5 tips for working from home with an infant or toddler during COVID-19

This post goes out to all those bad mama jamas who are caring for babies while trying to break the glass ceiling. I see you, I applaud you, and I’m right there with you in the challenge that is working from home.

I have a full-time job that sometimes requires me to work 12 hour days. My husband also works on a COVID-19 response team. To say we’re busy during the week is an understatement. We also have a toddler to manage while working from home.

We’re able to have part-time child care during the week, but I know how hard it is to manage without that help. I’ve been working from home since my son was born. Tuesdays and Fridays have always been my hardest days of the week because I was completely on my own. When the pandemic began my husband finally understood why I was so desperate for him to get off work early.

And our son didn’t have screen time until he was almost 17 months old. I was hoping to make it to his second birthday before he knew what a TV was, but being quarantined forced my hand.

Here are some non-screen time strategies during the day that help me manage both jobs when I’m working from home.

Tip #1: Invest in Bluetooth earbuds with a built-in microphone for working from home

It’s best to be hands-free for conference calls when working from home. These earbuds were my saving grace, especially in the early days. It was easier to be on mute and pick my son up if he suddenly started crying. Or if I needed to put him down for a nap at the beginning of a call, I could still listen to what was said without disrupting my coworkers.

Tip #2: Schedule calls during naps or block time to complete tasks during naps

This all depends on your child, your workload, and the day. Your child may not be a good napper. You might not have regularly scheduled meetings. If you can get into a routine of putting your child down at the same time every day, it’s easy to use naptime for taking calls or working from home. It’s easier to prioritize what tasks need to be completed so you can tackle them in order.

When my son took two naps a day, I’d use his morning nap for calls and his afternoon nap for whiteboarding or completing any number of tasks. Once you become a parent, you’d be shocked at how much you can accomplish in just 2-3 hours. You work more efficiently because you’re working against the clock, even if you’re home.

Tip #3: Pull out a bag or box of novelty toys that only makes an appearance when you’re preoccupied

For this tip, you’ll need to hide a bag or box of toys of your choice. Think novelty items. These are only toys that make an appearance when you absolutely need them because they will distract your child and encourage independent play. It might buy you half an hour for that impromptu meeting. In your case, maybe you’re lucky if you get just 15 minutes of independent play, but I can assure you it works for working from home.

Tip #4: Sensory play in the highchair or at the kitchen table

It’s easier to work near an infant or young toddler when you give them a task they can do. Sometimes this includes taping sketchbook sheets to the table and handing them ergonomic crayons to encourage them to make scribbles. Sometimes it’s as simple as providing them with a box of beans with a measuring cup. Let your child’s interests guide you.

Alternatively, if you have space outside your home, you might set up a sand or water table. If you use it inside, you can fill it with rocks, beans, or rice for sensory play.

Now that our son is so interested in rocks, he can will play for an entire hour with just a box of rocks. He takes them out of the box, inspects them, puts them in groups, etc. It keeps him busy while I’m working from home.

Tip #5: Working from home includes the bathroom

They say you should always switch the room you’re in to increase productivity when you’re working from home. I’m half-joking, but you’d be surprised at how easily you can manage your work calls when you sit on the toilet next to your child in the bathtub and let them play with their toys.

I’m not suggesting you attempt to bathe your child while working on a task. However, if the tub is dry and they’re interested in playing with the bath toys, take advantage of it. It will keep them distracted long enough for you to take notes on your call or send some emails.

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