(Disclaimer: I used to wear pajamas all day. I relish those days. If you’re able to wear your pajamas all day, I salute you. You’re a great Mom).
Toddlers demand a lot of attention. I remember when I thought babies demanded a lot of attention. Boy, was I wrong about that. Toddlers are mobile, sassy balls of energy, and they need to be handled accordingly. Even baby proofing has taken on an entirely new meaning these days (it should be called toddler proofing, but I digress).
I’m no expert (full disclosure: I’m really no expert. I just sort of wing it and hope my child turns out to be a decent human being), but I’ve put a lot of thought into how I can keep Ellie happy, healthy and actively engaged while I’m out there hustlin’*. Now that I have to actually wear pants and not just pajamas all day, it requires a bit more planning. Speaking of which, here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way:
- Plan ahead. Each week, I’ll set some time aside to peruse Pinterest or other blogs to seek out simple yet engaging learning activities. Typically, we really only get an hour or so in the evening after supper, but I feel better about myself if we use it to introduce Ellie to a cool sensory activity or learning tool. I’ll make a quick list of any ingredients or craft supplies we need, and I’ll be sure we have it all on hand. It may be something as simple as whipped-cream play (whipped cream, some food colouring, and some Jell-O powder for scent), or as complex as actually creating fizzy chalk paints or a light table for her to use. I’ll be sure to share some of our activities as we go along. At the end of the day, it makes me feel so much better to know I’m actually not phoning it in as a parent. I know she could always use more time with us, but when that’s just not possible, I’d like her to be as happy and engaged as possible when we are together.
- Gear activities toward their interests. Some weeks, Ellie’s obsessed with animals – or one animal in particular. Other weeks, she’s into imaginary play and wants to put diapers on her dolls all day long. I let her be the guide. If she’s into it, I’ll do my best to elaborate on it. She loved the baby washing station we set up when she was really into tending to her babies, for example. Day to day, life can get so busy that we forget to actually listen to them when they chatter on about something. But if you do — and you appeal to those interests — you won’t regret it.
- Plan time outside every day. This can be difficult, especially for those who are working long hours, but it’s so easy to do if you find the time. We try to spend most of our evening outdoors when we can and if weather permits. This typically means we’re spending the last hour before bed outdoors. It’s simple to do, you don’t have to plan any elaborate learning activities, and the fresh air is amazing. It helps me to feel calmer after a hectic day, too.
- Spend one on one time with your toddler. It’s so important that your child gets to spend quality time with both parents separately. In our house, it’s typically (okay, always) me who is planning out activities for us to take in. And after a while, it can actually start to feel like work. So, I’ve set aside time in our schedules to allow both of us to spend time with Ellie separately and on our own terms. Tyler (aka Daddy, who may make a guest appearance around here someday) has a totally different (read: chill) way of interacting with Ellie, which comes with its own set of benefits. Too much time spent with Neurotic Mommy makes for a Neurotic Toddler. So, yeah – change it up. Plus, it gives each one of us a well-deserved break throughout the week.
- Enroll in an age-appropriate class or group. We’ve tried Kindermusik in the past, which was a huge hit. This time around we’re going to try a gym class geared toward toddlers. I think it’s important to mix it up and try all ‘types’ of classes. It’s a great chance to get out of the house – for you and for your kidlet(s). Plus, you may even meet some other parents, or your kid may find a playmate. It’s a win-win.
These are just a few of the things I try to do to help myself sleep better at night knowing I’m a decent Mom. What do you do to balance motherhood and work/school or other obligations?
(*learning to be a lawyer)