How Do I Manage My Work From Home With My Toddler?
Being a parent is a full-time job, no doubt. If you have just recently begun working from home with a toddler around, things can get quite interesting and tiring at the same time. A child, by default, will want your time and attention. Whether it is to push them on the swing or sit at the dinner table as they introduce you to their (doll) friends. It is adorable and cute. But, it can get tricky when you are trying to complete daily work tasks from home. So how can you work from home with a toddler? Great question! Let dive into it.
I know what you are thinking. Is it entirely possible? With a few hacks here and there, yes, it is! From getting up early, encouraging independent play, to enforcing clear boundaries when and where you can. I will expound more in this article.
See also the article 7 HELPFUL TIPS ON HOW TO SURVIVE THE HOME OFFICE WITH KIDS
Top Tips on How to Work with a Toddler in the Home
1. Wake Up Early
You know the saying that goes, 'the early bird catches the worm?' Here, the early bird will get more done. One of the best strategies to managing working from home with a toddler is getting up way before they do.
This is to help you get some work done before they wake up. Set your alarm one to two hours before their usual time for waking up and see the difference. If you are generally more productive during morning hours, then tackle your most complex and/or larger project during those quiet hours.
If you work better during later hours, then use the extra time to organize yourself, respond to emails, and plan for the rest of the day.
2. Encourage Independent Play
Independence plays a huge role in toddler development. Not just physical development, but social, emotional, and cognitive development.
Hence, encouraging independent play is not only beneficial to you but your toddler as well. What a sweet double win! Independent play could include the following activities:
- Flipping or “reading” through books on their own.
- Working with building blocks like LEGOs.
- Working on a puzzle.
- Playing with a train set.
- Cooking in their play kitchen.
3. Set Clear Boundaries
It is extremely important to establish boundaries. A great way to do so would be to start a conversation that clearly defines what working from home is. Best done within the setting of a family meeting, your toddler must comprehend the importance of the daily tasks you have and the need to accomplish them.
Even if they do not understand the full picture of what you are saying, do not underestimate communication.
Explain certain things like what it means when the door of your home office is closed. If they have to speak with you, they need to first knock on the door and wait for a response. If there is no response, set up an alternative way to still get through to you.
This could include training your toddler to ring a bell that is within their reach when they are in urgent need of something. This will work especially well if your home office space is set up in an enclosed room.
It is important to first explain why the rules are being set before setting the rules. Also, do remember to explain that once you finish with the day’s work (if you can state a certain time, it will be better), you will be available to play to or help with other things. That way, your child(ren) will not feel neglected or abandoned.
4. Swapping Baby Sitting With Another Parent
This right here is the ultimate double win. It is especially true if the parent is your close neighbor. Setting up a babysitting swap with them would be highly beneficial to both of you.
A swap is simply a scenario where one parent will take both their children and yours for a few hours as you work. You then return the favor by taking their children and yours so that they may work.
This arrangement could be based on breaks or off days. For example, if you are off on Tuesday and Thursday, then you will babysit the children on those days. The same applies to when your neighbor would be off. The biggest advantage of swapping babysitting with your close neighbor is exactly that.
They are your close neighbors. Some toddlers get anxious away from their parents. Also, if there is an emergency, you would be close by.
5. Work wIth A Schedule
Schedules are non-negotiable! Breaking up your working day into clearly defined chunks of time will serve both you, your toddler, and your family huge benefits.
A schedule will help you maintain a healthy work-life and personal/social life balance. This is especially true when there is a toddler in the picture. Another important aspect of working with a schedule is ensuring that it is all written down.
In fact psychologist and pediatric mental health expert Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge confirms this. Dr. Roseann says that having a written schedule listed on your door is important. In a perfect world, everything runs quite smoothly and all.
But, the truth is we are not in a perfect world, and things do not always run smoothly, especially during a pandemic. There are days that you may have work tasks and/or projects dropped onto your shoulders on short notice.
“if you can not align your schedule so that you and your child can both get work done and ideal times, then do not be too hard on yourself. Just try and do your best”. - Dr. Roseann
In such a situation, you may not be able to stick to or rather follow your schedule. And that is perfectly okay. Dr. Roseann goes further to advise, “if you can not align your schedule so that you and your child can both get work done and ideal times, then do not be too hard on yourself. Just try and do your best”.
6. Take Advantage of your Toddlers Nap Time
Well, the nap is for your toddler. I know, it would feel good to get one too, huh? The majority of parents are already aware that nap time equates to a prime window of peace that will help you get more work done.
