A Simple Way to Babysit and Work at the Same Time

My daughter just turned two, so I thought I’d share a tip about balancing fatherhood with being a couch manager. When she was around 18 months old, I had to figure out a way to babysit her while remaining productive – especially when my wife had to run some errands in the evenings. I’m all for spending quality time with my child so she has my full, undivided attention, but there are times when I’m inundated with papers to write and reports to draft, that I really have to multi-task while babysitting.

One option was to use my laptop in the living room while she watched her favorite show on TV, but the problem with that was I couldn’t focus on both her and my screen simultaneously – especially since she wanders around picking up random things off the floor and sticking them in her little mouth. Another option was to have her sit on my lap and watch YouTube videos on my laptop, but that meant I was stuck watching Barney with her as well.

So I figured out a really simple way to do both.

I basically split my laptop screen into two parts, with the top part being for me to work on anything I wanted (like writing a blog post on Word), and the bottom part for her to watch YouTube videos she liked. I simply re-sized the two windows so that they sit on top of each other, and hit play in the bottom window while working in the top one.

So the set-up looked something this:

To make it even less interrupting for me, I added several of her favorite videos (she loves Barney, Caillou and the Phonics song) to a playlist and then just clicked “Play all” for continuous playback. If you’re not familiar with how to create a playlist on YouTube, you can find instructions here.

Of course, another alternative is to play full feature cartoon movies by popping in a DVD or subscribing to NetFlix or Hulu – which works equally well.

There are a couple of advantages of babysitting while working this way. First, you have full control over your child because they’re right there in front of you and they’re locked in from falling because of your arms. Second, your child can have a dry snack while watching at the same time, which is an added bonus (just stay away from liquids – keyboards don’t like them very much).

And that’s pretty much it – a simple solution to a common problem. Know of any other tricks to babysit and work at the same time? Let me know in the comments section below!


6 responses to “A Simple Way to Babysit and Work at the Same Time

  1. Tracy McAteer

    This is an interesting idea, but…. my 19 month old cannot resist tapping on a keyboard if its within arms reach and especially if she sees me typing… also, when I am working I really need to concentrate and seeing half the screen taken up with kid friendly activity would mean I would end up writing nonsense!

    when she was under 12 months I would sometimes be able to work/read while she played in her play pen but she is so active and noisy that now no work can be done while she is awake so I have to make the most of her nap time (mid day, sometimes up to 2 hours… sometimes 20 mins) or when she is down for the evening which is usually 7pm, then I can work through the night (providing my 11 year old doesn’t decide he’s bored and suddenly wants quality time….)

  2. Nice diagram.

    This post reminds me of the couple who own my favorite Chinese restaurant. The father cooks with the baby strapped to his back. Obviously, work-family balance is a cross-cultural issue.

  3. I’ve tried this, unsuccessfully, my 15 month old violently removed my -key and the small rubber cover that your index finger uses to move the mouse – she found it funny too!

    Perhaps I was using the wrong videos. In any case – this is a problem that I’d love to solve.

  4. Oh yes! I did the same thing. But I guess it did not work for me because I am so distracted and at the same time my daughter always knows if I’m at something else and she will always find a way to distract me- like turning off the laptop!

  5. Yeah, I would have trouble concentrating on my half of the screen. luckily for me, my first child was beautifully behaved. She ate, slept and played brilliantly on the floor of my study, allowing me to get on with the serious business of failing to sell any stories when I began writing full time. The others were more of a challenge, but by the time they arrived I was used to a more fragmented work day, and had adopted the laptop and kitchen table approach, working as and when they allowed it. Since writing is a chaotic process anyway (unless you’re doing it properly) I pretty much got away with it, and now I am a successful, published and award-winning playwright. Phew.

  6. I think you have to believe that it is do able, with toddlers you just cant let in the notion that this isnt going to work and you have to present it as the most fabulous thing, a brilliant treat and threaten to stop it if they are not as good as gold. Point is there is a way of getting some work done while looking after them, you just have to invent it, then sell it to them. Also it has to change as they get older. Great sales technique is “when you are older I will let you…”Then introduce it ” early” Ha Ha
    Toddler time is your time to fool them, dont feel bad, they will spend the rest of their lives trying to fool you

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