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Ask HN: I work from home and I’m expecting a kid this year, I need pro tips
47 points by etxm 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 44 comments
I work from home and occasionally travel. My wife an I are expecting our first child this year and I’m curious what pro-tips other remote employees with kids have.

Father of 2 who were born 11 months apart. So I have a few pro tips for you:

1. One of you (your wife or you) needs to be fully available for taking care of the baby. If both of you need to go back to work right away (probably in America), then you will need a good Nanny who has experience taking care of infants.

2. You cannot wing it. Infants need a lot of attention even though they just sleep and poop all day. Again, one dedicated person needs to be there for them.

3. If you work from home, even with a dedicated caretaker, it will be ideal to have a closed door office/room where you work. You cannot work with a baby close by unless you absolutely have no choice.

4. Depending on your baby, you may have many sleepless nights in the beginning. It cannot just be your wife doing the sleepless nights. She will need your support which translates to "waking up randomly to check on your baby who is crying in their crib"

5. Do some research on this horrible thing called SIDS. Hopefully none of us never ever have to deal with it but it happens to people. Protect your baby as much as possible against SIDS by following a few basic but important rules.

6. Make a list of chores that are needed specifically to take care of the baby and divide the work between the 2 of you. Don't leave things for guessing even though be willing to change things at last min. Pro tip: No matter how much you plan in advance, a baby will make you change things at the last minute. Nature of the beast :) but still plan.

7. Family Support: If you can, get help from immediate family as needed for both emotional and physical support. You may not realize but even a 30 min. break away from the baby can do wonders to your emotional well being. Babies are tough and they will test your patience. That's ok. Just learn to find some time away from all of it. Family members specially moms/dads are the best way to address that if you are lucky enough to have them close by.

8. MOST IMPORTANTLY: Don't worry about things too much and most babies turn out fine. So enjoy the little moments with them as they will grow up so fast that you wouldn't even believe it. You can never be a perfect dad or mom. But you can be a dad. Just be there. Show up. That's the most important thing. All the best!!

Regarding point 1, I would recommend one parent becoming full-time parent and forgo work. My wife stayed at home to raise our two daughters (both in school now). Creates a better dynamic for the children and for the parents, these aren't times you can get back.

If you decide to do this, take it seriously and treat homemaking as full-time work. Make regular payments into retirement and disability accounts in the stay-at-home parent's name. If you envision longer-term SAH parenting, make time for them to attend first aid, outdoorsmanship, pedagogy, home repair, etc. classes on occasion. If both parents will be at home, try to find activities that will allow you to have conversations with other adults outside of your family unit (occasional "continuing homemaker's ed" classes like those mentioned previously can help with this). Have a plan to ease back into the workforce gradually as the kids get older or suddenly if you suffer a financial shock.

This. So much this.

Raising a family is one chapter in your lives. Make the decisions/sacrifices/changes/committments to do it right. You only get one chance.

Here's one possible way: move out to the country, so that you can set a housing budget that does not require two salaries. With your mate, look at your relative strengths and desires, and adjust your work lives to get the income you need and not more. Spend the rest of the time with your kids. Give work travel to your colleagues with no kids, stay home. It's just 15 years, you've got plenty of career after this chapter is over.

Also, to have two parents available, you need to not get divorced. Which means in addition to keeping you kids healthy you have to protect your relationship from degrading.

Good luck!

I hate to sound like an asshole but man having kids sounds terrible.

Its something for grown ups for sure.

I'll drink beer and have fun with my life instead.

Just putting it out there, there are plenty of people that feel the same way you do. Of course, there are also plenty of people who don't. The great part about having kids is you don't have to :)

This is awesome. Thanks.

I have two kids and have worked remotely since before they were born.

1. Try to take as much parental leave as possible initially. The baby stages are so much fun and no matter how much time you spend with them before going back to work, you'll wish there was more.

2. Don't expect to be able to watch your child and work simultaneously. I have done it in limited fashion (kid is sick/daycare closed etc) and it can be very hard. This mainly goes for the younger years (< 5).

3. When you travel, dedicate time to Skype/Facetime with your child.

Congrats on becoming a parent! It's seriously a blast and I wish you and your wife the best of luck!

My wife luckily works in the school system and gets a pretty decent maternity leave for the US. I was planning to take at least a month off, possibly half time for a few months.

Re: FaceTime, is that for you or the baby?