Thus, try as much as possible to schedule tasks that require silence and/or focus/concentration when it is your toddler’s nap time. This is because, during that quiet time, there’s no crying and/or noise playing in the background that can distract you from working and/or concentrating.
Moreover, enforcing nap time is highly important for your toddler’s health and general development. Naptime that last between two to three hours for your toddler is just enough.
This is especially true for afternoon hours. As you get into the practice of encouraging nap time for your toddler, ensure that the times stay consistent. For example, if your child naps for two and a half hours, make sure that it starts and ends at a particular time, i.e., 2 pm to 4.30 pm. This way, you and your toddler will have a routine.
7. Regulate Screen Time
If your toddler has had enough of solving puzzles and nap time, what would be next? Hmm. You know it. Kids’ shows on websites like YouTube and Netflix. The biggest advantage of such avenues of entertainment for your toddler is that the supply is infinite. In addition to that, they will fully capture your toddler’s attention.
However, the truth is leaving a toddler for an extended amount of time on that tablet/laptop is also not very healthy.
A publication has revealed that younger age children exposed to excessive screen time may increase their attention disorders. The study used data that was gathered from 2,152 children. Their results concluded that extensive time spent in front of a screen at the age of 1years old was linked to an increased risk of autism spectrum disorder-like symptoms.
You therefore need to regulate your toddlers screen time to avoid any developmental problems in the future. The recommended screen time for your toddler is no more than two hours a day. Screen time should be switched over to listening to their favorite music on the radio.
8. Get your Partner on Board
An important aspect of managing the challenges of working from home with a toddler has a partner that helps where they can. If you live with your partner, try to sit down and draft up a plan with a clear set clear expectations from each person.
If possible, drafting a schedule on who will do what and at what time, especially during your working hours. This will be most effective if both you and your partner are working from home.
The second step is to ensure you stick to the schedule and communicate any time something unavoidable may come up. If you are not with or around your partner, reaching out to family members or close friends for help could be an alternative option.
However, in regards to the pandemic, do not feel offended if the people you reach out to are hesitant. This is especially true with social distancing guidelines and restricted movement being advised.
9. Handling Domestic Duties
Trying to manage to work from home AND with a toddler may strip you off any extra time. Ironically, you need time to cater to cooking and cleaning duties. This is especially accurate if the living room is your toddler’s playroom and your kitchen their cafeteria.
Feeling overwhelmed by domestic duties does not mean that you are lazy. It is perfectly okay to feel tired. In fact, encourage your toddler to do some simple tasks during the clean-up process.
These tasks could include having them pick up their toys that they scattered all over the place and put in their toy box. Another simple clean-up task could involve wiping water that spilled on the table. Involving your toddler in simple clean-up tasks will not only help you but teach them to be more responsible and organized.
In the event, you are able to afford hired help, consider outsourcing cleaning services.
When it comes to cooking, consider meal prepping on one day of the week. This means preparing meal items or whole meals ahead for the week before it starts. Its popularity is from the fact that it saves you a great deal of time as all you do is heat your food and eat. Moreover, meal prepping will help you avoid the unhealthy habit of eating takeouts.
Meal prepping is often divided into three common sections:
- Batch Cooking - This type of meal prepping involves preparing large batches of a specific recipe. The recipe is then split into individual portions that will be frozen and eaten over the next couple of weeks/months. They often are great for lunch and/or dinner options.
- Make-Ahead Meals - These are full meals that have been cooked well in advance. They can be put in the refrigerator and reheated at mealtimes.
- Ready-to-cook Ingredients - this type of meal prepping involves preparing the ingredients (chopping, marinating) required to cook specific meals well ahead of time. Preparing these ingredients is a good way to cut down on cooking time in the kitchen.
In conclusion, working in the same space as your toddler may not be easy, but the above strategies will make it more manageable. It is important to remember that you are not alone in this.
Census data reports that there are nearly 12 million U.S households that have got toddlers. With the pandemic going on, this indicates that there are many parents out there working from home with their toddler(s). If and when you have the time, speak with other parents and see what works for them and what does not.
Feel free to share what has been working for you and also what has not been working for you. It is not every day that your toddler will want to play with their LEGOs. There are some days that your toddler may only take a nap for 30 minutes. It is therefore important to socialize with other working from home parents.
Also, do not forget to sit down with your partner and discuss what will work for both of you.