Work-at-Home-Mom Realities: You Can’t Stay at Home

This story was originally published on The Mom Forum in August 2017.

I only work at home about half the time, and some weeks for much less. I never needed encouragement to get my baby out of the house in general, although every single time is still a struggle. I have learned, through two babies, that we are always much happier on the days we have a nice morning outing of some sort. And although I love the one day a week that we’ve arranged for me not to drive anywhere or anyone, this Work-at-home-Mom thing wouldn’t work at all without some of the following places.

  • Public libraries. They have storytimes with music at least once a week, if not more. I’m lucky that the our local library has such robust programs, including pre-preschool programs that prepared my toddler for a classroom. Find the right library branch and they’ll have games and learning toys to occupy your child while you take advantage of the free WiFi after Storytime.
  • Outdoor seating at cafes. Never underestimate the power of a good view for a developing mind. Just watching the world go by can keep their mind active and interested for at least a long enough time that you can answer a few emails. This is an especially good spot when they’re at that tricky time of working out the fine motor skills to get Cheerios into their mouth. Set them up in a high chair or their stroller and knock out some work.
  • Walk and talk. As long as I prepare ahead of time, I’ve mastered the art of having a phone meeting while strolling. Parks are great for this, since you don’t have to worry about cars, but the right quiet street can do wonders for both keeping your child happy and opening your creative mind. Seriously, there are studies to back this up. An iPad for taking notes sits pretty comfortably on top of most sun visors, too.
  • Indoor playgrounds. I mentioned this in my first piece, but there are some tricks to it. You want to get there in the morning, before half-day school lets out. Have good snacks with you. Choose work that you can move at a moment’s notice: I tend to edit articles on my phone, or schedule some social media posts.
  • Science/Discovery Centers. Once again, this has to do with where you live. The Orlando Science Center impressed me from my first visit, and they recently expanded their under 2 area for more free play. Now that my youngest is walking, he can explore a theater area, sensory center, water play, gears, or big blocks — all while I keep one eye on my Chromebook and another on him. Pro tip: dress your child in bright clothes that are all one color so they’re easy to spot. Playdates are great for this, so you and a friend can trade off the responsible party.
  • Barnes & Noble bookstores. I happened upon this hack while killing time before my partner got off work one day. Most B&N’s have a Starbucks for Mommy and a train table for your child. It’s in the children’s section, surrounded by books, so just like the library, they come to associate books with playtime as well as reading. In my son’s 15 months — 2 years phase, this evolved into a learning ground for social behaviors and a great way for me to get that day’s gamechanger email sent. They also have Saturday Storytimes and sometimes live music. Did I mention there’s coffee?

Obviously, none of these places allow for heavy duty work. They don’t replace the time you need alone, but can nicely fill in the gaps between naps. At any age, my children are always happier and more accommodating to my work needs if we’ve done something fun together in the morning. Just a simple half hour Storytime or stroll could be all it takes to make your afternoon more productive. I’ll offer up activity hacks for in-home next month, but in the meantime, get some fresh air and cross some emails off your to-do list.