Working at home can be toddler friendly, but toddlers are not work friendly. Toddlers require constant supervision - except when napping - and tantrums, feedings, and messes always lurk as a possible distraction. You will generally require extra help from your spouse or a sitter if you need to work long hours at home, but the following ideas can help you steal a few minutes in a pinch.
Your best recourse, if possible, is to plan on working while your toddler naps. Unfortunately, most jobs do not offer that kind of flexibility - and many toddlers wean themselves from regular naps as they get older. A pack and play with soft toys, music, and possibly a mobile is ideal for securing and occupying a younger toddler and may even encourage napping. Keep in mind, however, that many toddlers learn how to climb out of these as they get older.
Some toys may occupy a toddler's time sufficiently for you to get something done. You must choose such toys carefully, however. Certain toys – dress-up dolls, puzzles, learning pads – can occupy your toddler long enough to allow you to finish a quick task. Other activities, especially arts and crafts, court domestic disaster if your child is left unsupervised.
When all else fails, of course, you can always resort to TV or videos. The American Association of Pediatrics notwithstanding, most parents use TV shows or videos to give their toddlers (or themselves) a break. Just try to choose age-appropriate shows with some educational value - and limit your use of this strategy.
Most experts recommend that your work space be kept separate from your living space; this naturally limits how much supervision you can provide your toddler while working. If your job requires that you work during specific times, you will need help. In some cases an older child may be able to provide some secondary care, but generally your helper should be capable of watching your toddler without your assistance.
Some dance or gym classes allow you to drop off older toddlers or watch them from a waiting area. This can be pricey, however, and the waiting area may not be a suitable working space. Furthermore, you must make sure that you – and your toddler – are comfortable with the arrangement and the staff. Above all else, do nothing that places your toddler, either directly or indirectly, in danger. You must accept that no supervision of your toddler is not an option, even when work demands are heavy.
When you have toddlers in your care, there is no escaping the fact that your ability to take on outside work is impaired. Keep in mind, however, that this impairment is temporary. Before you know it, your toddler will be swept up with school and activities and your problem just might be not enough time with them, rather than too much.