I'm pretty sure the answer is in a word: daycare, but I just thought I'd check if there was another way. Daycare is probably what we are going to go with; but I thought I'd just check my other options first.
Two years old is a challenging time to try to work or study at home with the child, but many people do manage it. One big issue is how much time you need to spend studying while the child is awake; if you're able to manage 3-4 hours per day, for example, you can usually fit that in while the child is asleep for the most part, but if you're doing 8-9 hours a day, that's of course impossible.
Some tips from my experience and others I've known:
- Get your child's nap schedule down to a very regular nap schedule. Preferably a 'long' nap rather than a lot of short ones; that will make it easier on you and likely easier on the child as well. One two hour nap from 12-2 every day is 2 hours you can spend studying uninterrupted, which can be a big help.
- If possible, arrange your home so you can study while your child plays near you. If your child has a safe play space near your couch, for example, you can study on the couch while watching the child.
- A table is actually better than the couch, both because it lets you write more easily, and it puts a bit of separation.
- Some activities your two your old may enjoy may be doable while you study - in conjunction with it, even. Coloring on the table while you study, for example, makes the child feel like he/she is doing what mommy/daddy is doing.
- If you are a two parent household, try to arrange your schedules so your co-parent comes back from work at a time such that you can get some studying in while he/she is home. For example, if your child wakes up early most days (say, 6), maybe a 9-6 schedule would work for your co-parent while you study from 6-8 and he/she watches the child. Or the inverse, if the child wakes up at 9am most days, co-parent can work 7-4 and then watch the child after 5 while you study.
- There are alternatives to day-care that may work better for your situation. Mother's Helpers, for example, are commonly used in this sort of situation; someone who comes in, watches your child while you are there, usually for a few hours. More expensive per hour than daycare, but with far more flexibility. Also can be a local teenager - someone who maybe would 'babysit' while you're home, somewhat cheaper than a Mother's Helper, and with the added bonus that since you're actually there you don't have to worry as much about whether they're trustworthy to leave a two year old with (as you're physically there watching them).
- Find other parents in similar situations, and trade off. You watch both children on Mondays, they watch both children on Wednesdays. Even just a 3-4 hour playdate can be enough for you to get studying in.
And of course, there is daycare. Some centers have 'drop-in' services available (i.e., not scheduled), or flexible hours (so 3-4 hours per day instead of full day). Not cheap, but not a bad solution. If you're a full time student, up to $3000 per year can be refunded on your taxes via the Child Care Tax Credit, as well (but only if all parents work or are full time students or some combination).