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Balancing Work and Family: The Challenges of Mixing A PR Career with a Toddler

By on Thursday, April 5, 2012
Working as a PR consultant to nonprofits and associations with a toddler around is definitely exciting. This is an age of exploration for a child and of course, Mommy’s work is very interesting to a little one. The nature of working in the public relations field is that you can end up taking calls from the press in the evenings or on the weekends, while surrounded by your family.

I work from home a few days a week, keep my business office in my home, and have a toddler. Like a lot of other working professionals, I juggle the demands of a home and family alongside my work. Maintaining a professional PR consulting practice from home with a toddler around is challenging but not impossible. So here are a few of the challenges parents might encounter when working in PR with a toddler around:

  • Back twist– Mommy throws out her back climbing over the baby gate that blocks off her desk in her home office so the toddler can’t ransack it. Note to Mommy: get to the gym more often so you are more limber, or at least do a few stretches before climbing over the baby gate.
  • Discombobulation – the toddler helpfully unpacks Mommy’s work bag or brief case in the hallway foyer and hides various items around the house. Mommy finds her laptop under the dining room table, her phone in between the couch cushions and the newspaper she was reading on the bus on the toy shelf. Note to Mommy: always put your bag on the high shelf or in the office in the future.
  • Smartphone exploration – the toddler gets a hold of Mommy’s cell phone that, of course, Mommy loaded her primary media contacts into (after all Mommy was trying to be efficient). The toddler accidentally dials a reporter at USA Today. Thankfully, the reporter is not there, only gets subjected to a voicemail of Mommy discovering the toddler holding the phone proudly and also has young children and understands. Note to Mommy: Never leave the phone where the toddler can get to it and use the lock.
  • Smartphone destruction – having concluded that the SmartPhone is after all, a big distraction for Mommy’s time and energy, the toddler disposes of it in the kitchen trash. Note to Mommy: never leave the phone where the toddler can get to it. Really. And the trash can should be the first place you check when your phone goes missing.
  • Snotnose suit – the toddler does catch cold from time to time and has a runny nose. Unfortunately, Mommy’s suit and clothes bear the brunt of it. Note to Mommy: buy those little Kleenex packets and keep them in your purse – they are a godsend for parents with toddlers. Carry your jacket outside to the car and don’t wear it in the house. Don’t get dressed in your nice clothes until you absolutely have to leave. And keep your makeup, lint brush and hair brush in your purse (but keep the purse out of reach of the toddler) so you can freshen up after leaving the house.
  • News clip annihilation – while technology has changed much of our business and reduced the need to keep paper around, Mommy still keep news clips and newspapers for print stories that clients want to see. These big newspaper sheets are so much fun for a toddler to play with and are great for playing peek a boo. Note to Mommy: always keep the client news clips in your desk area, safely behind the baby gate. And give your toddler the pages you don’t need for some fun.
  • TV scribbles – keeping up with the news is an important part of media relations work and of course, TV screens are fascinating to toddlers. They also make great canvases for toddlers who like to color and use crayons – after all, they’ve just discovered that crayons can be used to draw on things, and aren’t just for eating. Note to Mommy: You got lucky this time. Crayons are waxy and come off TV screens easily. Keep the crayons on a shelf and ration them out in the future.
  • Sleep deprivation – toddler sleep patterns are unpredictable by nature and toddlers typically want their mommies (and daddies) at night when they get scared, need a hug, a glass of water, or anything else. It’s inevitable that if Mommy is burning the midnight oil on a project and tiptoeing off to bed, that the toddler wakes up and wants a snuggle. Note to Mommy: That sleep training for toddlers that your mom told you about – might not be a bad idea, but don’t forget that in a few years those snuggles won’t be nearly as forthcoming. Sleep whenever you can – on the commuter bus, in a train, or during a business trip (forget going out with the gang from the office if you can grab some ZZZs).
  • Bad mood-itis – sleep deprivation is unfortunately mood-altering. It can make Mommy grumpy. Note to Mommy: don’t take sleep deprivation out on coworkers. Or clients. Or reporters. Try coffee, working out, positive thinking, or chocolate to upgrade your attitude.
  • Coffee dump – coffee becomes even more essential when you are not getting enough rest and trying to get a lot done. This works great until the toddler finds Mommy’s coffee cup and helpfully empties in onto the floor, in Mommy’s work bag, onto Mommy’s note pad, or onto Mommy’s laptop. Note to Mommy: Never ever abandon the coffee.
  • Reporter interruptus- occasionally toddlers are loud. After all, there is a lot to explore in their world and they are excited about it. Their rambunctious behavior doesn’t always mesh well with an after hours call from a reporter who needs to confirm a last minute fact. When the reporter calls while Mommy and the toddler are in the car and Mommy’s phone routes through bluetooth onto the car stereo system (mommy was trying to be efficient when she set that up), the reporter also gets subjected to any noise made in the car – and can hear the toddler – who is of course, not asleep and watching Mickey Mouse cartoons in the back seat. Note to Mommy: When talking to a reporter after hours and a toddler is nearby, make sure reporter knows a. it is ok to call to check a fact, even after hours and b. Mommy has a toddler nearby who may erupt at any moment and is unpredictable. Having a understanding partner or spouse who can help corral/distract/carry off the rambunctious little toddler if a longer conversation is necessary can be a huge help.

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, a virtual and independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media advice, writing services, and creative design work for publications and websites (portfolio). Ami blogs frequently about media relations, social media, public relations and other issues. She also reviews books on her blog about public relations, nonprofit life, work-family balance and social media practice. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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