7 Ways to Successfully Work at Home with Toddlers in Tow

When I first started working at home, my daughter was 9 months old and she took a big, long nap each afternoon, which gave me two uninterrupted hours to work each day.

But as she got older, her naps shortened and eventually disappeared. This left me wondering when and how was I going to work at home now that she wasn’t napping.

After exploring several options, I decided to enroll her in a mother’s day out program two days a week.  This arrangement works well for me, but during holidays and summer break, I’m left scrambling for other arrangements.

Through trial and error, and suggestions from other work at home moms, I discovered a few ways to successfully work at home with toddlers.

1. Paid Caregivers: For most moms, hiring a nanny is just too expensive, but there are other more affordable options out there. I suggest looking for a college student, neighbor or member of your local church who is looking to make a little extra money. Even if they come for a just couple hours, twice a week this will give you some time to completely focus on your business, while your toddler is in good hands.

2. Toddler Swap: Do you know another well-trusted mom who also works at home? Make an agreement to do a toddler swap. Take turns watching each other’s children while the other gets some work done.  Not only does this give you some additional time to work, but your child will love having new playmates.

3. Activity Kits: Plan ahead and create various activity kits to occupy your toddler when you need to get some work done.  Play dough, arts and craft supplies, dress-up clothes, books, educational DVD’s and train sets are just a few ideas to get you started. Check out Woo Jr for some more ideas on how to keep your toddler entertained.

4. Undivided Attention: Have you ever tried to get a project done and your child just keeps pulling at your pant leg wanting attention? This is when you know it’s time to take a break and give your child the undivided attention that they need and deserve. Get down on their level and do what they want to do. You’ll find that after a session of focused play and communication that they’ll be content and happy to play on their own again while you answer some emails.

5. Family: If you have an important project that needs your full attention, recruit a family member to help take some of the responsibility off your hands. Whether its grandparents or getting your significant other to take some time off work, utilizing family members can be a life saver and they’ll get to enjoy some quality one-on-one time with your child.

6. The Daddy Factor: Find some activities that your spouse loves to do and have them share that passion with your children. For my husband, its golf and remote control cars, and now he shares these activities with our daughter. Remember to save these activities solely for your spouse and your children, and then use that time to work while they share in some special daddy time together.

7. Slow Down: You probably first started working at home so that you could spend more quality time with your loved ones. So why are you trying to climb to the top so quickly? Slow down and temporarily scale back on your business activities, there will be time enough to grow in the future when your children are older. Remember they are only young once.

With a little flexibility and creativity, you can be a successful at-home mom and entrepreneur – even with toddlers in tow.

What tips do you have for working at home with toddlers?

Holly Hanna-Headshot-225x300

Holly Hanna

Holly Reisem Hanna is the founder of The Work at Home Woman, an award winning blog dedicated to helping women and moms fulfill their dreams of working from home or becoming self-employed. Before becoming a WAHM, Holly worked full-time as an RN Clinical Research Coordinator. Holly resides in Austin, Texas with her husband Jeff, their daughter Hadley, and their feisty cat, Alex.

Share this post

52 comments

Write a Comment

52 Responses to “7 Ways to Successfully Work at Home with Toddlers in Tow”

  1. Thanks for these ideas! I have a 3 1/2 year old and a 19 month old and am trying to work on my blog and grow that into a business while also working 10 hours outside the home. It is VERY challenging to find time to manage all that I have to do – and now my 3 1/2 year old stopped taking naps, so that makes it just a little more difficult. Still trying to figure out the best time of day to get good work done.

    You are so right about the undivided attention – Sometimes I get so frustrated because I’m trying to get work done on the computer and the kiddos keep interrupting me so I end up not really getting anything done. If I will just stop and turn off the computer and spend some time with them then I can come back to the computer and actually be productive. It makes much more sense to just stop and give them the attention they want.

    It is so rewarding to be able to work and be at home with my kids, so I wouldn’t change it for the world, but it definitely comes with it’s own set of challenges!

