working from home with a toddler

How to Work from Home with a Toddler (& Actually Enjoy It)

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Working from home has become increasingly popular, but what if you’re a mom?  If you’ve ever thought working from home with toddlers was impossible, think again. Being a work from home mom just got a lot more doable. Noticed I said doable, not easy. Children of any age offer their own sets of challenges, but toddlers especially. 

If you’re new to working from home with your toddler and have been feeling (a bit) stressed or overwhelmed, you are not alone. This year was my first go at it and with two under four it has been nowhere near a walk in the park. 

One thing that kept me going, especially on the harder days, was my commitment to spending more time with my children. I’ve worked as long as I can remember. From my first job at the age of 15 to working 60 plus hours a week pregnant with my third. It’s been all I’ve ever known. I got up, went to work, just to come home too exhausted to effectively connect with my toddler, then regretted all of my decisions, went to bed and repeated it all again the next day. It was literally a nightmare. So making the switch to working from home sounded like a dream come true, but boy was I in for a surprise. 

Let me be the first to admit working with a toddler presents a fair amount of struggles. What I’ve learned is that that just means you have to get a little creative. This can look different for each family, but I’m happy to share my tips on getting work done with littles at home, AND actually enjoying it in the process. Take what you can, make changes where applicable and leave what you don’t need. 

Is It Possible to Work From Home with a Toddler?

Sure it is! With that being said, I am not going to say it’s a walk in the park. Like most things that involve toddlers, there’s always a new challenge waiting just around the bend (lol). 

Working from home with a toddler can bring about some major frustrations. Attending zoom meetings while your little one yells for their blue cup in the background may be less than ideal. But that doesn’t make it impossible. Whether you’re working from home with your babies out of necessity or by choice, please know it is indeed possible. 

Mom-Approved Tips for Working From Home with a Toddler 

working from home with a toddler

These tips for working moms with toddlers, babies or a combination of the two are aimed to help you get the most out of your day. While also keeping those little ones entertained in the process. And hey, if you can apply some of these to squeeze in time for a new hobby or some self care, I’m not going to complain. 

1. Get Dressed 

This may seem like a simple task, may even seem completely unnecessary. But I can tell you it isn’t. One of the things I had to fight with when I first started working from home was depression. Thinking I was inadequate and less “productive” left me feeling useless. Which eventually worsened my depression. It wasn’t until I learned how to be intentional with my time that things started to change. Plus, remember you are still working, even if it’s from home. Taking care of yourself and keeping some level or normalcy (even if it has a new look to it) can help keep your mental health in order. And help the days run smoother. 

2. Establish a Routine

Your schedule while working from home with a toddler will look a little different. Adjusting your routine, and adapting your toddler’s schedule will ultimately be necessary. And this is the part where I need remind you to give yourself grace, especially if you’re new to working from home with babies. 

You aren’t going to come up with the perfect routine overnight. It will take some time. Some things may work while others not so much. Be flexible and keep in mind that each day may look completely different. The key to setting up a routine is to have an idea of what each day should look like. This in no way means that they will. But ultimately will give you something to go off of instead of flying by the seat of your pants. 

When I first started I knew that I wanted to be able to take a walk with my toddler every morning. But I made sure not to have a set time for it. Instead I used a time frame. As long as we took our walk before 11am I was satisfied. And on the days that didn’t happen, I was okay too. When it comes to working at home I’ve found that having set blocks of times for certain events is way more effective than trying to adhere to a rigid schedule.

12 Tips for Working from Home with a Toddler (From a Mom of 5)

3. Make the Most of Nap Time

Let’s face it, nap time will be one of the only times during the day you can get some uninterrupted work done. So give it your full attention. Turn off the television, stay off social media (and ignore the urge for mindless scrolling) and dive head first into work. And I know how us mommas like to use nap time to get things done around the house, so you’re going to have to pick and choose wisely. Which brings me to my next point:

4. Eat the Frog 

Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize; aka do the most pressing work-related tasks first. Make a mental (or written) list of items that absolutely can not wait and tackle them while your toddler is doing some self directed activities. 

And this may sound crazy, but you are going to have to get used to doing an hour of work here and an hour of work there. The days of working several hours in a row are just gone. Take this into consideration when making your to-do list. It is a very realistic expectation to assume you won’t get EVERY task done that day. Keep a running tab of what tasks are the highest priority and reevaluate frequently throughout the day. 

5. Accept a Non-Pinterest Perfect House 

Comparison is the thief of joy. Do not let this idea that your home has to be spotless distract you from your goal. Accept the mess. I don’t know how else to say this, so I am going to say it one more time. Your home will not be perfect, and that is okay. 

If you’re a single mom working from home with a toddler please know, your value is not found in the cleanliness of your home. Where other parents have a partner of some kind, it is solely your responsibility to care for, provide for, and keep your tiny humans alive. Do not put more on yourself than necessary. 

If you have to clean during the day (I completely get it because my anxiety will start to flare up if my home gets too messy) try adding  tidy up time breaks to your routine. Taking a few minutes to load the dishwasher, or having your toddler help empty the dryer are small tasks that will help your home stay functional throughout the work day. 

