It’s not exactly news that parents are busy. Whether you stay home with your children, work in an office, or—like me—work part-time from home, you’ve likely spent a lot of time trying to both look after your kids and get some other kind of work done.
I have two children, one of them three and a half and the other almost two. Every day I have four hours of childcare—a combination of preschool and a nanny who comes to the house—and seven hours of work to get through. Most days, I finish my work while my kids nap in the afternoon and after they go to bed in the evening. It’s a perfect schedule, really, until my kids decide not to play by the rules. When that happens, I remind myself that teaching them about independent play is really important, and I turn to one of these ten tricks.
1. Bounce your way to an empty inbox.
If you have a baby carrier and a yoga ball, then you have an easy, hands free way to soothe a fussy baby while you plow through some e-mails or that pile of laundry. Make sure to pull those abdominal muscles toward your spine for an added core workout while you’re at it!
2. La, la, la… I can’t hear you!
We’ve all been there: just twenty more minutes of work to get done, or the rest of the vegetables to chop for dinner, and the baby wakes up early from a nap. Before you cast your work aside to go retrieve her, stop and listen to the monitor. Is she cooing happily, likely rolling around on her back while putting her toes in her mouth? Yes? Great. Leave her there and finish your work. This is the beginning of teaching your baby to entertain herself. You may need to gradually increase the length of time, depending on your baby’s disposition.
3. It’s not rude if your baby’s eyes are closed.
Nursing is a beautiful time to bond with your baby. It’s also a great time to use a tablet or smart phone to catch up on your reading or e-mails, or make yourself a to-do list, grocery list, or meal plan for the week. A nursing pillow is a big help here, as it makes one-handed nursing easier and gives you a convenient place to rest your iPad.
4. Embrace technology, or, How to look like a crazy person while pushing a stroller.
While typing a list or an e-mail from my phone while pushing a stroller has always been difficult for me, I have made frequent use of my phone’s voice memo recorder to make productive use of a walk to the park. I recommend sending e-mails to yourself first for a quick edit from your computer before they go out.
5. Every toddler needs an office.
Remember when you left your baby alone in her crib, thereby teaching her to entertain herself? That will pay dividends when she’s a bit older and you can set her up in either a playpen or a gated off play area while you get your own work done nearby.
6. Mommy needs your help with an important project!
God made your arms longer than a toddler’s for a reason. For slightly older (and calmer) children, push your computer as far back on your desk as you can, set up a coloring book in front of it, and allow your child to color from your lap while you type.
7. Sometimes you have to trick them.
My kids aren’t always eager to play by themselves, but if I get them set up with a game in their room and then explain that Mommy will be right back, I can generally disappear for 10-15 minutes before they notice that I’m gone.
8. At the playground, choose sand over slides.
When you take your kids to the playground—when they are climbing and swinging and jumping off play structures onto the ground—you really need to keep a close eye on them. But, when they are sitting happily in a sandbox, pushing some trucks around and digging a few holes, you should feel free to sit on the grass nearby with your laptop, tablet, or favorite book open in front of you. (Because here’s another tip: you can use any of these tricks to take some time to do something just for fun!)
9. Two kids are better than one. (Really.)
Believe it or not, inviting another kid over to play might be the secret to getting your work done, provided your child and his friend play well together and you have a space in your house or outside where they can be left to their own devices.
10. Screen time, or, The tip you won’t admit to using.
There are no instructions here. I will just say that a little bit of screen time is not going to ruin your child.
Those are the tricks. If you have any qualms about using them, just remember that when you ignore your children—safely, and sparingly—you are doing them, and yourself a favor.
(photo: NotarYes/ Shutterstock)