Trying to Be Productive with Young Kids and Constant Interruptions


Have you ever seen the show Cutthroat Kitchen? It’s a cooking competition hosted by Alton Brown where the contestants sabotage one another by forcing other competitors to stop what they’re doing and use things like an easy bake oven for all their baking, or having lobster oven mitts over their hands for the entire cook-off. I’m always amazed by the delicious-looking creations they deliver at the end, in spite of the challenges they were handed.

I also love watching this show because in our house, I feel like I am constantly being interrupted and sabotaged. By a toddler.

child rolling out dough after interrupting his mom.
Learning important kitchen skills. Don’t mind the mess!

Every evening after work, as I attempt to make dinner, my two year old clings to my legs like a ball and chain. Usually, I give him a drink or sit him up at our island while I try to toss together a meal that he and his older brother will eat. Sitting him up at the island allows him to see what I’m doing, but it has its own set of disadvantages. I wouldn’t suggest turning your back on a toddler with a cup of flour, shredded cheese, or a dozen eggs in front of them. And having to clean up a huge mess is another interruption I can hardly bear as I’m racing against the clock to put something in the oven so we can eat before midnight. Similar to the chaos in Cutthroat Kitchen, I try to emerge from it with an edible dinner and minimal tears.

Dinner time isn’t the only time that I get interrupted by my kids. I can guarantee at least a handful of interruptions when I try to make a phone call, take a shower, or pay bills. As I write this post I’ve already been asked to fix the DVD player, get a snack, and assist in potty-time.

Most of the time I am happy to oblige. I’m a working mom and I feel guilty enough about the time my boys spend in someone else’s care; I want to be mentally present when I am home with them.

Also, my kids are still young. They rely on me for simple tasks, like pouring a cup of juice and pulling their socks on. On days that I’m feeling overwhelmed by the constant interruptions of my kids, I try to remind myself that someday they won’t need me so much and that day may be here sooner than I’d like.

But there are other times I have to get a certain task done, whether it be an email that requires a response ASAP or a dozen cupcakes that won’t make themselves.

I try to avoid any interruptions by setting my kids up with play dough, a bin of cars, or a show before I start my own project. Unfortunately, it’s not long before they are by my side going “mom, mommy, mama” to get my attention.  At this point, I may be a little stressed by the time-sensitive nature of my work, and each interruption is wearing down my patience. I’m not proud to say it, but there have been days I’ve thought (and said) “just leave me alone for a minute!

kids painting watercolors as mom waits for interruptions.
This will keep them busy for all of three minutes

My husband is pretty good at taking care of our kids’ needs when he senses I am getting stressed out. However, if both of us are home, the boys will (9 out of 10 times) ask me for something first. (That other one time they don’t interrupt me, I want to weep with joy!) It doesn’t matter if I’m elbows deep in a sink full of dishes and Dad is sitting on the couch watching Sports Center; they will find me and make their demands. When I tell them to “go ask dad,” they stomp off like irritated teens.

When the interruptions are too much to handle, there are a number of tactics I employ. First,  I try saving tasks for nap time or after my kids go to bed. This isn’t ideal, as I can barely keep my eyes open after 10 pm; but, when it is quiet and I am not interrupted I’m able to complete projects in half the time! If the task at-hand is running an errand, I will try to do this before or after work when I don’t have my kids in tow. It feels like a luxury getting to breeze through a store without stopping every five steps to gander at or replace an object!  And thanks to the Bluetooth phone system in my car, I can now return calls on my way home from work, totally undisturbed.

woman happy shopping without interruptions.
Ahh, peace and quiet while shopping
Photo via Flickr/ Andres Rodriguez/ Dreamstime

I’ve started asking my six year old son to try to do more things for himself and to help his little brother when he can. In the long run this may decrease the number of interruptions I’m faced with, but at the moment, it seems to be adding to the list. You’ve seen Worst Cooks in America, right? Me neither, but we can all imagine how the kitchen looks after a 6 yo makes a PB&J. Not exactly a time-saver for Mom.  

They even interrupt each other.
Big Brother helped make popcorn and a fort. Lil’ bro destroyed both.

Being a mom is no doubt a demanding job. But hopefully, we can take a deep breath with nonstop interruptions and meet our kids’ needs the best we can.

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I am a native Vermonter, and even though the winters nearly drive me away each year, the beautiful landscape, supportive family, and wonderful communities keep us here! I’m also very fortunate to have a job in Clinical Research that married my love of organization with my fascination for science. As much as I love my job, our family is by far the greatest joy in my life. My husband and I have three boys and we have lived in Milton for five years. I also love running, cooking, and being outside with the boys hiking or hitting the beach!


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