*Updated for April 2020*
Working from home with your toddler is every mother’s dream. It’s a luxury not many parents usually get. Corona Virus aside, I’m fortunate enough to say I do. Rather than heading out to work after dropping my toddler off with childcare and collecting her at the end of a long day, I get to work from home and keep her home with me.
Working from home with a little one is not without its challenges though and I find it tough to maintain a balance that allows me to complete my work-related tasks but also keep my toddler entertained and happy at the same time.
With the Covid-19 crisis, you may now find yourself working from home with not only the pre-schoolers but also older children who would usually be in school.
Over the last year, I’ve learnt a fair few tricks to help. I’m not saying they always work and like me, you may still rely on a few hours of childcare a week to get by. Anyone with a toddler knows they’re basically a law to their own, what might please them one day will send them into a fit of screaming tantrums the next. But when it works, it allows you to have the best of both worlds.
So, here are my tips for working from home with a toddler.
1. Create yourself a workspace.
Creating a workspace in the area where your toddler spends most of their time allows you to be a little more organised with any paperwork or work-related paraphernalia. It also allows you to keep a beady eye on your little one.
I use our dining table. Admittedly, our dining table is located in our main living space and is not often used for dining but it’s big enough to store everything I need for working, i.e. laptop, stationary & paperwork. It’s also high enough that my toddler can’t get her hands on anything. Pens, pencils etc are kept in a pen pot and pushed far enough away from the edge of the table. I’ve learnt my lesson the hard way on that one. (I don’t want another toddler artwork on my sofa cushions crisis, thank you very much). More on that tale here – A Little Catch Up #3.
2. Plan your day.
I know a day in the life of a toddler can be unpredictable. But you can still plan your day to some degree. For example, important phone calls can be planned for nap times. Emails etc can be done whilst your toddler is safely in their high chair having lunch or during the odd time they’re happy entertaining themselves.
3. A high chair has multiple uses.
Not only do we use the high chair for eating but we also use it for some creative play. Set your little one up in the same room as you in their high chair, give them some paper and crayons and let them have at it. This allows you some time to complete work tasks but also keep your eyes on your toddler.
4. Give your toddler the attention they need.
Switching off from work when you work from home is tough. It’s easy to get frustrated when your toddler is demanding your attention and all you can think about is the 101 things you still need to do. But a toddler wanting attention is not going to give in until they get it. So, when your toddler is after some mummy or daddy time, put your work things down and give your little one some much-needed attention.
When planning your day, allow for the time you’ll be spending entertaining your kids. After all, the biggest perk of working from home is spending time with your little ones.
5. Take advantage of their favourite shows.
If your toddler is anything like mine, they get slightly hooked on certain TV shows, Pepper Pig & Shane the Chef being firm favourites. As much as I don’t like too much screen time, sometimes it’s a necessary evil. Allowing your little one half an hour watching their favourite show a couple of times a week won’t melt their brains to mush. I promise. What it will do is give you a little more work time and probably return a bit of your sanity.
6. Work in the evenings.
Important phone calls will probably need to be made during the hours of 9 to 5 but most of anything else can be done at any time of the day. So if you can, why not wait until your toddler is tucked up in bed and then crack on with those work bits and pieces. Waiting until bedtime means you don’t have to feel guilty about working. Plus, there’s the benefit of being able to have a cheeky glass of wine. Drinking while you work can only aid production, right?
7. Don’t be afraid to rely on some childcare.
*This one would be more relevant for after lockdown has lifted. Alternatively, you can ask the older kids to keep the younger ones entertained while you get some work done.*
Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you won’t need to rely on some form of childcare. If you’re like me your job may involve attending meetings away from home or maybe you just don’t have time to get everything done with your little monster running around.
Relying on the family is a great way to keep childcare costs down. There is also a government scheme which provides free childcare to two-year-olds. You need to meet certain criteria to qualify but it may be worth looking into. Check out more info here – https://www.gov.uk/help-with-childcare-costs/free-childcare-2-year-olds
For me, I’m extremely lucky to have my mum. If I need to pop out to see a customer, I drop my toddler with nanny and collect her on my way home. It’s a win-win all around, nanny gets to spend some quality time with her youngest grandchild (obviously the favourite), the toddler has a great time and probably gets a little spoilt and I can work knowing my toddler is probably having more fun with nanny than she would do at home.
We also use a local nursery one morning a week. If work is quiet I usually use this time to get as much child-free housework done as I can. There are added benefits of using a nursery, even for just a couple of hours a week. Tips on how to cope with your child’s first day of nursery and the benefits of using a nursery here – How to Survive your first day at Nursery.
8. Remember you can’t do it all, all the time.
If only we had multiple clones that could crack on with your work stuff while you focus on your child. That would be amazing, wouldn’t it?! Unfortunately, you are only one person and as much as you like to think you can, you can’t do it all. Sometimes you have to admit defeat. At some point, if the stress of juggling everything doesn’t get you, ‘mum guilt’ will.
What you have to remember is that you’re doing the best you can. If you have to drop a couple of those balls occasionally, then so be it. Juggling working from home and a toddler, all while still managing a home makes you an inspiration to your kids and someone they can look up to and be proud of.
The downtimes will only last so long. So, accept the help when it’s there and keep kicking arse. I guarantee you’re doing an amazing job.
I hope these tips are of some benefit to someone. If your a parent working from home with a toddler, I would love to hear from you.