Thursday, October 27, 2011

Work-at-Home Parent vs. Stay-at-Home Parent

Do you find a way to blur the lines between
working at home and staying at home?
Photo by Carlos Porto


This post is in no way intended to insinuate that one of these should be construed as "better" than the other or more noble in any way, shape or form.  For that matter, the same thing goes for parents who work outside the home.  As a parent you are the only one who knows what is best for your family and situation and nobody ever has the right to tell you otherwise!!

Okay, climbing off the soap box now...

As much as I would like to claim that I ditched my full-time job and went into freelance writing out of some romantic starving artist notion, it simply isn't the truth.  While I didn't go into this kicking and screaming (and rather enjoy it, in fact), it was a decision that involved a lot of discussion, testing and compromise.

The driving force behind the decision was the fact that I was needed at home.  My son has special needs and I am frequently needed to deal with situations at the school.  When you work outside the home, phone calls from the school and leaving frequently to pick up a child from school isn't exactly the best way to score points with the management.  An FMLA is helpful, but it can't solve every situation.

As the situation got stickier and stickier and I spent more time "visiting" with human resources, I realized that I was going to have to make a decision.  At the time, I had started dabbling in freelance writing and I'd had some success earning money.  Could I do this full time?  I wasn't sure, but I suspected I was going to be finding out soon.

I took a sabbatical from work in May to try and see how leaving work would go.  I felt lighter almost instantly.  Having the ability to get up and go whenever I needed without running it past my boss, which usually involved a great deal of anxiety on my part, complete with hammering heartbeat and dry mouth, was such a freeing experience.  I knew right away that, for the sake of my son and for my own sanity, we were going to have to find a way to make this work.

For many families, the story would end there.  One parent stays home to handle the situation with the child while another goes to work.  In our case it wasn't quite that simple.  One paycheck simply doesn't cut it.  Bills still have to get paid, especially since our medical bills can be quite high.

I'm fortunate enough to have a talent and a desire to work from home.  But I've found that separating "work from home" with "stay at home" isn't quite as simple as I initially thought. I've indulged myself numerous times, starting work late, taking the kids to the park, procrastinating to watch a movie with my daughter, stopping work to play a game with my son...  everything still gets done on time, but I could probably get a lot more done if I would do better about buckling down.

And then I remind myself that my daughter won't always be three, and she won't always think that snuggling on the couch with mom is a great way to spend a morning.  My son won't always want to show me his new guitar chords or his latest science experiment.  So maybe it's okay to blur the lines between working at home and staying at home.

So maybe it's not such a black and white issue after all.  Maybe it's a spectrum, like this:

Stay-at-home                                                            Work-at-home

And I'm happily somewhere in the middle.

If you are a parent working home, where do you fall on the spectrum?


  1. Back when my kids were at home I bounced back and forth depending, always loving the working at home more than any office... and than many jobs.

  2. I find the freedom so much more valuable than anything an office job could provide.