Does a baby understand that’s you on the other side of the screen!!? I wonder if there is research on this. That’s interesting.

Kids get FaceTime and video calls way easier than voice only. My kids (2,4,6) are completely uninterested in a voice only call, but when I FaceTime them we can have 15-20 minutes of interaction.

When it’s voice only my kids will still try and show a picture to the phone, etc. and when we tell them it’s just voice and the person can’t see them they just ask why not.

I’ll add my own memories to the anecdote: when I was a kid my dad’s family would call from overseas. Even though my Arabic was passable, my grandma wouldn’t get more than a hello, I love you, and I miss you out of me. Why? The sound quality sucked, the timing was off, and I couldn’t really picture my grandma in my mind while talking. If there had been FaceTime in 1988 it wouldve been a different story. In 2005 my Arabic was WAY worse but our conversations way more expressive even with crappy video.

I travel a few days a month, those 15 minutes of FaceTime when I get back to the hotel probably do more for me than them.

You need about 18 years of leave, give or take a few years depending on the kid. You could outsource part of this, but that is a bit like putting your kid up for adoption. Parenting is about being there for times both good and bad, which mostly can not be scheduled. ("Now it is time to skin your knee so I can show fatherly love, OK?") There is no substitute for putting in the time.

Spend the money on an office space close to home if you can. I pay ~$350/mo for an office that's a 10 minute walk from home. So I get to see my kids during lunch, and don't waste time commuting in the morning or evening. The physical separation helps me maximize quality time with family. If your headspace is filled with work while you're at home or vice versa, then nobody will feel like they have your full attention, which becomes very stressful for all involved. Clear boundaries really help.

Solid advice. I'm the guy for the other huge comment. I absolutely considered renting an office at 5min walk from home. I almost did that (but in the end I moved and am working in the office). OP should consider that too.

I second the separation of work and home. The separation of the two will let you focus on each. One of the minuses of working from home is that it seems like your day never ends. By having a separate place you can put a hard stop on your workday. Congrats and enjoy your new child.

That’s a good idea. There are a few really close to my house. I find that when I leave an office it’s easy to leave work behind, but when I’m home and leave my desk, I can always run back really quick.

if you have a significant other to help, it makes all the difference. If it’s just you—forget about it. Not exaggerating. You’ll need a babysitter / nanny.

work remote, 3 kids, wife takes care during the day.

I should also add that if your wife / husband is going to be the primary caregiver, youll have to adapt to their lifestyle/emotions and not the other way around. Child rearing (especially boys in my experience) is way harder and more stressful than writing code all day.

One last thing - it’s a hell of a lot of fun, and my kids, the oldest of which is 6 dont know it any other way. I think it’s healthy for them to be around us all day.

If you both work, find a reliable nanny. I was naive and thought I could watch the baby while working. That lasted a day.

When the baby is about a year old, you're going to want to guard any valuables, including work equipment, with a tall fence or closed door. Babies love to use what they see mommy and daddy using, and they are not gentle.

Don't be afraid to take a healthy amount of paternity leave if possible.

Good point about guarding breakable things.

I can't type with my 16-month old on my lap because she just pulls the keys right off the keyboard. That caught me off guard the first time it happened. ;-)


From my experience after the initial first two weeks. I would start work in my closed door office. My wife was only alone to gchat me if needed something. Obviously if it was an emergency, she could yell or come into the office.

When my wife went back to work 3 months later, I still worked at home. 3 days was ananny, and 2 days my parents. It was really refreshing for me to be near by with a new nanny. The nanny and my parents knew they could only chat me.

Working remote, you get to spend more time with your child, it's so awesome and you are not tired from the commute etc.

It helps that I'm extremely disciplined and I followed all the rules. Ultimately, it worked out fine. It's a little bit of adjustment money, work and relationship, but it all works out. Just when you think you got a system down, they start walking!

Regardless if you are work remote or on Mars. I can't emphasize enough taking a "Daddy Bootcamp class" that is generally offered at most hospitals.

I’ll have to see if Kaiser has one of those!

I would highly recommend adopting some form or organization and productivity process as you have a lot less time after having kids.

The original GTD book from 2001 has some great ideas on how to get everything together and stay on top of things.

Practice writing down a list of things you need to do the night before, so when you start work you can hit the ground running. If you are programming, try using something like the Pomodoro method. There are apps to facilitate this.

