Tips for Taking Your Toddler to Work

Every great once in a while, it happens. You have an important client meeting, one that you’d rather not reschedule, and your childcare plans fall through. Now what? You could call and beg and plead with everyone you know to sit on your kid for awhile, but you did that last week, and you’re out of favors. Or, you don’t have any backup resources. So you’re faced with two options: reschedule or bring your offspring along for the ride. I chose the latter.

I strapped my sixteen-month-old into her car seat, and headed into town (her older sister had other arrangements). I was a little apprehensive about how my appointment would go, but I’m glad to report that there were no major glitches. I was productive, she was happy, the client was satisfied. Win-win-win! Now, I realize it doesn’t always go this way, and in fact, I have some horror stories of unsuccessful attempts to take my older daughter to work back when I had an office job. *shudder*

So, if you find yourself in this situation, there’s no need to panic (unless you’re an ER doctor or pilot or police officer or something and you can’t get away with this, then panic away).

1. Judge Your Child’s Temperament to See if They Can Manage This Scenario
I know my kids well. My youngest is your classic “easy child” and goes with the flow. My oldest creates her own flow and doesn’t easily adjust to new situations. I’m not sure I would have attempted this with my oldest, or it probably would have been a disaster (as it has been in the past).

This girl is always up for an adventure!

2. Inform the Client and Ask for Consent
The great majority of the time, your client will understand if you explain the situation. But don’t just show up and surprise them, and don’t be surprised or offended if they’d rather reschedule. It’s not personal.

Nobody seemed to mind my little helper.

3. Remain Calm. Remain Confident.
If you’re stressing out, your toddler will sense your mood. Keep your tone light, and act as if it’s just as exciting as a trip to the library or park. And once you’re in the meeting with your client, keep your chin up. Just because you have a child in tow doesn’t make you any less of a professional, and doesn’t diminish your intelligence. Work it momma!

4. Bring a “bag of tricks.”
It’s common sense, but absolutely crucial. You’ll need a goody bag stashed with books, toys, snacks, and any other diversion you can think of. Be prepared to cycle through them all.

Goldfish, dolls, books, we had it all!

5. Give them the Holy Grail. 
For some kids, this is your cell phone. For others, your keys. Whatever that object is that you rarely let them have, give it to them now (within reason. Don’t hand them your pocket knife of anything.) It’ll buy you some time. For my daughter, this was a lollipop (or two). We can’ t pass by a candy aisle in the grocery store without her yelling, “Pop, pop!” Baby wants. Baby gets.

Stain on the shelves matches the stains on her shirt. Oh well, the peace and quiet the lollipop provided was worth it!

6. As soon as possible, let them play.
After your meeting wraps up, find the nearest place your toddler can play, and let them go to town. I was lucky enough today that my client had a kid’s play area in the store. Genius. I released her from her stroller and set her free! It was only for 10 minutes or so, but long enough to satisfy her before strapping her in her car seat again.

She was happy to get out of her stroller and play with new toys.

While taking your toddler along as your mini-assistant might not always go smoothly, it’s worth trying. Will I do it again? Only if I absolutely have to. She was a doll, and while I enjoyed her companionship, momma needs her grown-up time once a week! :-)

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Let’s Carpe the Heck out of this Diem!

Soaking in some mommy-daughter time.

For every stay-at-home-mom who’s complaining on her blog about her lack of appreciation (ahem, like me), there’s another mom sitting in a cubicle, dreaming of spending time with her little ones. She glances over at their faces in the 5×7 frame, and counts the hours and minutes until she can ooze into her front door after a long day of work to a chorus of “Mommy! Mommy! We’re so glad you’re home!” She would give anything to be in my shoes, but she can’t. She’s the sole bread winner, or the insurance carrier, or the single parent.

For every hair I pull out of my head while my children are driving me crazy, there’s another mom thousands of miles away, with sand in her hair and her combat boots. It will be months, not hours or minutes, until she holds her child again. She would give anything to be in my shoes, but she can’t. Her tour isn’t over until February, and she’s making the most of mommy time she can through Skype calls and frequent Facebook posts.

Sometimes, life really is a bowl full of cherries.

And for every time minute of solitude I long for (just an empty house and a bathroom I can use alone for pete’s sake), there’s another woman out there who longs for a full house, for a full womb. Her arms are empty. She would give anything to be in my shoes, but she can’t. Her dreams of bringing a child into this world will never come true. Empty. Alone. These are things that she dreads, not that she embraces.