    • Hi Emily – I agree, it is very rewarding and challenging at the same time. Another idea is to work in the morning before the kiddos wake up or late at night when they are sleeping. Good luck with your business!

      • Becky says:

        I think that getting yourself organized to do a bit here and a bit there when your kids are asleep is the only way to get work done when you’re the one who has responsibility for a child. I try to divide my work up so that I can work on a small bit at a time – that way the larger project gets done and delivered to my clients on time.

        I have four young children, two still at home full-time, and trying to get anything done when they need my attention (when they’re awake!) just doesn’t work.

        These are great tips by the way and I think that we business mums need to ask for help when we need it and not try to do everything ourselves as we so often do.

  2. Holly, love this! Especially #4 and #7….I go back to those daily. I’m actually so much better at my work AFTER I’ve taken a break with the kids or taken two hours off to go volunteer at my son’s school. I come back re-charged, having remembered why I’m doing this work at home mom thang (and how lucky I am!).

    • Hi Sarah, I’m glad you enjoyed the article. So true – I feel so energized after getting out with my daughter and spending some quality time with her. And yes, we are lucky!

    • Joanne says:

      I agree Sarah, #4 and #7 are so important. I just went through some scaling back ideas when I realized I put way too much on my plate and made myself more frazzled and scattered than I felt when I was working full time. That definitely was not in the plan. I am now slowing down and taking it one step at a time.

      I would like to add one more idea. Scheduling! I am finding that I need to decide how many hours per day I expect to spend on my business and schedule them in. I do nothing else during those time but business (nap time, early morning, play dates, etc.) then I can be fully present with my son the rest of the day.

      Now I just have to find a way to not let the financial stress get to me as I take things more slowly.

  3. Thanks for this article. I think each person needs to find a system that works best for them.

    For me, my business kind of happened out of necessity. After both my husband and i were laid off from our jobs on the same day 3 years ago, i decided to start my business. Time management has always been a work in progress. Especially since I decided to home school my 3 kids at the beginning of this year.

    To get things done for my mask making business, I have the kids help me with certain tasks like organizing fabric or cutting. They also all have lots of chores which we do together so it’s not so grueling. This makes them feel like they are contributing and we get to spend a little quality time together while actually getting something done. I had to let certain things go like cleaning my house everyday, going out to eat at restaurants and other shopping foray’s. There’s just never enough time to get it all done. And i admit, I am guilty of staying up after the kids go to bed to get things done like website copy, product development, marketing and all that stuff that requires undivided attention. I don’t get a lot of sleep, but I love what i do and i love being able to spend time at home with my family. Picking up and leaving to see family whenever we want. We’ve been in Montreal for 6 months. Now we’re in Maryland visiting in-laws for a month. We’re planning to go to France for 3 months to a year depending on our visa. This is the life we have chosen, and we’re happy with our choices. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it and i recommend people follow their dreams and passions. I’m so happy with our new life. Happier than i was with my silicon valley six figure income. Albeit, i don’t have as nice of a car anymore, or the latest coach bags. But those things don’t matter anymore.
    pps.
    The daddy factor is crucial too. Without it, i would never have been able to do what i do.

  4. Maui Dad says:

    Excellent post! Having an office at home can be a challenge, especially if your office isn’t a separate room with closing doors! Having a spouse with a business is very helpful. You can switch off and share the same office.

    I like the idea of using another person with a kid to switch off with. If your businesses are flexible, this can work. thanks again!!

  5. Ingrid says:

    Great article. I try to get up about 2 hours before my 2 yr old does – yes that’s pretty darn early – but it’s the only way to be sure of some quiet time. Thankfully we still have a naptime in the afternoon but No. 2 is on her way v. soon so goodness how I’ll cope!