If you do not have a dedicated office area, I would highly recommend setting on up if you have the room.

batch cook, and buy in bulk to save time.

Just cosleep and have your wife breastfeed on demand in the bed. It’ll make it so you can both easily sleep through the night. It made the first year of my daughters life really low stress.

I know the recommendation is against this. We did it with three kids. Everyone got to sleep. The transition is hard to their own bed, but way less hard than what I hear from others who stay awake all night caring for babies

What hours do you work? I've worked from home for over 5 years now and had a kid last year. I work in the evenings from 5pm til very late and my partner isn't working, apart from her two full-time jobs of looking after two kids (baby and me :D).

This works out great for us as we can do things together during the day and then I can go to my office at 5. There can be a few interruptions until the wee girl gets to bed at about 7 but I don't mind, I usually welcome them.

When I’m not traveling I work intermittently throughout the day. Usually 6a-6p with a few 30-60 minute breaks to do errands, go for a jog, etc.

Oh yeah that could be a little more demanding as you’ll be near working the whole time your kids awake. Well after the “I’m going to wake up every couple of hours” phase :D

And I just thought of something that we’ve used a lot to help with sleeping. An amazon echo next to the bed which we use for white noise and some kids music occasionally. It’s handy putting the wee girl to bed and “Alexa play white noise” while you’re lying her down.

And as she’s gotten older there are a bunch of kids skills on there too. We’ve been having fun in the mornings with the animal sounds skill lately. Totally worth the investment

Take at least a few weeks off and make arrangements at work that you might respond to work much slower than usual.

You might still be able to work, fewer and less predictable hours. I was able to work some time between feedings while the baby was asleep throughout the night while my wife slept. Someone has to feed the baby, wash the bottles, etc the entire day/night. Plan for that.


First months are fine (given, of course, someone can take care of the baby while you work!).

Once the baby starts understanding more about the world, he will not be able to understand why daddy is locked in that room. He knows you're there, he wants to play with you. He doesn't understand the concept of work. He will bang the door very frequently. They love doing it while you're on phone meetings because they can hear your voice, so they remember you and go banging the door right when your microphone is open. They also learn to open doors pretty quickly when it interests them.

If you're working close to where there's a person taking care of the baby and the person is not his mom or someone you absolutely trust 100%, every time the baby makes a single noise your primate brain will focus on it. Maybe a cougar caught him! I had my mother-in-law taking care of him during the mornings, and although I trusted her, I knew she did not have the reflexes to properly ensure he wouldn't get hurt while he was learning to walk properly (~1 year). He would occasionally fall and hurt himself and cry. Absolutely EVERY SINGLE noise he made (even when it was not falling) would completely put me in "alert mode" and I would focus on him, not my work. I could only be able to better focus on work once my wife arrived home and started taking care of him. But it was still not 100% attention on work: I would still hear all his sounds.

The fact that my mother-in-law was taking care of him while I was at home working meant I had a lot of interactions with her. And let me say that: it felt like I was married with her, and not with my wife. The big problem is that I really would never ever marry someone like her! This was a major source of stress. And she did a lot of thing I didn't agree she should, and my wife didn't have the balls to challenge her because she was already helping us so much, so this ensured everybody felt uncomfortable (although, of course, I am thankful she indeed helped us so much).

In the end my wife quit her job and now I'm working in the office. This is not only because of the reasons above, there are other external reasons. While I'm at the office I can fully focus on work while knowing that my wife is doing everything she can to take care of him. And I won't hear noises that my primate brain will interpret as "your son is dying". Still, I attend early morning meetings from home and he occasionally visits the office while he shouldn't (the office door can't be locked, it's a rented house and I can't change it).

On the other hand, he cries every single day that I'm abandoning him while I'm going to work and it doesn't matter how many times I try to explain it, he doesn't understand why I won't play with him all day like his cool mom does.

No matter what you do, you're wrong.

The point above about splitting your attention between work and baby, even if another caregiver is at home, is spot on. This can occur even with the most sympatico caregiver with cat-like reflexes. It's best if you can put your complete trust in the caregiver and remove yourself from the premises.

Intense! In retrospect would you have gotten a coworking space or started going to the office earlier?

How long were you at home?

Coworking space was impossible for me. I work with lots of confidential stuff, nobody can hear my phone calls nor see my screen, etc.

I considered renting a super tiny apartment 1 block away from home.

