The article below contains affiliate links to Amazon.com to help me keep this website going, however I have chosen these products either because I own them myself and have been very satisfied with my purchase OR because based on my experience and knowledge I genuinely think they will help you become more productive.
If, like me, you are a stay at home parent of a child under 3 years old, you know that taking care of them is pretty much a full time job. If, on top of that, you are also working as a freelancer in order to help support your family… well, that is like working two 8 hour shifts seven days a week.
There is only so much you can do within 24 hours, setting aside time to get a good night’s rest to keep up your strength. Every minute counts and anything that can help you manage your day and stay productive is worth trying. Below are some of my tips to make the best of the two worlds – the world of freelance and the world of parenting.
Plan for the next day or create a weekly schedule
This doesn’t work for everyone but if it does it can do wonders to your productivity level. With a schedule in place you don’t need to think about what to do next – all you need to do is follow it! Sharing your schedule with family will also help them respect your working hours and adjust to them.
If you are a full-time mom/dad or a single parent working as a freelancer, you may need to create a schedule that will include taking care of your child (mealtime, preparation, naps, going for a walk, and so on).
Here is a daily schedule which I, as a full-time mom, follow with my 18 month old son:
7:00 AM – Wake up and have breakfast
For breakfast I usually make a fried egg and a pancake served with milk.
8:00 AM – Screen time
This is the time of the day that I let my son watch cartoons on the iPad. I do this mostly to catch some more sleep, since I do go to bed pretty late in the night.
If you’re looking to buy a tablet exclusively for your child, here are some great products I found on Amazon:
9:00 – 10:30 – Playtime
I invested in some toys that keep my toddler engaged and encourage him to play independently (for a while anyway). This is usually a good time to check e-mails, do some quick research or look for new clients.
Here are a few recommendations (my son loves to play with these!):
10:30 AM – Morning snack
This could be a banana, a smoothie or yoghurt. Something healthy that requires little preparation.
11:00 AM – Nap time
The nap usually lasts up to 2 hours, so it’s a great time to get some serious work done. It is also still pretty early in the day so I am able to focus on some more creative tasks.
Depending on what time my son wakes up in the morning, I sometimes switch nap time with lunch time.
1 PM – 2 PM – Wake up and have lunch
My son loves rice so I always have it cooked and portioned in the freezer. After a few minutes in the microwave it’s ready to serve with some meat and veggies.
You might want to purchase a set of small glass containers to store ready-made food for your toddler. Choose those that are microwave, freezer and dishwasher safe. Here is my choice from Amazon:
3 PM – Going to the park
I try to make this as active as possible, letting my son run around, climb on stuff and have lots of fun. By the time we’re back home he is calmer and happy to play on his own for a while.
4 PM – 5 PM – Evening snack and play
Some juice and a cracker will do for the evening snack. After that my son plays with his toys again and I usually spend some time playing with him as well.
6 PM – 7PM – Dinner and bath
Between 6 and 8 PM I give him my full attention. We eat dinner, have some fun in the bath and prepare for sleep.
8 PM – Sleep and work
After I put my son down, I have another 3 hours to spend on work. In total I spend around 5-6 hours working each day, besides being a full-time mom.
Teaching your child independent play
This may be a bit difficult if you haven’t started when your child was very small (before their first birthday) but it is still possible to teach them how to play by themselves. For children under 3 you will need to create a safe space for them to play in. A safe space is an area of your house where they can touch everything without being told ‘no’ and everything is safe for them to play with. It is a place where they can just explore and have fun.
To make it easier, you may want to get one of those play yards to keep your toddler safe from any accidents.
To teach your child independent play, start by sitting beside your child while they play without joining in. Once they are absorbed in their activity, try moving to another part of the room. This will take a few days to really work but you might be able to buy some time to complete quick tasks.
Cooking can take 1-2 hours each day. When raising a child AND working at the same time, you can’t afford to spend the time to prepare meals from scratch three times a day.
Organizing your fridge and freezer can save some time that you would spend looking for ingredients. It might be a good idea to divide products by category, such as meat, dairy, vegetables & fruit, drinks and so on. This way you can easily find anything within a second.
Once a week, prepare some ready-made, portioned food that you can quickly heat in a microwave. I usually cook a big portion of rice and freeze it in small containers. The same can be done with meat and vegetables. Within a few minutes you can have a ready meal for your little one.
Have a routine
A routine makes small children calmer and less likely to have temper tantrums. When they can expect what happens during the day, they are less likely to misbehave. I found that having a routine with my toddler made my life much easier and stress-free.
It’s not always possible to do everything exactly at the same hour every day but if you can more or less keep the order of doing things, that should do it. The bedtime routine is the most important as it helps your child sleep long and well at night.
Use the time when they’re asleep wisely
During the nap and after they go to bed in the evening, it is time to focus on work as much as possible. It’s important to limit distractions such as Social media or YouTube that can consume a great portion of your time. At the same time, we all need some time to just unwind and relax. Read a book before going to sleep or watch a movie on a Sunday. Also, during a less creative task I often play a tv series to listen to while I work. It helps me focus on the job AND relax at the same time!
Make time every day to give them your full attention
After all, they won’t stay a toddler for long and who would want to miss spending time with their child and seeing how they change with every passing day. Create as many memories together as you can, while you can!