It’s easy to feel guilty as a parent. Guilty that you aren’t feeding your baby organic food for every single meal. Guilty that you don’t have her enrolled in swim lessons, music class, and baby yoga. Guilty that you aren’t spending every waking hour staring at her eyelashes grow. Well, the guilt stops here for the time being.
If you’re feeling like the musician in the video below, but you aren’t willing to totally let your productivity die, read below to find out how to entertain the baby while you get a little bit of work done as a work at home mom.
Being a work at home parent means that you’ve chosen to spend more time with your child as it is. That being said, sometimes you still need to get a little extra work done outside of the usual care arrangement you have with a family member, nanny, or your spouse. When you need to get something done while you are the primary caretaker, here are some tips to on how to keep the little one occupied long enough for you to write a blog post, send an important email, or call a client.
- Use a laptop so you can move around the house as needed.
- Have a smartphone so you can stay connected even when out of the house.
- Fill the cup. Make sure to give your baby plenty of one-on-one attention so he/she feels loved and confident.
- Create a predictable routine with segmented parts of the day (working, playing, eating, napping). This will help baby know what to expect and be less likely to get upset with having to suddenly entertain themselves.
- Try Babywearing. My favorite quick carrier is the Ergo, but I also use a woven wrap to help her feel more snuggly or a ring sling in a pinch.
- Encourage independence. When I set LO on the floor to play, if I’m impatient and leave too suddenly, she tends to whine. So I try to sit with her for a few minutes before leaving, to make sure she is engaged in play first. Then when I do leave, I watch her closely for a bit so that when she looks for me, I can immediately smile and say something encouraging. This usually makes her smile and then turn back to what she was doing and I’m able to get a few minutes to work on something.
- Set up investigation boxes/areas to explore. I like to fill boxes/the laundry basket with unusual household items for LO to investigate. She loves to empty all of the items out and study at each one. Sometimes I set her in front of a low bookshelf of kids’ books and let her pull them off the shelf one by one.
- Play Fetch. Yes, fetch. With my child. It sounds demeaning, but LO usually enjoys it, so I figure, why not? It isn’t the best way to focus on writing, but if it’s a ball, you can usually just roll it around with your foot and let LO follow along or “retrieve” it.
- Try a Walker. Yeah, yeah, I know they aren’t recommended but as with most things, I think the key is moderation. I don’t leave my child in a walker for more than 20-30 minutes at a time and I only use it once or twice a day. The rest of the day is spent exploring the world by pulling up on furniture, etc. So if it buys you a little bit of time and LO enjoys it, don’t feel guilty for using one occasionally.
- Try the High Chair. We have the Inglesina Fast Table Chair and like that it clips to the bar. LO loves to watch me cook or type next to her while she plays with a toy or some finger food.
- Take a Stroll. Sometimes I’ll put LO in the stroller, take a short walk, sit on a bench, and work for a bit. She loves people watching or just being outside. We have the Baby Jogger City Mini and it’s very easy to open and close.
- Visit a coffee shop. Again with the people watching. I get the most work done if I bring LO inside in her carseat. She enjoys the change of scenery. When she gets fussy, I let her sit in a highchair for a bit.
Other tips for getting some work done:
- During naps. (if you’re one of those lucky moms whose kid naps)
- From 8pm-12am. I find that even though my little one fights bedtime, she’s usually out by 8pm and so is my husband, since he works early hours, so this is a good time for me to get three solid hours of work time in.
- After the first morning feeding. My daughter usually eats around 6 am and then goes back to sleep for at least another hour and sometimes up to three hours. This is a good time to get some work done (although I usually use it to shower and have some me time).
- Hire a nanny/sitter/college student to cover the middle part of the day, after the morning nap and before the afternoon nap.
- Find another work at home parent to swap playdates with. You work for 3-4 hours once a week while she watches your kid, then she gets to do the same on a separate day while you watch hers. Win-win.
Remember, strive for balance, not perfection. Make sure to face towards your child so that you can ensure he/she is out of danger and be realistic with the amount of time a child can entertain him/herself (by 8-9 months, it’s usually about 30 minutes at a time), but remember that some solo time is good for your baby. It’s not your job to provide constant entertainment. You want your child to have strong self esteem and a wild imagination, and the path to those traits is through independent play.
Disclaimer: The big exception is if the baby is sick, teething, or especially needy. On those days, my entire focus is on her until my husband gets home. Then I let Daddy take care of baby girl while I get some work done. It’s all a balancing act. What are some ways you steal a little extra time to work?