I moved to the office when he was almost 2 years old.

Thinking about that whole situation still makes me stressed.

almost the same case here, for me it worked fine for the first 4 months. Now, I decided to take a sabbatical year to take care of the baby while my wife still working.. and i have to say, I'm enjoying it very much!

So much truth in this post.

Father of 3 and a freelancer who used to work from home. The monthly fee I pay to have a spot in a co-working space is the best money I spend. I should add that my commute is a 20-minute walk each way, so I get built-in exercise as well without needing a vehicle.

Great advice in this thread. As the father of a 3 year old and long time remote worker: infants and small children do not comprehend why you are starting at that screen and not paying attention to them.

I’d like my kids to have a pretty screen free early years, so I think it’ll be important to not have them see me staring at one all day.

If you're around your wife too much she'll get sick of you and leave you.

My wife and I have 6 kids. I don't do remote work, but I can give you some protips on the aspects of parenting that I think help a house to run well.

(I don't think having 6 kids especially qualifies me to weigh in here, raising 1 or 2 kids can easily be just as much of a challenge as raising 6! Raising kids is hard!)

Mostly, I want to encourage you to be purposeful about a few things:

1. Be in your child's life.

I want to reiterate the suggestion others have made that having either you or your wife in your child's life full-time is probably the single biggest thing you could do for them. Children desperately need their parents' involvement in their lives. (There's another ditch to avoid here which is to make your children's lives your entire world. Your kids need to understand that the world doesn't revolve around them, but that they are unmistakably important and special to you.)

2. Start with the end in mind.

What kind of adult are you aiming for your child to become? How will you get them there? What values do you hope will define them? Answering these questions up front can make the in-the-moment decisions you will be faced with much easier to make. (e.g. "No, you can't go to that party because your room isn't clean." is something said in service of teaching a child responsibility.)

3. Don't be afraid to tell your child who they are.

Don't be too "hands off". Teach your kids your values and instill in them what it means to be a part of your family. It's popular these days to view kids as if they are just fully-formed tiny adults with their own preferences and desires who need to be consulted before any decision is made on their behalf. Children need to be molded into mature adults, it doesn't happen naturally. Sometimes they want things that are harmful to them and it's your job to disagree with them and tell them why they aren't getting their way. Maturity doesn't just come with age. Your job is to build an adult out of the pile of goo which is a 2 year-old screaming at the top of their lungs in the middle of Walmart because you didn't let them chew the used gum on the bottom of the cart seat.

4. Love your wife more than you love your kids.

This is good for you, good for your wife, good for your kids. You're embarking on a tough journey (raising a child into an adult) and you need a travel partner who will go the distance with you. She'll get tired and need your support, you'll get tired and need her support, and you'll both get tired at the same time and you'll each need to know that you're both in it for the long haul.

5. Guard your family's sleep schedule!

Babies often come out with their days/nights mixed up. Opinions are mixed on how and whether to have play/eat/sleep/change schedules, but I'll just say that we did Baby Wise and all of our children were happily sleeping through the night by 6-8 weeks old. That pays HUGE dividends. If you and your wife are well-rested, you'll be giving your child your best parenting. If the baby follows a schedule, it's much easier to tell what they need when they are crying.

There's lots of other good advice in here and it's great that you're seeking it out! Don't be afraid to ask people around you for help. It's a hard journey, but worth it!

Lots of great advice here, thanks for sharing. Regarding #4, I firmly belive that one of the best things a father can do for his children is to love their mother.

Hi! I feel like your question is almost directed at myself :) I'm a new parent with a 5-month-old and I started a remote software dev job pretty much right after our daughter was born. My wife and I also used to be avid travelers before this. I'm a dev with 13-years work experience in Silicon Valley, and have worked for companies big and small, including being a cofounder for a YC startup.

1. On work, set expectations with your partner that working from home doesn't mean you're available to do baby chores all the time; although you can do it occasionally to help out or in small emergencies. Assuming you have a dedicated room for your office area, you can set up some basic rules of expectations -- for example, door open means you're working, but can be interrupted if needed; door closed means you're in a video meeting or something and shouldn't be interrupted.

2. On your partner -- remember that baby care is a tough, more-than-full-time job and if she's pumping, that's easily a double full time job. (My daughter never learned direct feeding so my wife pumps 100% of time) In such a scenario, you may want to consider hiring a nanny, during the time of your work hours on week days. Otherwise, you're possibly looking at dedicating 30 minutes to look after your baby every 3-4 hours (whatever is her pumping frequency -- but usually every 3-4 hours to start with), and can disrupt your work a lot.

