Meet the New SAHM: the Work-From-Home Parent
By Jo Frost
With daycare costing more than college in many parts of the United States, families are finding creative ways to care for their children while making sure that the bills still get paid.
For some households, this means one parent assuming the traditional breadwinner role while the other stays home with the children. For many others, a new hybrid role has emerged: the work from home parent. Instead of ducking out of the workforce until their children are old enough to attend school full-time, a growing number of mothers and fathers are bringing home a paycheck without ever leaving the house.
The proliferation of jobs that can be done remotely provides more opportunity than ever for a parent to stay home without creating a years-long gap in their resume. As large corporations look to reduce overhead and smaller companies go virtual, many careers that were once performed in an office setting can now be done from nearly anywhere. Pajama-clad workdays and afternoon naps have become a reality. For parents with jobs conducive to a work-from-home environment, like blogging, tutoring, sales, art, or running their own businesses, there’s a great opportunity to spend their days with the kids while still earning a living. It seems like a dream come true, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
One of the problems with this dreamy combination of employment and child rearing is that you’re still working — just with rambunctious little ones as your office mates. It’s not hard to see the financial advantages of eliminating childcare costs while bringing home a second paycheck. However, this arrangement also means that while one parent is responding to emails and taking meetings, they’re also feeding, clothing, and entertaining a child. Work at home parents also quickly discover that many children are attracted to the light of a computer or cell phone like moths to a flame. It might sound like a picnic to those of us with long commutes or insufferable co-workers, but at the end of the day, it’s hard work. So how can a “momtrepreneur” manage it all?
First, map out a schedule: The beauty of many work-from-home jobs is their flexibility. If your job allows you to work non-traditional hours, get creative with your time — start your workday a few hours before your child wakes up, knock out a some emails during nap time, and round out the day with a bit of work after your child has gone to sleep for the night.
Create a space that’s just for you: If you’re working double duty attending to the needs of your clients and your children at the same time, make sure that there’s also somewhere you can go to concentrate on work — and work alone — when your significant other has the kids. Even if you don’t have room for a proper office, you can set up a small desk in a corner somewhere (not the bedroom if you can avoid it!) or designate the kitchen table as your personal workstation between certain hours. Having a space where your family knows not to interrupt you makes it far easier to get your work done in a timely and low-stress manner.
Enlist some help: Ideally, we’d be able to watch our children while working, but realistically, that’s not always the case. A baby who needs to be held or a toddler in mid-tantrum can make it nearly impossible to get anything else done. There’s no shame in asking for a bit of assistance during the workday, whether you’re calling in favours from family and friends, or hiring a proper nanny to mind your little ones while you work. A few hours of care that you’re not providing personally can do a world of good for a stressed out parent.
If you want to stay home with your children while maintaining your family’s financial stability, it is certainly possible. Work-from-home parents are redefining what it means to be both a caregiver and a breadwinner – one frantic, fun day at a time.