Woodworkers with small children - how do you budget time for the shop?

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Forum topic by skeemer posted 05-29-2013 11:00 AM 1727 views 0 times favorited 40 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View skeemer's profile


95 posts in 2600 days

05-29-2013 11:00 AM

Our first child was born 5 weeks ago (the fastest 5 weeks of my life!) and not unexpectedly, she is quite the time burglar. I am in no hurry to get back into the shop (except when she’s screaming), but I can see it being difficult to find time to work on my projects going forward. I already had little time in the shop before she arrived, and now I have next to none. With my wife in the house with the baby all day every day, I feel guilty if I don’t take the baby off her hands when I get home from work. She has tried to insist that I go out to the shed here and there, but after she’s had a screaming baby in her arms all day, I can’t bring myself to do that.

I know as she gets older, there will be more opportunities here and there, but for the next year or two I don’t see how I’ll have much time to work on the list of projects my wife has for me.

So, for those of you with small children, how do you manage to find time to get into the shop now and then?

Also, because I’m a proud papa, here she is:

40 replies so far

View Wildwood's profile


2525 posts in 2370 days

#1 posted 05-29-2013 11:10 AM

Congratulations on that cute bundle of joy!

Just wait awhile she may enjoy helping you in the shop.

-- Bill

View Tedstor's profile


1678 posts in 2868 days

#2 posted 05-29-2013 11:35 AM

I have three boy (8/4/2). I’ve spent more time over the past 8 years cleaning-up pee, poo, and vomit, than I have in the in the shop. Thats just part of the gig. You SHOULD be spending the lion’s share of your non-work time with your kid. Thats what makes you a father vs. a sperm donor. You’re doing the right thing. But you already knew that.
To answer your question: Focus on small projects that you can complete in a few hours. Trivets and cutting boards for example. Maybe grab a lathe and make pens. You could likely complete the cut list for a small project while the kid is napping (assuming her room doesnt share a wall with your shop). Then assemble during the next nap. etc. etc. Larger, more complicated projects will likely prove too time-consuming and will make you more frustrated over your lack of time. Refinishing and/or restoring furninture is another relatively fast project you might enjoy. Restoring tools can be fun as well.

The day will come when your (beautiful) daughter will command less of you and your wife’s attention and you’ll be able to spend more time in the shop.
Of course, thats when your wife will tell you that she’s pregnant again :)

View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 2522 days

#3 posted 05-29-2013 11:52 AM

First I will say, “Congrats!”.

Then I’ll try to help you with some advice…
The shop will be there. The time to enjoy your little one will slip away. My kids are grown now, but I always cherish the memories of when they were little. My youngest is still home. He’s 27. He still kisses me and his mom goodbye when he goes to work in the morning.

If there is work that needs to be done, and for which you need some shop time, then your wife’s way of helping might be to take care of the baby while you work in the shop. But there’s a balance. No matter how much work you have to do, you still have a wife and a baby. The shop work may simply get broken down into smaller chunks of time so you can go hold your daughter while mommy takes a nice relaxing soak in the tub, or just goes out and reads a few chapters in a book out on the porch, or whatever makes HER feel good.

The jobs will take a little longer because now you have to spread your time and spend it wisely. If your wife has jobs for you to do that she wants done in a hurry, then you adjust the balance. A little more shop time.

But always, always, always, take time for them both above all else. You already know what’s important. Prioritize your time accordingly. :)

I’m in my 60s now. I was killed in a car accident in 2001. Every single day is a gift and TIME….. time is both your friend and your enemy. Time with family is precious, but time is also being spent constantly and you can’t stop it, so whether you spend it with them, spend it in the shop, or spend it doing nothing at all…’re still spending. Get the most you can out of it.

View camps764's profile


867 posts in 2596 days

#4 posted 05-29-2013 11:54 AM


I’ve got an almost 2-year-old. An amazing, understanding, encouraging, patient wife is a huge asset.

My schedule – normal 9-5 day job – pick the kid up from daycare at 5, family time from 5-8. Kid goes down to sleep at 8 every night like clockwork. From 8-10 pm is my ‘shop’ time every time night. I try to do my loudest work on weekends. Careful planning will be your best bet.

I try to plan my projects around this. So Saturdays/Sundays I try to do any routing/planing and rough cutting to length on the miter saw. Weeknights I do a lot of ripping on the TS, sanding, hand planing, glue ups, assemblies and finishing.

To be honest, the first 9 months or so I didn’t do much in the shop, and then slowly made my way back out as the kid got more independent and we got more sleep.

Good luck! In my opinion they’re the best thing that can happen to you.

-- Steve

View firefighterontheside's profile


19597 posts in 2092 days

#5 posted 05-29-2013 11:59 AM

I used to take mine outside when weather permitted. When it was cool I would put them in a warm suit and put them in the exersaucer while I worked. I had kid sized earmuffs for the loud noises. Frequently they would fall asleep. Nap time was definitely the best time. Does your wife work or is she just on leave? Right now ,y youngest goes to daycare 3 days per week which usually gives me one or two days per week to work outside. Things will get better, but it is slow to happen.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View Don W's profile

Don W

19041 posts in 2803 days

#6 posted 05-29-2013 12:03 PM

If I wrote a post, it would be almost identical to Charlies. My youngest just had my third grandchild. You’d think it gets easier. It doesn’t. I worry about my kids 24/7, and now I have grandkids to boot. A few more birthday parties, more graduations, soon to be more ball games. You’ll get the picture. You will get better at using your time and as Charlie said, cherish it. Its life and its just not worth it if there isn’t some joy along the way.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View UpstateNYdude's profile


918 posts in 2219 days

#7 posted 05-29-2013 12:08 PM

My guy is 10.5 months old now and I do the exact same thing as Steve, he’s sleeping around 7:30-8 and I hustle it on out to the garage to start making chips fly or fix one of the other numerous things I have at any given time.