So in honor of my sisters out there, I’m carpeing the heck out of this diem. I’m picnicking on the front porch, picking wildflowers, giving wagon rides, spoiling with kisses, making each hug last a little longer. I not only smelled the roses, I cut them and put them in a vase. I not embraced that life is sometimes like a bowl of cherries, I cut them up and put them in muffins. The cleaning will wait. The stressing can wait. I will enjoy my children. I will caress their faces. I will dance in these shoes, for all those who can’t.

Smell here. Smell often.

Workout Barbies, Masking Tape Babies and the Mom in Between

She’s real. And she lives in West Wichita.

There she was, in real life, tall, bottle blonde, tan and wearing spandex as it was meant to be worn. She had pep in her step, pearls for teeth and a perkiness that indicated silicone (if you catch my drift). She emerged from the church carefree and unburdened as I was walking in with a baby slung up on one hip, and a toddler gripping my free hand. I was schlepping, she was practically bouncing. She had style, she had grace, I probably had graham cracker on my face. (No, seriously, Erica had been munching on them on the way in.)

So what was she doing here, at this mega-lo-church, where I was dropping off my kiddos for four hours of social interaction? I was already a bit harried, as we were running 15 minutes late the first day of the summer program (Anna had a meltdown over my insistence that she wear bloomers under her favorite sundress). I was also intimidated, as I’ve never taken my children to a large daycare facility, only to an in-home care provider who’s known them since they were born. Harried, intimidated, a bit insecure, and there she was.And to make matters worse, she wasn’t merely an au pair or summer babysitter, she was an actual mother, dropping off her own children. (At least they called her mommy when she picked them up later.) I am completely supportive of moms taking care of themselves, but why did she have to look that good? And she wasn’t alone. The entire collection of Workout Barbies made an appearance, all wearing coordinating high-end fitness gear. Where did these moms come from?

Image

I might just leave this on her full-time, as I often call the girls by the wrong name.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t sporting my frumpiform today (old shorts and faded tank top). I was actually dressed up for a business luncheon later that afternoon. I had on a dress, heels, makeup, jewelry and yet I felt horribly out of place in this honeycomb of a facility. We’re really just country bumpkins at heart. Oh, and I forgot their lunches. I swore the paperwork said “meals provided,” but it didn’t. Fail.

As I stood in the doorway of Room 206 (Erica’s), the teacher scrunched up her face and asked, “Is she walking?” Not, “Hi, how are you? Who’s your darling child?”

“No, she’s running,” I flatly replied. This caused a bit of a panic as teachers hollered from one room to the next, “We’ve got a walker! Where can we put her?” (Voice inside my head: She’s not a  walker, she’s Erica. My baby. And if I hadn’t already paid good money to be here and had good recommendations from friends, I might leave about now.)

We got her settled into her room, and the strangest thing happened. They put masking tape…on her back. It had a practical purpose, as it labeled her as “Erica” and not “The Walker.” To many parents, this is completely normal, but to me, it was so odd. After all, when your child attends a facility with six kids total, this is not an issue. (Not judging large facilities, just not what I’m used to.)

Then, we began the wild goose chase up and down stairs, through long hallways, and in and out of rooms to find Anna’s class. She made a momma proud, holding tightly to my hand, and patiently waiting while we searched for her new friends. We finally found her class, and I stayed with her while she did her business in the little bitty toilet that was just her size (she was thrilled about that). This was after I’d wiped it down from the previous little pee-er, a little boy who urinated around, rather than in the toilet (grateful to have girls right about now).

And now for the moment of truth. “Anna, mommy has to leave now, but I’ll be back real soon. Remember? Like we talked about?” The look of calm left her face, quickly replaced with a panicked “there’s no way in hell you’re leaving me now” look. Oh yeah, this is what working mom guilt felt like. I remember now.

I briskly walked away while she stood whimpering outside the playground, and knew that she would be fine shortly after I left. I peeked in on both girls when I returned with their lunches (organic, no Lunchables for fear of being judged by Workout Barbie, or my dietitian friend).

I went on to my business lunch, enjoying the sound of click-clack-click-clack heels on the sidewalk instead of flip-flop-flip-flops. I saw old friends, shook hands, and learned a few new things. It was nice. Very nice. Then, I left early as I had to go pick up my girls. As much as I enjoyed being among adults, I didn’t feel like I really belonged there, either. I’m caught in the middle. Not a Workout Barbie mom, and not a full-time working mom.

As I heard my baby squeal with delight when she saw me in the doorway, and saw my toddler’s eyes light up at my arrival, I felt at home. The time apart did us all good, but I found where I belong, with my girls.