Whether you work full time or part time, working from home adds an extra challenge to the already-demanding task of caring for a baby. Or is it the other way around? Caring for a baby (or toddler) can make work extra challenging....
Either way you put it, I would argue that practicing Elimination Communication can actually make your working and caretaking struggles easier. Less time-consuming poopy diapers to deal with, a happier baby, quick and easy diaper changes, and early potty independence, among other benefits. But, it's quite the balancing act, trying to figure out how to practically insert it into your work day, especially if you're just getting started.
Here are a few things I've learned from practicing EC while working full time (as a virtual teacher) from home.....starting during the newborn stage, to a crawling baby, and now entering early toddlerhood.
And stay at home moms....whose work involves cooking, cleaning, caring for multiple children, homeschooling, homework help, and countless other jobs....these tips are for you too. While your work might offer a little more flexibility than a 9-5, you definitely fit in the work-from-home category, whether you're paid to do it or not.
1. Give yourself grace
As much as my perfectionist self hates to admit, lowering your personal expectations of what EC will look like during your work times is necessary in order to create that work-EC life balance.
This is the same advice I would give if your caregiver or daycare provider was on board with EC. When someone else is pottying your baby, their awareness, intuition, and rhythm simply isn't the same as yours. You may have 1-2 wet diapers when you're with your baby, but you pick that same little one up from daycare to find out they had only ONE catch all day.... can be disheartening right? Unless expectations were already low to start - remember when you first jumped into EC? One catch was AWESOME! (and probably enough to get you hooked, right? But I digress...)
Similarly, when you are working, your awareness, intuition, and rhythm, are not the same as when you are fully present, sharing life with your baby. There is the additional burden of work on your mind, and all the expectations, demands, and stress that it adds to your mental load. You simply can't expect yourself to "perform" at the same level as when you're 100% present to your baby.
You might have a high success rate on weekends and evenings, and yet it feels like miss after miss all day long during the work day.... that's okay. Your baby will understand. Remember that this is a long game, and the goal of day to day EC is learning and exposure to the potty - not a perfect catch rate.
Also, keep in mind that if you were going in to work, leaving your baby in the care of others, most likely one of two things would be happening: 1) Baby might not be pottied at all, or 2) Your caretaker might offer the potty, but still have as many or more misses than you have during the work day, simply because they're not as in tune with your little one.
Recognizing and coming to terms with the fact that there will be misses (lots of them, probably) can really take the pressure off and help you do what you can, but not stress too much. So, be grateful you can meet the needs of your baby some of the time, even if it's not perfect.
2. Offer Consistent Pottytunities
You, as the parent, decide when you will offer pottytunities during the work day. Perhaps you only choose to potty upon waking - that's okay! Maybe you set a timer for your baby's natural timing, and offer only at those intervals - that works too. :) Or, if you wear your baby while working, you could offer when baby wiggles to get out. I tend to offer on wakeup and based on natural timing, as well as immediately before zoom calls (if we are within several minutes of the natural timing range).
You could incorporate all these options into your routine, or swap out or add other times and situations that work for you. But the fact of the matter is, you probably can't be present and focused on both work and your baby to be equally on par with your EC practice on the days you are off.
But, the positive side of this situation is that your absorption in other tasks will eliminate the tendency to hyper focus on your baby's pottying needs, and minimize the possibility of over offering the potty - which COULD prevent a possible potty pause. :) So offer when you can and when you choose to, but don't stress about when you can't.
3. Use a backup that works for you
Depending on your baby's age, different backups might work better for while you're working from home.
When my baby was in the newborn stage, we used cloth diapers since they were more economical for our increased daily diaper usage. We just kept those diapers handy for the frequent misses, since we pottied primarily after waking and nursing, or an undeniable signal.
Around 6 months, life's circumstances made disposables a better option at the time - and that yellow or blue line makes it SO easy to tell if baby is wet or dry. Our success rate actually increased when we switched to disposables because 1) she signaled better in them, and 2) using the yellow or blue line as an observation tool helped me become more in tune with her natural timing.
At 10 months, we switched to tiny trainers. This was one area I was not willing to lower expectations despite the challenge of working - we knew she was ready for them, and diaper changes were becoming a nightmare. These definitely helped me be even more in tune with my baby's timing and signals, and generally improved our EC practice, but created a teeny bit more stress around misses. More on that in tip number five.
Some days are more stressful than others, and I have definitely reverted to diaper backups on some days when I ran out of clean laundry, or simply didn't have the energy for the extra clothing changes. I continued to offer at the appropriate times, but it allowed me to worry less about a miss.
The backup that is right for you may be totally different based on your circumstances, your personality, your baby, your work, and countless other factors. Each backup has its own benefits. Simply do what works for you.
4. Keep potty supplies easily accessible
You might keep a top hat potty under your desk, or maybe have a minipotty in the room with you.
I chose to keep my potty in the bathroom, since it is right around the corner from my work space, so that worked well for us.
Having all your potty, backup, and cleanup supplies handy is so critical to the ease of your EC practice. Our set up involves easy access to wipes, spare pants, clean backups, and a place for dirty backups to go, and our minipotty and seat reducer set in position - all ready for a super speedy clean up or pottytunity.
5. Protect the floor (and your sanity)
If you decide to make the jump, like we did, to using training pants, be sure you can handle the misses, while still balancing work in the picture. Be sure the floor is miss-friendly - we covered our office space with connecting foam mats to safeguard the carpet, and let baby play there or on the wood floors in the living room.