3. I don't know your company's paternity leave policy, but you should try to take the first 2 months off, even if some of that time needs to be unpaid. The first 2 months are tremendously hard. Even for 2 people, full time, you're still going to run on 3-4 hours of sleep a day, just to take care of the baby and keep the house running and have food. Alternatively you could hire post-partum doula and maybe later on a nanny, and you can go back to work earlier as soon as hired help starts. But if you have the option to take time off, you might as well do it -- yes it'll be harder than working, but your baby will have more bonding with you and be closer with you when she's a few months old. Moreover, the first 2 months are very hard on the mom. The emotional stress and physical work are overwhelming. Share as much of it as you can! For us, since she pumps, I try to do more of feeding and diaper changes. That becomes less possible when you start work, which is why you should take more time off at first.

4. Since you mentioned travel -- expect traveling to be minimal and not easy for the first few months. Even now at 5 months old we find it pretty difficult to be in a car ride for more than an hour or so. Babies have short attention spans and need a lot of holding and carrying for comfort, which isn't possible when a car is moving. On top of that, if mom is pumping, that makes scheduling time to go out even for a couple of hours pretty hard. Don't expect much traveling for the first 6 months.

I can add on to this post some more as I think of more stuff. Feel free to ask any specific questions you have too.

Congrats on the baby! Definitely share as much of the baby care work as possible, outside of your work time. Putting the baby to sleep at night is a very good routine for dad to do -- you're free at night, and it's a tough part of the day that mom can use a relief from.

Good advice, and I love your last tidbit in particular.

When I take on bedtime chores, my (stay-at-home) wife gets a second wind to accomplish whatever tasks of her own that she's been hoping to get to but has had to put off all day because she was taking care of the younguns. It's a great solution because the kids and I get time together, I get to share in the caretaking chores, and my wife gets a much-needed respite from managing 6 other people's lives for them.

I worked remotely 3 or 4 days a week when my first child was born. A lot of this is repeating what's already been said but doing so in order to add more data points to the advice ;)

- First, a big benefit of working from home is if you have flexibility in hours. You've going to have a lot of sleep deprivation and unusual hours. I would let my wife sleep in the evening and until the early hours whilst I looked after the baby, sometime working whilst the baby slept strapped to my chest (because that's pretty awesome). Then I'd hand over the baby at about 1am/2am and sleep in a bit but still start work on time. And no commuting means you get back to help quicker.

- If you don't have a closed door office space at home then it's probably not going to work. With a wife and baby in the house there are a lot of potential distractions and you need to have discipline to lock yourself away regardless of if the baby is crying or making cute noises. For most people it'd be impossible to intensely focus on work if you're in the same space.

- Have that discipline and agree terms with your wife, such as set work hours that you shouldn't be interrupted during. Get good headphones to block out the sounds from the house. Be clear about any deviations to the schedule, so that they don't set expectations.

- If work allows, remote working allows for spontaneous deviations to the schedule. With kids you're no longer eating out in the evenings so lunch is the new dining focus. An occasional long lunch with the wife & baby is really nice for everyone.

- If you have a closed door office space you have a time limit on how long it'll work. Once object permanence kicks in (about 6 months) they know you're somewhere and might react to that. Once they walk they'll find your door and call/bang for you. Once they can open the door by themselves you've got an uninvited guest on your conference calls!

- So if you can, finding a close by co-working space is worth investing in, even if not used everyday. I did this once we got to door opening stage. It allows you to focus on work and have a good separation of work and home life. Even a 10 minute walk home gives you a mental divide so that you're not in work mode when you start interacting with wife & kids. Find a desk in a nice & social place. I found a media agency with spare desks and that was great. (My company insisted I use Regus first and that was a total nightmare. Never use Regus!)

- When you get home from work don't expect any time to 'unwind' from the day. I know guys who expected 30 minutes before dealing with baby & child stuff. WTF! Your wife has been 100% baby focused all day and needs a break, help or adult conversation asap!

- Working and looking after children at the same time does not work. It's not satisfying to anyone, so keep the focus on one thing at a time.

- If you can part time for a bit then do so as it'll be a great help for your wife, as being a 100% baby minder 5 days a week sends people insane!

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