Many parents don’t have the option to stay home and not work, while others simply love their careers and consider them an important part of their life. Those of us who already do work from home know that it’s not the fairy tale it’s made out to be. It can be just as stressful as being in a soul-crushing environment away from your family for 40+ hours a week. It can also be very rewarding. Working from home is not right for everyone, every home, or every situation, and I’m here to talk realistically about the pros and cons of being a stay-at-home working parent.
If you are considering working from home, the first thing you’ll want to do is ask yourself these important questions. Next thing you’ll want to do is weigh in on the ups and downs and how they may or may not apply to your family:
In many ways, working from home will give you more control over several aspects of your life. You don’t have to worry about the daycare feeding your kids processed foods because you’ll be there to provide meals, and you have more choices about how to lighten your workload. When working onsite, you probably have a list of responsibilities that are your obligations even if others would be better at some of them. If you work from home, especially if running your own small business, you can outsource anything and everything, from web hosting to email to beverage delivery (Hey Rocco, will you please go get mommy a glass of juice?)
On the flipside, it’s hard to maintain control if you have too many things going on at once. Multi-tasking is not something that comes easily to everyone. On top of that, you’re apt to become discouraged when you have everything laid out in front of you all at once. It’s easy to worry about how you’ll get your work tasks done during your allotted workday and your home tasks done after you get off when the two are separate. When they both exist in the same place and time, it may seem overwhelming.
If you are going to work from home, your best bet is to figure out how to balance the things you have control over with the things you don’t. Separating the two is crucial, and is necessary to keep yourself from losing hope as to how it is all going to fit in one day.
This could be a positive or negative for some. For creative or tech-savvy types, work-from-home positions may actually be more available and desirable than those offered onsite.
On the flipside, it’s often thought that career options are limited when it comes to working from home. While this is some truth to this (you can’t be a taxi driver or a coal miner from home,) there’s a good chance that there are work-from-home options in your current area of expertise, or the area you hope to end up in. From the medical field to elementary education, there are a number of careers you can obtain a degree and a job in entirely online and from home.
Really, the balance here is deciding whether you can follow a professional path that will make you happy while working from home. Sure, a chef can open up their own restaurant/menu consulting business from home, but if they’re the type that thrives in a bustling kitchen, it may not be worth it.
Time Spent With Family
First off, you get to be around your family more often.
Second, I say “be around your family,” and not “spend more time with your family” for a reason. Not all time spent with someone is quality time, and simply being in the same room as another person does not necessarily constitute spending time with them. Furthermore, having constant distractions from work, as well as constant distractions from family, can disintegrate productivity and lead to you spending more time getting less done with both.
Where the balance lies here is the ability to manage time and distractions effectively. It’s not unhealthy for children to learn to be patient when their parents are busy with an important task, so there’s no harm in telling your child to wait a bit in most situations. Having older children makes this easier, younger ones make it near impossible. If you have a job where you need to stay focused for long periods of time, you may want to consider keeping work and kids separate until they are all school-aged.
There is absolutely no doubt that working from home will give you more flexibility in both areas of your life. How many jobs will allow you to regularly duck out to shuffle kids to lessons or practices? How many families have the option to stay at home with sick kids and still get their work done for the day? If you’ve got a soccer mom parenting schedule, but need or want to work full-time, working from home may be the option.
The only downside here is the constant opportunity for slacking and neglect. If you are not a good self-motivator, your work may suffer if done from home. If you are the type who is constantly worried about work, it may be difficult for you to separate work and home life if both things happen in the same place.
I think most individuals know whether or not this kind of balance is feasible for them. That being said, it’s important to have realistic expectations. No one is going to get it right from the get-go, and there will be times where you feel like your work, family, or both are suffering. As long as you are doing the best you can, you will get into the swing of things over time.
Surviving vs. Thriving
This is the biggest factor to consider when you’re dabbling in the home office world. It’s very important to ask yourself why you are doing this, or why you want to do it, and try and decipher if it is out of some sense of duty or necessity, or if it’s something that can actually benefit both areas of your life. In the long-term at least, the decision to work from home needs to be one that will benefit your family and your career.
In the end, don’t make a decision that will just get you by, that will only help you survive. Choose a path that will give you the option to thrive, to be the best parent, and the best professional, you can be.