Now more than ever, I thought this might be useful! It will obviously vary depending on your children's personalities and ages, but these are some tips I have picked up from juggling work/chores with a baby and a toddler around the house.
1. Go with their ebbs and flows
We've noticed that our little ones always get a burst of energy after eating, and this means they are usually happy to entertain themselves for about an hour after main meals, even after dinner when you'd think they would be getting tired. If dinner is too close to bedtime then we miss out on an extra hour of being able to get stuff done because we have to rush them up to bed, so it's much better to have an early dinner and some more play time!
Conversely, I often find myself fighting against them because I am determined to get something done or just get really stuck into something and don't want to stop, but it's counterproductive and you will just end up feeling even more frustrated, so accept defeat, and give them some of your time until they are happily playing again.
2. Fill their cups
This one is similar to the last point but on a bigger scale, because if your children are craving some love and quality time with you then they are more likely to misbehave to get your attention and be unable to occupy themselves. I am always torn between using the time when my youngest naps to get some jobs done or to spend some quality time with my eldest, but if we can manage a bit of each then we all end up feeling more fulfilled, and when my youngest wakes up they are more likely to play happily together.
3. Get down on their level
We've all heard about talking to them on their level, but I find this with getting things done too. The moment I get out my laptop my youngest is almost guaranteed to immediately start crying, or they will both pester me! But if there is something I can get done down on the floor, like unpacking deliveries of new clothes, which is perfect because they can get involved too, then I can get a lot more done. I suppose they just want to be in on the action!
4. Give them a change of scenery
Yes, even when you are trapped inside for most of the day! I first noticed this when my little ones got to that landmark 3 months old (ish), when you come out of the fourth trimester and you can finally put them down (for about 5 minutes anyway!) without them crying. On a good day, when there was no teething to mess things up, I'd be able to carry them around the house with me from room to room and get everything done that I needed to. It's a good idea to have something different in each room at this age, like a baby gym, jumperoo, box of sensory toys etc, so that you have something set up in each room for them when you need to go there, and it's something different for them. Now that they are older they don't even need toys in each room but just the change of scenery helps, for example when in our bedroom they will just enjoy rolling around on the bed or looking out of the window.
5. Rotate toys
It might be an obvious one, but a toy that has been put away for a month or more will hold their interest for a lot longer when it reappears! We have a Whirli subscription too, which is great for swapping a few toys every so often without spending a fortune or adding to the horde of toys taking over the house.
6. DO NOT FEEL GUILTY....EVER
If you need to sit them in front of the TV or their tablets so that you can get something done or just get a few minutes to yourself! The 5pm 'witching hour' is universally acknowledged among parents. We always walk the dog at around 4pm every day and I think this does help, otherwise the afternoons would feel extremely long. Getting out in the fresh air for a bit helps reset them and sometimes they are happy to play again afterwards, but generally everyone is tired and hungry, so I pretty much always let them watch TV when we get back so that I can get the dinner made in peace (but as quickly as possible because it doesn't last long!).
7. Ask for help!
I think every Mum is guilty of sacrificing themselves to some extent for their children. And yes we have to, a bit. But don't take it all on by yourself. We're in a difficult time at the moment where we can't ask our family and friends to step in and help us, so we may need to rely on partners more (single parents, huge respect to you). When the nurseries closed and my husband started working from home, there was an expectation that I would take on the bulk of the childcare (the double-edged sword of running your own business) but I stood back and thought, 'No, I shouldn't be expected to take on the full burden of this' and thankfully my husband agreed and has been looking after the little ones for a bit each day so that I can keep up with Belles and Babes, and I'm finding that getting a short break each day is actually working really well for us, rather than 3 mornings a week where I feel pressure to be as productive as possible.
Was that all obvious stuff or did that help? Have I missed anything? Please let me know by commenting below!