Working from Home with Kids

Boss Lady Emira Mears speaks the truth in addressing the working from home with kids myth.

Working from home with kids | BCBusiness
Working from home with kids can sometimes be a literal balancing act. Emira dismisses the myth that working while parenting is an easy option for all.

Boss Lady Emira Mears speaks the truth in addressing the working from home with kids myth.

Since becoming a mom, I’ve been hyper-aware of anyone who lauds the virtues of working from home with children in tow. Many parents consider taking on work in addition to childcare, which usually sounds something like, “I’m getting back into the consulting game while I’m home with the kids – I’ve got nothing to do during their nap time, so why not?” Before I sick an army of work-from-home parents on my tail, let me say that I know there are many who make it work and some who even excel at it. However, the idyllic vision of effortlessly running a business during nap time requires adjustment.

We’ve all seen that cover story or feature on the woman who built a successful business by carving out time during naps, answering emails from the playground, and toiling late into the night after her kids went to bed. But I think when you reach the cover-story level of success, you’ve got the same kind of amnesia about the real pain and the struggles that got you there as women often have with childbirth. Riding a high wave of success, it’s easy to sum up the experience of trying to balance childcare and growing a business with a simple, “Yeah, it was rough,” that does nothing to expose the trials one must endure. And for every parent who makes the big success story, there are legions who are still in the thick of it.

So what does the parenting and working-from-home balancing act actually look like? From where I stand, it’s a recipe for burnout, a lack of career satisfaction, a failure for a business to thrive, and many late nights of work while the kids sleep. As Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours, summarized it in a bNet blog post: “If you have a professional job, something you take pride in and want to keep, absolutely do not be trying to watch your children at the same time.”

To be clear, what I’m talking about is working from home or running a business from home without any paid and reliable childcare during work hours. If you’re running a home-based business as a part-time gig and have help with childcare, or even if you’re transitioning back to work from a parental leave and have part-time childcare, then working from home can be great. At three months post-partum I was working from home while my teenaged stepdaughter looked after my newborn upstairs. I never got more than two hours of uninterrupted work time before my baby needed to be fed, and I had to schedule client calls very carefully around that. I look back on that period as a combination of maniacally efficient snippets of time, and the inability to sit with a task and tackle it creatively.

It’s the parents who think there’s enough time to build a business during nap time who concern me the most. The whims and patterns of children are not reliable enough to juggle with a viable business plan. Running a business is not easy and neither is managing full-time childcare. You cannot do both gracefully. Note that I said “gracefully.” If your job allows you to work outside of business hours, evenings can be a productive time, but you’re giving up the downtime that you’ll need to recharge for your personal life and your professional life.

While it’s tempting to think that juggling a business or working from home to save on childcare fees is a viable solution, I’m sorry to say, it may not be that simple. Plus, giving up those precious few minutes of downtime to close your eyes or read a book without having someone underfoot? That’s a very high price to pay.