How to manage working from home with a toddler in tow

by Lizy Oakes

So I think I have sat down and attempted to write this blog seven times now, and I suppose there is some irony in that. The title: How do you manage working from home and a toddler? Well…we are now over there weeks in to lockdown and i think it is fair to say…the process is not a smooth one!

Initially I thought I was super woman, I had a daily chart, I’d used Pinterest to look up things to do with little one, created folders of work, decided what home learning I was offering for each year group at school, chosen to lead my nursery Whatsapp group so that little one could stay in touch with her friends, decided I was doing Joe Wicks to get thin during lockdown, made my shopping list and prepped my meals whilst all the time dealt with, ‘Mummy?’ and ‘Darling have you seen.. ‘. It turns out that is not achievable.
I pride myself on my organisation skills, I have always been the ‘doer’ I like to plan my plans, I think it is my way of coping – which is probably a nice way of saying my coping mechanism is being in control, my anxiety takes over when I am not planned – something which my other half has had to learn to accept and negotiate too.

I am a teacher in a secondary school, teaching my first love - drama, and I had always thought I would be able to keep the same level of organisation once I had my daughter, how wrong I was.

They tell you, but you just aren’t prepared for the complete life overhaul and when I returned to work when little one was 9 months I had to change, accept that being everywhere and the ‘ideal’, no matter what you see on social media or are told by others, just doesnt happen in reality – well not in mine. We all learn to do what works for us and get by one day at a time.

I think once lockdown was announced I reverted to ‘I must be in control’, everything wasnt normal anymore, not that ‘normal’ is a thing but my normal day to day. I had decided that in order to survive I needed to plan. All these people who are posting ‘my house is clean from top to bottom, what to do next?’, and ‘loving life in the sunshine with a glass of wine’. I was SO envious and I decided I could do that, I just needed a timed schedule. My other half, bless him, went along with my crazy idea even though he was still running his business full time from home. It took me about 5 days, and the realisation of having to get in the bath at 2am because I was in so much pain from going all out with Joe that, I couldn’t do it, I wanted to but if I was going to sustain this for the foreseeable then it had to be achievable.

The extension of the lockdown has been announced and I have not attempted to plan in any way shape or form, I have realised I cant control anything during this dreadful time.

What I can do is show my little one how to deal with stress, anxiety, isolation and change of routine by showering her with love and showing her that mental and physical health mean everything.

I find myself thinking of all the children at school, particularly those who I know seek solace in that environment and know that is what they would crave, so I need to be an example and positive role model.

So how am I juggling things?

We have probably watched too much television, eaten the wrong things, stayed in our pyjamas most days – or changed from pyjamas into other pyjamas, cried, tried and failed at potty training, got play dough stuck in the carpet, eaten too much easter chocolate, but we have made memories that I will remember forever. We have laughed so hard, I have heard my little one stringing together words that I didn’t even know she knew and also realised she is a true blend of her mother’s sass and her father’s humour.

I have also tried to remember that we will never get this time back, and as full time working Mummy I am counting my blessings that I get this time with my little girl and my other half. I am doing what I can, when i can for work and trying not to let myself stress too much. Whenever I see my other family, my school kids, I will help them – that is what I do, but for now I am responding to their emails and praising them for completing what work they can, they know I am here for them. I find myself talking about them more than ever, I miss them, I suppose teaching is a vocation after all, not just a job.

I’ve moved away from a minute by minute activity list and instead I just have a daily piece of paper, I write down things I would like to get done, I have worked out I am at my best in the morning so do what I can then. I try and have a different focus each day so today was numbers but other days I will do things focused on shape, letters, colours, textures and animals. I often do something based around a book each day – we will read the book and then I will pick an element of the book that links to the daily focus.

I feel I have actually learnt to accept during lockdown, accept that we are always one day closer to getting out of this awful time, accept I am normal for having crazy emotional rollercoaster moments, accept I am not a failure if I don’t meet my own crazy deadlines, accept my little one thinks I am the best Mum (even on days I don’t feel like it) and accept that I am lucky to be safe.