    Ingrid

  6. Meghan says:

    I have a 3 1/2 year old and when I started working from home my mom came over daily for 4 hours….that was fabulous. Then my mom needed to go back to work and was just burned out on elmo. I got my daughter involved in a pre-school a few hours a day, but I work a full time job from home and I am trying to start a business so it seems most days we are both frustrated. I found over the holidays that if I can have projects that remind her of pre-school she really stays focused and I can get 1/2 hour increments of work done. Phone calls were always saved for nap time, but that has gone it seems. Play dates work if the kids click otherwise it is full time referee. It is all about being prepared for opportunity. I spent 8 months chasing my tail and forgetting what I even needed to do at the computer….now we are getting the groove and really before I know it she will be in school fulltime and asking me for alone time. So take in the moments I remind myself

  7. This was an awesome and much needed blog post. I have a 5 year old and soon to be 3 years old. My daughter is home with me everyday of the week except for Wed. This is my day where I run errands, get some orders finished, catch up on house work. You were right about the pulling on my leg, wanting to play tea parties, play make up and she makes up my face. I have to just play with her and run around the house until she’s content… I’m learning as I go! I’m fairly new in my business so I’m trial and error. I started my business in April, 2010, so I look forward to learning alot and being able to balance my career with my family! Thanks for sharing these wonderful tips Holly!

  8. amy says:

    This post almost made me CRY out loud! That’s how frustrated I am this week.
    Great, simple tips and steps, especially the last one. Sometimes it seems as though other mothers are superhuman because all I (mostly) see on websites and blogs is the pretty stuff.

    I’ve tried to do everything I can with no childcare – and a husband that works long, unpredictable hours. Thank you for the reminder to re-frame this thinking and do things differently, and hopefully more productively in 2011.

    • Hey Amy,
      I’m glad you like Holly’s post so much. Like you, I’ve built all 3 of my businesses without childcare, so I totally feel your pain.

      Hang in there…your children DO get older. LOL. :D

      Heather

  9. karen gunton says:

    thanks for the great tips! i espcially need that reminder from #7 – i get so caught up (ie grumpy!) about trying to get it all done, that i forget my kids are the reason WHY i am doing this. the laundry can wait! =)
    i am planning to see if i can try the toddler swap & getting a bit of paid childcare in as well. the other thing i need to do better is help hubby to understand that if he can help out with house stuff more then we can all enjoy our time together as a family more.

    what is the mother’s day out program you use? i’d like to hear more about that, i am not sure we have that here in adelaide, australia. =)

  10. Thank you so much for mentioning Woo! Jr., Holly! Not-so-ironically, I started the network because of the success of one blog post I wrote way back in 2007, with a list of ways parents could keep their kids busy while they work from home. I never in a million years thought that post would be such a hit – I really wrote it because my own kids were driving me crazy! :)

  11. Hi Holly,
    I work at home two years ago, and I can say it was the best thing I’ve done for me and my family. Before, I worked in a pharmacy in the hospital for four years. My husband and I could not reconcile work and family life, and then decided to start an online business, home, manufacturing and selling clothes for babies. My husband also works at home with website development. Work from home for us is like a real dream, a reality that is priceless and not exchange for a conventional job under normal conditions. Hugs – Ana Paula – Brazil

  12. Hi Ana, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I feel the same way – you can’t place a value on that extra time with your loved ones, it truly is priceless!

  13. TIchanda says:

    Today, after a broken vase, two spilled cups of apple juice, a meltdown over having to plan my own birthday party not to mention my sons in the next week and 1001 to do’s for 2 of my clients – I felt like I was going to loose it. But I made it to the end of the day and even managed to fix dinner for my hubby. Just now I received a huge compliment from one of my clients saying how impressed she was that I was “on top” of everything! Ha!
    I feel like I am flying by the seat of my pants with a toddler tow and sometimes I think it would be just easier to go back to work in an office…but something so simple as a compliment is enough for me realize that I am my hardest critic and that I am living the life I always wanted…raising a family, working from home, and being challenged every day to be the best I can be! Thanks for these tips and to all the other moms for sharing!

