Working from home with toddlers is no joke, but there can be a method to the madness. (Well, somewhat.)
As soon as my twins hit about one-and-a-half, I started freaking out. How was I going to work from home with THREE toddlers? Well, after a ton of trial and error here’s what works for me. Hopefully, some of these tips work for you as well!
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Get up early as heck
This tip kind of sucks if you’re not a morning person, but it’s a game-changer if you actually want to get work done with toddlers at home. Get up as early as possible (I shoot for 4:00-5:00 AM when I can) and knock out some quick tasks before your toddler wakes up.
If you’re a morning person and you’re super productive in the AM, make some progress on your biggest project for the day. I’m not a morning person, so I keep it simple but try to get as much done as I can. I can usually get down to inbox zero, plan out my 2 major tasks for the day, and work on some passion projects, do some practice work, or get a little bit of client work done before my kids wake up.
Spicy WAHM tip: As a night owl, my biggest breakthrough with this tip is that you don’t need to try to do this every day if it’s tough for you. See if you can do this 2-3 times per week. Hell, start with once per week! Makes a huge difference in your productivity.
Battle mom guilt by giving your toddler one-on-one time every day
Mom guilt sucks. And it can hit us work from home moms just as hard as moms who work outside of the home. Because just because we’re home with them, we’re not always “present” when we’re sucked into work tasks.
And the thing is – that’s more than okay! By working you’re providing for your family. So if you struggle with mom guilt, check out these tips for defeating it.
Set aside some time each day to give each of your kids some one-on-one attention. If you can’t do that on certain days, hang out with all of them without distractions (work, phone, etc.) for 30-minute increments whenever you need a work break.
One of the biggest upsides to working from home is being able to spend time with your toddler, so make sure to keep that in mind and give her the attention she needs and I can almost guarantee you that a lot of your mom guilt will subside.
During the workweek, I hang out with my toddlers while we eat breakfast together and for 30 minutes after that, right before their nap, right after their nap, and then I log off of work around 4 or 5.
Related post: How to Deal with Mom Guilt as a Work from Home Mom
Enforce that nap schedule
Do absolutely everything you can to keep your toddler(s) on a nap schedule. This is literally essential to working from home with a toddler. If you can encourage a long nap, that’ll help you have a super-productive midday work sprint.
I have 3 toddlers and I try to put them down for a 2-hour nap every day at 12:30. It usually works out because they’re used to it, but it definitely took a while for everyone’s schedule to sync up before I actively made sure to commit to the nap schedule.
And it’s so, so important for toddlers to nap regardless of how they tell you they feel about naps, so you can feel good about enforcing the nap schedule.
Don’t feel bad about screen time
You heard me. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad if your toddlers get a little too much screen time sometimes. If getting work done with toddlers means that you have to accept a little more Paw Patrol in their lives, then you’ve gotta do what you gotta do.
Most people who will judge you for allowing your kids screen time don’t work from home with toddlers anyway, so don’t worry about what they think. If you’re not a fan of letting your toddlers watch a ton of cartoons, just make sure they’re watching something semi-educational.
This is what I like to do for screen time when I need to lean on it:
- Set up a playlist of educational YouTube videos that you know are safe and not garbage.
- Let Blippi run on Hulu for a while (My kids are obsessed and at least he’s teaching them colors and letters and stuff!)
- Hand over the tablets and let them play some ABC Mouse (My almost 3-year old is really into it and has been learning a lot of new words.)
Accept distractions and go easy on yourself
Toddlers = tons of interruptions. You know it, I know it, we all know it. Working from home with a toddler means that you’ll have to come to terms with lots of distractions no matter how organized your schedule is.
Just go with the flow when possible! And don’t give in to negative self-talk about not being productive enough. You know you’re doing the best you can, so keep it up and embrace those interruptions from your babies. Grab them a snack, have them “help” you make lunch, or have a mini dance party with them.
Studies show that frequent breaks are actually good for your productivity! So maybe your toddlers are actually doing you a favor by pulling you away from your work so often. 🙂
Get help if you can
Especially in 2020 with everything going on, this might not be an option for you. It actually isn’t an option for us right now, either, as a military family who lives pretty far away from family and friends.
If you can hire or ask for help, please do! If you’re new to getting childcare for your kids, I recommend starting out slowly. Try 1-2 days per week and if you need more time, increase that. Whether you’re hiring a full-time nanny, a part-time mom’s helper, or doing a childcare swap with another mom, you’ll definitely be able to cross more off of your todo list.
For moms who live close to family or friends who are able to help, see if you can come to an arrangement with someone. Maybe offer to cook or clean for them in exchange for a few hours of childcare – it’ll help if you’re finding that you need more time to work without your toddlers interrupting every 3 minutes.
Spicy WAHM tip: If your kids have grandparents or other relatives that are available and willing to video chat with your toddler for a while, that can be a great way to get some stuff done while your kid has some social interaction with loved ones. They can draw together, chat, read stories, etc.
Encourage independent play activities
Independent play activities y’all. Seriously the holy grail of working from home with toddlers. Whether you have one toddler or multiple, like me, introducing them to independent play activities will help you today, tomorrow, and far into the future (if working from home isn’t temporary for you.)
Independent play helps kids build skills and learn to problem solve on their own. It also gives you more time to get work done, which isn’t quite as awesome but definitely a plus. Check out this Ultimate Guide to Independent Play Ideas by Kayla from Parenting Expert to Mom or 10 Independent Learning Activities from Ariadne of Positive Parenting Connection.
Bonus tip: Try educational or toy subscription boxes
There’s a ton of really cool subscription boxes for toddlers out there. Anything from snacks to toys to art to learning. Search for “insert what you’re looking for here” toddler subscription box on Google or Pinterest and you’ll find tons of great options that will keep kids busy while you work. Or they can be a fun midday activity for you and your kids to work on together.
At first, I thought these were kind of silly, but now that I have three toddlers and understand how much information they are constantly soaking up. (They’re like little information sponges with insanely demanding snack needs!)
One of my absolute favorite subscription boxes for toddlers is the junior box for ages 2-4 over at Green Kids Crafts, which is an eco-friendly STEAM activity box for kids (obsessed!)
They have science and art projects for 2-4 year-olds shipped monthly for $29 per month, which is a pretty decent price for something like this. And they’re eco-friendly which is an awesome bonus and pretty rare in the subscription box world.
We got this! Working from home with toddlers is a transition, but you can do it.
Figuring out how to work from home with a toddler is no small feat, so be proud of yourself for getting as far as you have! If you’re new to working from home with your toddlers in tow, know that it gets better.
There’s a lot to juggle on the day-to-day, but you’ll figure it out – we all do eventually. No one is perfect when it comes to working from home with toddlers. You’ll have good days and bad days, but if you stay intentional about work AND spending time with your littles, you’ll fall into a work from home routine that works more often than it doesn’t.
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