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the juggle…



Some of you fellow moms or moms-to-be {or future moms thinking ahead} have asked about my schedule, how I attempt to balance work and baby time, and how I prepped or planned for all the change before Ruby came into our lives. Now, I have to say I fully believe that "balance" isn't the right word to use because balance implies that it all works out perfectly somehow. Rather, as mentioned in this quote, it really is about the juggle…how can we make it work within our own situations. It's not always pretty or perfect, but in the end it works. I've hesitated writing this post until I felt like I had experienced a little bit more of my new life as a mom. I'm sure my methods will continue to change, but now that I am at a pretty good place with it all {and believe me, there were many tears before I got to this place}, I thought I'd share some of my experience with you and how the juggle works for me. So here are a few of my tips for you {and also how I personally handled things} for those of you out there who are interested. Now, just a note—because I am self-employed, my way of handling things is a little different than if I worked for someone else and had to go back to a 9-5 job. But hopefully some of these things still apply to those of you who are not self-employed…


01. Pre-Baby…

Bob and I were married for 5 years before we had Ruby. We waited longer than 90% of our friends as we just weren't ready any sooner. Right around the time we got married, he had just started residency, and I was just a year into my business. With a husband in med school and residency, I had to be the breadwinner for many years to follow. And with my freelance business as our primary income, there were so many times that we struggled when I had a slow month or other times that were great because business was booming. We had decided to wait to have a baby until our careers were more established. Bob wanted to be earning a normal salary, and I wanted to feel comfortable enough with my business that it could somewhat run on it's own. I wanted to get to a place with having help with the business too, so that by the time my baby came into this world, I could give more attention to my personal life without my business falling to the wayside.

My tip to you: No time is really the right time, and should you have a baby sooner than your ideal time, you really will figure it all out. But if you're able to do some advanced planning, then yes, it's great to be at a place where you feel a bit more stable, both financially and career-wise. It's also a great way to learn to trust other people to help you—whether employees, freelancers, or interns. The people you hire should help make it more feasible for you to be able to step away from your work for periods of time when needed.


02. Maternity Leave…

 Leading up to my due date, I slowed down on work and turned down new client work a couple months beforehand. That way, in the months leading up to my due date, I'd have less and less work on my plate. By the time Ruby was born, I had just finished writing Blog, Inc. and had started prepping a bunch of blog posts in advance. While I love designing for my clients, I didn't want anyone waiting for me for work during those first few months with a fresh-faced baby. I had no idea how tired I'd be or how soon I'd want to jump back into work. While I told myself I was going to take two months off and give myself a real maternity leave, in all honesty, I probably took two weeks off. And I didn't even stay away from work for that full two weeks as I had blogs posts that needed to go up and emails that I wanted to go through. Ruby came 10 days early, so even though I had planned to have certain things done, they didn't all get done in time. I had good intentions, but not everything on my to-do list got done.

My tip to you: Get your clients, colleagues, employees, and anyone else who interacts with you regularly for your business ready for your maternity leave. Make it clear that you will not be available for whatever length of time you decide to be away from work. Most people respect that especially if you give them plenty of notice, and you're able to finish whatever work they need before you go on leave. But at the same time, if you are self-employed don't feel guilty if you want to or need to check email or do a couple things here and there. Yes, you have a new baby but you still love your job and it's okay to check in when you need to.


03. Once baby arrives…

Be prepared for the first two weeks to be the most emotional time of your life. Not only will you feel a level of happiness and love you never knew before, but you'll be mentally and physically tired while you're body attempts to morph itself back into its prior shape. I was sleep-deprived, felt like my body had exploded, yet I was feeling a new sense of joy I had never known before.

My tip to you: Spend this time enjoying your baby and your new family and not worrying about work if you don't have to. Now, this is easier said than done, and I'm suggesting this because I wasn't able to do it myself. As a blogger, I still had the need to connect with you all through my blog posts and tweets so I didn't really stay completely away {hence why I say it is okay if you really can't do it}, but I wish I would have been better about disconnecting for at least those first couple weeks.


