Now that I have a toddler on my hands, who can crawl around at warp speed, pull himself up to stand, and cruise around while holding onto furniture, getting work done has been a tad bit more difficult than when he was just a few months old. Even though we have a nanny during the day, we usually keep our office door open so that our son came come and go as he pleases, as long as we’re not on a deadline or on a call. Here are a few suggestions for how to navigate working from home with a toddler:
Have toddlers on a schedule
Although we believe in a lot of independent free play time, we try to be pretty strict and consistent with our son’s weekday schedule. This means waking up and having his first breast milk feed around the same time (6-6:30), breakfast between 9-9:30, lunch at 12:00, a nap sometime between 12:30-14:30, outside playtime sometime between 15:00-16:00, snack at 16:00, dinner between 18-18:30, and bath and bedtime at 19:00. By keeping kids on a schedule, you are more likely to be able to decipher when neediness is due to boredom, hunger, fatigue, or something else, and be able to act quickly and accordingly.
Schedule calls (or your most important work) around nap time
In addition to having your toddler on a schedule for their own benefit, a schedule is a great way to build your own work around your child’s nap time(s). While some kids nap twice a day, our son usually takes a long afternoon nap, so we use that time to do our most critical work. This includes important phone calls with clients or investors, deep writing and thinking, etc. I’ve learned the hard way having wasted an entire nap time on social media. Make sure you take advantage of that quiet time!
Make them their own kid’s office
Kids like to imitate what their parents do. Although I was tech adverse at first, my parents bought our son a cell phone and laptop. So, now when we’re on the computer, we can bring out his own little laptop for him to type on as well. If you have a spare wireless keyboard or mouse lying around, they can also be fun temporary distractions to keep kids occupied while you work. As soon as he can walk, I plan to get him a little table and chair that he can use to do his “work” in the office as well.
Create hiding & play spaces in your work area
Now that my son likes to play peekaboo, he often crawls into the nook in our office and gets quiet, waiting to see if we notice he’s there. As long as I turn around and say where are you every 2 or so minutes, he’s content for a good chunk of time. We also like to keep a basket of quiet toys in the office that he can crawl to and play with, which helps him avoid playing with things he’s not supposed to, like plugged-in electronics and sockets. Or depending on the sturdiness of your dining table, you can sit on it and have your child play peekaboo while crawling back and forth under the table. My son will crawl back and forth and laugh thinking he’s hiding as I do my work for a good while!
Close the door
Now when you really have to get serious and finish a quick task without disruption, feel free to close the door for a few minutes. I’ve done this when I was home alone and had to use the bathroom. And though I wouldn’t recommend doing it for an extended period of time, it can work for 5-10 minutes in a pinch. You know your child best, so you know what will occupy them for that long with minimal fussing — maybe it’s a toy, tablet, or a cardboard box. Call out to them every few minutes to assure them that you’re right there and will open the door in a few minutes. Then draft that super important email, proofread that presentation, balance those spreadsheets, or do whatever it is you needed to focus on quickly!