It’s easy to see the appeal of working from home as a parent, if you can manage it – managing to do your job while spending time with and taking care of the people who matter the most at the same time. The key words, of course, are “at the same time.” When you are working from home with toddlers, “having it all” can easily turn into “doing it all.”
Why? Because the toddler years are the time when Baby’s energy is in full swing! Once they take that first step, there’s no stopping them. The world is theirs to explore, and they're not going to waste the chance.
Keeping an eye on all that energy can make it easy to start to wonder if you can still manage to watch Baby while still getting things done. It may not be easy, but you can manage it, and there are a few strategies that may help you out when you do.
There will be times when you will be so engrossed with work that you may start to lose track of the world around you. It’s also during this time that Baby will probably jump into exploring something brand new, so making sure their play area is fully toddler-proofed can help you both out during these moments.
- Install safety latches on any cabinets, cupboards, or toilets, including the ones they might not have been able to reach before, but which are almost in their reach now that they are bigger and stronger.
- Make sure all electrical outlets are plugged – this is often a baby-proofing step that happens early on, when a child is very young, and then slowly gets taken down when outlets are needed as they get older, so it can be helpful to do a walk-through now and then to make sure every outlet is covered and safe.
- It’s important to have all cabinets and cupboards locked, but it’s just as important to make sure anything dangerous is kept inside of them, including medications, cleaning supplies, and anything sharp.
Expect the expected
Prepare what your little one might need during the day in order to save some time. There are always going to be unexpected events that appear out of nowhere, but some things are easy to predict. You may know that they are going to get hungry before it’s time for lunch, and you can get their snacks set up the night before, and even put them away somewhere your little one will be able to reach without your help. If you know they are probably going to want some specific toys, put them in one box somewhere they can get them themself.
Give Baby their own “work”
Interruptions are part of the package when you’re working in the same place that Baby is – they want your attention! That’s a totally normal way for them to feel. That doesn’t mean you can’t set boundaries – now is a great time to get started setting limits for them about when you can play and when you can’t.
That doesn’t mean they're always ready to listen, though. Telling them that you need some quiet time because you need to get some work done is a start, but they may not really know what you mean. Something like “I’m going to work on my computer right now, and you can work on drawing a really big picture, and then when we’re both done, we can stop for a snack,” gives them something specific to connect quiet, working time to.
Educational, age-appropriate toys that Baby can work on, even just for a couple of minutes at a time, helps keep them occupied while you’re working.
Create a schedule and stick to it
Toddlers love routines – and so do work-days! By having a predictable schedule, you can get Baby used to playing quietly without your attention during certain parts of the day. Having a schedule and sticking to it also helps you to prioritize different tasks, to help make sure you finish your work on time, attend to Baby, do any household chores that need to be done, and even throw in the occasional errand.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
The problem with multi-tasking is that there is a big chance that you’ll get burned out easily. When it starts to get overwhelming, that can be the time to reach out to your support system, whether that’s your partner, your extended family, or your close friends. Asking for help is hard enough that it can be tempting to keep on trying to do everything you need to without a break until you get completely overwhelmed, but taking a quick break to unwind and figure out what you need to do and how you can do it before you start to feel too frazzled can make all the difference.
You can do it all – all the things you need to do. But everyone needs a little bit of help to make it work sometimes, and that’s A-okay, too.