Pros and Cons of Being a Work-At-Home Parent

Parents working in home office with children playing

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When I had my baby, I was fortunate to be able to take a year and a half of maternity leave from my job as an elementary school teacher. I wanted to stay home with my little one for as long as possible, so I filled out the paperwork and dove into the stay-at-home mom life.

As it turned out, it just wasn't long enough. Trying to go back to work did a number on my physical and mental health, and I knew deep down that I needed to be home with my toddler. Not only that, but my entire income went to our nanny, so staying in my job just wasn't making sense.

I now work part-time from home as a writer and journalist, and it was the best decision I could have made. I took something I was already doing for fun (blogging) and turned it into a way to make money while my toddler was sleeping. Working from home left me able to completely eliminate childcare costs.

Some parents who work from home do what I do—burning the midnight oil and using nap time and screen time to get their work done. Other work-from-home parents have the standard 9-to-5 job, just without the cubicle or the commute. Working from home may or may not necessitate childcare, depending upon the specifics.

Working from home may seem like a dream, but it also has its challenges. It can be difficult to stay focused while at home, especially when your kids are there too. Some people just do better with more of a separation between their personal and professional roles.

Whether or not working from home is the best choice for you depends on many factors. Take a look at the pros and cons of working from home as a parent.

Pros
  • You can eliminate your commute.

  • You have more time to spend with your children.

  • You don't need to dress up and buy a work wardrobe.

  • You can live anywhere.

  • You may have fewer distractions.

  • Meetings that could have been an email are more likely to be an email.

  • You may get more done in less time.

  • You may be able to plan your work schedule around other obligations.

  • You may be able to eliminate or minimize childcare costs.

Cons
  • Home may be more distracting than the office.

  • Kids at home may demand your attention (even if you have childcare).

  • Not getting dressed and ready for work can lower morale.

  • There may be fewer opportunities to advance professionally.

  • You may feel isolated.

  • Work life may blend in with family life, making balance harder.

  • Home may feel less like your haven.

  • Your company may require you to have childcare.

Pros of Working From Home as a Parent

Many parents embrace the work-from-home life because of its many benefits. Let's take a look at some of the top reasons you might opt to become a work-from-home parent.

You Get to Spend More Time With Your Kids

Spending more time with your little ones is one of the biggest advantages of working from home. "When I was working in the office, I was gone from the house for 10 hours a day," says Angela Gaskin, a mom of a 5-year-old, a 3-year-old, and a 3-month-old. "I now get to wake up later in the morning and have breakfast with my family before I begin my work. I even homeschool my daughter during my lunch break."

You Don’t Have To Go Into the Office

Preparing to go into the office takes time and money. With many jobs, you have to purchase a work wardrobe and then maintain it with dry cleaning or ironing. Commuting can take up a sizeable chunk of your morning and cost you in gas or transit money.

Not having to get ready and go into a brick and mortar workplace can really simplify your life. Parents can usually find lots of things to do with extra time, whether it's daycare drop off, grocery shopping, or trying to get a workout in. Taking time in the day to rest is also very important for your mental health, and it can be a lot easier to do this while at home.

You Have More Freedom and Flexibility

Parents who work from home can customize their day to meet their family's needs. Things like breastfeeding on-demand or doing school drop-off and pick-up are easier when you are not required to be in a physical workplace at a set time. "I have been able to nurse my youngest, which saves so much time washing pump parts and bottles," says Gaskin. "If any of my kids are doing something extra special, I can take a short break and be involved."

Megan Swain, a mom of 2- and 4-year-old children who co-founded Shipley & Swain, a boutique family law firm in Knoxville, Tennessee, with her husband, agrees. "Working from home has given us the flexibility to add to their family, manage serious health issues, and weather a pandemic. I can schedule my work around my family, instead of the other way around," Swain says.

You Can Be More Efficient

Some parents find that they are much more productive when they do their job at home. It might be that there are fewer water cooler gossip sessions to distract you, or maybe it's just quieter and more conducive for you to get your work done while at home. "Overall, I work less and do more than I did going into an office every day," notes Swain.

You Might Be Able to Reduce or Eliminate Childcare Costs

The cost of childcare is quite high, and it might even cost your entire salary. Some parents see three to five years of a canceled-out or negative income as a temporary sacrifice to keep you moving up in your career.

Others quit working and stay home because they don't see the point in making money just to have it all eaten up in daycare costs. Working from home is another option that allows you to keep your income while taking care of your children yourself. "We set it up so that someone would always be home with the kids," says Swain.

