Stay-at-Home Moms: Getting Uninterrupted Work Time

One mom asks for expert advice on how to get her at-home work accomplished while her toddler runs about the house looking for attention.
woman covering phone mouthpiece

Q. After three years of trying to juggle a traditional job and being a mom, I'm now working at home part time. I love getting to spend a lot more time with my 3-year-old. There's just one thing: I have to take work-related calls, and when someone phones, she's all over me, talking loudly or whining. What can I do?

A. This probably isn't in any parenting manuals, but when you touch the phone, it transmits a tractor beam to your child that pulls her back to the mother ship. No matter that you're working at home to increase your time with your child -- the moment you pick up the receiver, all your daughter knows is that Mom, the person she loves most in the world, is off-limits. Understand that she may feel confused and act resistant when you set out to establish the no-interrupting ground rules.

Explaining that "Mommy's Busy"

Some thoughts: Waving her off when you're in mid-conversation rarely works. You can try to sit her down in a quiet moment and explain that when Mommy's on the phone, she'll have to find something quiet to do. Promising to read a story or play a game once you're off may be the encouragement she needs -- just be sure to follow through. Another useful tactic: Have some special distractions at the ready, say a favorite video or a basket of toys that get pulled out only when you're taking a call. If you need to, put your caller on hold while you set your child up with a distraction -- better that than subjecting your colleague to the "lively" negotiations between you and your 3-year-old.

If your daughter still naps, you should schedule work calls during that time whenever possible. Still, if none of these strategies work, or if you find yourself saying, "Be quiet, I'm on the phone," more times than you'd like, you may want to make some adjustment to meet the needs of your child. Trading child care with a neighbor, hiring a part-time sitter, or finding a half-day preschool or family daycare are good options that would provide you with a few hours a day or a week (depending on your schedule) of uninterrupted work time.

Kathy Bishop and Julia Whitehead are the authors of The City Parent Handbook: The Complete Guide to the Ups and Downs and Ins and Outs of Raising Young Kids in the City (Rodale).

Originally published in American Baby magazine, March 2006.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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