    • amy says:

      I relate to this post…just lost it this morning with my husband.
      My patience level is one step away from exploding at all times it seems. Not a very nice place to be. My job required me to be in charge of everything before I moved my office home to be with my son. I knew it would change my work environment – just didn’t know how profoundly.
      I do feel like everyday I am being swept away in a rapid stream, struggling to keep my head above water. From someone who was in control to this new feeling…it’s hard to keep things in perspective. When my son gives me his sloppy kisses…I feel like I can survive this. I just don’t feel like I am doing it gracefully ;)
      I really appreciated you honesty. For a while I thought that I was the only one that felt like I wrangled cats for a living~!
      Thanks to all the other moms for sharing as well.

  14. Fiona Lewis says:

    I havent thought of toddler swap.Maybe I can do it next time.
    As a work at home mum we all need to have some support system. Your husband especially should be considerate about your work and should give a helping hand when work and chores become unbalanced.
    I agree that we should be able to manage our time efficiently that we dont forget our kids. After all they are all our reason for making our business earn. If you are earning big you can try to outsource your task to freelance contractors.

  15. Krista says:

    Once again another great post! I find myself struggling all the time how to balance managing the kids and the business. Loved the advice and tips. I stumbled across this blog tonight and am loving everything that is talked about here I can relate to it all so much I will definitely be back to read more =)

  16. 7 Ways to Successfully Work at Home with Toddlers in Tow: http://t.co/aXED2kt

  17. How do you manage work at home w/ toddlers? Good tips in his post. http://t.co/t6fg792 #toddlers #wahm

  18. Kate says:

    Great post! I have an 8 month old, and am running a web development business. For me, it’s all about keeping work and family separate. When I’m with my little one, I try to not look at my email or worry about unfinished business at work. It just detracts from my time with him. I only work when he’s with his part-time nanny, and if I don’t manage to get everything done during that time, I go back to it after he’s in bed for the night. Thankfully my husband is just as eager to see my business succeed as I am!

  19. Are you a #mompreneur? TMM contributor @holly_hanna shows you how to work successfully with toddlers in tow http://ow.ly/6qWX4

  20. Kristin says:

    Thanks for the great post and suggestions! Is there any way you might be able to profile some successful women entrepreneurs that currently do this or have done this? Thanks!

  21. Mara Gillott says:

    CALL GRANDMA! I have a great arrangement worked out with my Mother-in-law and my mother. My mom (who is a Realtor and carries a flexible schedule thanks to the new virtual office we’ve implemented) takes my children 3 days per week from 9 AM-5PM and my Mother-in-law picks the kids up after she gets off of work Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3:00. It gives me uninterrupted time to work and gives both grandma’s hours that they are happy they get some fun time with the grand kids!
    Tuesdays and Thursdays can be challenging for me having them home as I adjust to them not being here most of the time, but I find myself more grateful for that time with them at the same time as I had them with me full-time until earlier this year when I started my home-based business. My son will start kindergarten next year and I am dreading the change but looking forward to it at the same time.

  22. @Holly_Hanna Thanks for this–SO timely for me! @HeathALL 7 Ways to Successfully Work at Home with Toddlers in Tow – http://t.co/bswLgnFA

  23. Faye Counts says:

    Great article! I have been a WAHM for just over a year now. At first I did not know which was worse: being away from my two youngest daughters every day or being at home but inaccessible to them. Now they are both in school; one is full day and the other goes half a day. I get so much more done on my website and get to play with them in the afternoon. I am so glad to have chosen this way to work and live and support any other parent who chooses the same.

  24. Are you a #wahm? TMM contributor @holly_hanna shows you how to work successfully with toddlers in tow http://ow.ly/6R78c #mompreneur

  25. Shelly says:

    Loved this Holly. Thank you so much for putting things in perspective. I LOVE working from home and spending as much time as possible with my little one. Have a great day!

  26. I live by my planner! I set realistic goals that I know I can accomplish and when my tasks are completed, I’m done for the day. This way I’m not loading my to-do’s up each day only to feel like I haven’t accomplished anything at the end of the day when I actually accomplished quite a bit. I’m also a night owl so I can guarantee to get a little work done in the evenings after my son goes to bed.

