Working from home with a toddler is a whole new ballgame for many professionals. With a global pandemic and the “shelter in place” mandates growing more frequent, here’s how you can keep your work life up and running while also sharing space with a toddler.
I’ve worked from home for the last 3 years. Scott has worked from home for even longer. So, with this whole “can’t leave your house” thing happening, we didn’t anticipate life-changing much for us.
That was, of course, until we realized that we would no longer have childcare.
Lily attends school two days a week, but more importantly, she spends several days a week with her grandparents. With school closed and social distancing keeping us away from higher-risk grandparents, we quickly realized we’d have to adapt and make some pretty major changes for ourselves to continue to get work done.
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Working From Home with a Toddler: 7 Tips
Since many of you are in the same boat, I thought it would be helpful to share how we are working from home with a toddler. Both of us are still working full time, so we’ve had to adjust and shift.
Hopefully, these tips will help you out too!
Ask for Flexibility
I realize this isn’t possible with every job, but many employers will allow you the freedom to work throughout the day as you are able, as long as you hit 8-ish hours and get your work done.
Talk to your boss and let her (or him) know that you’ve got a young child at home and you would appreciate flexibility. Most bosses are in the same boat too, so hopefully, you’ll get some compassion.
I’ve had several less-than-understanding bosses who were rigidly inflexible and not very understanding, so I get that this isn’t a possibility for everyone. However, this is a unique situation and global crisis, so you’ll likely find at least a little grace.
Be Ultra-Efficient with the Time You Have
Literally every second counts when you are working from home with a toddler. You need to be READY to go as soon as you find even a five-minute break throughout the day.
For me, this means I am using the time I have while playing/entertaining my daughter to quickly check my calendar, email, and Slack channel on my phone.
This allows me to quickly reply to some items with voice text. Even more importantly, it allows me to star items or add items to a list in order of priority.
So when I do get a moment of free time (see more below about how to get that time), I know EXACTLY what needs to be worked on.
Find Pockets of Time to Work
Now, let’s chat about how you find those moments of time to work. Please keep in mind that how this works will vary depending on how you want to parent, your priorities, and your child.
Get Up Early
I know, this stinks! I am naturally a night person, but in this season, I can’t leave work until the end of the day. For me to have a fighting chance, I’ve got to get work in as early as possible.
For me, this means getting up 2-3 hours before Lily does. I know this is crazy early for some of you, and that this may not be possible. I am currently getting up around 6 am, which basically guarantees me 3 hours of work before Lily is up.
Remember, I already have a running list so I know exactly what I need to do as soon as I wake up.
If your child gets up super early, try adjusting his or her bedtime to later. Lily currently goes to bed around 10 pm. We purposefully do this so we can get up and work while she sleeps until 9:30 am or so.
Wait to Get Dressed
And here’s a controversial statement. I know everyone says to get dressed before you start your workday, but I disagree. I personally do not get dressed for the day until Lily is up.
Why? Simple. Those 10-15 minutes of changing are precious work minutes that I cannot afford to spend on getting dressed. I get dressed for my day after Lily is up because she can sit on the bed or run around my room while I’m getting ready.
See what I mean about guarding every minute of work time?
Plus, that means I get to wear my jammies a few extra hours. Win-win. 🙂
Employ Screen Time
I know, I know. Screentime for a kid is so controversial. And I don’t exactly love letting my toddler watch hours of TV per day.
BUT these are NOT normal times. And in weird times like these, we have to do what it takes to keep our jobs secure and our babies safe. So for me, screen time is currently a big part of the working from home with a toddler equation.
I let Lily watch her favorite show (Mickey Mouse Clubhouse) on Disney+ about two hours per day. Hey, it’s educational! 🙂
She gets one hour at some point before her nap and one hour in the afternoon at some point. This gets mama (and daddy) two hours of work time.
Use the High Chair
Our high chair is a wonderful, magical tool. You know, part of the problem with working from home with a toddler is that they are mobile. And fast, y’all.
Solution? Keep ’em strapped in the high chair.
Of course, you need to have something for them to do while they sit there. The trick is to make all the stuff they get in the highchair exclusive to the chair only. This means it’s exciting and special when she gets to play in the seat!
Here are a few things that have worked really well for keeping Lily entertained (and stationary) in the high chair:
NOTE: If I allow her to do any of these, I am sitting at the dining table right next to her so I can keep an eye on her. Don’t leave your kiddo unattended!
- Food – of course, right? But, a fun snack or something like a smoothie can get me a good 15-20 minutes.
- Playdough – You can easily whip up a DIY nontoxic play dough recipe or order playdough online.
- Art – I purposely only let Lily color or do art while in her highchair. That makes it a secret weapon I can pull out and I’m guaranteed at least 20-30 minutes of focused time while she draws. We use non-toxic crayons, along with these magic markers and paint that ONLY show up on the special paper.
- Magnet Tiles – Lily LOVES her magnet tiles – she’ll play for 30 minutes happily on her own with them.
If all else fails and I need to get a (non-video) call in, I’ll take Lily outside and let her ride her bike around the patio or play with chalk while I chat. She loves being outside, so it’s a win-win!
Daily Work Schedule With a Toddler
Here’s how we currently have our workday set up. Again, this may take some adjusting.
6 am – up and working (3 hours work)
9 am – get Lily up, get dressed
10 am – she gets breakfast in her high chair, then high chair playtime (30 minutes of work)
11 am – 1 hour of TV time for Lily (1 hour of work)
12 pm – family walk + lunch
1:30 pm – Lily’s nap time (1.5 hours of work)
3:30 pm – snack + high chair playtime (30 minutes of work)
4:30 -1 hour of TV time for Lily (1 hour of work)
10 pm – Lily’s in bed and I’m checking emails and getting organized for tomorrow (1 hour of work)
If nothing else, just remember that working at home with a toddler has a learning curve. This season won’t last forever, so take what joy you can from it! 🙂