Are you a mom or dad considering remote work for increased flexibility? For National Work and Family Month 2017, we’re getting real about the ups and downs of being a telecommuting parent.
8 Pros and Cons of Being a Telecommuting Parent
As remote work environments become increasingly common, it’s no surprise that more parents opt for telecommuting jobs so they can spend more time at home with their kids. Like most aspects of parenting, however, working from home can be bittersweet. There are many pros to being a telecommuting parent, but the pros can quickly become cons when they go unmanaged.
If you fantasize about working from home, it’s important to understand the responsibilities required to be successful. Consider these top eight pros and cons as a starting point.
1. Pro: You Spend More Time with Your Kids
Many telecommuting jobs offer flexible schedules or pay-per-piece type work, which removes the reigns of the nine-to-five work day. This time freedom allows you to schedule work hours around nap times, play dates, and sporting events. You can drop the kids off at school and pick them up reliably every day without coordinating with someone else. You can attend each parent-teacher conference, fundraiser, and school play without batting an eye.
The time you gain by working at home is invaluable. Global Marketplace Analytics estimates that a telecommuting parent gets back the equivalent of 11 days by working from home full-time.
Think of those 11 days as an extra two weeks of paid vacation. The little moments add up, and your kids will remember that you were there for them.
Caution: You still need to work and provide for your family, so you may need to recruit help from time to time. Don’t feel pressured to be a full-time employee and full-time parent all by yourself.
2. Con: You Work Irregular Hours
Setting your own hours and working around your kids’ schedule always sounds great, but it can also lead to low productivity. As a telecommuting parent, you are constantly tempted to delay work and care for your children. Your kids are always your top priority, but you need to draw boundaries to avoid last-minute stress and missed deadlines.
If your job is critical to your household income, you can’t risk an ad hoc work ethic. Telecommuting requires discipline, efficiency, and time management. Therefore, it is crucial to establish a work schedule for each day and structure your home life accordingly. If working during normal business hours is near impossible, then you may need to adjust your work schedule. For example, you may need to wake up two hours earlier than your kids or skip your favorite show and stay up two extra hours past bedtime. You may even recruit a part-time babysitter to ensure your little ones are cared for while you focus on work.
Tip: Experiment with different schedules and give everyone time to adjust. Remain adaptable so that you can quickly bounce back when surprises occur.
3. Pro: You Call Off Work Less
When your babies are sick and stay home from school, you can take care of them without calling in sick yourself. You can take your kids to the doctor, pick up prescriptions and cough drops, and give kisses and cool baths whenever needed. You can even work right beside your dear ones to comfort them and help them rest.
You can also plan your work around school holidays and snow days without sacrificing income. Your employer may allow you to swap weekends for weekdays or apply banked hours as needed.
Once you establish yourself as reliable, responsible, and trustworthy, your employer may grant you the autonomy to rearrange your work days without approval.
Caution: Take a day or two off when you are sick. Even though you work from home, you’re no good to your employer or your family if you aren’t feeling your best.
4. Con: You Feel Increased Parent Guilt
The point of being a telecommuting parent is to spend more time with your kids, but you often feel guilty for not paying attention to them one-hundred percent of the time. On the one hand, you want to be accessible so that your kids can come to you when they need something. However, your accessibility can increase the number of interruptions and slow down your workflow, sending your beloved work schedule out the window.
Though your work supports your family, the emotional draw to your children’s’ requests is heart-wrenching. When you find yourself frequently responding with, “Not right now, sweetie,” “You have to wait until I’m done working,” and “Maybe later,” your kids may walk away looking sad and disappointed, which makes you feel worse.
It may be helpful to occasionally work elsewhere, such as the basement or back porch, to reduce the potential for interaction. Your kids won’t forget that you’re at home, but they might tap on your shoulder a little less. Then, you won’t have to say “no” as often, which mitigates the guilt.
Tip: Constantly remind yourself that your work is important because it provides for your family. You have the potential to nurture deep bonds with your children by being a telecommuting parent.
5. Pro: You Save Money on Child Care
Child care is expensive and consumes a substantial chunk of your salary. In fact, the Economic Policy Institute reports that child care can cost more than college tuition. For many families across the U.S., child care doesn’t make financial sense.