04. Accept help from loved ones…

Before Ruby arrived, we had arranged for our moms to fly in from Philly to help us out during the first month and a half. Bob's mom came out first 4 weeks, then my mom came for 2 weeks after that. I'll be honest. I worried that it would be too overwhelming for me to have them here or that I wouldn't get a chance to bond with my baby in the same way. But it was actually so great. Our moms let us be the parents and didn't try and take over. We still got up in the middle of the night, still changed diapers, and basically still did all the baby stuff. They simply helped us by cooking meals, keeping the house clean, and of course, enjoying time with their granddaughter whenever we needed a break to shower or eat or check email. I had to have my gallbladder removed when Ruby was 5 weeks old, and I'm so lucky my mom was in town at the time to take care of Ruby while I was in surgery.

My tip to you: You know your parents and family best, but I fully encourage you to accept help for whatever time your family is offering and willing to help you {eventually everyone will go back to their lives and it will be just you guys again, take it while you can!}. If you're worried about them being overbearing and you want to learn how to parent in your own way, tell them so and remind them that you don't expect them to do all the dirty work for you. They already raised you and therefore should get to be the grandparents, not the parents. This applies in so many areas of raising children where getting help is key to staying sane and also having time to get back into other parts of your life. 


05. Learn to trust someone else to help take care of your child…

Some of you may be lucky enough to have parents or family nearby who are more than willing and able to help take care of your baby when you need a date night out or when you're ready to start working again. For us, we didn't have that luxury since our parents live on the East Coast. After our moms left and Bob went back to work, I was alone with Ruby all day every day. I loved having the bonding time with her alone, but around 2 months in, I started craving work again. I spent a month attempting to work while being with her full-time, working during naps, and it was insane. She was still so young and wasn't consistent with naps yet, and I could never schedule phone conferences or meetings as I didn't want to appear unprofessional with a baby possibly crying on the other end of the line. I quickly realized I needed help if I wanted to get any real work done. I spent about a month looking for a nanny. After interviewing maybe 10-15 people and having a handful come and do a trial for a day, we finally found someone who had the right amount of experience I was looking for, the availability I needed, and the warmth that made me feel comfortable trusting her with my most prized possession. Our nanny is amazing, and she has become so important in helping me to juggle my work and my life as a mom.

My tip to you: If you want to or need to hire a babysitter, nanny, or find a daycare for your child, go into it knowing what you want…how many hours per week, what days per week, and what style of caretaker would fit best with your life. Don't be afraid to ask whatever questions you want. For me, the most important ones included how experienced they were with babies of the same age, who they had worked with before and for how long, why any previous jobs ended, would they be able to stick to our preferred parenting style, and what how they would keep themselves busy when the baby sleeps {ie. light housework, laundry, etc.}. In the end, I felt most comfortable with a nanny who had children of her own, who was older than me, someone who was content being a nanny for a long time, and who had worked with an infant before.


06. Decide how much work to go back to…

In looking for a nanny, I knew I wanted to start off part-time. I wasn't ready to leave Ruby all day, every day {and I wasn't ready to spend the money on someone full-time} just yet so I felt like starting off part-time would be a great transition for both me and for Ruby. Knowing I wanted someone only part-time also limited who we could hire as nannies tend to want full-time work. But we ended up finding someone who worked with another family most afternoons and was available in the mornings. So now, we have her two full days and two half days during the week. That's the time I use to work, have meeting, run errands, and get the things done that I can't do when I'm with Ruby alone. And then mid-week {on Wednesdays} we get that day to be together, and it gives me a bit of a mid-week work break. I still work while Ruby is napping, at night when she's sleeping, or on weekends, but I don't leave anything urgent for those days I don't have help as you never know how a baby's day will go.

My tip to you: Whether you find a nanny, look for a daycare, or have a relative helping you, go into it with a plan of how much help you want or need or what you can afford. You may not have a choice and have to go back to full-time work within a few months. But if it's under your control, do what feels right to you based on finances, your work needs, and your personal needs. It's okay to use some of that time for yourself to get a haircut or tend to other errands, too.


