Maybe you work part-time or full-time outside of the house, and you're used to regular daycare. Maybe, like me, in a normal week, you stay at home or work from home already. But even then, you're probably used to sending your toddler to daycare, PDO, or a grandparent's house at least a few times per week. These are unprecedented times for all of us. This 24/7 togetherness is a lot for everyone with children, but for parents of toddlers, it can be a unique type of crazy.
Toddlers are big enough that you can't just put them in an exersaucer or on the floor and get a few things done while they happily babble. Toddlers are also small enough that they don't have school assignments to keep them busy or the independence to entertain themselves (for more than a few minutes). You, Toddler Mom, might feel like you are stuck between a rock and a hard place during this "stay at home" order. I have been feeling that way myself some days, but I learned a productivity hack before this recent lifestyle change, and I have been pushing myself to implement it now more than ever.
It's called the ABCDE method. In short, here is the traditional version:
- Write down all of your To Dos.
- Assign each one a letter: A is for your top priorities, B is second, and C is third. D is for tasks you can delegate to other professionals, and E is for those you can eliminate. If you have multiple items in each category, rank them by importance using a number (i.e. A1, A2, A3).
This method works fine under normal circumstances, when you have some sort of childcare and alone time to accomplish tasks.
When you're prioritizing your tasks as a Quarantine Survival Toddler Mom, here's how I would suggest you modify the method:
A is for your top priorities - What must be done without the toddler?
For example, today my A list included write this blog post and look at our household budget. These are both tasks that require my full attention and a computer, which I cannot pull out without my toddler wanting to "typetype!" Yours might include running to the grocery store, other household tasks, or conference calls for work.
When will you be alone in a day? Before the toddler wakes in the morning, during nap, after they go to bed, and anytime that another adult is fully present with them. Identify these times in your day, and as soon as you are alone, dive directly into your A-list tasks. Do not let your attention get hijacked by items on the lower lists!
B is for second-tier goals - What can the toddler help you accomplish?
When the toddler is awake, use your time together to get a few more things done. These are items that don't require much brainpower and can be stopped and started without a struggle. This category can include two tiers:
1. Activities where the toddler can actively help and learn, such as putting in a load of laundry and emptying the dishwasher.
2. Activities you can do while the toddler plays or (gasp!) watches TV, such as writing a quick work email, folding laundry, and preparing meals.
C is for third-tier goals - What would be nice to get done, but you could live without accomplishing?
For me, this list often includes self-care things like blowdrying my hair or filing my fingernails. Would I like to get them done? Yes. Can we make it to tomorrow if I don't? Also, yes. It could also include bigger cleaning or organizing projects. If I have time, I'll vacuum today, but if not, we can survive until tomorrow. At some point, if I keep leaving them for another day, these C list items could become A or B list priorities, but today, they're only a "want" and not a "need."
D is for tasks you can delegate - Right now, what can other adults or older children in your house do on your list?
My husband does most of the cooking and always loads the dishwasher. He also does toddler bath and bedtime. That frees me up to breastfeed our infant, put her down for naps and bedtime, and bathe her. When I'm not caring for the baby, I do fun crafts or outdoorsy things with our toddler during these times.
What chores and activities or work projects can you let someone else do? Let them choose tasks they love or would put on their A and B lists. If you're a little Type A, like me, delegate only things that you're not picky about being done "your way." Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for disappointment, extra work "fixing" their work, or... a fight. Yikes.
E is those tasks you can eliminate today - What simply does not need to be done right now?
This list might be longer or feel more disappointing than normal. That's okay. You do not have to be a Super Mom right now, you need only to be Quarantine Survival Toddler Mom.
I would love to get back into an exercise routine right now since my baby is now five months old. I even had plans to start with a trainer beginning in mid-March after Spring Break. Well, that didn't happen. Daily, sweaty exercise is on my E list right now. I'm letting myself just enjoy small strolls around the neighborhood and time spent working in the yard.
The E items can move up the list once you have childcare again. Or, you can give yourself permission to give them up for good!
I hope this technique helps you feel a little more in control of your daily life during this unfamiliar, frightening, and stressful time. I'm rooting for you, Quarantine Survival Toddler Mom!