Help me wrap my brain around this
December 19, 2011 10:39 AM   Subscribe

I currently work about 20 hours a week at my job while my parents watch my 18-month-old. Today I'm considering whether to apply for a full-time, telecommuting job -- it's kind of my dream job. (And yes, it's a legit work-at-home job with a national org!) Please help me decide!

To complicate things, at this point I don't know whether this job has flexible hours or if it's pretty much 9-5, M-F. I'd prefer not to take my son to daycare for the additional 20 hours, and I'm not sure if we could afford a part-time nanny. (No idea what it costs! I live in a small city.)

Is this even possible without securing more child care? Will I be stressed out of my mind if I do this? My husband works full time and has longish hours. Have you worked an at-home job with a toddler? My head is spinning (and you can probably tell from this question), because this job sounds wonderful and I'm excited, but I don't know whether the situation is workable at all. I haven't even talked about this to my husband yet.
posted by trillian to Work & Money (22 answers total)
Yes, you should apply. It all depends on the job, the hours, the cost of part-time daycare, and your child's personality. One of those factors is known, the cost of daycare can be researched, but you'll only find out the other two factors if you apply.
posted by mochapickle at 10:49 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

My brother and sister in law telecommute - and have done so from the time my niece was about 4 months old. They still do, now that my niece is 3 and they've added another baby.

Granted, they had each other on hand to tag-team the kids; but it was still doable. But one thing that did help a lot was having my parents (who live 20 minutes away) to do a few hours babysitting once a week or so, so they had a few solid uninterrupted hours to catch up if need be.

So your situation is definitely doable; if your parents are still in the area to help with a couple hours a week here and there if you have a big project you need to work on, that could help a lot.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:51 AM on December 19, 2011

Unless the job is truly mindless rote work you could do in your sleep, you cannot work an at home job and take care of a toddler at the same time. Not if you expect to get any work done.

My wife and I both work from home and we still keep our toddler in preschool (and before that daycare) 4 days a week. For a while we tried splitting time -- I'd work mornings, she'd work afternoons -- but even that was barely acceptable (and obviously neither of us was able to do full-time quantities of work.)

Take the dream job, to be sure, but arrange daycare. Working at home is still just as much work as working in an office.
posted by ook at 10:54 AM on December 19, 2011 [17 favorites]

I know some work-from-home situations stipulate that you are not the primary caregiver for a child during your working hours. That may not be the case for the job you are looking at, but it might be best to check before you go down this road.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:55 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

A lot depends on your kid.

I've worked very part-time from home with two little kids, setting my own hours, and it was difficult: my kids need a pretty large amount of attention and supervision. I had a friend with one easy-going kid who worked full-time set hours from home and she did okay (although it still was tricky).

If your parents can still help you out with set hours every day, that could be best. You could schedule phone calls or work where you need to concentrate for when they're there, and squeeze the rest of the work in whenever you grab a few minutes.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:57 AM on December 19, 2011

You could combine a Mom's Day Out program (usually offered through local churches around here) with your parental babysitting to take care of your childcare needs. The MDO programs are pretty affordable and you aren't committing to long hours in daycare.

I do think that you will probably need some form of childcare to be productive. I can occupy my 2-year old for 10-15 minutes at a time and then I need to go check on her or she finds me. It's awfully hard to get any sort of work done in those tiny increments.
posted by Ostara at 10:58 AM on December 19, 2011

If I'm reading correctly, you haven't applied yet. I'd go ahead and apply and learn more about the job.
posted by sweetkid at 11:07 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think you should apply - you say "it's kind of my dream job"; and your 18-month-old isn't going to be an 18-month-old forever. In a year from now your 18-month-old could possibly be going to preschool for a few hours a week.

You already have part-time coverage and it is possible to get more if you need it. A part-time nanny or nanny share may not be as expensive as you think; you could find a regular babysitter a couple times a week; or even a mother's helper to come to the house and play with your child while you work in another room for a couple hours.

And you don't yet know anyway if it's flexible hours or 9-5/M-F. My sister works at home pretty much full-time with two kids, 4 and 2, and has been doing it over a year now. She works in the mornings before they get up, she works while they nap, she works at night once her husband is home and after they go to bed; if she's got to work while they're awake and underfoot, she puts on a show for a bit.

*Can you do it without getting more childcare? Maybe. You'll likely need flexible hours for that.
*Can you do it without putting your child in daycare? Probably.
*Will you be stressed? Well, I think you'd be stressed doing any job full-time with caring for a toddler as your main responsibility as well, whether at-home or not. You could easily find it stressful being at home all the time, seriously, if you're working from home, and caring for your child, and running your household.
*Think about - even though your husband works long hours, does he pick up the household slack well? Would he be available to do dinner/bedtime routine if you needed to stay up late and work? Do you have a good support network besides your family? Do you have good routines already in your household for when things get done, that you could fit your full-time hours into?

