Since 2018, I have been a work-from-home mom. It all started when my oldest daughter was just over a year old. I wanted to be able to contribute to our family bank account again and my background in marketing allowed me to become a freelancer.
Since then, I’ve welcomed another daughter and I am in my fifth year of working from home, nearly full-time, with various contracts in different time zones. Over the years, I’ve learned what helps when you have small kids at home, part-time childcare, and a husband who travels for work two to three times a month.
Here are my tips for working from home with toddlers:
Wake Up Early – Like Two Hours Early
When you work from home, it is ridiculously hard to set boundaries between home life and work life. The only way that I can turn off my work brain is when I have dedicated time for my work and that means waking up before anyone else in the house and focusing on just work for two hours. The early wake-up time for me gives me a chance to not feel so frantic once I hear their little voices talking in their bedroom. Once my kids are up, I’m dedicated to getting them up, fed, and in their routines for about an hour. Those two extra hours of productivity make all the difference in setting the tone for my day.
Set Up Office-Hours Toys for Independent Play
One way that I’m able to sneak in at least one extra hour of productivity during the day is by giving my kids “work toys”. These are toys in a basket that only come out when I need some extra space. They’re nothing special, but they’re so rare when they get to play with them that they love it. One is an animal doll house and the other is a specially themed magnetic tile set. I also rotate coloring books or art paper and utensils (retractable markers for the win) in case they are feeling creative.
Take Field Trips
On the days that we really need to get out of the house for a change of scenery (and extra sanity), I rely on my local coffee shop and screen time. This gives me about an hour of time to focus on work while my toddler/preschooler watches some shows. I typically set up, grab some food for both of us and begin working. Screen time does not begin until they’re done eating and people-watching typically keeps them entertained long enough to limit screen time to 35-45 minutes. If I need some extra time I’ll also bring Play-Doh for some extra quiet time.
I also like to find a fenced-in quieter park where I can set up my mobile hotspot for some cloud-based work or do some planning on my phone for bigger projects. I’m able to keep an eye on my child while giving them time outside to explore and independently play.
BONUS TIP: Learn Your Child’s Love Language
We all know (or should know) the importance of love languages, but did you know our kids even have love languages? When I pour into my kids during my non-working hours in ways that genuinely fill their cups, they’re less needy (other than the food and potty situations) during my work hours. If they feel seen and cared for in ways that satisfy their needs, they’ll know that while you tap away on a computer or set them up for some screen time, you still love them.
Working from home is challenging. It’s actually really hard even when you don’t have kids, so when you toss kids into the mix and have limited childcare (regardless of whether it’s by choice or budget) it’s hard times twenty.
I hope that these ideas help you find a balance between your career and your calling to be a mom.