You may have heard of mothers who get stuff done without babysitters.
These mothers don’t actually exist.
But for some reason — probably for the same inexplicable reason that ideas like unicorns, garden gnomes, and The Abominable Snowman persist — the myth of this Supermom survives. Women all over the world keep dreaming that somehow, someday, they could truly have it all. They could make actual income without spending 99.7% of it on childcare. They could get laundry folded before bedtime. They could pick up all the toys and the shoes. No one can really do this, at least not until their youngest child is six, at which point they have a (free!) daily babysitter (it’s called public school). But the belief that maintaining a home and taking care of a toddler are not incompatible activities just won’t disappear. And so, every day, unsuspecting moms wake up and think, I could get stuff done today.
It seems reasonable. With all the resources at your disposal — the gazillions (yes, that’s a real number) of toys in your house, the wonderful soul-sucking electronic games, and even the great outdoors in your backyard, your toddler ought to be able to entertain himself for thirteen seconds at a time. But he can’t. And he won’t.
And this is what will happen if you try.
Disclaimer: We accept no responsibility for the state of your house, your toddler, or your sanity following the implementation of these methods.
The goal: For you to take a shower.
How to prepare: Bring toddler into bathroom with you. Place toddler on bathmat with an large pile of waterproof books, toys, and rubber ducks. Get in shower. Close the curtain.
What you think will happen: Your toddler will play with the toys during the five minutes it takes you to rinse your body and run shampoo through your hair. You will periodically open the curtain and shout “Peek-a-boo!” to reassure your toddler you haven’t disappeared.
What will actually happen: Your toddler will use the pile of toys as a steps tool to climb onto the counter, turn on the sink, and chew on your razor.
What you should do instead: Bring the toddler into the shower with you. Use this.
The goal: For your toddler to remain seated at the table for at least 7.8 seconds while you do something else. Anything else.
How to prepare: Open a (preferably new) box of nontoxic crayons. Place on table along with a stack of various colors of construction paper.
What you think will happen: Your toddler will draw strange doodles and swirls on the paper and possibly also the table, improving his fine motor abilities and developing his pre-writing skills.
What will actually happen: He will draw on his face, the walls, the floor, and his shoes. Then he will climb up to your computer and draw all over the screen. Then he will eat all the crayons.
What you should do instead: Give him chalk instead of crayons. Paint all your walls and tables with chalkboard paint, so his whole world becomes an open canvas for his artistic exploration. Like this, except bigger.
The goal: For your toddler to eat nutritious food, preventing hunger tantrums and allowing you to eat not-as-nutritious food such as this.
How to prepare: Place toddler-friendly food on a low table. Preferred items include french fries, chicken fingers, and chocolate bars.
What you think will happen: Toddler will smear food all over his face and body and squish it into the table. Then he will drop it on the floor and step on it. Some of it will get into his mouth and maybe even his stomach.
What will actually happen: Toddler will hide food in small nooks and crannies all over the house where it is likely to attract bugs and rodents. An exterminator may be necessary.
What you should do instead: Feed the toddler by hand. See more detailed instructions here.
The goal: For you to leave your computer somewhere that’s accessible to you so you can “work” on it (this means Facebook) after bedtime.
How to prepare: Place the computer on a desk, counter, or other shelf too high for toddler to reach. Walk away.
What you think will happen: Toddler will sit on the floor with you and play blocks, or cars, or trains, or dolls, or books, or one of the hundreds of other activities you’ll invite him to do with you.
What will actually happen: Toddler will use his creativity and gross motor skills to climb up to your computer while you’re looking at the bookshelf and trying to figure out what happened to your copy of The Giving Tree. He will then haphazardly push buttons until something exciting happens. Your computer may require servicing after this activity.
What you should do instead: Get your toddler this. Every toddler needs his own.
And if you truly need to get something done while your toddler is awake, hire a babysitter. Find one who adores playing piggyback, is a whiz at hide-and-seek, and believes candy is a food group. Your toddler won’t thank you, because the joy of your constant company and physical contact is even better than candy. But he may forgive you. Eventually.
And in the meantime, maybe you can wash his socks.