Cons of Working from Home as a Parent

Working from home may not be ideal for every parent. Here are a few challenges you could face.

You Could Be Less Productive

For some, home may be more distracting than the office. You might find yourself distracted by all of your non-work tasks, such as cleaning or preparing meals. Or, you might find yourself spending lots of time snacking or playing with your latest gadget.

Kids at home can demand your attention, even if you have someone to care for them while you work. If the baby knows you are in the house, they could cry until you come to hold them, rather than their caretaker. "When your children are young, it's hard for them to understand that you are at home but not able to play with them all day," says Gaskin. And if you don't have childcare, working a full-time job and caring for your kids full time can become overwhelming.

Some parents are just not motivated to work when they are at home because they associate it with rest and relaxation.

Childcare May Be a Necessity

If you were hoping to save on childcare costs by working from home, find out your company policy first. Some employers might require you to have a nanny or daycare.

If you work full time, don't have flexible hours, or spend a lot of time on calls, you might not be capable of watching your kids the entire time you work, either.

Working From Home Can Be Lonely

Extroverts may struggle with the lack of in-person interaction in the work-from-home life. When you're home alone and there is no one to break the silence, it can get lonely. Even if you have babies or toddlers at home with you, the lack of adult interaction can be a downside. "I do miss being with my coworkers or other adults in general," notes Gaskin.

Fewer Opportunities for Career Advancement

If your goal is to climb the corporate ladder, working from home could hold you back from that. Employers might look to those who they see in action when it comes to promotions. "If your company is mostly run out of an office, it can be easy to be passed up for the promotion because you are not interacting with management on a daily basis," says Gaskin. This might not necessarily be fair, but it may be the case in some workplaces.

How Parents Can Make Working From Home Easier

If you are considering working from home—or already do—and want to make it more manageable, consider implementing some of the following tips.

Get Ready in the Morning

If you shower and put on an outfit that makes you feel good, you will likely find yourself more motivated and productive than if you stay in your pajamas and the bun you slept in. Getting ready does not mean that you need to put on a business suit or full makeup, but a few steps to get you feeling fresh and clean can boost your mood and help you feel good while working from home.

Stick to a Routine

Some jobs have a set schedule, while others allow you more flexibility. If you are setting your own hours, try to stick to a predictable routine. This helps you stay focused and ensures that your work day isn't eaten up by other tasks.

Routine will also help you set boundaries that ensure that your work life does not take over your home and family life. "Resist the temptation to work on your phone during your 'off' times," advises Swain. "It’s hard to leave work at the office if your office is at home, but the key to being a work-from-home parent is boundaries."

Create Blocks of Time

If you have babies or young children at home, they can demand a lot of your attention. Try to identify blocks of time throughout the day when you can focus solely on your work. Nap time is a good start.

You can also teach your child to play independently for short periods. Give them special toys that only come out at this time. Start with smaller periods of time, such as 5 minutes, and gradually work towards 20 to 30 minutes for toddlers and 45 minutes for preschoolers.

Screen time is another option. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests waiting until age 2 to introduce screens and showing no more than an hour each day. There's another chance for you to get an hour of work knocked out.

Since Swain and her husband both work from home, they divide the day into blocks where one of them works and the other is with the kids. “Any given day, we may do preschool activities with Mom in the afternoon and romp and play with Dad in the morning,” she explains.

A Word From Verywell

Working from home has many benefits for parents. There is added flexibility and saved time and money. You get to spend more time with your kids and you don't have to deal with a long commute every morning. It might be possible to reduce or completely eliminate your childcare costs while working from home, especially if two parents or other caregivers are at home during the day.

However, the work-from-home life is not for everyone. Staying at home all day can be isolating for some people. Not getting ready to go see other adults can affect morale and make you feel lonely. And sometimes, employers are less likely to promote work-from-home employees.

Whether or not you should work from home depends on many factors, such as your kids' ages, how self-motivated you are, and whether you enjoy being at home. There is no right or wrong way to work or not work as a parent—ultimately, you have to do what's best for yourself and your family's needs.

1 Source
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Where we stand: Screen time.

By Elisa Cinelli
Elisa is a well-known parenting writer who is passionate about providing research-based content to help parents make the best decisions for their families. She has written for well-known sites including POPSUGAR Family and Scary Mommy, among others.

Originally written by
Laureen Miles Brunelli

Laureen Miles Brunelli is an experienced online writer and editor, specializing in content for parents who work at home.

Learn about our editorial process