As an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Duke University Medical Center, and mother of two toddlers, Dr. Daniella Zipkin juggles her time between work and family. Here, Dr. Zipkin offers tips based on her ability to balance these two important aspects of her life:
1. Establish consistent routines. Regular morning and bedtime routines offer a lot of stability in the lives of toddlers and small children, since they will know what to expect. If you are lucky enough to have a work schedule with regular hours, make sure you are a part of these rituals each day, to the extent that you’re able. If your shifts vary or you often work late or overnight, set clear expectations ahead of time, and consider creating a calendar system once your child is old enough to understand one. Giving the child some control by letting them look ahead at what’s coming should ease the turbulence for them.
2. Streamline mealtime. Prepare simple foods you can eat for a few nights, or try cooking on weekends and freezing foods for the week to come. Sit down each evening for a family meal so everyone can stay connected.
3. Turn off the TV, computer, and video games. These activities waste significant amounts of time you could be spending together as a family. Instead, enjoy one another’s company through group activities such as reading together, playing games, or doing puzzles.
4. Take the pressure off! It’s natural to feel some pull towards “making it up to the kids” when you do have time together, by planning special events or buying gifts. Remember that, to your toddlers and small children, the best thing they can have is time with you. Take the pressure off of your free time together, don’t worry about planning too much, and enjoy time at home, outside, or parks nearby.
5. Help your young child or toddler feel special by paying attention to their activities. Encourage them to do more of what they enjoy, and be sure to keep mementos of your time together with you when you work – whether that’s a drawing they have made, or photos you have taken together.