Being a work-at-home mom is one of those Catch-22 situations. It has tons of benefits, but, as with any employment situation, it has its downfalls too.
When I decided to leave my full-time office job I was enamored with the idea of balancing motherhood and my career aspirations. I truly believed working from home was going to be best of both worlds—I was going to save on childcare and be present for my kid’s big and little milestones all while bringing home a paycheck. Easy! Amazing!
But it turned out to be much harder than that. While many days, I do manage to fit in diaper changes, story time, conference calls and prompt email replies, there are just as many days when it all seems to hard to balance and I wish I could don my heels and join the commute for a day at the office.
When all is said and done and the pros and cons are weighed, working from home, for me, is definitely still a win, but there are some factors I wish I had really considered before taking the plunge.
So if you're considering quitting your job and working from home, think long and hard about these things before you take the plunge:
Who will watch the kid(s)?
Truth be told, working from home with children in the house is nearly impossible. Sure you’ve got a TV to “babysit” and there's always nap time, but fitting in a full day like that isn’t ideal. In reality, it’s downright distracting!
Before you quit your job to work from home definitely have a plan in place for childcare. Whether it's a mother’s helper, a preschool program, or a shift swap when your partner arrives home from work, it’s important to carve out some solo time.
Whatever you decide, honor those boundaries so you can actually enjoy working from home instead of trying to be everything to everyone simultaneously.
Where will you work from?
For me, I need a set place to work. It helps me get in the zone and be more productive. Give yourself a desk and prep it with all the necessities to get your job done. And, no, sitting on the couch in your living room with a laptop doesn't count.
How will you say no?
WAHMs are often expected to have the flexibility of SAHMs, because technically we do control our time—it’s one of the greatest perks, after all. But the reality is, we can’t always be free for morning play dates. We can’t be the default childcare provider for our sister’s kids. We can’t chaperone every field trip at school.
Just because we’re home, doesn’t mean we’re available all hours of the day. You'll have to be clear with friends and family from the beginning that although you might be working in your pajamas, you still have an employer to keep happy and learn to simply say, “No, I’m working then.” Respect your time and others will hopefully follow suit.
How will you manage deadlines?
If a child is sick or another emergency arises, how will you continue to get work done? Just like a parent who works in an office, have a plan in place for those days when a crisis and deadline coincide: an on-call grandparent, a spouse who's willing to take a sick day, or a fellow WAHM who can flip-flop playing hero with you when one of you needs assistance. Then again, I’ve learned that a fair amount of typing can be accomplished while snuggling on the couch with an under the weather little one.
What will your home/work boundaries be?
Working from home is great because you can squeeze hours in at 5 a.m., 2 p.m., and midnight. There's no commute so you can always plug in and plug away on projects. But your home and family life are still sacred so before you sign up to be a WAHM be sure to establish some realistic boundaries so you can be “just mom” sometimes too.
Maybe you charge all your electronics and don't pick them up for a segment of each day? Maybe you need a lunch hour where you devote 100 percent of your attention the kids? Maybe you need a set recess where you get outside to clear your mind, rejuvenate, and exercise? Whatever you decide, honor those boundaries so you can actually enjoy working from home instead of trying to be everything to everyone simultaneously.
How will you explain your work situation to your kids?
As my kids have grown from babies to school-age, they've learned alongside me how to make this WAHM gig work best. We’ve had our struggles (imagine me whisper yelling, “I’m on the phone! Pick another movie!”) and we’ve had our triumphs (we’re big fans of midday family naps … because we can), but through it all, I’ve done my best to be transparent with my kids. They know I work from home and they know that means I need time to focus. In turn, they also know that I’m available for the important stuff. In the long run I hope they learn that when it comes to earning a living they, too ,can choose a career that melds their interests, goal and family commitments.
Working Mother magazine recently released its list of the "100 Best Companies for Working Moms." And the top 10 are the cream of the crop. From flexible hours to onsite child care to generous maternity leave policies, all 10 of these companies are ones that any working mom would be thrilled to work for.