How To Work From Home With A Baby

by Matthew J.X. Malady

People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, Sad Desk Salad author Jessica Grose tells us about the travails of freelancing.

The heart break of a home office.

— Jessica Grose (@JessGrose) November 22, 2013

Jessica! I’ve been meaning to ask you about this one for a while. So what happened here?

This was the first time my daughter, who at that point was about 11 months old, realized that when I closed the door to my room I still existed. Or at least that was the first time she showed me that she knew I was there. She was actually pretty reasonable about it. She pawed and mewled at the door a few times and when I ignored her, she eventually moved along. Though I didn’t encourage her — I didn’t want her to be pawing at the door every time I worked from home — I did have an intense, multifaceted reaction. It was a mixture of sadness (poor baby!), mild annoyance (I’m on deadline, kid! Gotta keep paying for your goddamn organic fruit!), and pride (you figured out where mommy is!).

It’s important to note that this happened on a Friday. My daughter has a wonderful nanny who comes Monday through Thursday and works 9–5. I work those hours, and often after she goes to sleep. Most Fridays, my parents come over to babysit. Now, I am incredibly grateful for the free childcare once a week, and lucky to have my parents so nearby. Bless their aged Jewish hearts! But in my experience, you get what you pay for. My daughter has never once pawed at the door when the nanny watches her. That’s because the nanny is not napping (dad) or reading depressing novels on her iPad (mom) while she cares for my kid. She’s a pro!

What advice would you give to parents of young children who are looking to work from home with a little kid (or kids) around?

I sort of had this fantasy before I had my daughter that I would write while the baby napped. Alice Munro did it! To that I say: ha ha, hahahahahahaahahhaa. I have a shared workspace that is reasonably priced and open 24 hours a day (Brooklyn Writers Space FTW), and I go there about 50 percent of the time. So if you can afford it, I would say have an escape hatch.

If you want to work from home, invest in a white noise machine-slash-giant fan that blocks out the din of your child. I am pretty good at focusing even when I’m home with my daughter and her nanny in our not-enormous apartment. Most of the time it’s really really lovely, and a great privilege. I can take a break and come out and kiss her or play with her for five minutes and then go back to work. If your kid distracts you, or if you’re a big procrastinator, or if you feel guilty about the whole thing, it might be harder to work from home.

Lesson learned (if any)?

That in the right circumstances, my kid looks like a mogwai coming to attack me.

Just one more thing.

My mom reminded me that I used to whine outside her home office. The seasons, they go ‘round and round, painted ponies and all that.

Matthew J.X. Malady is a writer and editor in New York.