When my husband and I had our first child more than 20 years ago, we were both working and taking turns going to graduate school. It was an exciting but hectic time as we began our lives together, bought a house and started a family. When Andrew was born, our joy knew no bounds. He was a sweet, happy baby and he made it easy for us to learn how to parent a newborn.
When Andrew was about six months old, we realized he wasn’t meeting his milestones. This prompted months of evaluations by specialists, the scheduling of speech, physical and occupational therapies and the stress and anxiety of learning that our child had an uncertain future. We eventually learned that Andrew had global dyspraxia, global hypotonia, a learning disability and difficulty with information processing and verbal communication. Some of these issues resolved to a certain extent over the years, including the seizure condition that emerged when Andrew turned six. Today, Andrew can communicate verbally, dress and feed himself, operate a Wii, play educational games on his laptop or iPad, play games with his brothers, and engage in many other activities. However, Andrew will never progress cognitively beyond the grade school level where his functionality now sits.
We decided early on that one of us needed to be home with Andrew and our two other boys. Since my husband brought home the bigger slice of bacon, not to mention the health insurance coverage, I chose to be the at-home parent. I preferred this arrangement – I wanted to be the hands-on parent for doctor and therapy visits, helping with homework, and all the other activities I might have missed by working a traditional 9-to-5 job. It may seem odd to some that I chose to do this after spending several years earning a doctorate in organizational psychology, but the pull to be home with my boys was undeniable.
As our boys grew up and eventually spent 7-8 hours a day in school, I found myself with free time during business hours. I started working as a part-timer or contractor for employers in the Chicagoland region. This afforded me opportunities to build my work history, gain experience, broaden my skill set, develop a network of contacts and contribute to our household budget. The best part was I could do all this while working from home.
Once I started working from home, I never really considered going back to a traditional office setting. Andrew cannot be left on his own, nor (thanks to past experiences) do I trust paid care providers to oversee his day-to-day needs. We have loving, involved family and friends nearby, but they work full-time, so even if I wanted to work a traditional job in a traditional setting, it would not be possible. Andrew’s safety and well-being, not to mention our peace of mind, are not worth forcing that issue.
Over the last two decades, I’ve become confortable in my home office. I’ve learned to juggle, multi-task, accept working no more than part-time hours, function on less sleep than I need and when absolutely necessary, shut my office door and ignore everything going on outside of it. It’s easy to be distracted when you work from home! With a family of five, there’s always laundry, or a meal to be fixed, or shopping to do, or an activity, or a dog to walk, or homework to help with … and the list goes on. Those things aren’t negatives – after all, I signed up for all of it. However, squeezing in work, and being able to think intelligently, write cogently, and produce effectively, can be a challenge!
That all said, telecommuting simply works for me. With only an estimated 3.9 million U.S. employees working at least half-time from home (Gary Audin, No Jitter, 7.21.17, http://www.nojitter.com/post/240172795/telecommuting-on-the-upswing), I realize how fortunate I am to be able to lead the life I live. I get to be involved in the lives of all my children for more than a couple hours a day, work where I choose and schedule or unscheduled myself as needed. I’ve found a way to satisfy my professional needs without giving up the flexibility and availability I value.
While telecommuting isn’t for everyone and isn’t a feasible option for many jobs, I recommend giving it a try. Telecommuting is a viable possibility if a job easily transfers to a home office (think sales, marketing, customer service and IT positions, among others). It’s also a great way for stay-at-home caregivers to work their way back into the workforce or for companies to tap the talent of out-of-state candidates, seniors, veterans or anyone living with a disability or chronic condition. Working from home can be as challenging as it is rewarding, especially in the beginning, but if your focus is family or flexibility, it may be worth the time and effort it takes to source and land a work-from-home position.
For work-from-home tips, information and resources including a list of reputable companies seeking remote employees (including Amazon, U-haul and more), check out our Work from Home Ideas and Work from Home Tips & Resources pages. Or, find us on Twitter @AJBCSurveys or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ajbaroncommunications to connect, network and find more useful information to help you in your search for flexible, work-from-home opportunities.
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