07. Work Smarter, Not Harder

Your life is about to change drastically, and you'll have less time for yourself, to work, to meet up with friends, etc. Your allotment of time will shift and therefore, it puts everything into priority. You have to decide what's most important because not everything will get done. For me, that comes down to only choosing the work that's worth my time and enjoyable enough to be away from my baby to do it. Because I've decided not to have full-time childcare yet, that means I physically can't work as much as I used to. I know that I am lucky to be able to control my schedule. And I'm willing to work more at night or during naps if that means I can spend a good chunk of my days with my favorite tiny person. I've turned down lots of trips or meetings this year because they weren't important enough at the time to leave Ruby for. But that also means I now make better decisions about the work I do. And because of that, I've been able to maintain the same income as last year while working about half the amount of hours.

My tip to you: It's amazing how much quicker and more efficient you can learn to become when you have less time. Use that to your advantage and think about your work in a while new way and what's going to maximize the time you have to work and what won't. If it's not worth your time, just say no.


08. Separate Work Time from Baby Time…

Before Ruby came, part of the way I separated work life from personal life, was to only work during my designated work times. And yes, I do work at nights or on weekends many times. But now that I have Ruby, I always make it a point not to work while I'm in mom mode and spending time with Ruby. Sure, I'll check email on my phone or send out a tweet if she's entertaining herself for a few minutes, but I've found that by not pulling out my laptop or trying to get real work done while she's with me, not only does it make me more present with her, but also helps me focus better on my work when it's time to work.

My tip to you: While multi-tasking is one of those skills we possess that helps women to be amazing mothers, work time and time with your baby is one of those things that's better left being as separate as possible. When they are tiny babies who sleep a lot or when they are bigger kids who will go off and play by themselves or with their friends for hours at a time, that's different. But there's a good chunk of in-between time when they either rely on you for interaction or they can play by themselves but you still need to keep an eye on them because they can crawl or walk somewhere you might not want them to go. I've found myself enjoying Ruby much more when my brain is not distracted with work, and I've planned out my business activities based on when it's time to work.


09. You Can Still Have Your Life…

It's like the day you give birth, you suddenly feel the need to protect every second of this human being's life. You love the fact that you now love in a whole new way. But you also feel guilty when you're not with them. I was surprised when I wanted to get back to work sooner than I expected, but I needed something that was just for me and that still gave me some fulfillment outside of being a mom. Having that time away from my work also made me appreciate how much I really love my job and how much of it is actually fun and not just my way of earning a living.

My tip to you: Part of being a great mom is being happy with yourself and having separate interests other than your baby. Yes, your children will be at the center of your universe, but it's okay to go to the gym and want to stay in shape. It's okay to meet up with your friends for a girl's night out. And it's okay to have fun without them. And it's okay to work while they are being taken care of by others you trust.

While I could certainly talk about this topic forever and address so many more things, I hope a few of these points are helpful for some of you out there. And, of course, this is just my way of doing things so far, and different things work for different families. Tell me about things you've done that have helped you with the juggle. Or what else do you find hard to juggle? — Joy

ps. My past posts on: Flying with a Baby and my Baby Essentials list.

{all photos by Oh Joy, except our wedding photo by Karen Wise}


  1. This is timely! I am also a freelance designer, am 7 weeks pregnant…and worried already about childcare. My first thought after seeing those two lines was “how will we ever pay for a nanny?” We simply can’t afford full-time help, it’s crazy expensive here in NY. I love the idea of working smarter, not harder and have already started shifting my working hours to early mornings, when I know my husband will be able to handle child care duties. I’m suddenly very grateful for his weird 12-8 work schedule.

