Tips for working from home with a busy toddler

For full-time mums who also work from home full time, life can often feel like a circus act and a tricky one at that, especially when juggling wasn’t one of the courses they majored in. It can be stressful, crazy and seriously un-rewarding. Many mums are often left feeling like they are not doing enough  with their toddler as they are always tired from working the ‘after my toddler has gone to bed’ shift  which sets the stage for a series of unfortunate events and creates a cycle of tired, over-tired, cranky and having to edit and re-edit that first job.
Working at home can be difficult when you’ve got a busy, demanding toddler and deadlines to meet. Here are a few tips to help you survive and get the job done.

1)Plan Toddler activities in advance!

Initially this will be tasking so you may have to do it on a weekend when your partner is at home so you can get that alone time to create an actual schedule of events for your little busy toddler for the week.
The activities should be in two parts:
– Play time with mummy
– Play time alone
The play time with mummy ensures that your little one gains the satisfaction of mummy time and doesn’t feel alone, left out or ignored.
The First hour of activities should be a little physically exerting so that the second hour of quiet play becomes acceptable to your little one.

After the first hour of activity tell your little one, this is your time. You get to paint a picture all by yourself. They might come and look for you initially but return them to their play place and repeat the expression ‘this is your time.’ (I created a little office for my busy toddler near where I work so that she is still close by.) Ensure that you are prepared for that hour of activity, prepare a little snack for your little one so they won’t need to come and find you. I’ve outlined some simple activities below just to give you an idea:

– painting (limit quantity of paints)
– building blocks
– toddler puzzles
It’ll take a little while for it to become habit but it pays off in the long run. That hour can buy you precious working time. Plus it helps your child to gain confidence with being by themself. Try to ensure that this occurs around the same time of day so that your little one begins to expect it and even initiate it. I’ve added a link where you can find some cool Toddler Activities .

2) Stop cooking!

I was shocked at how many meals need to be prepared and how much time is spent around food shopping, meal preparation and actual cooking. So how can you get around the three cooked meals a day.
Ask and accept help. It’s important for both parents to be involved in children’s lives,  a major part of learning comes through observation, you are your child’s role model. If your children see both parents managing the home together through sharing tasks then they will begin to understand that every person has a responsibility to the home.
Divide kitchen duties, allow your partner to prepare breakfast. It sounds simple doesn’t it? You’d be amazed how many relationships have a stay at home parent who stays up all night with the baby and then wakes up the following morning and prepares breakfast while the other parent is still asleep.
Plan your meals weekly and write it down on your calendar: This has a twofold impact firstly you only buy ingredients that you need thereby saving money through not buying random items during food shopping that you think you may need and you only buy things that you actually need. Secondly it removes the stress of having to figure out what to cook every day. Ofcourse this will require a little extra time be spent on the plan but it pays off in the long run.
Online Food Shopping; initially I was worried that the quality of my shopping would be reduced, as a stranger would be choosing my produce, however I was pleasantly surprised to see that the opposite occurred. The staff were better trained than I at selecting produce, plus it would damage the online ordering business if selection of produce wasn’t carried out properly.
Cook a little extra. Cooking that little bit extra at dinner time can reduce the need for preparing an entire meal at lunch the following day. Left overs are acceptable and can be dressed up with a side of rice or steamed vegetables.

Make sandwiches – Chicken salad (chicken mayo) filler can be made on sunday and last the entire week so peanut butter and jam/ cheese do not have to be the only options.

Keep it simple; through keeping dinner meals simple, you can reduce preparation time and even reduce time you spend paying attention to a making a meal. I listed some simple ideas below:

– steamed potato/ sweet potato & carrots in garlic, cilantro & butter with drumsticks (season the drumsticks with salt, pepper and herbs then just chuck in the oven for 30 minutes and at the last 15 minutes throw a bit of Barbeque sauce on them.)

