There are some topics you almost feel like a fraud talking about. This topic is one of them. Even though I have been bringing my daughter to work with my for over two years, it is something that shifts and changes every time she changes. Right when I think we have the perfect set-up, we need to change it. But, then whenever I get asked about it, I realize, isn’t that parenting in a nutshell? Never having it wrapped up in a tiny bow, and always paying attention to your child(ren). So, although I cannot give a perfect formula or recipe, I can share some things that have worked for us.
Work in Intervals
I should add that I have jobs that are manageable with a toddler. Whether I’m teaching music, recording a podcast, or in a class, I can be on mute at various times, and can be somewhat available to my daughter’s needs throughout. That being said, I find working in intervals to be key. Even as adults, it’s best to take breaks when working, and bringing my daughter with me to work has “forced” me to do that. There are definitely sweet spots, but I try to never go over three hours without working in a break. The length I can go before my daughter needs a break has shifted at different times in her development.
Work around Naps (in carrier)
It’s key to know what kind of napper your kid is, and this will change with time too. When my daughter was napping a lot, she napped on me in the carrier no problem, and stayed asleep, so I could get so much work done with her right in there – even teaching or doing meetings. Once she wanted to be napping in her own room, I could judge a safe window where I knew she would always be asleep to book my meetings. Naps are a gift for work-at-home parents, because it is uninterrupted time to work, where you aren’t doing a juggling act quite as much. Now that my daughter has dropped all naps, I’m adjusting my schedule again.
Wireless headphones have been such a game changer for me while working, because I can still engage with my students or interviewees, etc. while moving around as I need to, even if it’s simply to grab my daughter a snack, or help her move to a various craft.
I can’t tell you why, but standing up to work as much as possible is easier for me. When my daughter was sleeping in her carrier, I could easily stand and rock her in it while I worked. When she was awake, it was easier to pick her up and down. She seems to handle me standing better too; If I am sitting she’s more likely to crawl up on me, try to touch the computer, etc. Random, I know, but standing up helps!
Have Everything Your Kid Will Need
This is key!! Having everything your kid will need in the area you’re working, or the area you allow them to roam, makes it possible for you to stay put and get your work done. Here are some of the things we have set up:
Have snacks ready! Have multiple options. Have another snack you can pull out! Just don’t forget the snacks.
You’ll know what’s best for your kid – whether to have these all set up in stations, or to pull out one at a time as they are ready to move on, or to have it set up so they can simply grab them themselves. Some things that keep my daughter engaged in independent play while I’m working are:
- Puzzles – of all kinds
- Wooden Blocks
- Play Dough (recipe for homemade play dough coming soon)
- Books – never enough!!
- Colouring – you can choose no-mess options if that works best for your kiddo
Here’s a post about some of our favourite toddler toys.
As of now, my daughter can completely go to the bathroom by herself, get herself up on the toilet, flush, wash her hands, and do the full meal deal by herself. Prior to that, she needed some help. Because I couldn’t always leave where I was or interrupt my work for a washroom break, I had a toddler toilet set up in my office – this she could easily navigate on her own, along with wipes and hand sanitizer, and then I could help her dispose of it at a more convenient work time. Some may think this is weird, but truly it helped not interrupt big chunks of work time. If you want to learn more about toilet learning, check out this post!
Overall, when it comes to bringing my toddler to work with me, I’ve thought a lot about long game. It’s not always easy, but I do think it’s worth it. She gets to see me working hard and doing what I love. She gets to learn from me. And she gets to practice engaging in independent play. Let me add that independent play takes time to master, so if you have a kiddo that hasn’t done much of it, start with 5,10,15 minutes here or there and work your way up. Not every work day will be as smooth as the next, but where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Now, the question is, can I do it with two kiddos under the age of 3?! Stay tuned…