  2. Joy, this is such a great post. My husband and I have been married for 4 years and want to have a child within the next 1-2 years but feel like we can’t find the time due to our chaotic work schedules. I currently juggle two full-time jobs. I work a 9-5 day job as a designer and also managed my own freelance graphic design studio from home. I’ve been working an average of 70 hours a week for the past 7 months. Scared to make the leap into freelancing full-time because I will lose the security of my FT job. I’m learning to “work smarter, not harder” for sure because my time is limited. I’ve heard that their is never the right time to have a child, but it’s difficult to juggle my life now. So much too think about. I appreciate your feedback. Thanks for sharing! xo

  3. This is such a thoughtful and encouraging post. I’m going to file it away for the future when I hope to be facing such dilemmas one day. In the meantime, it’s a real privilege to be able to witness your darling little Ruby grow. How sweet she was in the picture when she was just born and how much she has grown and developed such a personality that shines through your photos! Keep up the good work in all respects – thanks for sharing Joy 🙂

  4. Really enjoyed this post! I am currently working a 9-5 job with flexible hours but am itching to turn my free-lance work into my main source of income and a lot of that decision has to do with my desire to be able to work from home when I have kids in the future….thank you for sharing your experience!

  5. Thank you so much for this post. I’m engaged (getting married next summer), starting out on my professional path (as is my fiance) and thinking about kids a few years down the line. It was really refreshing to hear about your experience and your advice. I think that so many of us working women who want families and careers get so nervous but having faith in ourselves and a good support system is so important! 🙂 Looking forward to working, having kids, and perfecting my juggling!

  6. I’m no where near having a child, but it’s nice to know you can still have your own life with a baby around! I admire you for that. PS: Can’t wait to get a copy of Blog, Inc!

  7. great post. thank you!
    just yesterday i was discussing with my husband how i could keep my business running while i took maternity leave, i want to keep my clients happy but not have to hand over my work to another designer (who could potentially “run off” with my client, a fickle business) but what I’m hoping is like you said, to prepare my clients well enough in advance and work with them to find options that suit for the few weeks or couple of months I won’t be working full time.

  8. love it! i smiled and resonated with so many things, and was reminded of some of the more difficult times when my daughter was younger (she’s nearly 6 now!), and how far we’ve come. and while some things are easier, there are always new challenges at every stage that encourage me to grow and look at myself, my business, friends and family in new ways.
    i’m blessed to be in a position to drop off/pick up from school and make dinner most nights. but even on days where someone helps with childcare, she’s ok; and i know that because the most important thing i’ve learned as a parent and in observing her is that she just needs my presence. when i’m present, aware and engaged with her, she flourishes.
    continue the good work. ruby is precious!

  9. What a great post Joy!
    I can totally relate 🙂
    When my almost 3 year old baby was born in 2009 I was just beginning to conceive Darling Clementine, and the business was born during Juliette’s naps and once she went to bed (finally) at night. I still can’t believe I made it happened, I opened for business merely a few months after Juliette started pre-school/daycare at age 2 (two days a week). No nanny, no childcare prior, just me. and her. all day. I look back at that time and I think many things. I think what a hard time it was trying to start a business and settle into motherhood without any help. What was I thinking? I totally agree with your advice to seek help. Be it a nanny, daycare, babysitter etc.
    If I could go back… I would have tried to start some form of babysitting/nanny prior to 2 years old, it really wasn’t in our budget sadly, as my business hadn’t begun yet (and obviously wasn’t bringing in any income). But maybe it was something I needed to budget, as hard as it might be on the wallet.
    One thing I noticed post preschool at age 2, I looked forward to my time with my daughter in a different way, it wasn’t “what are we going to to today” it was “we get to do THIS today!” just the outlook changed and I was able to focus on work & being a mom with clarity.
    As a reader and admirer of you and your gorgeous site, I adore that we see sweet snippets of Ruby here and there, it’s lovely that your site has grown and changed as you have. Not everyone’s jobs can bend with that life change, it’s nice to witness yours!

  10. Thank you for this (and for being such a good friend throughout my pregnancy!) It has been so very helpful to hang out with you over the past nine months and see how you gracefully juggle all of your responsibilities. This post was so generous and honest and open, and you give such good, sound, worth-while advice. Basically, you’re the bomb! I can’t wait for Boomba and Ruby to hang–and I’ll see how well I’m able to incorporate some of these useful tips into my ‘juggle struggle’ 😀 — Hugs, ~J

  11. Joy,
    As a new mom with a steady 8-to-5, I’ve been currently having trouble with juggling. This post came at a time when I needed it the most. I feel very inspired right now. Thank you for sharing!

