Working from Home… With Toddlers
I have had five toddlers living in my home over the years. Some were calm, choosing to play quietly in a corner for hours on end while I worked and planned my business. Some were active, mischievous, and required lots of patience and supervision, keeping from doing much until the wee hours of the night.
And then there was this last one.. my now 18-month-old Marcus. He officially changed the rules of being a 1099 Mom with a toddler at home.
I can imagine that for most Moms, there is at least one “high-needs” kid in the household. Working from home with one in your care, however, takes a delicate balance of being attentive and not allowing yourself to be completely run over. It also takes a lot of help.
Here are my real-life tips for working at home with a toddler underfoot:
1. Beat boredom. The number one reason most toddlers melt down, bug you, or cry is that they have nothing to do. Sure, there is a bucketful of toys within reach, but they’ve likely played with them a million time. They need focus, new playthings, and stimulation that falls outside of their normal experiences. My favorite way to keep a toddler entertained is to grab 5 random (but safe) objects from around the house for them to play with. Good ones include a wire whisk, a tennis ball, an old magazine, and a pretty scarf. You’d be surprised at how having unique playthings can take the edge off.
2. Enlist help. My 13-year-old gets saddled with baby care daily. She doesn’t usually mind, provided it doesn’t cut into her homeschool study time, checking Facebook, or her chores. I also have activities that are sanctioned for supervision by my 8-year-old son. We schedule these times into the day to let everyone know that “Mommy is working” and that they can handle anything that doesn’t involve an emergency. My husband, of course, does a good amount of holding, playing, and singing, as well.
3. Don’t fight the fights. If you have found your toddler especially unruly while you try to type an email or finish an article, you may just have to let it go until it’s a better time. I find that I lose a lot of productivity by trying to multitask child care with working; when I give in, take 15 minutes to rock and sing to my baby, then come back and work with 100% focus, it usually takes much less time (and I make fewer typos in my work.)
4. Know your seasons. The best way to ensure that work and toddler-raising can co-exist peacefully is to really be in tune with your body. I don’t mean this in a hokey way, but rather to let you know that we all have “on” times and “off” times. I hate getting up early, but I know that I do my best work before 11 am. I find that when the kids are in bed (after 9pm), I’m usually to tired to do anything coherently. This challenges me to make sure that the toddler in the house is entertained during my peak hours so I can do more with less time. I don’t even try to do much during the late evening (we rock, cuddle, and sing, instead.)
Do you have an under-3 in the house? Are you running an at-home business? We’d love to hear your challenges or tips for keeping everything going smoothly.