By BMSG Editorial Team
For many of us who are thinking of returning to work after giving birth, childcare is always a concern especially when we have a breastfeeding baby. We speak to one mum, Anne Lee (not her real name), who decided to work from home so that she could direct latch her baby full-time.
We recognise that this is not an option for everyone. However, if you have some flexibility to do so, this article tells us about the challenges and advantages of working from home with a breastfed baby.
It has been slightly over a year that Anne Lee has been working from home. As a breastfeeding mother, Anne had only decided to work from home after she was almost reaching the end of her Maternity Leave last year when she was contemplating her next move. At that time, she was already 10 years into her job and she felt that she wanted a much-needed change of environment.
Concerned about Childcare
The mother of one, who now works in sales and also manages the business’ administrative processes mostly from home, said that a strong motivation for her to work from home was also in part motivated by a miscarriage that she had suffered previously. That experience taught her to change her priorities.
“I decided to focus on my family first,” said Anne, referring to her need to find more time to be with her rainbow baby. She was also at a juncture where she had “no concrete plans” and was willing to change the manner in which she was to be employed. “We all know that with children, plans can change along the way,” said Anne, who then settled by applying for a job that allowed her to be at home.
Breastfeeding on Demand
While flexibility may seem to be the main perk of the job, it is breastfeeding on demand and being able to witness her baby’s every milestone that allow her the greatest satisfaction. “We breastfeed on demand and I also allow him to nap at his pace. We don’t follow a schedule,” said Anne. “I also get to see all his firsts: his first steps, his first words. I also appreciate the close bond we have,” she added.
It is not always a bed of roses. While Anne has some flexibility to complete her tasks, she sometimes is still required to conduct sales meetings with clients or attend internal huddles with colleagues. She still brings her baby along with her for such situations since she is her baby’s main caregiver. When asked how she copes with baby’s needs, she replied: “Nursing baby in carrier during meetings or when he naps.” Anne also added that since her baby is older now, she also needs to ensure her meetings are in enclosed spaces so that she can monitor her baby while still attending the meetings.
It is also equally demanding when she is working at home. As her baby is older now, he is also more expressive and may have some meltdowns in the day. “Sometimes I have to manage his tantrums and it gets challenging especially since I am alone at home,” said Anne. Her baby is also more active now and she needs to ensure that his environment is safe. She sometimes has no choice but to multi-task or to delay her work till the wee hours of the morning. If her work gets overwhelming, she may also at times feel too exhausted to play with her child.
On days when she has to complete her work in the early mornings, Anne may sometimes need to pop in and out of her room to feed her baby for night feedings while doing work in her home office. She admits that she sometimes sleeps very late but she will join her son when he wakes up and she will focus her attention on her baby.
Working from home can also be exhausting and she feels that people always assume mothers who work from home have a lot more free time. “I have to learn to multi-task, sometimes ‘triple-task’, to get things done,” said Anne. She also manages some of the household chores and cooks her baby’s meals. Her husband relieves some of the housework when he returns in the evening, either by helping to cook their dinner or manage simple chores such as washing the dishes.
Due to her unconventional choice to bring her baby along to meetings, Anne feels that she is educating others about how parenting a child need not limit a parent’s work options. Some of the people she has met for meetings had assumed that she was on leave when she brought her baby in her carrier. “I think it is because I am always with him so he is calm even when I am out. I receive comments that he seems to be an easy baby to care for,” Anne said.
No Looking Back
For Anne, being at home means having full flexibility to exercise her parenting preference of wanting to be with baby during the foundational years of his life. She urges parents to consider the option of working from home if they can afford it. “I am always concerned about who I should entrust my child to. I am most worried about how a caregiver can affect my child’s character or upbringing,” Anne added. She also felt that she is most concerned about her baby turning sick and being at home allowed her to tend to him while still not neglecting her work responsibilities.
“I am always concerned about who I should entrust my child to. I am most worried about how a caregiver can affect my child’s character or upbringing.”
When asked if she would ever consider returning to a full-time job back at the office or some sort of childcare arrangement, Anne emphasised that she is still happiest with what she is going through currently. “I plan to put him in a half-day or full-day playgroup but nothing’s confirmed yet,” said Anne. “I don’t want him to spend all his time in school when he can be at home,” she added. Anne is also concerned about scheduling and feels that a baby has no regular ‘timetable’. “I find working from home very helpful especially since children need parents to be flexible. I don’t believe in putting my baby to sleep at a certain time when they are not ready for it. They will sleep when they want to.”