6. Dedicate Mornings or Evenings for Distraction-Free Work 

One of my favorite things to do is wake up before my children, but especially my toddler. Tiny humans demand a lot of attention, so having some distraction free time to meditate, drink a hot cup of coffee, or whatever else you like to do can really set the tone for the rest of your day. But especially if you are working from home. 

When working from home, having non-traditional hours is a great way to get strategic with the work day. Whether that’s getting up before everyone else or staying up a little later and skipping out on your favorite television shows. Whatever will work best for minimal distractions. 

7. Make a List of 15-Minute Mindless Tasks to Tackle Throughout the Day 

No matter if you are working for yourself or employed by someone else there are always duties that you can essentially put on autopilot. These are going to be job functions that require less mental work from you. Quick and easy things that can be done while you work from home with a toddler. Sending emails, setting up calendar invites, scheduling zoom meetings, creating to-do lists are all examples of such tasks. 

Having a list readily available for you to glance through from time to time will not only help keep you on target, but also help with feeling more productive. We all love a good check mark or strikethrough on the long to-do list. 

8. Rotate Through Independent Play Activities

Independent play is key to entertaining your toddler while working from home. It’s one of the ways you’ll be able to tackle some of those mindless activities mentioned above. If you want to prevent boredom, and get more things done, teach your child how to play independently while limiting the number of toys they have access to. Having just a few ways for your child to entertain themselves throughout the day is a good place to start. Making sure to rotate their toys and activities will not only help foster creativity and independence. But you can watch as their imagination sparks with each rotation. Even if it’s toys they’ve played with before. Since there’s been a chuck of time since they last saw them, it will be like they’re new all over again. And you will get more done! 

9. Engage in One-on-One Time with Your Toddler

Children need to feel connected to their parents, they thrive on it. Making time to play one-on-one with our babies is not only a great way to be a better mom to a toddler. It’s also a win-win for both parties when parents are working from home. Remember that routine I spoke of earlier. While the day does not have to be timed out by the very minute, something else toddlers thrive on is knowing what’s coming next. 

When mommy says,” I can’t play right now because I’m working, but we can have an extra dose of fun during our play time to make up for it.” It is much more likely that your child will be willing to wait, because the precedent has already been set. Whether that’s 30 minutes of play before lunch, or having mommy all to themselves after nap. Setting up quality time in the routine can help alleviate stress in other areas. 

10. Capitalize on Weekends

Working from home full time with a toddler is no joke, but there’s always the weekend. Try to set aside a few hours one day out of the weekend to set yourself up for success for the following week. Friends, family or dad can give some undivided attention to the little one so other things can get done. Depending on how your home is ran this may look like a number of things. Giving yourself a block of time to work uninterrupted. Using it to run errands, get meals ready for the week, catching up on laundry or getting the house in order. Whatever you need to prepare for the coming week. 

11. Refuse the Mom Guilt 

As moms we shame and guilt ourselves enough as it is. Working from home with a baby and toddler won’t be any different. There are going to be moments where you think “ I should be spending more time doing XYZ,” or “I can’t believe I wasn’t productive today, I have to do better tomorrow.” Do not let these negative thoughts get in the way. You are a force to be reckoned with. An amazing momma doing her best for herself and babies. Yes, you’re going to make mistakes along the way. Yes, some days won’t look nearly like you’d plan. But do not, I repeat, do not allow mom guilt to steal your shine. It will be hard, but that doesn’t make you any less than. You got this!

12. Remember the Blessing of Working from Home 

One Google search will show you there are tons of jobs for moms with toddlers. What it won’t show you is how hard it can be. In those moments remind yourself of your why. That little smile is what keeps you going. Being at home, spending these moments with your little one is something a lot wish for. It’s something I wished for for FOUR children, until I was finally able to make it happen. Acknowledge that it’s hard, stressful, frustrating even. But also remember how huge of a blessing it is. 

How to Keep a Toddler Busy While Working From Home

I mentioned above that teaching your baby how to play independently would be a key to your success while working from home. But learning how to occupy a toddler while you work can take some getting used to. While I prefer to avoid screen time as much as possible, it is one thing I will use if I need a quick 20 minutes to handle something unexpected. Blocks, cars, small (but not too tiny) people, are fun ways to keep little ones busy as well. I’ve found that sensory tables (or buckets) are another great way to keep children occupied for longer periods of time.

If you’re wondering how to keep your 2 year old or 3 year old busy don’t forget about the great outdoors. For some reason, outside just makes everything better. Coloring on the sidewalk with chalk on a sunny day or running around in the fenced in backyard (maybe through the sprinkler maybe not) can help keep any child busy. And don’t be afraid to ask. By the age of two or three most children are able to communicate what they would like to do. Use that to your advantage. 

How Do You Manage Working From Home with a Toddler?

As mentioned before, the past year was my first time tackling working from home with my children. Getting creative was probably the best thing I could have done. From filling pans up with water and handing all of my measuring cups to my toddler, to taking impromptu baths filled with bubbles and toys One thing I’ve learned is that perfection does not exist. But more importantly you will never know if you never try. 

Entertaining someone else while simultaneously running your own company or working for someone else’s is no easy task. As you venture down this path, whether forced or elective, give yourself and your toddler grace. Make sure to implement chunks of self care in there from time to time as well. Nothing is worth your sanity and no company deserves your mental health. 

If you’re a pro at working from home with the babies, leave a comment below with any additional tips / tricks I may have left out.

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