Prepare for all that free time you had to now be gone especially in the beginning it can be hard if you have a child that doesn’t sleep well, then you won’t want to go out and work you’ll be heading for the bed rather then the shop.

Get in a routine quick and during the WOO (window of opportunity, can’t remember what months that is) get out of rocking them to bed and just put them in the crib, mine cried for the first couple weeks but then learned it was time for sleep and now just curls up and off to dream land.

Also Congrats! She is beautiful

My future shop helper

-- Nick, “I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it.” – Vincent Van Gogh

View chrisstef's profile


17798 posts in 3242 days

#8 posted 05-29-2013 12:31 PM

Everyone has pretty much said the same things I would suggest. Im a new father too, our baby boy is now 9 months old and crawling (look out world). Like you my wife was home with the screaming midget for the first six months while I went off to the 8-5 work day. The way I did things was always spend that time after woerk helping the wife and relieveing her of mom duties for a while. Obviously its good time spent for the both of you.

When the little one goes down to bed that’s where id sneak my shop time in. I spent the first 6 months of the baby’s life sharpening all my hand tools and tuning all my machines. Its work that can be stopped at any moment and picked up again at any moment for the most part. Now that he’s a bit older and his naps are fairly scheduled I can bust it down to the shop and do some work. The best part is I don’t have to waste my time fidgeting with my tools, everything Is ready to go. When time is a precious commodity you want to spend it productively.

Ive also started a work bench. I find its a long term project and that works well for my situation too. Its for me and I know it wont be done over night so little by little I can chip away at it. Having a basement shop its also given me the opportunity to work on my hand tool skills. So far ive drilled and mortised everything by hand with a brace and a chisel so I don’t wake up the house with noisy machines.

Congrats on the little one!! And while everyone else is showing off, I might as well do the same:

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View Sandra's profile


7207 posts in 2311 days

#9 posted 05-29-2013 01:04 PM

Congrats, I’ll agree with most of what was posted above, but I’ll also add some comments as a wife.

Nobody says it aloud very often, but as wonderful as parenthood is, it’s usually an atomic bomb in a marriage.
Your lovely, most likely independent, intelligent wife has been reduced to a milk-making, sleep deprived, ugly-feelin’ humanoid who discusses poo more than any other creature.

I can only speak for myself, but I pretty much hated my husband for being able to go out to work, go to the gym etc etc in the first few months/years of parenthood. Even the way he breathed annoyed me. Don’t rat me out, but I know many women who went through the same thing.

Yes, you will be able to find shop time here and there when the planets line up properly, or the grandparents swoop in. But be forewarned – if your wife gives the big sigh and says “sure honey, go into the shop. I know it’s important to you” DON’T DO IT, before asking what you can do to help first. Or better yet, just do it. If at all possible, take a day off here and there to give mom a break.

To make a long comment longer, this is an important time to invest in your marriage. No matter how strong it is, you’ve just introduced a new component.

Cute component, by the way.


-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

View UpstateNYdude's profile


918 posts in 2219 days

#10 posted 05-29-2013 01:41 PM

Heed what Sandra said, I can’t count how many times I said something I wanted to go do to my wife and I got the death gaze, giving the wife some free time or a nap goes a long long way in keeping her from murdering you in your sleep.

-- Nick, “I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it.” – Vincent Van Gogh

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 3187 days

#11 posted 05-29-2013 01:49 PM

Congrats to you! Once the little one gets on a better sleep schedule and starts sleeping through the night, then you can more easily schedule in your woodworking time. I do most of my woodworking later at night. Because we have neighbors not too far from my garage, I work primarily with hand tools, and run the loud power tools on weekends, or try to sneak them in briefly before its too late.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View etumos's profile


11 posts in 2092 days

#12 posted 05-29-2013 02:02 PM

Two years of darkness my friend. At least where your personal life and hobbies are concerned. It has been tough but I squeezed out a priest now and then but nothing that I could not walk away from for weeks at a time.
The others have said it, bond with your little one. Your shop will be there.

-- Jason; Auburn, WA

View JoeinGa's profile


7739 posts in 2243 days

#13 posted 05-29-2013 02:06 PM

CONGRATS! She looks like a KEEPER! :-)

I’m 60 now so I certainly cant ADD to this advice. As best I remember Saundra has stated it pretty spot on from the gals point of view. I remember many times getting that 60-yard-stare and a big sigh and it usually meant ”Dont you DARE leave me alone again with this baby. Get yer ass back here and take your turn with her while I go upstairs and soak in a nice hot bath!”

And to the rest of you who have posted pix of your young’uns…. They’re ALL a bunch of cuties! And who knows? Might be a future woodworker or two in there to boot!

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View Kreegan's profile


1452 posts in 2382 days

#14 posted 05-29-2013 02:14 PM

Get into turning. Flat woodworking takes too damn long. You can finish smaller turnings in less than a half hour once you’ve got the basics down. I work in the shop after my son goes to bed and when he’s napping on the weekend.

View Donald's Woodshop's profile

Donald's Woodshop

111 posts in 2350 days

#15 posted 05-29-2013 02:37 PM

It is tough. I have a 6 year old daughter and a 3 year old son. Work is from 6am to 4pm then family time until their both in bed, relax with the wife and in bed at about 10. I usually get about 3 hrs on saturday and 3 hrs on sunday. I would love more time but I would rather spend the majority of my time with the kids while they want to spend time with me. I know as they grow up there will be more time in my shop as they discover new interests. Just be patient and enjoy these years like when they will give you a hug for no reason at alll.

-- Imperfections make it unique!

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