It’s been just over two months since I started working from home after Coronavirus hit the nation and we were forced into lockdown. Two months since I started working at home with a toddler and a preschooler. Working from home with toddlers is intense. There’s no other way to describe it. Once upon a time, it would have been my dream to work from home so that I could spend more time with the kids, but the reality is totally different to what I envisaged. Can you work from home with a child? How do you get work done with a toddler around? Here I am going to attempt to answer these questions and give you a little insight into my daily life working full time from home with my two gorgeous kids.
My husband and I both work full time and our children are sixteen months old and four. Usually, they go to nursery five days a week while we work and they are stimulated with outdoor time, crafts, reading, computer activities and time with friends. When we first heard the news that the nursery would be shutting, I had already started working from home and found it to be really productive and nice to be able to work within the comfort of my home. I actually found I was able to get a lot more done without the distractions of the office and enjoyed a week of solitude at my desk.
Then, the nurseries shut along with my husband’s workplace and my working from home environment descended into chaos. Suddenly, I had tiny fingers trying to tap on my keyboard, a baby who would wake from his nap every time I tried to take a video call and a husband who was stressed out because he had no time to do his work whilst I was busy doing mine. Meanwhile, I was feeling all the guilt about locking myself away in my office and not having time to homeschool the older child – even though he’s not even in school yet.
Two months down the line, are things any better? Yes and no. Most of the guilt has subsided and we seem to have fallen into a good routine where we can both work and spend time with the children. It involves a great deal of flexibility and also you have to come to terms with the fact that there will be a lot of screen time, but on the whole, everything is okay.
So, how do we make it work? Here are my top tips for working at home with toddlers.
Tips for working from home with toddlers
Create a routine
Children thrive on routine and this is the reason why I believe my boys are such good sleepers, we’ve stuck to the same daily routine no matter what is going on in our lives. When we started lockdown – nothing changed. Felix had his nap at the same time, they both ate their lunch and dinner at the same time and we all got dressed every morning – even if most mornings I didn’t really feel like it!
Once my husband and I worked out when we needed to be available to work and when we could spend time with the kids, we set up a routine where one of us would do breakfast with the kids, the other would do dinner, bath and bed and we planned it so one of us was always available.
Utilise nap times
We are lucky that Felix still has a good three hour nap and during this time we both work to get as much done as possible. Dexter is still only three, although he doesn’t nap, he does appreciate the quiet time, so we set him up with his tablet or put on the TV for him. He can’t do three hours of TV/tablet straight, so half way through we have lunch together – half an hour with me, half an hour with Dad and then it’s another hour or so of TV. It’s not the best thing in the world him having so much screen time, but it works and we try to encourage as much educative stuff as possible.
Talk to your boss about flexible working
If working flexibly is possible in your workplace, then be sure to talk to your boss about the possibility of utilising it. Because both my husband and I have a degree of flexibility in our jobs, we have used this to start work earlier in the morning, or work later into the evening, meaning we can spend a bit of quality time with the boys in between. It often means we live like ships passing in the night, but to give some stability to the boys, it has been worth it.
Forget any ideas of perfection
The house is a tip, we spend far too much money at the supermarket thanks to dashing there in between video calls and the boys spend more time on their tablets than I would like to admit – but it means our situation works. Could we do this permanently? Definitely not, but for a short term solution, if you are going to be working from home with toddlers, forget about having a super clean house, three home cooked meals a day and be prepared to be severely lacking in patience by the end of the day.
Take regular breaks
When you’re working from home with toddlers, you need to take regular breaks, just as you would in work. I have been guilty of working hours and hours without a break and the result is not good. I end up cranky, overtired and close to breaking point. Self care during lockdown is vital. If you must work at home with kids, take time for you, whether that’s getting out in the garden during nap time
Let them join you for video calls
Video calls can be tedious, so let your kids join to brighten up everyone’s day! Honestly, there is nothing cuter than seeing my 17 month old shouting HIYA at the screen while we are discussing something totally mundane! And, if things are serious on the call, there is always the mute button!
Can you work from home with a child?
Yep, it is possible to be able to work from home with a child, but I do not recommend it once the world returns to normal, especially if you are home alone with the kids. The screaming and uncontrollable sobbing I hear on an hourly basis is enough to drive me to distraction and I hate that I continually feel like I am neglecting my kids. Luckily, they are both happy enough playing on their own with a book or puzzle, but only for minutes at a time. I would hate to have been in a position where I was having to supervise schoolwork as well.
One day a week working at home with a toddler may work, but honestly, much more than that will slowly drive you insane. I am really looking forward to returning to the office when all this is over and for the kids to get back to their routine in nursery. One thing it has made me consider though is dropping my hours so I have more time with the kids. Lockdown has been amazing for giving me more time than ever before with the boys and I don’t want that to end. We are definitely looking forward to treating the boys with tons of post-lockdown activities once we are able!
What has your experience been like of working at home with toddlers? Easy, tough? Let me know in the comments.