  12. What a wonderful post, Joy! I’m a first-time mama running a graphic design studio, and now that my little man is almost 1-year old (in a few days!) I feel like I’m finally able to do the juggle. Sleep deprivation for 10 months made it a real challenge, but it also forced me to focus on what was most important, both in personal and work life.
    As a creative person who always has several side projects going on, I realized I had to focus on what I was most passionate about. No more working late when there’s a sweet, cuddly baby waiting for you at home. Those few hours between work and bedtime become so precious as he gets older.
    Having help is key, as you mentioned. We have FT childcare now, but we hired a PT nanny when my baby was a few months old and I was transitioning back to work. It made of world of difference — especially when I was sleep deprived. As someone who has a hard time asking for help, I encourage new mamas to do it!
    I totally agree with your advice to slow down your workload in advance. I attempted to do this, but client delays meant I was still working when Little One arrived 2-1/2 weeks early. Luckily, I had an interim designer in place, but I was emailing clients from my hospital bed!
    I have always loved having my own business, but I cherish it more than ever now. I love being able to take a few hours off to visit an art museum or go on a playdate with Little One.
    Great advice, thanks for sharing your insight. And it goes without saying, the photos are wonderful!

  13. Such an incredible, honest, and lovely post Joy.
    Indeed everyday is super hard with “the juggle” and it is always so nice to know (even though we all know we’re not alone) that there are so many other successful moms going through the same exact thing. We can all do this! Work smarter, not harder, is the one thing I have told myself everyday since our little Riley was born.
    Trying to run a business, juggling being a mom, a wife, and totally breaking down in tears at times, is all part of this lovely, crazy, rewarding, full time juggle that we all pursue everyday! We are all in great company. Thanks for sharing, and being so awesome. Long live the juggle!

  14. Thank you for sharing your experience! I especially like the section “Learn to trust someone else to help…”. I’m still working on this issue. I got to find myself a nanny soon…

  15. I don’t have a baby but I still found this enlightening. Great of you to share with others, and you are doing an AMAZING job with the juggle. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a happier baby and as a faithful blog reader, I know your work hasn’t suffered a bit. In fact, it’s gotten even better. Very inspiring, lady!

  16. Thank you so much for this post! I have a 9 mo. old and he is certainly my world right now… and I have had to go through many of the things you addressed. I would say the hardest part is trusting others with my baby. Like you, we don’t have family nearby either… date nights are difficult when you haven’t thought about who you want to keep your kid! These are such great insights 🙂

  17. such great advice. we’ve got a few good years before we get pregnant, but i’m already anxious about this. his parents are on the east coast, and mine plan on moving away in a couple years (before we have babies). i try to remind myself not to worry about the future, and just enjoy this time and place. but it’s really nice to know someone is making it work so well. keep it up!

  18. I didn’t realize you were married to a medical person! Props to you for creating your own life – I’m working on that myself 🙂

  19. Thank you for this post. It’s so wonderful. One thing I learn with having a baby…that I can actually still function pretty well with that little sleep and a cup of coffee! Who knew! 🙂

  20. I have a ten month old son and work from home, so I can identify with every part of this post. My friends who are currently pregnant are always asking how I balance everything, and I always laugh because as you said: it isn’t a balance…it is in every way a juggle!

  21. Thanks for this wonderful post! I’m a self-employed designer and I’m due with my first child in 7 weeks. I know there is no way to completely prepare myself for how life is about to change, but you have some great tips that I’ve already been keeping in mind, and a few new ones, as well. Thank you for being honest and candid and real!

  22. really good timing! i have been feeling so overwhelmed juggling the working mom thing, and my baby is 10 months old. i wholeheartedly agree with WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER. that was probably the best advice a VP gave me when it comes time to coming back from maternity leave. i’m still working on that, so this was a great reminder. thanks for sharing!

