When my third child was born I was working for a small company and did not have maternity leave. My husband had family leave for several weeks and when that time was up and he went back to work I decided to keep the baby home for a while before sending her to daycare with her brother. As a Web Developer that works from home almost exclusively I occasionally have a kid or two (or three) home if school or daycare is out for the day. In addition, my husband works out of town 3 days/2 nights a week. Things can get a little chaotic around here to say the least.
The Juggling Act in Action
So how can a “developer mom” manage all the things? Here’s a few tools I keep in my “mom stack.”
Laptop — this one is pretty obvious. Sometimes you need to code from the couch with a sick kid, or at bedtime when the baby is nursing down for the night.
Boppy/nursing pillow — if you’re working with a small baby, a boppy style pillow can be a life saver. During the day if I’m working at my desk, the boppy’s on my lap and the baby on top of that nursing or napping. At night when I’m nursing the baby down and I want to get a few extra minutes of coding in, I can prop up my laptop in bed next to me with the boppy on my lap.
Standing desk and wraps/baby carriers — if you have a baby you’re well aware that sometimes sitting is the last thing your baby wants you to do. I have an Ergotron Workfit sit and stand workstation so I can work while I stand (a handy purchase because of an old back injury). A standing desk combined with a woven wrap or any other type of baby carrier can buy you some extra coding time even when the small person in your life doesn’t allow sitting.
Split keyboard — in an unrelated search for an ergo keyboard for my mac I came across the Kinesis Freestyle. It’s available with a longer cord that connects the two sides which would allow you to type around a baby/kid on your lap if you were so inclined.
Wireless/bluetooth headset — baby’s love cords. If you ever need to jump on a Skype call or want to listen to music while you work, wireless is the way to go when there’s little grabby hands around. It also allows you to get up and walk the baby without being tied to the computer.
Bouncy chair — when you do get the kiddo to nap, a strategically placed bouncy chair (or rock and play) next to your desk that you can rock/bounce with your foot will free up your arms/lap for a while.
Pack and Play — a play yard/pack and play/play pen is useful if your little one likes to wander away and you are tired of leaving your work to chase her down. Another fun option is an exersaucer/go-pod/johnny jumper.
Reaching tool — seriously, you know as soon as the baby falls asleep on your lap you’ll drop your wireless mouse or your cell phone.
Pumping Station — this one is useful for when your kids aren’t around. I have a small table set up next to my desk for hold my breast pump, it saves a lot of time to leave it set up and ready to use. Not to mention when you work from home you can pump while you work instead of lugging everything to a mother’s room. The little table I use can double as a desk for an older kid who wants to “help”. Set them up with an iPad or an activity book and they can work away next to you for as long as their attention span allows.
Entertainment — I have a pile of toys next to my desk for tummy time/play time: some books, toy laptop, a mirror, etc. Sometimes the baby likes to play with an old keyboard and mouse or a television remote I have laying around. You can squeeze out some additional independent play time from a baby when you give them something they usually aren’t supposed to have, mommy’s “toys” are way more fun.
I ended up keeping the baby home for 6 months while I worked full time. Around 5 months she started getting more mobile and more interested in being entertained by me. And that was about the time she started trying to kick my keyboard off my desk while she nursed or trying to participate in my typing. So she is at daycare full time now with her older brother. But we still code together if she happens to be home with me off and on.