How to survive a work day at home with a young toddler?
Let’s be honest, the pandemic has been going on for almost 2 years now and we all know that saying that you managed to “work” efficiently from home with any child under the age of 3 around you is like saying that you visited Paris but didn’t eat any croissant, it’s a lie. Needless to state the obvious but most children under 3 usually don’t chill out by themselves, quietly playing for long periods of time and occasionally smile at you. It looks more like something like that:
But as we enter 2022 and the Omicron surge, we are far from being done with this era and often parents are dealing with having to quarantine either because their workplace is closed or they are left without daycare. Like we say in French “quand faut y aller, faut y aller” , or in English “a [wo]man’s gotta do what a [wo]man’s gotta do”, so here is a list of some survival tips to go through the day in one piece when you are left alone with no child care but a pile of work and meetings to attend (over Zoom), and obviously no sympathy whatsoever from your employer.
1. Manage your expectations (and your to do list)
Yes, you have a million deadlines and ongoing projects that can’t really wait and yes, coworkers, clients and your doctor all expect an answer from you in the next hour. But your child will most likely prevent you from doing most of the things from your to do list, so in order to avoid feeling burnt out before the day even started, take that list and highlight what can wait and what really can’t. Be realistic, and honest, you already know that you won’t be able to do it all so might as well make a short list so you can end the day feeling somewhat accomplished.
2. Plan for a stroll to the playground
Nothing is better than a little bit of fresh air for both yourself and your toddler. It is a good way to reset, do some mindfulness and well, maybe exhaust that energetic mini of yours a bit (or at least try) so they can hopefully nap longer later. I’ve also used that playground time to schedule short team calls or quick catch up that don’t require too much attention (or a camera). It’s all about making the best use of time!
3. Take your lunch break at the same time as your baby
Since you’re going to need to stop whatever you are doing to supervise mealtime, might as well take that time to eat your own lunch. It will not only make bébé super happy, but it will also allow yourself for a quick break from work. Keep the meal super simple and not messy so you don’t have to clean the floor (and walls) (and your clothes) afterwards.
4. Plan for serious meetings or focused work during naptime
This is it! You made it to the Holy Grail, the most anticipated moment of the day, the naptime! Bébé dozed off after lunch and if everything goes well, you should have a solid 1 to 2 hours of calm in front of you. Take advantage of this quiet time to schedule any important meeting that requires all your attention, or plan to work on projects that ask for you to focus. This is going to be your most productive moment of the day!
5. Keep the card “snack + TV” combo when you really need it
There are times when you can’t wait to have that meeting or get through an important project. In these moments, it might be necessary to let your child eat some snacks off schedule or watch some TV. Once I had to take an important call just before regular lunch time so I installed my 17 month old son on a mat on the floor, turned on TV, and surrounded him with toys and a few snacks. Well guess what? I had a WHOLE hour of peace. Well of course he was not silent but he stayed occupied and THAT was the goal so I call that a win.
6. Whatever you decide to do, leave the guilt out of the door!
Remember that in these unprecedented times (both because of the pandemic and as a parent of a young kid) and as always, guilt has no business in your life! You are this perfectly imperfect parent to your child(ren) and you are doing such a great job. Remember to cut yourself some slack when you need to and put bébé to bed early because yes, you deserve that glass of wine!