How do you work from home with a toddler? It’s one of life’s great mysteries. Toddlers are loud, energetic little creatures that never seem to sit still or tire.
They can make doing anything a challenge — whether it’s getting dressed, trying to leave the house, or even going to the bathroom. So, when it comes to actually doing work, it’s fair to question whether or not it’s possible.
Is working from home with a toddler possible?
As someone who is currently navigating the work from home toddler situation, I can tell you, it is possible, but it’s not easy. As I write this I have a toddler and a baby at home. Today, by some stroke of good luck, both kids are napping at the same time. It’s weird and it’s making me feel anxious and uneasy because I don’t know how much, or how little, time I have.
While working from home with a toddler is possible it takes a lot of planning, focus, and flexibility. Whether you’re a seasoned work from home mom who’s looking for some new tips on how to get stuff done, or if you’re new to this situation and trying to figure out how to navigate it, check out these tips and strategies that I’ve found super helpful.
Tips for how to work from home with a toddler
Create a schedule
A schedule gives your day structure and routine and it prevents you from floundering around trying to decide what to do and when. If you want to be productive, set a schedule and stick to it. On our schedule, I include things like wake times, nap times, meal times, playtimes, bedtimes and work times. It’s a great way to keep the day moving forward and, if dad’s home or my parents come over, it keeps everyone on the same page.
Kids crave consistency. This is why most day homes and daycares have a set schedule, set meal plan and set activities. It just makes life easier for everyone. The toddlers know what to expect and you can prepare for meals and activities ahead of time.
A great tip that was passed to me by my father in law (a retired principal), is to structure your day using music. Have a certain song that you play to wake your toddler up and a certain energetic song that represents playtime, one for lunchtime, and a soothing lullaby for nap time. Your toddler will quickly start to equate the particular songs with the activities, and this can make the transitions (especially the transition into napping) a lot easier.
Use snacks and meals
When I have to schedule a meeting I try to do it during snack, or lunchtime. These represent the only times when my toddler isn’t talking/singing/screaming because he is eating or drinking. So, if you have a meeting that requires a quiet background prepare a large and delicious meal!
There’s nothing better than getting outside in the fresh air with your toddler and burning off some of that boundless energy. For me, there is definitely a correlation between outside playtime and longer, more reliable toddler naps. If you are structuring your day to work during naps then this is especially important.
When you’re working from home with a toddler you don’t have the luxury of procrastinating. When it’s time to work, you need to be on. You need to be focused and ready to produce because, like I’m currently experiencing, you don’t know how long you have. You don’t know what amount of time your little toddler is going to grant you on a day to day basis.
So, when your baby boss gives you some time to work, put away your phone, stay away from the fridge, don’t start doing chores. Whatever is going to distract you from your work, remove it or avoid it.
As every parent knows, toddlers are totally unpredictable. Is today going to be a good day or a very long day? Is your toddler going to be agreeable or monstrous? Healthy or sick? Sweet or sassy? It’s anyone’s guess. Get used to being flexible. If you plan to work during naptime and then the nap doesn’t happen, try not to stress.
Put contingency plans into place — schedule your time to get things done well before they are due, or schedule a playdate with Grandma the day before a big deadline. This is why procrastination is not possible, you just can’t guarantee that your work time won’t be overrun by toddler time.
Know your “why”
When you’re throwing your hands in the air and literally asking out loud “why am I doing this to myself,” make sure you know your why. Remind yourself why you are juggling parenthood, work, and life. Every parent’s reasons will be different.
Maybe you need to pay your bills and provide for your family. Or maybe you’re working to ensure that your kids have healthy education funds. Or maybe you love your job and you just want to work.
Your why will help you to get through those difficult days when, despite all of the scheduling, planning, and meal prep, things just aren’t working out.
Be kind to yourself
Raising a toddler is hard. They are bossy, defiant, egotistical little things. But they are also adorable, curious, fun and oh so lovable.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed and tired and like you just can’t get anything done, give yourself some grace. Remember that your toddler won’t stay little forever. So try and embrace all of the crazy that comes with parenting, working, and living.
People always tell me, “one day, you will long for the noise and the busyness,” and while at times it’s difficult to imagine, I do believe this to be true.
Working from home with a toddler is possible
Working from home with a toddler is possible, but challenging.
The first thing you can do is adjust your expectations. You are not going to get 6 or 8 hours of uninterrupted work time and you can’t control what’s going to happen on a daily basis. Go into this experience knowing that you will have to get used to working in 5 to 15-minute increments and making time to work when your toddler finally goes to sleep!
Next, try implementing some of these tips and strategies to see which ones work best for you.
From one mom working at home with a toddler to another — I wish you good luck!
–By Jessica Martel