Monthly Archives: December 2012

Secrets of the Work-at-Home Mom

In an ideal world, I would wait until my husband got home each day to do my work, and he would watch our little Kung Fu Panda while I researched, wrote, and did other career-related tasks. In my world, it doesn’t work this way. Because I do evening transcription work at home, more or less at full-time night shift hours, any writing-related tasks must take place either during the day or on weekends.

While I admit my methods may be far from perfect, I’ve discovered a few things that work for me.

  1. Get out of the house. I try to spend at least a couple hours each day out of the house with KFP. Whether it’s working out at the YMCA while he plays in Child Watch, or attending the weekly Toddler Story Time at the local library, or simply running errands or taking a walk, getting out of the house keeps both of us from getting cabin fever. I often spend time planning articles or working out ideas while we’re out and about, and if the mood strikes me, I can write by dictating into my voice recorder (using Dragon Naturally Speaking to transcribe it once we get home). The value of this method became more clear to me this past month, when my son and I took turns being sick, which meant staying home. By the end of it, we were both going stir crazy!
  2. Get him involved in an activity. When it’s time to sit down at the keyboard, I make sure there’s something constructive to occupy my little guy. Whether it’s his wooden train set, a coloring book and crayons, or one of his favorite Sprout TV shows, I make sure he has something to do, some water to drink, and if it’s snack time, a snack.Then I sit down on the couch and get to work. Working on the couch, I’ve discovered, is more comfortable for both of us than trying to sit at my office desk. He knows he’s welcome to crawl up next to me and snuggle, if he likes, while Mommy works.
  3. Take “toddler breaks.” Some breaks are built in when working with a little one. Many is the time I interrupted myself in the middle of writing a sentence because my nose told me it was time to change his diaper. In addition, I also try to remember to take breaks to spend a little time with him: reading a book or building a block tower. On the days I don’t go to the gym, I may pause to have a “dance party” with him, as we watch his favorite “Sesame Street” DVD and groove to the silly songs.
  4. Be reasonable about goals. I try to be realistic about my daily goals. If I can write one 500-word article and do a little networking, or if I put together one poetry submission, I consider it a good day. When I have larger projects, I try to break them down into manageable steps to spread over several days. It’s not always possible to avoid overworking myself — I am, after all, still a Virgo and a Type A personality — but my son and I are both happier when my goals are reasonable and achievable.
  5. Stay on task. Admittedly, this is the point that gives me the most trouble. It’s too easy to get distracted by personal e-mails, social networking and Web surfing. But more and more lately, I’ve tried to do a better job of maintaining focus. Since toddlers can be subject to mood swings, I’m learning it’s best to get the important stuff out of the way while he’s being cooperative. Then, if he’s still playing happily (and doesn’t need anything), I can take a few moments to check Facebook or read some friends’ blogs.

These are just a few of the things that work for me. Holly Reisem Hanna has written a very informative blog entry, “10 Ways Work at Home Moms Can Entertain Their Children without Using Technology,” which I recently discovered while searching for Christmas gift ideas to suggest people get me.

I definitely already use creative play toys. In our case, we have a wooden toy train set which provides hours of fun; two different types of building blocks; a flotilla of little construction trucks and other do-it-yourself toys; and a bin full of books my toddler loves to peruse himself. I’m looking into expanding our craft options beyond just crayons, and I’m also going to feed his musical interests with yet another musical toy — a toddler DJ station — to add to his drum set, play guitar, keyboards, shakers and harmonica. The best part of him making his own music is that I can participate by singing along, even while typing away!

What are some other tips you’d share?

KFP colors a monkey in the Hideaway Latte Cafe, Lewisburg.

The Duck Family and the Evil Robot

I am writing this on my phone while my son plays with his ducks in the tub. The large duck with the blue bow around its neck he calls Daddy Duck. The slightly smaller yellow duck, he calls Mommy Duck. The little plain yellow duck (as distinguished from his pirate duck, football duck, lifeguard duck and singer duck) is the little boy duck.

The ducks are telling each other “I love you” and giving each other kisses and hugs. Seeing this sort of play always makes me deliriously happy inside. Of course, after a few minutes of such lovey-dovey cuddling, something inevitably happens. Sometimes a robot attacks. Sometimes the football duck interferes and causes trouble. Today, they are practicing diving, which he started doing with his bath toys after watching the U.S. swim team in the 2012 Summer Olympics. This is apparently a risky activity, because sometimes they fall out of the tub instead of diving into water. But the ducks are checking in on each other: “Are you OK?” And still telling each other “It’s OK,” and “I love you,” and “Good job.”

I needed this moment. After three weeks of various family members convalescing with colds, and after the car broke down, one week out of the shop, and rain colluded to keep us penned up together, I needed this. My sweet, funny toddler can also be a clingy, demanding task master, especially when in the grip of cabin fever. I’m not always as patient as I should be, especially when toys are being shoved into my hands as I’m trying to call the garage to check on the repairs. At such times, I’m more like the robot duck, fire in my eyes, intoning, “No toys. Mommy’s busy.” But then, the tears come, and oh, those tears.

Toddlers are so fragile, and he will cry at so many things that wouldn’t phase an older child. A dropped toy, a rebuffed demand, and real hurts from tripping and injuring that baby body I’m always telling him to protect. No matter what caused it — he will even cry if one of us says “Ow” too loudly because he stepped on a foot or whipped his hard head into a chin — I always comfort him. I can’t help it: I’m a sucker for tears.

No one is perfect, and despite the best intentions, despite all the parenting books and articles you might read, you will from time to time say or do the wrong thing: the thing that, instead of redirecting your child, winds him up more; the thing that, instead of calming her, makes her cry.

After a bad day, when we were on each other’s bad sides, it’s good to see that the moments I read and played with him made him happy. It’s even better to realize that his internal dialogue — and his idea of families — is by and large a positive, supportive, empowering one. And yes, some days there will be evil robots, but we’ll get through it together, with love.