As the Marketing Manager for Active Wellness, finding dependable childcare has been key to my ability to work from home since my first son was born in 2014. Trying to meet the demands of my full-time job and (now two!) sons simultaneously, would shortchange both and lead to burnout, so I rely on full-time preschool, family help when available, and nanny recruiting services like Care.com and Nannylane.com.
Yet when kids or caregivers are sick or there are unexpected school closures like we’re experiencing now, I’ve found a few tricks that help me keep “the boss” (my five year old) happy as well as earn my paycheck, at least until I can return to business as usual.
One New Toy
If I’m well and able to get out, I’ll start a sick day with a trip to Target to buy a new game like Hungry Hippos or restock the Play-Doh and craft supplies. Compared to the hourly rate of a babysitter or playspace price of admission, $10-$20 is a worthwhile investment to literally buy myself some time in front of the computer.
Feed the Meter*
True: my 5-year-old wants my attention. Also true: if I don’t find a positive way to give him that, he’ll find a maybe not-so-positive way to get it. Letting my son pick an activity that we can do together for ten minutes, with no phones, other adults or distractions competing for my attention, is a surprisingly powerful way to feed his meter. Often after doing this, he’s more content and can even return to independent play. Bonus, he’s pretty fun to hang out with!
Although mine is slightly broken from a time-out tantrum gone wrong, this visual timer lets kids see how much “just five more minutes” really is, and has been a lifesaver for feeding the meter and making quiet time stick.
While I have zero guilt in enlisting the virtual babysitter of an iPad or Llama Llama on Netflix during sick days, I don’t want an 8-hour workday to depend on it. I like to stretch out the screen time by having my preschooler earn it with quiet time or another activity, like playing with LEGO®s for 30 minutes (using the timer above) before watching a 30-minute show.
Sanity Saver: The Drive-Through Field Trip
If cabin fever is taking over with no end in sight, I’ll load up the car for a quick “field trip” to a drive-through restaurant or even car wash as a way to keep break up the scenery, while still keeping our germs contained. Bonus: If this results in car naps, I’ve earned myself some quiet driveway time to catch up on emails!
My son’s first nanny shared with me that her mom was a work-from-home (WFH) “pioneer” in the early nineties. She said one of her earliest childhood memories was a special box of toys that she could only play with while mommy was on a call. I love this idea and keep a box in the top shelf of my closet stocked with Dollar Store favorites for this purpose.
Unlimited Bath Time
Many school nights call for quick baths and kids are always begging for “just one more minute”. So fill up the tub, give them a pair of goggles, and tell them they can stay in as long as they want. After some time passes, buy yourself more time by giving them fun “new bath toys” from the kitchen, like a mini funnel, turkey baster, or measuring cups. Sit nearby to ensure safety, but I’ve discovered that my 5 year old will easily pass 45 minutes of solo time enjoying the water, and he gets to learn what waterlogged fingers and toes look like!
Educational Tablet Content & Games
Explore new resources on your iPad or tablet that encourage learning and critical thinking. I like Osmo, which my son can play next to me while I work. From bilingual cartoons and reading apps, to games that teach basic coding skills and geometry, kids can pass the time with the virtual babysitter while boosting their brain power.
Find the Flex in Your Flex Schedule
I’m a 9-5er and like to stick to traditional work hours, but when kids are home with me I have to break up this routine and dedicate any free time to my computer. Unfortunately, this can mean using that Golden Hour between their bedtime and mine to work, or leaving the dishwasher full to unload tomorrow. On those days I remind myself that “this too shall pass” (and send Starbucks e-gift cards to those preschool teachers, who really do make the world go round).
Jessica Isle is the Marketing Manager for Active Wellness and leads our B2C strategy for our partners with a focus on medical fitness. Currently working from her home state in Tennessee alongside her infant and five-year-old sons, she's running on coffee and living for her Marco Polo chats with close friends to stay connected.
*These tips adapted from Amy McCready’s Positive Parenting Solutions.