Parenting Tips: How to Successfully Work from Home with a Toddler
While many adults without kids have busy lives, those of us who have kids at home may be feeling more stressed and overwhelmed than ever, juggling the demands of work while also trying to be an attentive parent.
Even if you’re fortunate enough to have access to a daycare, a babysitter, or grandparent, these tips can still help you better manage your time as you work throughout the day. Nap times are also when the most work gets done.
If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that I need to be willing to adapt each day to the needs of my child, have more grace with myself as a parent, and celebrate accomplishments more, no matter how small. With this in mind, here are some of my top tips for how to work from home with a toddler:
5 Tips for Working from Home with a Toddler
1. Find the Best Morning Routine
Most parents have heard that kids thrive with some sort of structure or routine. Well, the same is true for adults.
Even with a simple morning routine like waking up at the same time every day, making your bed, showering, eating a healthy breakfast, and checking your emails can jumpstart your day without having to use much brainpower. So, add a toddler or two into the mix and you know mornings can be very messy and chaotic.
My recommendation is to wake up before the kids. Make time for your personal routine to get up, get yourself ready, exercise, or jumpstart a work project so you feel like you’ve accomplished something even before the kids are up. Then, take a break to help them through their morning routines so they feel just as happy and ready to go for the day.
2. Set Timers
Time management may sound cliché when it comes to tackling many daily tasks, but it really does work! Whether you need to focus on work, family, or chores in the home, managing your time is an extremely important skill to master. Using timers throughout your day can help keep your focus on one thing at a time and allows you to fit in much more than you ever thought possible.
Set timers for work tasks that you know you need to get done that day. Turn your phone on “Do Not Disturb” mode and avoid your work emails until you finish the task at hand.
So, how do you do this with a toddler at home?
Set timers for chunks of time throughout the day so you can give your child 100% of your attention. Whether to play with toys, to eat a meal together, read books, or go for a walk outside.
By setting a timer it allows you to be present and avoid other distractions. Even if it’s just a 10-minute break from work to go for a walk to get the mail with your toddler, they notice and appreciate that you aren’t trying to do a million things at once.
Set a 5-minute timer to clean up the toys or put away the dishes. Allow your toddler to participate in daily jobs so they can learn these important skills. You’d be surprised how clean your house can look after just 5 minutes of quick cleanup.
Set a timer for screen time. While I personally know the struggle of trying to keep your toddler occupied with a screen while you’re also on a screen getting work done, it’s important to limit screen time for young brains. This is where it really helps to have someone you trust who can support you as a working parent and help care for the kids.
3. Embrace Flexibility
If I had a dollar for every time I was about to do something work-related and had to quickly shift into “mom mode,” I’d be rich. This was something that, as a new mom, was hard for me to juggle. Now, with a toddler, I’ve come to embrace it.
I’ve accepted and acknowledged that I wear many hats and need to be flexible while working from home. Not only that but fortunately, my employer allows some level of flexibility. This is key, and I feel that many companies are learning that employees can still be successful and productive if some things are completed outside the normal 9 am to 5 pm hour window.
I also had to learn to be more flexible when it came to setting expectations. No human being can work 8 hours entirely on the computer, while also keeping a tidy home, a toddler busy and happy, meals prepared, and taking care of myself. I felt a lot of pressure in the beginning months after maternity leave to keep up this impossible pace.
However, it just isn’t realistic…some things can and WILL fall through the cracks. It became a matter of simply prioritizing each day which things didn’t matter as much and which things were non-negotiable.
4. Evaluate Your Space
Keeping your workspace separate from the rest of the home is definitely ideal. This helps you get into work mode, helps you to focus on your meetings or calls, and reduces distractions. If possible, find your own personal workspace within your home that inspires you.
Another space in your home that’s important to evaluate is your child’s play space. I learned early on how quickly my daughter would get bored of her toys if they were just in a big chest or bin. It was too hard for her to see what she had, and with too many toys she didn’t last very long playing on her own.
Instead of allowing the toys to take over the play space, pick only a few toys to have out for a few days. Cycling toys is a great way to keep your toddlers interested and playing with their toys. It’s also best to have their toys visible, on a small bookshelf or where they can see and pull them out on their own.
5. End the Day Right
Be proud of what you accomplished, both in work and in parenting. Acknowledge your efforts each day and focus on the things that you were able to cross off your list. When it comes time to end your workday, try to unplug. Take some time for yourself or your family.
Still have something on your list for work that day? I like to simply plan on waking up just a little bit earlier the next day to complete it. Try to separate your work from your life in the evenings and enjoy your unwind time.
Hopefully, these tips will inspire you to make some minor changes that could make a big impact in your career and parenting success. Having a sense of accomplishment each day while also being there for those sweet moments with your toddler can be very rewarding.
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