These are unprecedented times, and more of us working parents find ourselves working remotely unexpectedly. On top of trying to regain control over other parts of my life during this trying time, I am newly a working from home mama. I actually prefer the work from home life, but I know it is not everyone’s cup of tea. It could be all hot coffee, pajamas, and extreme productivity except for one (or a few small) blips in the work from home plan: Our kids are also home too. In our house, that means working from home with toddlers.
For those of you with older school-aged children, you may enjoy the benefits of online schooling options, sleeping in, video game marathons, and DIY lunch goers. For those of you with toddlers or babies: We feel you. We are you. And we got this. Depending on your situation, you may be faced with having to complete a “full” day’s workload while also providing care for your children. Whether for a short term sick day, or a longer term situation such as the worldwide global health crisis, these strategies are things anyone can implement and see success with working from home with little ones!
Depending on your job, having flexibility with your working schedule can be the key to success. I know my children well, and their preferred routine and habits. I know their normal wakeup times, eating times, and nap/rest times. Whenever possible, I flex my schedule around those times. I get up and complete some work from 6am-8 when the toddlers get up. I squeeze in another working block during morning snack/play time. During their nap window from 1-3:30 I schedule meetings and phone calls if possible. If needed, I log back on and work at night after bedtime at 7. My husband does his best to work his schedule to fit into the opposite times of mine, so that one us can be available to supervise the kids as needed. Not everyone has as much control over their schedule, but if one or both of you does, use it to your full advantage!
2. Loose Schedule
Along with maintaining flexibility is setting up a “loose” schedule. I say loose because with toddlers, nothing is set in stone! But they also thrive with a routine. We try to stick to a general schedule for outside time, play room time, tv/movie time. The kids know what to expect, and generally have no problem with occupying themselves within this routine to allow us to still be working. During outside time, I take a break and we take a walk or play in the yard. During play room time, I bring my laptop into the playroom. For meals and snacks, my husband covers while I make some calls. With predictability, we are able to manage through the chaos!
3. Toy Cycling
We practice toy cycling throughout the year, but especially during times like this! We got a few large storage bins to put away several of their toys and rotate them on a weekly basis. Over the weekend, we switch out which toys are in the bin and which toys are out in the playroom. With two under three, every toy is equally as exciting when it is rediscovered each week! We also practice toy cycling with the play room itself. The same toy can be more fun in the upstairs bonus room instead of the regular play room! While this involves a bit more picking up and organizing on my part, it gives us a fantastic opportunity to model toy clean up for our little ones, and gives us quite a bit of independent play time.
4. Defined Work Area
During our shared times of the day, you will find me chasing toddlers around with my laptop and cell phone. I can plop down in the playroom and work on reports or emails. However, my husband and I established a firm boundary with our kids regarding the home office space. The home office space is for uninterrupted phone calls, meetings, speaker phone, and multiple monitors. My husband spends more of his day talking on the phone than I do, so when the home office door is closed, the girls know not to go in. When nap time comes and I have meetings, I take them in the home office and my husband is on point to attend to the girls first during that time if they need something. We also found a lot of success with a new U-shaped desk that we just bought. It allows for multiple work spaces, and allows us to face the door to see (and signal!) to the kids when they come to the door. With a traditional commute, you always have a defined workspace but at home, you need to be creative!
5. Whatever Can Be Prepped, Prep
Even with the extra hours built into my day from not having to get ready and commute, I still maintain a nightly routine of prep to ease the stresses the next day. I make ahead breakfast, lunch and snacks when possible to have quick healthy options for the kids. This could look like pre-made deli sandwiches, homemade soups that I can heat, eggs and pancakes cooked ahead,or sliced veggies and fruits that I can grab from the fridge. I still prep their shoes and coats by the door so we are not searching forever for the lost shoe. I clean up and organize the play room areas for specific activities like crafting or play-doh, and I replace batteries in well loved toys. It is amazing all the tiny little things that pop up everyday, so a little prep can go a long way! This works wonders too if you happen to have an extra set of hands or a clueless husband helping!
Working From Home With Toddlers
At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is doing your best. Being the best employee for your company and getting your work done. Being the best parent and keeping your kids safe, well, and happy. Some days may look like a pretty Instagram painting session or Pinterest worthy schedule. Some days will look like Frozen 2 for the 6th time and Lucky Charms for all three meals. Whatever your day looks like, you are winning as long as you show up and do your best. Send me your best WFH tips and pop over to my Instagram to share your favorite activities!
All the best,