For many women, being a work-from-home mom is the ultimate goal. Working from home allows you to split your day between managing your work tasks and enjoying time with your toddler.
There are several perks to being a work-from-home mom – you get to work flexible hours, increase your family income and most importantly, you get to spend more time with your toddler during his formative years. Whether you are working for a company or running your own business, it takes a lot of time, effort and patience to find the perfect balance and make this dream a reality.
Working from home is a challenge when you have a toddler but it is not impossible. It may take some time of trial and error to discover a system that works for you and your child so you need to be patient. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
1. Schedule! Schedule! Schedule!
As a WFHM (work from home mom), it is important to keep in mind that you are handling two jobs which means that you need to get organised and schedule your time wisely. In the past, you may have been most efficient when racing against the clock but with a toddler in the house, that’s no longer an option. When creating your daily schedule, mark the timings for your child’s meal, nap, snack and other activities and then build your work day around that schedule. You will also need to keep in mind that your child may take days or even weeks to adjust to your new routine so start working towards it well in advance. When starting a new routine, set your deadlines with plenty of wiggle room so that you can work comfortably within your schedule.
2. Encourage independent play
Toddlers have tonnes of energy but all you need to do is direct that energy in the right direction. This does not mean that you need to spend your day playing with your child and neglecting your work, far from it. Encourage your child to play alone while you work. Independent play is good for you and your child – it teaches your toddler how to be self-reliant and encourages creativity and imagination while allowing you to work in peace. Set up a playpen within your line of sight so that your child feels safe knowing you are around and you can keep an eye on him while working. You can also divide his toys into batches and constantly rotate the batches to keep them new and interesting.
3. Keep your child entertained
Toddlers are easily distracted. This means that you can’t just put your child in his playpen with a few toys and expect to work in peace for an hour. Choose activities that keep your toddler entertained for a longer period of time so that you are able to focus on your work. Activities such as colouring and building can keep your child busy for 30-45 minutes at a stretch. Use Adobe Capture to turn family photos into outline drawings for your toddler to colour. Personalized colouring pages are sure to capture and hold your toddler’s attention for a lot longer than regular colouring pages. Give your toddler age-appropriate building sets to play with as the sets for toddlers have larger pieces to prevent your child from swallowing any.
4. Pencil in play/TV time
The main perk of being a WFHM is that you get to spend more time with your little one, so make the most of it. Schedule 1-2 slots of dedicated playtime with your child during your day. Log off your computer and make sure that you keep your phone on silent during this time so that you can give your toddler your undivided attention. If you are too tired to play, you can simply cuddle and watch TV together. Schedule TV time just after your toddler’s lunch so that both of you can watch his favourite cartoon before you put him down for his nap. This bonding time will improve your work life balance and also help to reduce your work stress during the day which will make you more productive.
5. Practice preparedness drills with your toddler
There are times when you will need to deal with emergency work related calls during the time you’ve allocated for alone time with your child. Practice preparedness drills with your toddler so that he learns that there are times when he needs to be quiet while you see to your work. Turn the drill into a fun game and if possible, use a specific word to let him know it’s go time. Don’t do this too often or it will stop being fun for him. As soon as you get done with your call, make sure that you praise him for a job well done.
6. Designate an area for your “home office”
Your kitchen table is not an optimal workspace when you have a toddler – think spilt milk on your laptop. Create a small working area, preferably in one corner of your child’s room. You can use a retractable child proof barrier to cordon off the area and form a little home office. This will allow you to keep an eye on your toddler while you enjoy a morning cup of coffee while going over your tasks for the day. Your work area will also help you stay organised and minimise interruptions. This arrangement is perfect for moms with toddlers as your child can see you at all times and is less likely to feel scared or abandoned.
7. Capitalise on naptime
Naps provide much-needed downtime for your child and prevents him from becoming overtired during the day. It may take a while for your child to adjust to regular nap timings so create a naptime routine. This will help your child fall asleep more easily and give you at least a couple of hours of uninterrupted work time. Use this time to work on tougher assignments that require your complete focus or use it to deal with work-related phone calls. Keep in mind that you can’t force your child to sleep so close the curtains to darken the room and create an environment that is conducive to sleep.
8. Hire a part-time babysitter
Looking after an active toddler while simultaneously working is not an easy task and sometimes hiring help is a must. You can hire a part-time babysitter or a mother’s helper to come over on a daily basis for 1-3 hours, depending on your situation. Set up a regular routine and discuss all duties in advance with the sitter that you hire. For instance, you can have your helper feed your child his lunch, clear up in the kitchen afterwards, put away his toys and then put him down for his nap each day. This will take a load off your mind and give you dedicated time each week to get your work done. Once your child wakes up from his nap, you will be done with work and ready for an evening at the park.
9. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Whether you have a large assignment to complete or if you’re just feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can ask your parents or siblings if they can keep your toddler with them for the entire day while you get your work back on track. This will also be a good opportunity for the rest of your family to bond with your child. Another option is to ask your spouse to take on some of your evening chores for a few days. This will give you a few hours of uninterrupted work time to ensure that you meet your deadlines.
10. Have realistic expectations
Working from home seems like a dream come true but if you bite off more than you can chew, it will quickly turn into a nightmare. When providing timelines to your clients or your team, take into consideration that with a toddler around, there will always be unforeseen interruptions and distractions. Have realistic expectations when setting goals so that you do not have to deal with the stress of delayed deliveries. You should have equally realistic expectations when it comes to your child. Understand that your toddler will need time to accept these changes so be patient and give him the time he needs to adjust to the new routine.
Despite all your planning, there will be times when your child will interrupt you during an important call or throw a tantrum right when you’re rushing to meet a deadline. Accept that these things will happen and that you might lose your temper, despite your best efforts to stay calm. Don’t be too harsh on yourself and instead focus on improving your schedule. According to the experts at What To Expect, learning to multi-task will help you juggle your roles as a dedicated mom and a successful career woman.