If you are like me, then you consider your time on the computer to be really personal, and at times crucially important. When our precious little ones need or want to be held and read to, then it is probably time to put your work aside and give them attention. But if you are sure that they really don't need anything, and they just want "their turn" with the mouse or the keyboard, there are some things that you can do to maintain the sanctity of your personal computer time.
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Computers are Fascinating to Kids
Computers and keyboard buttons are fascinating to babies, toddlers and preschoolers, especially if you have given them the opportunity to play on the computer before.
And the trouble is compounded when you have more than one child, because they will not only fight you for control of the mouse, but the sibling rivalry kicks in and you get suckered into giving both of them their turns.
Then your husband comes home from work and it is his turn. Eventually, day after day, you get nothing done, and you're delegated to the very late and early hours.
Tips for Getting Computer Time
There are a few things that you can do to get at least a couple hours on your computer!
Send Your Kids To Grandma's House
If you live near them, your parents, in-laws, brother, or sister would enjoy some time with their favorite grandchild or niece/nephew for a day. They could come over to your house, to cut down on your driving time, or you could drop them off and pick them up if you want to be alone in the house for a while.
Unfortunately, in this day and age, lots of families are spread apart so this may not be possible on a regular basis. In which case, maybe your husband can take the kids whenever he is available!
Give Them Their Own Keyboard
Not a new one, of course, that would be expensive. But if you have an old one in storage, then dust it off and put it on the floor near your feet, or set up a kid table beside your computer desk so that they have their own official "work space". You could find a used one at a resale shop for really cheap, too.
Just having a keyboard to bang on satisfies some youngsters. If you are luckier than me, you can even set up an old computer for your child, complete with his own personalized mousepad, and he can stay busy for a couple hours with some educational software. That way, your computer can be off limits.
Give Them Their Own Computer Time
So that they can get it out of their systems, accept the fact that they'll want their own time to practice typing in a large font. Kieran comes to me immediately when I sit down at the computer, and he says, "I want to play colors" (Meaning that he wants to compose an email to someone, choosing different text colors and emoticons.)
I don't deny him his time, but I do set clear limits. I tell him it's his turn for five minutes and I set the timer. When the buzzer goes off, then it's mommy's turn. Kieran is at an age where he's becoming conscientious of time. Then it's my turn (mine lasts longer than five minutes, but oh well, those are the breaks.)
I usually express my time at the computer like, "when Peter Pan is over, then Mommy's turn at the computer is over."
Get A Mother's Helper
Invite that older neighborhood child who has been begging you for babysitting opportunities to come over while you get some computer work done. You may or may not have to pay them, but since you will be at home while she's there, possibly the promise of abundant play time, a new DVD, and drinks and snacks will be enough to satisfy them.
Make sure that they understand that you will be busy on your computer, so that you can actually get some stuff done. Sometimes having a mother's helper can end up to be more work, because then you have to take care of that other kid's needs too, so make sure that the kid is old enough to take care of your child and herself.
Keep Track Of Your Household Schedule
Do your little ones take regular naps? If they do, that gives you a set time every day to focus on your computer work. And let everyone in your family know how important it is for you to have your own computer time, including your husband if he thinks that his computer time is more important than yours.
If your husband and preschooler can both understand that sometimes mommy needs to relax in the bathtub for twenty undisturbed minutes, then you should be able to work out your personal computer time with not too much hassle, just some planning.
Do plenty of other household activities with your children, because little kids learn by imitating and participating; even a two year old can help sort laundry or hand you the silverware from the dishwasher to put into the drawer.
Set Up A Play Area Near Your Work Area
For babies, a colorful mat on the floor near you is a good idea; you will be able to keep one eye on your baby, and she will be able to practice pushing herself up on her elbows and play with a baby activity center. And she will be within arms reach if she needs to nurse.
For toddlers?, a big blanket with plenty of stacking blocks and other toys may be a sufficient play area, or set up his own activity table if he is drawing with crayons or finger painting.
For preschoolers, you can set up a slightly more sophisticated activity table next to your desk, complete with a dry/erase board (or pad of paper) for practicing the alphabet, some new games, or a portable DVD player with plenty of movies close at hand. As mentioned above you may be able to procure an old computer for your child with educational software. Just try to find stuff for them to do independently, that won't require your constant involvement.
Getting Computer Time without Interruptions
You will of course still want to get up a couple hours early or stay up a little late to concentrate on your work without any interruptions, but these tips may help you to get some computer time during the day. And you will be sure that your kids' needs are being met as you are working.
Hopefully these ideas work for you and your family, so that you will be able to get enough sleep at night and also get your computer time while the sun is up!