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The other day I opened Facebook and found a salacious article discussing six reasons why working from home as a mom “sucks.”
Since I earn extra money as a working mom and never leave my house, I was personally affronted by the headline. I love working from home! What was this woman’s problem?
But after reading the piece I realized what the issue was: She was trying to do her 40+ hour-a-week job while simultaneously taking care of her son full-time — and it wasn’t working. Her job required frequent phone calls and virtual meetings with coworkers, and it was incredibly challenging for her to juggle those while also placating a boisterous toddler.
That’s when I realized something: Not all jobs are conducive to telecommuting, and you can’t expect to be a full time employee and a full time nanny at the same time. You only have so many hours in a day, and most kids who aren’t in school yet require a decent amount of supervision.
I’m going to come out and say it: You can’t work full-time without paying for childcare. I know how hard it is to focus while my daughter is trying to get into everything around the house and I’m over here writing an article…
BUT (and it’s a big but!) you CAN probably make extra money from home and avoid hiring a nanny if you can cut back on your hours. I’ve been doing it for the past 8 months! But first, here are some questions to ask yourself before approaching your boss about working from home:
How Old Are Your Kids?
If you have school-aged kids, you will have close to 40 hours per week you could put in from your living room while your kids are at school. If that’s the case, stop reading now and email your boss!
If your children are currently in daycare, however, this post is for you.
What Kind Of Work Are You Doing?
Any job that requires frequent phone calls or meetings at set times will stress you out to no end as a work-at-home mom. Kids are just naturally unpredictable! Needing to ask clients (or your boss) to reschedule because your daughter just learned how to crawl out of her crib or because your son is eating dog food is, well, awkward. I have one weekly meeting I TRY to set up for my daughter’s predictable naptime, and last week she decided she just wasn’t going to nap…
Does Your Child Nap?
Which brings me to question #3: Is your child a napper? If yes, then you can expect to use his naps as your work hours. If no, then you need to seriously ask yourself…
When Will You Work? How Many Hours Do You Have?
Yes, you can work 40 hours a week from home if you are willing to work when your children go to bed or when your partner is home to help (in other words, night and weekends). But many women want to work from home to increase their flexibility, and most people consider night and weekend work to be the least desirable and least flexible kind of work. You need to count up the hours in the day that you might have “to yourself” (as in, the time in your day when you aren’t playing with your kids or keeping them out of trouble) and then subtract at least a couple hours for unexpected emergencies. Those are all the hours you have: Will your boss let you telecommute and reduce your hours?
Are You Flexible AND Self-Disciplined?
In order to enjoy a flexible work schedule, you have to be flexible yourself. But in order to actually get work done at home, you MUST be self-disciplined. Most of us are one or the other: Either we rock at going with the flow, or we are great at keeping a disciplined routine. Know which one you AREN’T good at, and ask yourself, “Can I work on this?” For me, I’ve needed to learn how roll with the punches and take advantage of every 5-minute segment when my daughter is occupied playing rather than depending on solid two-hour-long naps during which to complete my work.
Do You Work Quickly?
Seriously. Efficiency is everything when you work from home with kids. If you’ve ever had a coworker rush you because your thoroughness was going to cost a deadline, or if your boss is often in your office asking you to pick up the pace — don’t work from home. Like I mentioned above, you have to take advantage of every free moment you get, which means #1 working quickly and #2 being able to jump in and out of projects at a moment’s notice.
Can You Focus While Daniel the Tiger is On?
Yep. Screen time. Even if your keep sleeps well, if you are hoping to only work 9-5 there’s a VERY good chance you’ll need to turn on the TV to keep her occupied during a phone call with a client or because of a deadline. If you are strongly averse to using TV as a babysitter, you should consider staying in the office.
Do You Want Your Kids To Be Your Coworkers?
This is a serious question, and there’s no right or wrong answer. For some moms, being home all day with their kids is a dream come true. Enough of the office drama, already. For others, the thought of only carrying on conversations with a toddler for 40+ hours a week is terrifying. Be honest with yourself. If you find yourself excited for work in the morning because it means 8 hours of not being on mom-duty, working from home might be too much of an adjustment.
Will I Need A New Job?
If you need the same level of income to stay afloat, but you want to move your full-time work to your home office, there’s a good chance that you’ll either need to sacrifice your nights/weekends OR you’ll need to find higher-paying work that you can do during nap times.
But do the math. Working half the hours at same pay rate might work out if it means you aren’t paying through the nose for childcare. For me, 20 hours a week is totally doable AND I don’t pay anyone to watch my daughter, so I take home everything I make!
So tell me, are you going to do it? Could you work from home?
Natalie McKee is the mother of a nine-month-old and works from home as a virtual assistant, freelance writer and social media manager. You can see some of her work at Leaping Cats.