If there's a miss, and I can't leave work to get baby to the appropriate place for changing and clean up, I pull off the wet trainers and pants, wipe off her bum and the teeny bit of residue on the floor with the dry part of her pants, and let her roam bare bum or throw a new pair of trainers on until I can do a better clean up job.
We sometimes will use diaper covers or Tiny Ups to reduce that stress, but it makes it easier to overlook a miss and be less aware of when baby is wet, so I generally try to create an environment where a miss is easy to clean up instead.
Poop misses in training pants are a whole lot less fun.... so protect your sanity by avoiding these as best as possible. After two....three maybe?....poops in training pants, I had to compromise my commitment to the trainers. I diapered for the first half hour of the day, when my morning pooper was most likely to go, if she hadn't gone upon waking, and I was stuck on a zoom call, unable to take her. Still messy, still not fun....but at least it was (usually) contained and not smeared on the floor, and there were no poopy trainers to wash later.
6. Use an app to track
It can be so easy to lose track of time when you're focusing on work projects. You might start to wonder, "Did I potty baby 15 minutes ago....or was that 45 minutes...?" A simple click in an app might help you keep better tabs on how often baby needs to pee, or a timer set for a couple minutes before baby's natural timing during awake periods that gets restarted after every pee, might make it easier to keep track of when to offer.
I personally love the "Baby Tracker" app - I use it to track poops (since they don't happen every day, so I know when to anticipate them), and for whenever I do an observation day. What I love most is that all it requires is two simple clicks, and it records the type of elimination, date, time, and interval since the last one. SO incredibly helpful, especially for the busy work-from-home parent.
NOTE: Andrea will be coming out with her own EC logging app soon, and will share about it here and on our newsletter...so stay tuned!!
7. Hire a mama's helper
It may not improve your EC success rate at first, but it will help you focus better on work projects. The benefit of working from home is that you can recognize your baby's signals and timing and help your babysitter to pick up on them more quickly than if she was totally on her own. And, you can be more involved in modeling pottytunities, or pottying your baby yourself if you prefer. And eventually, your caregiver will likely come to know those signals and get into the rhythm as well, helping your baby become more adaptable by pottying for other people.
When we hired a babysitter to come watch our little one in our home during my work times, I quickly realized that my baby was not at all interested in pottying for her, despite good timing and implementation of our potty routine on our babysitter's part.
So for the first month, we adapted- our sitter would bring baby to me when she noticed signs of needing to potty (i.e. trying to escape, or crawling to find mama), when baby woke up, or when baby was showing signs of wanting to nurse. I would nurse (if needed), potty, and then return baby to her. Misses, she would handle herself - she would sit baby on the seat reducer (and yes - she cried a little - but she was learning too - we use the potty) while rinsing the wet trainers, and then put on a fresh pair.
And then, several weeks later, our baby started to cooperate with our sitter, and would pee for her without any assistance from me. I'm not sure what clicked- if she just needed time to grow in trust, or the consistency of our sitter setting her on the potty when cleaning up misses paid off, or if she simply got used to being in a different room than me and having her needs met by someone else.... but we finally had success, without the need for me to step in, which freed up more time to focus on my work, AND kept our EC practice moving in the right direction.
If you choose to go this route - remember to be patient with your caregiver, just like you promised to lower expectations and be patient with yourself in tip #1.
8. Be present
I mentioned earlier that it's practically impossible to be 100% present and focused on both work and your baby, so most likely your EC will have to take a little bit of a hit. That's natural, and it's okay. BUT, when you're offering a pottytunity, choose to take that as an opportunity to connect.
Make eye contact, smile, sing, dance, give kisses.....potty time is the perfect time for bonding in this way. I have found pottying to be more connecting than nursing at times because it offers a better opportunity to make eye contact and be silly with my baby.
And since pottytunities don't need to last too long, it's the perfect time to reconnect with your baby before you jump back into work. Our pottytunities typically last about 30 seconds, usually less. But if our little one needs a bit longer, it's the perfect time to grab our Tiny Potty board book, sing a short song, or make silly faces at each other in the mirror.
And if your child is on the seat reducer....you may want to avoid multitasking, since you never know when they might try to leap off the toilet. If I really need to respond to an email (which does provide a feeling of privacy, if she needs that to go), I will go for the minipotty, so I can trust my baby won't fall off if my eyes aren't fixed on her.
But, when you can, enjoy pottytunities as a moment to be 100% present to your child - you won't regret it.
You've Got This!
EC is totally possible amidst a busy schedule - it just needs adjusted to fit your life. As long as you keep expectations low, you will be fine. Offering consistent pottytunities will help your baby recognize the pattern in when they will have the chance to potty, and over time, they may begin to wait for those opportunities as well.
Using a backup that prevents stress about misses, and protecting your floor if you go with training pants, will help you to be more relaxed, a mindset that goes hand in hand with successful EC. And, having those potty supplies easily accessible will make misses less likely, and clean up faster when they do happen.
I personally have found using a potty tracking app and hiring some help to make life a little easier as well. Most importantly, though, taking the time to be present with my baby and enjoy those pottytunities has reaped the most benefits. Someday she won't need my help to potty any more….so I want to enjoy and make the most of these moments while they last.
My Question For You:
Which of these tips stood out most to you, and how might it make your work-life balance a little easier?
Please share in the comments below!
PS - here’s the video version of this episode in case you prefer to YouTube it. ;)