  27. Thanks for the post. I too had children that napped for long periods of time and I would work during that. Not that they are in school that helps, but I still have a toddler that pulls at my pant leg. So needed a reminder to get creative so that I can continue to create my business!

  28. Lynne says:

    I really like this post it is very helpful to me. When I decided to work at home it is really hard for me up to now to do all the household chores and work at the same time. Thanks it is summer vacation I have my 14 year old daughter helping me to look after her brother.

  29. Siobhan says:

    Great tips – however, if you are a single-parent and an executive that is required to be on conference calls at times without screaming kids in the background, or really have to focus on something for more than 3-4 hours at a time “taking a break” is totally NOT an option – it disrupts your flow and then you end up working through the entire night just to get your work done.

    I’m thinking full-time school from 8am to 6pm is the only way to go at this point. :)

  30. Nicole says:

    Amen to #4! This is soooo true. Getting down on the floor and playing with the little ones for even a few minutes makes a world of difference.

  31. Lisa says:

    I didn’t start working from home until all of mine were in kindergarten, yet I still found it difficult to juggle motherhood and working from my home office. I can’t imagine trying to do it with a baby or toddler. My hat is off to all who do.

  32. Nizam Balram says:

    I can seriously relate to this article. I have a 2 year old toddler that just loves to come in my home office while I work. Sometimes it is difficult to concentrate having him around but it is so cute to see him watch and play with everything in my office. I recently setup an extra desk with a computer for him to sit at his own desk to work as well to make him feel like daddy. He enjoys it! He play his online curious George games and has a blast. I get to focus on training others all across the globe on the proper ways of earning a living online. I am real and straight up. I do not beat around the bush with people. I say it as it is. Making money from home is extremely hard at first just because there is a lot of stuff to know like anything else when you don’t know something you tend to get overwhelmed quickly. Just give it time and make a commitment to succeed and you will.

    Check out my advice and tips on http://www.nizambalram.com

    Thank you,
    Nizam Balram

  33. Mera Johnson says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I’m starting my own travel blog and have been feeling a little guilty,but these tips will help a great deal! I couldn’t find anything else online that provided quality advice.

    Mera at http://www.travelbymera.com

  34. Good gracious do I love this article! I never thought of toddler swaps. My problem is that I need to find another WAHM to do it with. There needs to be a site for WAHM toddler swapping!!!

  35. CM says:

    Hello! I am in the process of starting my own business. I previously did market research for Fortune 500 companies, and I have an MBA. I have a 10 month old and a 2 year old, and lots of loving family that’s willing to help out :)

    My business aims to help small business owners improve their marketing and consumer understanding, but always with the end goal of boosting sales.

    I have put together a very short questionnaire to get a better idea about my client base. If you have 5 minutes (really, it’s super short), I would appreciate your input.

    https://qtrial.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_0MJmAZLc0EX8WjP

  36. Stephanie says:

    Thank you for being so honest with your posts!
    I am a single mother of three boys, ages 12, 4 and 2. Currently I have a corporate high stress job however I was able to work out a remote work from home opportunity. My two youngest go crazy if they even see me get near my computer, they want all the attention they can get. My solution….start my own in home child care business. My children now have friends to play with during the day, which helps with them needing constant attention, they are building close relationships, I’m making extra income (slowly but surely). My goal is to replace my income with my business, which makes for an easy transition. My real goal is to start an online product business so I can eventually travel with my kids and provide “hackschooling” to them. I am a BIG Tim Ferriss fan!

    • Megan Barnes says:

      Thanks for sharing, Stephanie! What a great idea to start an in home child care business! Isn’t it nice when you can figure out ONE solution to MULTIPLE challenges?! ;) Best of luck in transitioning out of your remote work from home job and eventually into your own online product business!

  37. Priya says:

    Wonderful post and great ideas. I did slow down while my DD was a toddler and have picked up slightly now that she has started pre-school. I agree that it is good for everyone if children are content and happy, so take a step back and then return to what you are doing when you and the child is in a better state.

Leave a Reply