Back to Work with a Baby: Part 3

Editorial-Illustration-Home-Office-Ink-Blogging-Illustration-Kondrich

 

 

The topic for this installment of “Back to Work with a Baby” is Professionalism. That’s right, with a capital “P.”

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been doing some on-site whiteboard work for a local ad agency in the morning. It’s been great to be so busy and to have a chance to get out of the house. Of course, this has put added pressure on my husband who went a week and a half without a morning to himself.

While the timing actually worked out quite well for the on-site work, it was frustrating to feel like I had to limit the number of hours I was away. This was for a few different reasons. My husband teaches and has other work as well, so he needed to be gone most afternoons. Not only does that mean that he needs the car, but someone obviously needs to be home with the baby. Also, since I am breastfeeding I need to be home to feed the baby or at least take a break to pump (sorry if that’s TMI). Being gone all day without pumping is not an option.

(Realtime Rant: GARBAGE TRUCKS! Why do they always show up when the baby is napping? Oh, excuse me, it’s the recycling truck, which is even louder.)

I’ll give you an update on our child care situation in a bit, but first I want to talk about how difficult it can be to present yourself professionally when you need to schedule around the baby and the baby’s naps.

Phone calls present the biggest challenge. If I try to schedule them when the baby might be napping, it’s a total crap shoot. If she does happen to be napping that’s great, but if she wakes up mid-call and I’m here alone with her that’s a problem. The person on the other end of the line will very likely hear her crying as I go to pick her up and my attention is then divided. And if they need to reference an email or document, I’m away from my computer and/or standing and bouncing with a potentially hungry baby. Typically that’s the worst of it, but even if my husband is home to watch her while I’m on the phone, we have a small apartment. If the baby is fussy or crying, there’s really nowhere for me to go where she won’t be heard.

It’s a bit embarrassing when I’m speaking with a client or potential client and I have to apologize for the baby. Of course she is my ultimate priority right now, but I don’t want my clients to feel as though my attention is too divided to do their projects justice. The truth is that it’s not affecting the quality of the work that I am producing and they shouldn’t have to worry about it.

When it comes to scheduling, my main approach is to simply not mention why I may not be available at a particular time. Illustrators’ schedules vary so widely that we shouldn’t be expected to be available to start a project immediately and to work on nothing but that project until it’s done. I am a people-pleaser, though, and I often will try to give my clients that sort of attention and availability. But now, more than ever, I need to be firm about my schedule and there is no reason for them to know when I’m scheduling around another project and when I’m scheduling around the little one.

Fortunately, we have found a babysitter we like. She’s not always as available as we’d like during the day, but it’s certainly a start. It’s a bit strange to be home with the babysitter, but we’ve been having the kind of weather that has allowed her to take the baby out to the park for an hour or two while I’m home working. We found the babysitter through SitterCity. There are a few different online babysitting services and we’ve only tried this one and happened to hire the first babysitter we interviewed, so I can’t really provide much of a review. We are still looking for another sitter who might be available when our current sitter is not.

What’s wonderful is that our baby is now over 3 months old and is a constant source of joy and laughter. She smiles constantly, laughs if you tickle her just right, and wants to talk to you all day long. Her new interactivity means that getting work done when she’s awake is even harder, but it’s totally worth it.

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Back to Work with a Baby: Part 2

Sketchbook-Sketching-Michelle-Kondrich

 

Many of you read my post a couple of weeks ago about getting back to work now that I have a baby. This is the second in what will be a series of posts on the topic.

Thankfully, some of the fear that I was experiencing a few weeks ago was pushed aside by new work coming in. I’ve received my first editorial assignments for the year and that gave me an easy way back into sketching without the pressure.

Actually, sketching for some of these jobs has lead to more sketching than I would normally have done. Working on some practice sketches for the final illustrations felt really, REALLY good. The fun and pure enjoyment of drawing is back and is stoking my creative fires. And now that we have a two-month old who is basically sleeping through the night most nights (until I post this, then she’ll probably quit!) I’m a lot more rested.

With the influx of new work has come a different baby-related issue that we hadn’t expected to deal with so soon and that is the division of labor. I don’t mean the division of labor around the house, though that’s an issue that I think every couple with a new baby has to work through. I mean the division of time spent with the baby and time spent on our own work since we both work from home most of the time.

Our little one is now spending a lot more time awake and alert, which is great for getting lots of smiles, new sounds and crazy faces, but makes it much more challenging to get work done. Those awake times often require a lot of holding, and, of course, we want to be engaged with her as much as we can.

Working towards non-traditional and creative careers means that paying for daycare or a nanny is financially beyond our reach. We have friends and family that can help out here and there, but we will need to sort out some sort of long-term plan. Sometimes we put her in our baby carrier so she will nap or hang out while leaving our hands free, but it’s still limiting. Her naps are really our saving grace, but they are not at all predictable yet in terms of how long she will sleep. We do our best to take shifts, but at a certain point she’s hungry and I am the only source of food (fitting in time to pump so that my husband can feed her is another issue entirely).

I guess what I’m saying now is that we simply don’t have a plan that’s working yet. I wanted to share this despite not having any real advice to give on the matter. Our solution for right now is my mother coming to stay with us for a few days–maybe she can offer a bit of wisdom on the subject.

Something that adds to the complexity of child care in our situation is flexibility. I have not started looking into daycare or anything yet, so I don’t know how flexible they are with our schedule. Could we take her three days one week and half a day the next? In a perfect world we would have access to a nanny or babysitter (or service that provides them) and we could call a few days in advance to get someone for the time we need.

So that’s where we are for the time being. We are looking into all of our options and will hopefully have something sorted out in the coming weeks.

We’re going to have to get good at interviewing babysitters.