learning on my journey as a working-with-baby mom. What works for me, may not work for you. And that’s just great.