It’s been a while since I’ve popped in with a ‘tips and tricks’ type post, and after the workday I had yesterday, I thought of the perfect topic. For any other working mamas out there, or even SAHMs who need time during the day to focus on a side hustle, you know that having a toddler(s) around can seriously decrease your productivity. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked, “so do you keep Adeline home with you while you work?” I would have a huge pile of dollars.
There seems to be this sweet spot in toddlerhood where they want your attention literally 24/7, and we are currently IN THAT SWEET SPOT. And by in it, I mean smack dab stuck right in the middle of it. It’s a fun stage, really, but it’s right after the time where you can lock them up in baby jail (i.e. a giant gate with some noisy toys) and when they can independently entertain themselves for hours at a time. There’s about a 15 minute window where they are content with their current activity, before they are in your lap, pounding on your laptop, yelling MOMMMMYYYYY during your conference call, or crying because well, they’re toddlers and everything is extra dramatic these days!
I do love this stage though, because I love to feel needed. I love feeling like I’m the source of their entertainment and I know at some point they won’t want to play with Mommy constantly. I’ll be old news! But in order to successfully balance a career, and still feel like a good mom, I’ve come up with a few tips and tricks for surviving the days where you must coexist with your tiny coworker. Motherhood in general can be a tough act to balance, but I’m willing to bet that working at home with a toddler might be one of the toughest acts to balance. (Three cheers for preschool! Or daycare. Whatever you want to call it!)
Work in their environment if possible
By this I mean, try to work in the playroom, or in their bedroom when you can. That way they can play, and be comfortable, and you can camouflage the fact that you’re working by hanging out in their space! Win!
Snacks, snacks, snacks
This should be self explanatory. Take advantage of that snack cabinet, mamas! When all else fails, feed them.
Try to stay on their school schedule
Sometimes this is possible, sometimes it’s not. But when Adeline is home with me, I try to make sure I mimic her usual school schedule as much as I can. This includes keeping meal times around the same time, and doing my best to sneak in a few daily activities that she’s used to in between meetings.
Utilize screen time and don’t feel bad about it
I’m not against screen time, and I will proudly say that. However, I do believe in moderation, like most things. But on days where you’ve got to be a functioning member of the workforce AND keep a toddler happy, don’t be ashamed if you watch an extra movie or two throughout the day. Even if you just leave it on in the background, it can help.
Give your coworkers a heads up
This one is huge. Assuming your employer is family friendly, make sure your direct coworkers know you’ve got a little sidekick along for the day so they aren’t surprised when they hear a rogue cry or random word on a conference call. It’s better to let them know you’re juggling our kiddo, instead of trying to hide it and seeming distracted all day.
Embrace the mess, you can clean it later
These days are bound to be a little messier than usual. You’re not going to have time to monitor your tiny tornado and I would just embrace it, and make plans to clean it after bedtime. Give yourself a break, and let your kiddo revel in the chaos for just one day. 😉
Make sure you know how to MUTE
For the love of professionalism, DOUBLE CHECK you know how to mute yourself on all calls, chats, and meetings!
Power through nap time like never before
You already know how valuable nap time is, but on days where you’re also working, nap time is GOLD. Get ready to hard core crank out some work during nap time because it will be your saving grace!
Bonus: delay nap time if you can, by taking a slightly later lunch.
This is just something that I’ve figured out works for us, and only because Adeline is typically a really good napper at home. (Knock on wood, I may have just jinxed myself!) When she’s home with me, and on the weekends, I can almost always count on a solid 2-3 hour nap. She usually starts her nap around noon, but I’ve figured out if I can delay putting her down for a nap by taking a later lunch, I can better maximize my afternoon work time while she sleeps. Does that make sense? Most people take their lunch breaks sometime between 11:30-1, so this time of day is often slower. If I put her down for a nap at noon, then that’s at least one hour where she’s napping, but most of my coworkers are still out to lunch. But, if I can instead put her down closer to 1, then I can make sure she’s sleeping later in the afternoon when my coworkers are online and needing me for things. Yesterday, we actually put her down at 1:30, and she slept until 4:30! This gave me pretty much the entire second half of the day to really crank out some work!
These tips won’t work for everyone, but these are just a few things I’ve learned over the past several months. Everyone’s toddler is different, and what works for me may become a disaster for you! Hopefully these are some good thought starters for you, though. Good luck to you, mama! And remember, it’s just one day. And at the end of the day, you got to spend a little extra time with your little love bug. Even if it was stressful and crazy!
Do you work from home with a toddler? What tips would you add? Would you ever want to work from home?