6 Things Every Parent Working from Home with Babies and Toddlers Needs to Hear
Being a parent is hard. Being a working parent is harder. But being a work-from-home parent? Now that's the kind of thing only crazy people would try!
Yet somehow, it's the reality for a lot of us right now. Whether you've been thrust into working and parenting from home due to the pandemic, or you're a long-time remote worker welcoming your first-born, it's an adjustment, to say the least. Babies and toddlers don't understand why you can't pay attention to them when you're literally right there, and they certainly don't understand the nuances of Zoom etiquette.
But while your kids may be pros at interrupting at the most inopportune times, working from home with babies and toddlers doesn't have to be total chaos. Here's what I've learned over my time as a work-at-home parent.
You Need a Real Desk...
Yes, with a chair and everything! An official “office” — even if it's a desk crammed in the corner of the living room — gets you in the headspace for work and creates a clear boundary that even toddlers can understand. It takes practice and patience to teach a two-year-old to ask politely instead of shrieking for snacks when you're at the computer, but I promise, eventually it does work.
Little one not walking yet? Ditch the traditional desk for a standing desk and get in the habit of babywearing while you work. Your baby will snooze peacefully and you'll keep your hands free for whatever's on your to-do list.
...and Defenses Against Distractions
Toddlers and babies are distracting enough. Add the entirety of the internet at your fingertips, and staying focused while working from home becomes a Herculean task. That's doubly true when you're sleep deprived from staying up all night with a fussy baby.
Getting anything done at work requires blocking out as many potential distractions as possible:
- Snooze your notifications.
- Turn your phone on silent.
- Block distracting websites.
- Employ a productivity app.
- Childproof everything.
Automation is a Lifesaver
We haven't quite reached the point of handing the baby off to a robot, Jetsons-style, but automation and delegation can save parents a lot of time and stress while working from home.
- Order groceries online.
- Get diapers delivered.
- Learn to love meal planning.
- Set bills to autopay.
- Optimize your email inbox.
- Pay someone to walk the dog.
- Buy a Roomba.
- Hire a cleaner.
Exercise Keeps You Sane
Do you have time to change into athletic wear, toss your hair in a ponytail, and sweat it out to a workout video? No. Do you need to do it anyway? Absolutely! In fact, this is exactly when you need exercise's stress-busting and mood-boosting benefits the most. However, motivation won't come easy when you have a million other things on your plate, so keep workouts short and sweet.
Find ways to stay accountable, such as donning a fitness tracker that nags you to move. I'm a big fan of the Apple Watch's activity rings, plus it syncs with Nike Training Club, the best fitness app when you want to exercise but don't have time to think about it.
Find Time to Boost Your Career
Just because you’re working at home with a baby or toddler doesn’t mean you can’t enhance your career prospects. For example, an online degree in teaching, business, or nursing can set you on a path to a new rewarding career. Many online programs allow you to work at a pace that suits your lifestyle as you earn your degree.
Screen Time Isn't the Enemy
Now for the tip every work-at-home parent needs to hear: When your attempts at independent play have failed, there's a deadline breathing down your neck, and your toddler just won't stop, it's okay to turn on a screen and relish a few minutes of peace and quiet. While screen time shouldn't be your go-to, there's nothing wrong with setting up your tot with an interactive app or virtual storytime so you can get through a meeting.
I'm going to be honest: Working from home with kids is far from easy. There are days everything goes smoothly and I'm convinced I'm crushing it, and there are days when nothing gets done and everyone's crying (myself included). If there's one tip we all need right now, it's be kind to yourself. You might not master this work-at-home parent thing right away, but with practice, patience, and lots of flexibility, you'll learn how to make it work.
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