How to Work from Home with a Toddler
At first, the idea of working from home sounds ideal for many parents. Being able to spend more time with your children whilst saving money on childcare is an undoubtedly appealing prospect.
However, in reality, working from home with a toddler can prove to be difficult. Unlike babies, toddlers are mobile and require constant supervision, which can make it hard to get anything done. Meanwhile, unlike older children, they don't yet understand the concept of "do not disturb."
With that being said, it is entirely possible to be productive at home with a toddler present - you just need to lay down some ground rules and find what works for you.
We've put together a handy guide to working from home with a toddler so that you can successfully balance parenting and a remote career. Let's dive in.
1 - Trial and Error
In order to be able to focus on work whilst your little one's at home, you need to create a routine around their particular personality and behaviours, as well as the needs of your larger family unit. What works for one household may not be as effective for another. Don't be afraid to experiment a little bit and find out what works best for you and your family.
2 - Establish a Routine
One important tip is to start with smaller work blocks when you first begin trying to establish a routine. If you try to sit down and work for eight hours straight from the get-go, it's likely that things will quickly become overwhelming - for both you and your toddler.
If possible, start by setting aside just an hour or two to work at a time, and gradually increase the amount of time as you both get used to the new system. It's also important to be consistent with the days and times that you work. If possible, try to set regular hours.
This will help your toddler understand when it's time for mummy or daddy to work and give them a sense of predictability which is very comforting for young children.
Of course, there will be days (and sometimes even weeks) where things just don't go as planned, and that's okay! Just try to get back on track as soon as possible.
3 - Get Up Early
They say that the early bird gets the worm, and this is especially true for parents who work from home.
One of the best ways to make sure that you have some time to work without interruption is to get up before your toddler does. This way, you can have a few quiet hours to focus on your work whilst they sleep.
If you struggle with getting up on time or your little one is an early riser, then try waking up just 30 minutes before your little one does. This will still give you some time to get organised and plan out your day, paving the way for productivity later on.
4 - Nap Time
Nap time is something of a golden hour for any parent, but particularly those who work from home. It's a quiet time when you can focus on your most important tasks without interruption.
Generally speaking, 1-2 hours is an ideal amount of time for a toddler to nap each afternoon. If you let them sleep for too long, then you may struggle to get them down when it comes to bed time.
Encourage your toddler to take their nap at the same time each day; the routine will be good for you both.
For your child, a consistent routine is comforting and helps them understand what's happening and when. Furthermore, when they get used to napping at a certain point during the afternoon, they will automatically begin to feel sleepy around that time, making your life much easier.
For you, meanwhile, a regular nap time allows you to predict when you'll be able to focus best and plan your work schedule accordingly.
If your toddler is resistant to napping, or doesn't sleep for very long, then there are a few things you can do to encourage them.
Make sure that their bedroom is dark and quiet, and try to limit screen time in the hour or so before they're due to sleep. You can also create a nap time routine for them, which might include reading a book or singing a lullaby.
Finally, don't worry if they don't sleep every single day. Just try to encourage them to rest quietly in their bed for a little while, even if they don't actually fall asleep.
5 - Encourage Independent Play
One of the most important things you can do to make working from home with a toddler easier is to encourage independent play.
This doesn't mean that you should leave them alone for hours on end, but rather that you should give them some space to explore and have some time to themselves whilst you focus on your work.
Independent play is beneficial for toddlers' development in many ways. It helps them to learn how to entertain themselves, develop their imaginations, and cope with boredom.
It's also great for you as it gives you some time to work without interruption.
There are lots of different ways to encourage independent play. If your toddler is resistant at first, then start by playing alongside them for a few minutes before gradually moving away.
You could also try setting up a little play area for them with some of their favourite toys. If they know that they have access to these toys, they'll be more likely to want to play by themselves.
6 - Screen Time
Now, we're not recommending that you let your toddler watch TV or play on a tablet all day long, but a little screen time won't hurt every now and then.
For example, if you have a very important call scheduled, or you need to concentrate on a particularly challenging task, then it can be helpful to set your toddler up with a show or game that will keep them occupied for a little while.
Just make sure that you don't rely on screen time too much, and try to limit it to no more than an hour or so each day. Save it for when you really need it!
7 - Be Kind to Yourself
Last but not least, don't beat yourself up when working from home with your toddler doesn't go perfectly. It's normal for things to be a little chaotic, and you shouldn't expect to be as productive as you would be in an office environment from the get-go.
It takes trial and error to find the perfect WFH formula for your young family, and even then, there will sometimes be hiccups along the way. Remember that you're doing the best you can, and cut yourself some slack.
With these tips, you should be able to establish a work from home routine that is beneficial for both you and your toddler. Just remember to be flexible, take things one step at a time, and be prepared for the occasional setback. With a little patience and perseverance, you'll soon get into the swing of things.