With more new social and collaborative technology becoming available each day, working from home, either entirely or in part, is becoming increasingly common. Furthermore, more people (especially women), are finding themselves part of the “gig economy” as freelancers, consultants, and direct sellers. There are undoubtedly huge advantages to working from home, such as flexible hours and zero commute time. However, many women are unaware of the potential drawbacks to this career arrangement until they find themselves in the thick of it. Here are some challenges to keep in mind if you are considering working from home.
You become, undoubtedly, the “default parent.”
Many women find themselves in the default parent position (the parent primarily responsible for all things child and home-related) regardless of their working arrangements. However, this shift is more pronounced for women working from home. If your partner is working in an actual office environment, there is a tendency to treat him as the one who works. As such, every medical appointment, dental appointment, school meeting, and sick child will probably end up on your plate. Logistically, it makes sense. You don’t have a commute and you likely will not need to seek special permission or time off to make it to these obligations. Still, the plethora of administrative responsibilities can really pile up and eat into the time you need to spend actually working from home.
- It is easy for others to forget that you work. You will get a lot more invitations to playdates, school meetings, volunteer opportunities, etc. While you may be a stay-at-home parent, your calendar will inherently be a lot fuller than some of your mom counterparts who are not also maintaining a career. You may find that you feel obligated to say yes to some of these social obligations, obligations that you may not have even been aware of if you were working in the traditional office environment rather than working from home.
- It can be difficult to set boundaries. When you work in an office, your work day is largely pre-defined. Working from home, it is a lot easier for your defined workday (if you even have one) to be derailed. The kids are napping and you should be working, but instead, you find yourself loading and unloading the dishwasher. You are on your way home to cross some things off of to-do list for work, but instead, you decide to hit the grocery store. The opposite can be true as well. You are supposed to be with your kids, but you find yourself checking work emails or jotting down ideas for that next big project. When this happens, it can start to feel like you are always at work, even when it’s family time. This can certainly be a problem for office workers too, but working from home makes these boundaries much murkier.
- You may feel weird about hiring help. If you went to work in an office, you would not think twice about hiring child care because it would be an absolute necessity. However, when you are working from home, you (or your spouse) may view child care as an unnecessary, or even frivolous, expense. This is especially true for women who are working from home part-time. You will find yourself scrutinizing the expense against your net take-home pay more closely than you would if you were in the office. This can cause you to put too much on your plate. While it can be an excellent strategy to work while your children sleep or are at school, this tendency can also eat into any time you may have for yourself. Burning the candle at both ends for too long can be detrimental to your physical and mental well-being.
I want to be clear: working from home can be a wonderful, freeing thing for you and your family.
I myself have been working from home for several years now. Working from home provides countless benefits such as the ability to be present for school field trips and functions, to chauffer kids to and from rehearsals and practices, and to arrange your work day in a way that just works best for your family, to name only a few. However, it is essential that you move into this arrangement with your eyes open to the challenges so that you can implement the strategies necessary to make the most of your working-from-home endeavor. After all, planning makes perfect!
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