– frozen pizza night – most frozen pizzas take about fifteen minutes to cook

-chicken korma and nan bread (buy the bread in advance and store in the freezer) after you stir-fry the chicken breasts with the onion put it into  the oven to slow cook, or put it in your slow cooker and set the timer, so you can just leave it to cook, toss the nan in the oven closer to when you actually want to eat.

-pitta bread & chicken stirfry (teriyaki chicken breasts with baby spinach)  or veg stirfry , this can be done in a slow cooker as well. Chicken breasts cook a bit faster than boned chicken.

– chicken in a bag, a lot of grocers sell oven bags – effectively this is really a casserole, pop chicken and potatoes and carrots in a bag and just chuck in the oven.

– english beef stew – use the oven or a slow cooker to reduce the time you have to pay attention to it.

-have some frozen meals as back up options, some frozen chips and nuggets, pasta, just keep something in the freezer for those nights when you really can’t be bothered to cook!

A friend introduced me to this cooking site recently; Creme de la Crumb  where I happily discovered many thirty minute meals.
Remember make a little extra for the next day’s lunch so that you can eliminate that lunch time meal preparation and cooking time.

3) Work during nap time – Ignore all house work and tidying up. That nap time will fly so use it, use it, use it!

4) Tidy up with your toddler – Teaching your toddler to tidy up after themself will help you in the long term especially as your little one grows up, as shocking as this may seem- teenage years and tidiness do not go hand in hand. Don’t over complicate it though, too many instructions can be hard for them to comprehend. Have a box that all the toys go back into. And of course have a catchy song, Time to tidy up,  time to tidy up, bye bye messy mess – you’ll think of something. Mothers are nothing short of creative. Eventually your toddler will return their toys to the toy box on their own.

5) Haha, now how exactly do you get the house work done? Easy – do it with your toddler. Let them help you sort the laundry, let them help you put the clothes in the laundry. You’d be amazed how accomplished they feel when they pop some laundry in the wash. Give them a couple dishes to stack in the dishwasher, or if you’re washing by hand cut a little sponge for them, set them on the sink next to you and give them a couple plastic cups to wash. When I’m cooking roti or making bread, I give my little one a bowl with flour mix, semi doughy with a little oil and she mixes away. She loves the activity and the texture. Her face beams from doing something grown up and she’s come a long way since her messy days. My husband and I repeated the expression ‘take your time and be careful’ and the mess is fairly minimal now. Also since she has wiped up her own spills, if she does make a little mess, I simply give her a wipe and we tidy it up together. Sweeping, mopping and hoovering generally occur when my toddler goes up for bath time – her dad does bath time.

6) Let your partner get more involved, if  your partner normally works late – request that they come in once a week to do bath time and bed time routine. This gives you more time to catch up on your work. As well as it will demonstrate to your toddler that daddies do bath time too and increase their bond.

7) Set aside time, the reality is when you cut that time out of your day and say this time if for this activity, you end up allocating that time both mentally and physically.

8) Hire help, help doesn’t have to be a professional nanny or au pair. It can be a teenager from down the block. Sometimes all your little one needs is for someone to run around with them. Hire someone still in highschool/ secondary school (place an add on the school bulletin board and of course have interviews) and have them come around for an hour two days a week, firstly with you so you can show them what to do, as well as take time to introduce your child to this person, see how they interact with your toddler and allow your child the right to reject this person.

There are days when you will not be able to implement these changes so when you can’t you can’t, just do what’s right for your and your family. Remember you know your child and trust your instincts. Hopefully you do get that little bit extra time. I recognise that this article takes for granted that all the households are two parent households, I’m hoping that the single parents out there have some additional support, maybe grandparents or siblings who can help out.  Good luck parents!
Some of these ideas can be tweaked for parents of infants. Consider getting your infant a sit-up pillow or infant activity seat and provide a little activity for your little one; a squishy book, some soft toys, soft blocks etc. This will allow your child the independence to experiment, explore and be a bit free of you. While your infant is busy, sit down close to them on the floor with your laptop and start working. This way you can be near enough – just incase.

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