Whether we’re stay-at-home moms or working mothers, finding the right balance between home, work, kids and husband can be challenging. Here’s my advice to one mother on managing time.

Q: For a stay-at-home mom who is having difficulty with time management, what is a good balance between housekeeping/cooking duties, working from home, spending time with husband, and spending time with the kids in terms of hours per day? My kids are in the early toddler stage. I don’t want them to feel as though I’m not giving them enough attention, but I also don’t want to fall behind in my other duties.

A: I worked from home when my kids were babies, toddlers, preschoolers and beyond (I still work from home!), so I understand how hard it is to juggle household duties, working, husband time and child time. I will get to your specific question, but first I wanted to talk about how much attention our kids really need from us. The answer is “not a lot.”

Our children do not need us to be their playmates, entertainment source or constant companions. What they need is a mom and dad who know their roles and who provide them with plenty of love and life’s basic necessities (food, clothing, housing, safety). Too many times, we fall into the trap of thinking we need to as much time with our kids as humanly possible, but that can create needy children, unhappy moms and frustrated spouses.

How do you figure out the balance? You mention you have toddlers, and toddlers have the attention span of gnats, so that means they are all about “what have you done for me lately.” Here’s a good rule of thumb: Every 60 minutes, schedule 5 minutes of interaction with your toddlers. It’s a good, short break for you, and you will eventually train your children to expect that amount of attention. This puts the interaction on your terms, not theirs, which is key to keeping both your sanity and encouraging their independence.

Our children do not need us to be their playmates, entertainment source or constant companions. What they need is a mom and dad who know their roles and who provide them with plenty of love and life’s basic necessities (food, clothing, housing, safety).

Here’s what I did when my kids were in that stage. I set up a play area right beside my office desk. Every hour, I would take a break to do something with them, like sing a song, tickle them, talk about something they drew, read a book, etc., for five minutes or less. then I was back to work and they were back to play. Now, this took training on my part and it didn’t happen overnight! There were days when the children fussed from sunup to sundown, and there were days when they played by themselves for five minutes total.

I consistently redirected them to their toys, reminding them that playing was their “work,” while I was doing my work. I strongly recommend you not use electronics to placate your kids—it will backfire on you, and frankly, it will create unsettled monsters who can’t entertain themselves without a screen as a pacifier. Save TV shows/videos for when you really, really, really need it (like a sick kid, for instance), and you’ll find your kids will be happier and more content.

If you need an additional resource, I do have an ebook on this topic written for moms, How to Manage Time so it Doesn’t Manage You, for only $2.99. This ebook addresses scheduling housework, cooking, etc., and gives tips on how to strike a good balance.