Essential lessons the first week working with newborns at home
I went back to work this week after two weeks off with our newborn twins. Everyone said before that life would change and boy did going back make me notice. I realized quickly that there is just so little time in a day and every minute with the boys is precious. I also started prioritizing time at work a bit better thanks to a new appreciation for what is important. These are the big learnings from week one back at work.
- Not everything is important. Now you change diapers at 3:00am on 3 hours of sleep. You do this in the dark because every time you turn on the lights it wakes the banshees. Then their screaming increases the migraine that hasn’t gone away for a week. This gives you an appreciation of what is and what isn’t important at work. That 5:00 status meeting to plan for the next status meeting may not be the best use of your time. Hour-long arguments about whether tabs or spaces are better also aren’t important. Keeping a human being alive with food is. Keeping your team happy and productive is.
- Every minute is critical. Maximizing what you do in an hour between feeding is like trying to maximizing time between meetings. Don’t waste time with checking social media or less important work tasks. Focus on the best bang for the buck in that time.
- Time management and planning ahead are key to success and sanity. Planning a hike at 6:00pm with the lads requires planning back from feeding times to about 8:00am. Planning an entire day like this translates well to work. Plan your milestones and main goals for the day at the beginning of the day, otherwise time slips away.
- There is so little time after work for family time. Even if you leave early, you have to feed, change diapers, settle down, and feed yourselves. Then, there is only time for a short walk up the street and maybe an hour of time with the boys. Then you have to start to get ready for bed. This is actually super depressing. I look forward to them getting a bit older so they can stay up and we can have more bedtime story time.
- Trying to get a run in at night is impossible. It would steal the entire hour of bonding time. I’ve never been successful at getting into the habit of running in the morning for more than a day or two. Everyone raves about the benefits of doing so. I do tend to feel better for the whole day when running in the morning. With the boys as consistent alarms clocks at 5:00am, this is easier. But with the interrupted sleep schedule, I haven’t made it through the morning feeding without immediately falling asleep.
- Fight dad-bod. With limited time for running and a lot of couch time, the new dad needs to get creative. I started taking the steps at work. This was mostly because the elevator has been really slow. However, it still helps stay in shape. The 16 floor climb nearly killed me on the first day, so I’ve only been going down since. Time to amp it up.
- Make time for yourself. This means at work as well as at home. There may not be many opportunities which is why you need to make the most of what you have. I started blocking off 8–10 in the morning for getting ready for the day and getting started on the highest priority for the day. I’ve also started requesting meetings after 5:00 get rescheduled. Obviously some can’t, but pushing back seems to work in way more cases than expected. No one is going to tell you to stay late at the cost of time with your new kids in the beginning.
- Stop trying to do it all. You have a huge new set of priorities in life. The balance of work and life is going to shift, presumably in favor of family life. Ask for help at home when possible too so that this doesn’t shift so much that your work suffers.
- Positive conditioning works better than negative. I learned this training Hershey, potentially the most food motivated dog in the world. It applies just as much to kids and co-workers. I only start feeding the boys when they take at least a pause from wailing. At work, I’m trying to give more feedback, particularly positive.
Splitting time between work and kids is a challenge for many. There’s a reason it’s called work-life balance and not a work-life solution. For those willing to work hard to manage that balance and make the most of both, the rewards and motivation can be great. It’s a lot of work and never gets easy, but the results are worth it when you can find success at home and in your career.