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"It was an absolute shock." The 3 things I wish I'd known about working from home with a baby.

When I was trying to get pregnant, I made a choice to quit my full-time job.

I remember the reactions I received from some of my closest friends and family. No doubt they thought I was flat out nuts, and to be perfectly honest, their reasons were valid.

I had been very fortunate to land a once-in-a-life-time position as a publicist for a very well-known company in Melbourne, and to leave after two years when I was really starting to get established seemed crazy.

But, my husband and I had made a sea change, and I was close to burn out with a four hour commute each day. So, with tears in my eyes, I decided to take the leap into freelancing, and began working remotely from home. All I needed was a laptop, WI-FI and a strong coffee to get the job done.

It was this style of work that I had envisaged for when I became a mum.

Watch: What you're like as a new mum, according to your star sign. Post continues below. 


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In my head, I had a really naïve view of juggling remote work with a baby. Think Dawson Leery, blue skies mentality.

It was simple, I thought. I would work during naps, and schedule meetings during those times. And if any work didn’t get done in that time? Well, I would smash that out in the evenings.

I remember talking to one of my close girlfriends who has two young kids aged five and two. I was so confident with my plan and how I would manage work and mum life. She didn’t explicitly say it, but I could tell she was concerned.

I shrugged it off. I will make it work – how hard can it be? Right?

When my little girl Lizzie came into the world, I was totally obsessed with this beautiful, squishy baby that I had created.

The newborn bubble was challenging, exciting and wondrous. Like all new mums, I had my struggles, in particular, that sense of identity and where I was going to fit in this new world.

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"When my little girl Lizzie came into the world, I was totally obsessed with this beautiful, squishy baby that I had created." Image: Supplied. 

The months went by and, before I knew it, my maternity leave had finished. I returned to work after five months.

I was excited to return. This was all part of my plan, and I thought I had cleverly figured out how to manage the juggle and logistics of being a remote working mum.

What was to come was a rollercoaster of highs and lows, tribulations, exhaustion and a sense of accomplishment, all wrapped in one.

There are, however, a few things that I wish I knew before I made the decision to return to freelancing life.

1. Nap times do not work like clockwork.

From day one, my working mantra was that routine is the key to getting sh*t done. I thought we would have our daily schedule and Lizzie would have two, two-hour naps per day. That’s four hours of work right there, and then I will do the remaining hours in the morning and evening. Heck, I might even have time to do a little pilates on the side.

So, it was an absolute shock to the system when I discovered that my little lady is the queen of FOMO (fear of missing out).  

Lizzie has never been partial to long naps, to the point where I was lucky to get an hour in before I would hear the little squeaky cry (it actually sounds more like a dinosaur) telling me she was awake.  

I worked early mornings and late nights for the days when teething, a poo explosion or even the noisy garbage truck (I dread Thursdays) would wake her. This was manageable, but a real eye-opener to my naïve view of napping.

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The anxiety was crippling. As a result, I realised very early on that I needed support. My mum, who lives in NSW, came down to help for a month, and I am very fortunate to have the best mother-in-law who has been so supportive throughout my motherhood journey.

The phrase “it takes a village” resonates so deeply with me now, and I am so grateful for the community who have supported my husband and I as we raise our little lady.  

Listen to Mamamia's podcast, 'Me After You'. Host Laura Byrne walks us through the big post-motherhood moments. Post continues below. 

2. Mum guilt is real.

My next discovery was that mum guilt can lead to burnout. For every email I answered when Lizzie was awake, I felt this lump in my chest that welled up inside. That niggling little voice singing, “you’re a bad mum,” over and over in my head. 

It got to a point where I never switched off. I was completely exhausted. I was ready to look at daycare as an option, but then COVID-19 hit and our enrolment was delayed by eight long months thanks to two rounds of lockdown in Melbourne.

Since then, I have learnt to set boundaries with my time, and Lizzie is now thriving at daycare. No doubt, the mum guilt is still there. To be honest, I think each mum finds their own unique way to manage it. For me, I am still searching for that answer.

3. Courage through community.

And finally, I have been in awe of the kindness of people. My family, friends, colleagues, and especially those who are mums, who have been so generous with their time, support, encouragement and advice.

Courage through community has been my vice. And as more women become their own bosses or work remotely due to the pandemic, I have no doubt that we will continue to embrace this way of working.

I don’t know if balance is ever fully possible – read Felicity Harley’s book for a refreshing take on the ‘B’ word – but I know that with women continuing to support women, anything and everything is possible.

Emma Burrows is the Founder of FIG PR, a friendly PR agency that offers unique mentoring and training services for small businesses. Emma has a one-year old little girl called Lizzie and lives with her husband, Michael, on the beautiful Mornington Peninsula.


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