I was at the bus stop waiting for my three elementary school kids to come strolling off the bus. While waiting, I was scrolling aimlessly through my Facebook feed. I suddenly stopped on a post with a comment about working from home, where the mom was lamenting that her family didn’t understand her working remotely, and why she needed a babysitter for her kids during her work hours if she was at home.
As a parent who works from home, this really struck a chord with me. I have received similar criticism when hiring summer babysitters, as well as comments like, “well, when you get bored of your work, you can just take a break” or “it is nice to have a hobby.” Umm, I have a job, people! A legitimate job that I get paid to do and really, I rather enjoy!
I think people often misunderstand what it means to be a work-from-home parent. Maybe it’s easier to understand the role of a stay-at-home parent or a parent that works in an office outside of the home, but it seems that no one really understands how working remotely “works,” or how you start working from home in the first place. So maybe by telling my story, it will shine a light on how working from home can happen - and clear up some of the misconceptions that go along with it.
Landing a remote job
My story began as a stay-at-home mom. I quit my job in the city after having my first child. I received little maternity leave and my job demanded heavy travel, which I knew I could not personally balance with my new work/baby life. So I quit and we lived on a single salary for a while. However, I always knew I wanted to go back to work when the kids were older.
The hard part? Having a gap in my resume was viewed like a crime against humanity by many recruiters. Luckily, an acquaintance saw through that hole and asked me to write for a new parenting website he was helping to launch, Upparent.com. The good news - I could do this job 100 percent from my house.
But you don’t have to be a writer, or rely on personal connections, to land a work-from-home job. You do, however, have to take some things into consideration. First, make sure you can actually do your job remotely. You have to know that you personally can work from home, and that your job is one that lends itself to remote work. Interestingly enough, just about every mom and dad at my bus stop works remotely. Our jobs range from project manager to realtor to virtual school psychiatrist to corporate event planner to direct sales consultant to content creator. So there are a lot of jobs that are doable from home - you just have to make sure yours is one of them. There are also plenty of resources to help you discover remote job opportunities. For example, Indeed.com lets you search “remote” as your location versus a particular city. (Side note: if you type this in other search engines, you will get Remote, Oklahoma. Great if you live there or want to relocate, but not so great if you don’t!) The Mom Project is a staffing agency that also offers several remote job opportunities, and is specifically geared toward highly educated professionals who may have a gap in their resumes (usually from staying home to care for children).
While there are many benefits to remote work, there are also many challenges, so be sure you also consider these before deciding whether it is right for you.
Childcare: Working from home does require child care for non-school aged kids and for school-aged in the summer, just like a job onsite would. Trust me, I play a chess game of slotting in babysitters every summer! Thankfully nationwide childcare resources like Sittercity.com make it super easy to find sitters and nannies!
Self-motivator: It also requires discipline and a comfortable sense of self. Think, could you live on a space station for a year by yourself? Okay, maybe it’s not that extreme, but you have to be okay not having co-workers sitting next to you.
Lines are blurred: It’s important to know when to step away from work. This can be easier said than done when your lunchroom is your refrigerator and your PC is your trusted laptop inside your purse or diaper bag. (And yes, I did take my laptop with me
Flexibility: For me the positives outweigh the negatives. Yes, I can often be seen with my laptop at after school activities or really anywhere there is WiFI, but I love the flexibility.
Casual Friday most days: I love that my casual Friday may just be any day I don’t have an in-person meeting or a video conference call. (Although I may or may not have my slippers on during those calls.)
Better work/life balance: Since your commute may be only 12 steps versus an hour to and from work, you have more time to enjoy home life. For example, you will never miss that trusted “must sign for package,” a daily walk with your faithful dog or a moment to search for kids activities for the weekend ahead.
As one mom pointed out in the comments section of that Facebook post, moms today wear so many hats, and society expects them to hold down several full-time jobs simultaneously. This is true whether you are a stay-at-home mom, a mom who works in an office, or one that works remotely. We are all just trying to raise our kids the best we can - and avoid mom guilt as much as possible along the way.