Many moms would love to work from home with a baby. But is it possible? Discuss the circumstances that would make working from home with kids possible.
“After maternity leave, I’ll ask if I can work full-time from home,” I told my husband a few months after I had given birth to my eldest. “My job is conducive for work-from-home, I can still earn income, I’ll save on child care costs and I’ll be able to spend time with the little guy!”
Weeks later, my boss rejected the proposal... and thank goodness he did.
Instead, we came up with a flexible, part-time schedule that, in hindsight, suited everyone much better.
You see, working from home with kids is hard. And it’s not for everyone, nor is every job cut out for that arrangement (I have coworkers in the same company whose duties simply wouldn’t allow them the schedule I had).
So, can you actually work from home with a baby?
Scour the web and you’ll find dozens of tips on how to work from home with a baby, like finding backup child care, working in the mornings and evenings, or saving time-intensive projects for nap times. These are all practical tips—I would never have been able to work from home with a baby if I didn’t subscribe to these tips.
But they also gloss over the challenges and stresses of balancing work and child care simultaneously:
There’s guilt. You feel guilty because you’re stuck home all day waiting for an email to come in and can’t take your kid out even though the sun is shining so brightly.
You feel guilty because you want to focus on time-intensive projects but instead have to do the more tedious tasks while your son is awake.
There’s stress. Nothing is ever 100%. When you’re on the computer, you’re wondering how your kid is faring and how much longer he’ll last playing with puzzles. I mean, the kid’s got amazing focusing skills, but he’s still a kid. He can’t exactly fetch his own snacks (yet) or understand why you need the place absolutely quiet.
Then when you’re hanging out with your kid, you’re checking your phone (you even upgraded to a smart phone just to check in with work more often). You log in to your email only to find that you have to make your way back home just ten minutes after arriving at the park just to address an issue at work.
You’re also on-call, whether it’s with work or your kid. The days I took off from work were markedly different from the days when I would work from home with a baby, despite being in the same location. It was freeing not juggling both work and kid at the same time.
When you’re working from home, you’re tethered to the folks back at the office. You’re checking your phone and computer, and your mind is constantly thinking about the day’s assignments.
And you’re also thinking about your kid, and how to balance his day with your work’s tasks. It’s not an easy juggle.
And like I mentioned, not all jobs can be done from home. My job was conducive to working remotely. I’d say about 5% of the work I did from home was actually urgent. As in, schedule child care because I need to get on the phone with zero interruptions. Most of the time, I was able to work on my own time.
Not all jobs are like that. Before considering working from home, evaluate whether your daily tasks can actually be done at home. Frequent phone calls, meetings, overseeing employees—these may not always work if you’re not in the office.
I’d also think that freelancers, entrepreneurs and self-employed folks might have different circumstances that might make it easier or more difficult to work from home. One of the disadvantages of working from home as an employee of a company was the need to be on their time.
Had I gone the freelance route instead—even working for the same company—I could decide my own hours and determine when I would respond to their needs. Granted, freelancers can’t just respond a whole week later, but as an employee, I needed to respond as soon as possible.
I’ll even go a step further and say not all kids are conducive for parents to work from home. My eldest happens to have a knack for focusing on activities for long stretches of time. I knew I could show him something interesting, whether books or puzzles or a new toy, and I wouldn’t hear from him for 45 minutes to an hour. Some kids require more attention or are more active.
And not all ages of kids will allow parents to work from home, either. Infants have different needs than toddlers and vice versa.
I also know many other parents who work from home all five days of the week but have child care arrangements in place, such as day care or grandma. These types of situations allow parents to work from home all week without scrambling after their kids.
The benefits of working from home played out well and balanced our needs at the time. I was able to save a ton of money on child care, make income and earn benefits, and spend time with my kid. I kept up my work habits that I even got a promotion despite my flexible schedule. And I even wonder if it’s because—not despite—of my flexible schedule and the subsequent work/life balance and company loyalty that led me to create good work.
It also helped that I still worked in the office about three out of five days of the week. I was able to both be in the office and work from home. Again, I’m actually glad my boss turned down my original request for all five days working from home. I’m not sure how I would have handled it.
That’s why with the arrival of the twins, I knew I couldn’t work from home any longer. One kid is fine, but two would’ve been pushing it for me.
And now that I don’t work from home anymore, I actually much prefer it this way. Yes, it’s cool to be able to spend hours with your kid and save money, but it can come at a price. At this point in my life, I actually much prefer to spend the 40 hours in the office and find other means to be with my kids.
I work flexible hours so that I can still be home with my kids during the after school hours.
I do miss my kids, but not as much as I thought. I know they’re in good hands, and I take frequent days off to have the whole day with them.
At least this time, I don’t have to check my work email.
- Why Do You Work or Stay-at-Home?
- Why We Need to Ask Dads about Their Work Life Balance
- Being a Working Mom Isn’t Always a Second Choice
- The Surprising Factor that Gives You Work-Life Balance
Your turn: What is your work schedule? Is it possible to work from home with a baby? Have you worked from home with the kids around?
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