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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?