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Multitasking: How to Work, Cook, Clean, and Keep Your Toddler Happy

Every day millions of parents rush out, clock in to work an 8+ hour shift, and then race home for a second shift as mommy or daddy. It’s a herculean challenge to work and raise a family, but with lots of practice and lots of planning, it’s manageable.

Keep Your Toddler Happy
Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/abbybatchelder

Studies show that mothers put in the most time “practicing and planning” since they are still the primary parent who takes care of the home and children, whether they work inside or outside of the home. Employment figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2012 show that mothers with children under 6 years old (64.8 percent) were less likely to work than mothers whose children were 6-17 years old (75.1 percent). While the U.S. Census Bureau says there were 5 million stay-at-home moms in 2012, it is not clear how many were working at home.

Here are 5 tips to help busy parents juggle all of their jobs more easily:

1. Housework If you have a baby, plan your housework around your baby’s nap time. Toddlers are notorious for fighting the sand-man, so you may have to use a different strategy here. Let him play in the room you are tidying. Nothing provides a more entertaining distraction for a toddler than a playard.

You can also make cleaning an interactive learning exercise by asking him to lend you a hand: identify items by shape or color and ask him to give them to you. And praise him to the skies as he helps you put his toys away. It’s a win-win—he’ll learn a few new things while burning off some energy, and you’ll have a cleaner room.

2. Cooking Every working parent knows the wisdom of picking her battles. Fighting through meal preparation at the end of an exhausting work day is one battle you can do without. Plan your meals in advance. Make a weekly menu of nutritious low-to-no-maintenance meals. Prepare foods that you can freeze for later use, and serve them with fresh vegetables.

At meal time reconnect with your toddler by telling her what you did with your day—share or “create” simple funny stories about work, and ask about her day. The content of the conversation isn’t as important as the time you share chatting.

3. Prepping Don’t wait until the next morning to race around the house looking for lost socks or packing lunches. Pack everyone’s lunches and lay out everybody’s clothes before bedtime. The morning rush will be a lot less hectic and everyone in your household may be in a better mood at the start of their day.

4. Shopping If you have a spouse or a significant other, let them watch the baby or toddler while you shop alone, if at all possible. When you have to take the children along, make sure you have plenty of time to shop; take a list with you and stick to it; and plan your route through your favorite store to minimize impulse buying, and to avoid having a cranky baby at the end of your trip. Search for and patronize stores that are kid-friendly, with car-shaped carts for toddlers, changing rooms, nursing stations, and other mom-friendly amenities.

5. Fun time You’re terrific at planning projects and events at work, right? Well use that same skill-set to plan fun time with your toddler. Those precious minutes are not going to materialize by themselves—you have to be deliberate about planning for them and adhering to the schedule you set. Sing to your baby, dancercise in the family room,  and play “tickle monster” with your toddler. Whatever you do, make physical contact with your child a top priority to let them know how much you love them.

Find your own rhythm and then go with that flow for a richer and more fulfilling experience as a parent. It will take some time, but you will discover what works best for you. Whatever you do, don’t feel guilty if it does not work out immediately. What’s most important is being a caring parent and making memories with your child.

LaGeris Underwood Bell has fond memories of her busy working mom. She encourages busy parents today to set aside bonding time, and invest in helpful products like a playard and other resources to enrich their children’s lives.

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