Many parents decide to work at home because they want more time with their families. They hope to be able to take care of their kids themselves rather than pay for any sort of childcare. But is this really practical?
The answer really depends on your situation. There are a lot of factors to consider when taking a realistic look at what is best for you and your children.
How old are your kids?
The older they are, the less help you will probably need. Babies and toddlers are home a lot more than school age children, and need a lot of care. They also won’t understand if you need quiet in order to work.
How strict is your schedule?
If you absolutely have to work certain hours, some form of childcare can help you keep your hours. On the other hand, if you can do a little work here, a little work there, and a lot after the kids are in bed, you might be able to get away without childcare.
How much do you really NEED quiet in order to work?
Even if your kids are older, the more quiet you need in order to work, the more help you may need. Obviously, if you have to close your office door in order to work, there needs to be someone responsible for the children. You can teach your kids when to bother you, but you’ll be interrupted less if there’s someone else they can ask first for whatever they need.
How many hours do you need to work?
If you need to work more hours than the kids are in school, or your hours aren’t during their school hours, it is quite possible that you will need help.
Can your kids help you work?
Once your kids are old enough, it’s a good idea to let them help in appropriate ways. Whether you have a work at home job or a home business, involving your children lets them get a glimpse into what it is you really do. Who knows, you might even inspire them later in life!
How much help can you expect from your spouse?
If you can work when your spouse is home, and they are supportive of what you are doing, there’s your childcare solution right there. On the other hand, if your hours don’t match up to when your spouse is available, or your spouse is simply uncooperative about taking care of the kids, you might just need some extra help.
How serious are you about what you do?
This doesn’t mean that if you don’t use childcare you aren’t serious about working at home, but it does mean you need to think your priorities through. If you’re going to be completely focused on your work at home job or home business, it’s easy to forget to be a parent, and it’s all too easy to tell the kids you’ll play with them later, read to them later… then it’s bedtime and your kids have seen less of you than if you worked outside the home.
There may be other factors as well that you will need to consider when you work at home. Working at home isn’t something that just happens – it requires at least a little planning if you want to succeed.
Please note, when I say childcare, I’m not necessarily saying send your kids to a daycare centre. There are plenty of other options. You can hire an older neighbor child to help or you can trade babysitting with a fellow stay at home parent. Maybe your children’s grandparents are local, retired and willing. If you can keep the kids at home, giving them lunch or playing a quick game is a great way to take a break from work, but sometimes you may need to have someone outside your home take care of them for example home based childcare, where the child is in a home environment but having a home educator take care of them. Your options will depend on your particular situation, but in many times you can do something other than pay for your kids to attend an actual daycare centre.
You may have decided to work at home for the best of reasons – to have more time for your family – but make sure you don’t neglect them in the process. It’s all too easy to let your work at home take over your entire home life. A little bit of extra help with the kids when you absolutely have to work can help you to work more efficiently while still being there for your kids when they need you.