I’ve never negotiated a hostage situation, but I have convinced a toddler to gingerly hand over my iPad.
I’ve never chased a tornado, but I have fought a 2-year-old into a carseat in the cold Seattle rain.
And, I’ve never been held up, but my daughter has handed me a 6″ chef’s knife–blade edge first—after learning that she can reach the knife block in our kitchen.
Having a toddler is fun, exciting, and slightly terrifying. Everything is a game whether I like it or not. When I say “It’s time to put on your shoes. We have to leave for school.” She hears, “Throw your shoes across the room and run around the house giggling.” I can’t prepare for the whims of a toddler. Knowing that, I can prepare to head some things off at the pass.
By creating a daily routine, I not only knock off most, if not all, the items on my to-do list, but I also get to enjoy my kids and my work.
7 AM – Prepare for the Day
I start my day with tasks that I can easily knock off my to-do list. Task one: Meditation. – Shout out to Andy and the team at Headspace. Taking fifteen minutes every morning to get myself mentally ready for the day has proved to be a huge benefit to me and everyone who interacts with me. The bonus is that I also get to indulge the rewarding feeling of checking something off my to-do list right out of the gate.
I have two young girls (5 months and 2-1/2 years), I plan my work time around their sleep and nap schedules. If I get up early, I can usually get at least 45 minutes of work in before one of them needs me. But, I always have a Plan B just in case one of them wakes up.
I’ve prepared by setting aside special toys at my desk that my toddler only plays with when I’m working. Not only does she like playing with the special toys, but she also knows what to expect while they are out. Sure, she sometimes ends up sitting on my lap watching OK Go videos (because if I’m listening to music, it’s going to be something I enjoy), but for the most part, she is perfectly content being the room with me and playing.
When she is with me, I tend to choose tasks that I’m more familiar with. That way I’m not so engrossed in a project that I don’t notice that the back of the sofa has been converted into a balance beam.
10:45 AM – Make it to Nap Time
They are both up again, and everyone needs to eat. At this point, I know I just need to close my computer so that it doesn’t call to me. I put it away, everyone gets fed and then it’s that wonderful time of the day that all kids hate and all adults wish they had. Say it with me: Nap Time.
If both girls sleep, I can enjoy an hour and a half of work. Before I get to this point in my day, I plan for what task I’m going to accomplish. If I don’t do that, then I end up switching back and forth between things trying to figure out what’s most important. With clear priorities, I can utilize my time effectively.
3:00 PM – Stay Ahead of the Clock
Once the girls are back up, I typically start preparing for our evenings. I plan meals out the Thursday before the week. Before grocery shopping. Before knowing what I’m going to “be in the mood” for. This way, I’m not subject too many options, and I can just go on autopilot. On Blue Apron days (Thanks Blue Apron team for keeping us eating healthy three nights a week!), I begin the prep process. The best meals are the ones that I can have completely done by 3:30 PM and all I need to do is put it in the oven to bake when it’s time for dinner (Pizza, quiches, enchiladas, etc.).
When my husband gets home 3:30/4/4:30/5 — he’s a scientist, it’s hard to pull away from projects some days — it’s all family time. This is when I run or work on personal projects, and he gets time to take the girls on a walk or to the park — Rain or shine because we’re in the Pacific Northwest.
8:30 PM – Reset
The last hour of our day is crazy. We have to do two baths and bedtime routines. But, by 8:30 PM, we are walking out of their room frazzled but alive. While we get ready for the next day, I try to finish up some tasks and sneak in some downtime.
There is only so much I can plan for by working at home with two kids. It’s not easy, but I love being with my girls all day, and I love working. This is a solution that works for me and allows me to have the best of both worlds. I’m tired, but it’s worth it. And, because it’s worth it, I try to do everything in my power to make it manageable. That means a lot of planning – both Plan A and Plan B… and Plan C – and a lot of flexibility. Some days I’m going to get nothing done, but I try to know when that will be so that I can let me co-workers know, and I can mentally prepare myself to put in extra time on other days. Some days, I expect to get a lot done, and everyone is sick. All I can do is take it one moment at a time.