  23. This is such a true testament to what happens as a mother. I work retail and so does my husband-we live in Hawaii with no family at all. Having a baby sure makes life tougher-but it also so much better!!!!

  24. just an fyi from an older mom with 3 boys ages 10, 7, and 2… i think it is easiest to juggle when your bab(ies) are babies. Once they get older and things like homework, sports, weekend activities kick in there is seems to be less and less time in the day for work. I always thought things would get easier once my kids were in school, but i’ve been surprised to find the opposite. flexibility is key. keep up the great work.

  25. even though we are years from starting a family i am constantly thinking about how to build this business in a way so that i can still have it while being an almost full time mom. this was really enlightening and inspiring. i always imagined strapping my baby to myself and just continuing to work. guess that was one of the more unrealistic thoughts that has crossed my brain! thank you for sharing, joy! bookmarking in my toolbar for the years to come 🙂

  26. What a great post, Joy! Being a new mom myself, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Thank you.
    And Ruby’s smile is the best.

  27. A wonderfully honest post, Joy. I admire you for putting yourself out there like that! Agree with everything you said. I was a bit like you – I’m not quite sure I even went two days without checking my emails. But like you, I enjoyed having something to do that was outside of being a mum, and I reckon there’s nothing wrong with that.
    I love the way you structured this post, can tell you put a lot of time and thought into it.
    Ronnie xo

  28. Such a wonderful post Joy! I’ve been a basket case stressing about how I will manage my schedule with the arrival of my baby boy. What wonderful tips and great advice to consider as I find a routine that will work for us. It sounds like you’re “juggling” quite well – hopefully I can do the same!

  29. hi jennifer,
    great point! i can only imagine how much harder it gets when they have places to be and having more than one!

  30. i loved your post. your voice is so lovely:) i just wanted to mention that i am at the tail-end of babyhood, my youngest of 4 just turned 3 (the oldest is 12) and i see how useful it was *for me* to give over those first 2 years of each child’s life to being their caregiver full-time. soon enough there was space in there to start working again, starting finding things for just me. so in retrospect, those few years of intense parenting were really over quickly and there is so much more time now for the other things.

  31. Thank you so much for this post, I loved it. Since we were in China for most of the first year of my son’s life, I stayed home with him full-time and crammed “work” in while he napped or after he went to bed. I totally hear you on the efficiency and the keeping the laptop shut while in ” mom mode” and it’s really cool to hear that the part-time nanny situation works out so well. We’re moving to India in a few weeks where I’ll probably go back to real work requiring a nanny to watch our son. I’m nervous but this post has been so reassuring for me so thank again!

  32. Great post Joy 🙂 I have a 5month old son, and a 9yr old daughter. Got back to working full time 2months ago – and feeling so lucky that my MIL has recently retired and now takes care of the baby 🙂 It is so true what you advised to separate work and time with baby – I find that I am a better and more patient Mom when I dont think about checking my email or even checking the internet in general. Also true that after 2 months, I was itching to go back to work, I thought I was crazy to feel that way. Happy to know Im not alone! 🙂

  33. Great post. I really enjoy reading your blog. I would say that it making it count it’s also good to switch the Internet off sometimes! I often spend my two year old’s nap time just daydreaming at interiors in the iPad when I could be doing!

  34. Thanks so much for this post. I’ll be bookmarking it to re-read in the future. I’m getting closer to feeling “ready,” but there are still so many questions/fears/uncertainties. It’s reassuring and comforting to learn about others’ experiences and bits of advice, from this post and also your other readers’ comments. It makes me better realize that one way or another, my husband and I will make things work once a little one enters our lives!

  35. great post, I’m still learning the best way to juggle working for myself and spending as much quality time with my little one as possible. It’s a challenge but so much fun!

  36. Thank you so much for SUCH an honest and insightful post, Joy!
    I realize it’s my first time leaving a comment but I love love love your blog and I’m TOTALLY swooning over your beautiful baby girl Ruby every time I come by! I adore you guys! 🙂


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