CEO Note: I originally wrote this blog in 2016 when my babies were really babies. At the time, we chose not to publish it because it wasn’t fully on brand—not helpful for DIY marketing or leadership on digital presence issues. As I’ve seen the pleas of parents now struggling with their new educator/remote worker roles, I realized that it is time to pull this blog out of draft and share it with the world. Please excuse the nanny and sitter mentions, it’s a holdover from a time before social distancing.
As I stare at the blinking cursor, my toddler is climbing up on the chair next to me, a blasting iPad in-hand, while my email and various social media notification “dings” are blocking out my thoughts. Uninterrupted quiet time is a luxury I purchase in the form of a super nanny.
I am blessed with a fantastic nanny that cooks, cleans and miraculously gets my two toddlers down for a nap every single day (seriously don’t know how she does it). But then the unimaginable happens—Supernanny gets sick, travels, or heaven forbid, needs a day off of her own and I am facing a toddler with an iPad screaming for juice while her brother tries to jump off the top of the couch for the 50th time today. It’s this exact moment the dreaded email comes in… conference call at 3 p.m. It’s always with a client who is blissfully unaware that I work from home, or one that is overseas, or any number of other schedule-prohibiting reasons that this specific call has to happen at the exact time scheduled, nanny or not.
Of course, I do the desperate thing and beg my hubby to take a late lunch or implore the neighbors and their almost old enough children to watch my minions, all to no avail. In the end, if you work from home there will be moments when you will have to put on your professional voice and pray to all the gods that your kids can be distracted long enough to avoid a shriekfest in the middle of your call.
Here are some of my tried and true, easy-to-prep tactics for successfully navigating toddlers and professional conference calls:
#1. Don’t do it…HA!—No seriously, read the above about almost-old-enough neighbor kids and elderly friends. In a pinch, they can be a great help, after all, you are in the next room if they need you for a real emergency. Try all options before venturing further down this list. (Obviously, in a COVID-19 situation this bullet point is NOT applicable).
#2. New toy—I have a stash of new puzzles, Play-Doh toys, magnetic dolls, blocks, etc. at the ready. Snack, favorite movie and new toy mode is activated no more than eight minutes before the call begins. Don’t be tempted to get them settled earlier, it’s a waste if they get bored too soon into the call.
#3. Practice charades—Tell them it’s super important that they whisper and “SHOW” mommy what they want by acting things out. I reward great acting with stickers.
#4. Marshmallow gun—Don’t scoff…this is my personal favorite mid-call stuff-is-getting-loud tactic. Put your phone on mute and explain that they have to catch the marshmallows and you’ll only shoot if they are quiet. Shoot for the corners of the room. Be wary of places like behind the couch, they may fuss if they can’t reach the treats. My trusty marshmallow gun has gotten me through more than one tough call. This is guaranteed to quietly distract for 10-15 minutes.
#5. Pipe cleaners, beads and a colander—Demonstrate putting the pipe cleaners in the holes and the beads on the pipe cleaners. If you have multiple kids you must have a set of materials for each kid or the fighting will be distracting.
#6. Teachers Pay Teachers—Download a $7 pack of worksheets from this online marketplace of education resources. Pick a theme your kids will love, give them crayons, and tell them they have to complete one to get the next. Each one is a little different, so this usually works for a few minutes.
#7. Painting with water—Tissue paper, paint brush, and a cup of water. Simple to prep and will distract a two-year-old for 10 or so minutes.
#8. Play Doh mats—Pinterest is full of new mats to download for every season. Find new ones, don’t bother laminating them, just slip into slick presentation page inserts or and distribute with their favorite color of Play-Doh.
#9. Shreds of paper and cups—Also very easy to prep. Construction paper in multiple colors, matching number of cups. Show them how to tear little pieces and put all the red in one cup, green in another and so on.
#10. Blowing cotton balls with a straw—Actually anything with a straw. It’s hard to be loud when there’s a straw in your mouth! I put a piece of tape on the table or floor for the “starting line” and another for the “finish line,” give them one cotton ball each, and a straw to blow the cotton ball with. This is one of our favorites.
When in doubt, or the noise begins to erupt, you can always bail to the bathtub. You may sound a touch echoey, but put a door between you and a pillow over your head and typically no one can tell you have a hoard of screaming children banging down the door. Obviously, this is only good for a minute since you don’t want to leave them unsupervised. I’ve also gone out on the patio and closed the door so I can see them but not hear them clearly. Tip: be sure you can get back in. Those little rascals can lock you out sooner than you think.
I love working from my home office and being able to pop out and see my kids whenever I refill on coffee. However, the reality is, as much as I love my munchkins, our deadlines are real and I log many sitter hours each week to run a professional organization. No mom excuses here! I’d love to hear your favorite tactics for those desperate no-help-to-be-found days! Tweet us @aJuxtMedia