If you find yourself working long and hard only to give most of your paycheck to another caregiver, consider how much money and time you could save as a telecommuting parent.
You can still hire a babysitter to watch your little ones part-time or full-time while you work from home. In-home care is more affordable since the caregiver uses your resources, such as food, toys, water, and electricity. Plus, if you decide to recruit a close family member, friend, or neighbor, your kids will develop stronger relationships with important people in your life.
Caution: Working full time while raising kids is no easy task. Run a quick financial analysis to determine if hiring a part-time babysitter makes sense. You might find that an extra couple hours of help each week can boost productivity without breaking the bank.
6. Con: You Lack Standard Workplace Gratifications
Telecommuting can be lonely at times. Your work life looks luxurious to your friends and coworkers, but you face challenges just like anybody else. As a telecommuting parent, you sometimes feel out of the loop and have less opportunity to bond with peers. There are less “water cooler conversations” where colleagues typically catch up, confide in each other, and swap stories.
Also, if you work irregular hours, you don’t get that satisfying feeling of clocking out every day. You may feel like you’re working round the clock, especially if you let tasks overflow into the weekends. It can get overwhelming fast, and you may feel like you’re always on the go, even though you work from home.
Gallup warns that when you work as a telecommuting parent, you are susceptible to burnout and easily lack the connection and comradery of in-person office environments. Therefore, it’s important to communicate with fellow telecommuters for solace and to discuss solutions to your work-life challenges.
Tip: When you find yourself reminiscing about workplace friendships and even yearning for corporate structure, just think about the painful commute, annoying gossip, and unproductive meetings you avoid by working remotely.
7. Pro: You Teach Your Kids by Example
As a telecommuting parent, your children witness you working hard, managing your time, and acting as your own boss. This first-hand experience is a wonderful lesson for kids at any age. Though your kids may despise your decisions at times, they admire you and copy everything you do. Why not be a shining example of what it means to provide for the family while balancing work and home?
Consider leveraging your work-from-home job as an opportunity to teach your kids about diligence, independence, and respect.
You can even create little lessons with mock invoices, time sheets, and budgets. You might even set your kids up with their own workstation, a few notepads and pencils, and a play phone. Office-related activities make kids feel important, grown up, and included in your life. They also help motivate older kids to do homework and summer assignments.
Caution: Do not delegate real work tasks to your kids. Even if they are the most intelligent, responsible children in the world, don’t treat your kids as subcontractors. Not only could you be in violation of your employment contract, but you could also be in violation of the law.
8. Con: You Get Distracted by Housework
When work gets overwhelming, it’s easy to turn to household chores to satisfy your need for accomplishment. However, your employer doesn’t care if your kitchen floor is spotless. Therefore, you need to strictly compartmentalize housework from income-producing work activities and prioritize with discipline. Emergency house issues, such as flooding, bursting pipes, and roof leaks, are certainly excusable, but work assignments supersede daily dusting and vacuuming.
Tip: Definitely delegate household chores to your kids. Chores teach kids about self-care, teamwork, and responsibility. Plus, it keeps them busy so you can focus on your work. Consider creating a household maintenance chart to schedule and keep track of recurring daily, weekly, and monthly tasks.
Telecommuting Parent Bonus: You Feel Empowered Every Day
Simply by having more flexibility, telecommuting work shifts your mindset from subservient employee to emerging leader. You quickly realize that you are the CEO of your life.
You get to make your own schedule, prioritize what’s most important to you and your family, develop strategies to accomplish your personal and professional goals, and spend your time according to your priorities.
Not sure if you’re fit to be a telecommuting parent? Consider the top pros and cons and make a list of your own. Discuss the option with your family and get their feedback. Look at your finances and estimate how much money you’d save and spend to set up an office or switch jobs. Most importantly, think about the differences between your current lifestyle and the lifestyle you desire. Chances are that telecommuting is a stepping stone to help you accomplish all your goals.
Do you feel that becoming a telecommuting parent is right for you? Share your story when you connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook and Twitter, and don’t forget to hashtag #VVWorkandFamily with us from October 2 – 7 for National Work and Family Month. We’d love to hear from you!
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