Good luck - this sounds so exciting for you!
posted by flex at 11:11 AM on December 19, 2011

No downside to applying; do that and go from there.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:21 AM on December 19, 2011

Yes, apply. You will need more childcare if you area working 40 hours a week, from home or not. Figure out the rest if they make you an offer.
posted by chickenmagazine at 11:33 AM on December 19, 2011

I have a friend who works from home, and she has someone come in for a couple hours in the afternoon to keep the kid amused, but that seems to be sufficient. Now, if this job requires you to be on the phone a lot or otherwise totally uninterruptible, that may not work.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:42 AM on December 19, 2011

Apply! I'm a big believer in the value of full-time parenting but at 18 months your kid is old enough to get some value out of 20 hours a week of socialization contact with other kids; there's no reason for you to view such an arrangement as purely negative.

Besides that, as other said, you don't even have an interview. Who knows what their reaction or flexibility would be? If you have a shot at something even remotely near "dream job" status you owe it to yourself AND your son to try. He may not be able to tell you yet but he certainly wants you to be happy and fulfilled.
posted by phearlez at 12:09 PM on December 19, 2011

Definitely apply and find out more about it so that you can decide whether it is right for you and your family. But please, please, please do not take a full-time legitimate work-at-home gig with regular business hours unless you can devote full-time business hours to the job.

It is hard enough to convince employers of the benefits of having dedicated staff telecommute as it is!
posted by headnsouth at 12:10 PM on December 19, 2011

Seconding phearlez: daycare can be awesome for the kids, if you find a good daycare.

Certainly it's a heck of a lot better than 20 hours a week of "not now, honey, mommy needs to get some work done."
posted by ook at 1:30 PM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

I haven't telecommuted but I have tried writing a dissertation (so, I choose my own hours to work) with a toddler and it has been an incredibly stressful nightmare (I can't afford childcare right now, which is why I am upgrading my education) I have fallen short as a mother and a researcher because both occupations require full attention and devotion over a sustained period. Go for the job but do not set yourself up to fail - arrange childcare for when your parents are unavailable.
posted by saucysault at 1:39 PM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yes, regardless, apply.

You get better at job interviews through practice. If this job turns out to not be ideal for one reason or another, then you've got practice for when the ideal telecommuting job (or job with a built in daycare) rolls around.
Even if they *offer* you the job, you don't have to take it.

The rest of the considerations, will be worked out in the interviews etc. I've found it actually quite helpful to go into an interview with some non-negotiables and some negotiable's that I need, rather than the other way round. It puts the employer in the place of trying to figure out if they can give me what I need, and if they can, that makes them feel more invested in the idea of me as an employee.
posted by Elysum at 5:03 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Toddlers and small children in general are great at escaping, getting into mischief and worse in frighteningly short time segments. If this job involves phone work or uninterrupted attention you need another adult at home with you. Also it is a given that a child who sees you on the phone is a child who wants your attention NOW.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:15 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you, all. I have decided to apply -- because later on I don't want to think, "Oh, what would have happened if I had applied?!" I think because we've never had anyone but my parents taken care of our son, I just have a knee-jerk, "no!" reaction to daycare because it's such a different option...
posted by trillian at 9:20 PM on December 19, 2011

I felt weird about daycare at first too -- what, we're going to just leave our child in a total stranger's home? That's insane! -- but in retrospect I'm really glad we ended up doing it; our son clearly got a lot out of the socialization.

There are very good daycare providers and there are very bad ones. (And the quality doesn't seem to correlate with price or size at all, oddly.) Shop around, talk to other parents, ask your pediatrician for suggestions, make some visits... Don't get discouraged if the first one (or several) seem awful -- they're not all like that -- but it can take a while to find the right fit, and space isn't always available right away; you might want to consider starting to look into this even before you're sure you have the job, just in case.
posted by ook at 9:57 PM on December 19, 2011

I felt weird about daycare at first too -- what, we're going to just leave our child in a total stranger's home? That's insane! -- but in retrospect I'm really glad we ended up doing it; our son clearly got a lot out of the socialization.

My evolving position on part-time daycare has a lot to do with things I have come across like this study about the long-term benefits of pre-school. It's not in the summary but during the discussion Heckman comments that part of the (gut instinct unproven) benefit is the social skills learned at a young age (compromise, sharing, conflict resolution) are ones that influence every human interaction they have later. I had always believed that the focused attention a kid got in the home would trump other things but I'm seeing a very valid argument for early exposure to some structure & outside encounters. Your child is younger than pre-school age obviously but not so young that he's not having meaningful interactions with others.

Not an absolute, obviously, but something to consider when you think about your instinctive reaction. You can focus on the being apart from your child and him being cared for by non-family. Or you can think about his having a mother who is mentally happy and challenged in a career while he's learning new skills and making friends.
posted by phearlez at 9:11 AM on December 20, 2011

I work from home (as a writer) with 3 small kids -- but it's doable only because they go to preschool & kindergarten. They're 6, 4 & 2 -- and even the best, most docile 18-month-olds can turn into whirling dervishes at 2! You will definitely need care of some kind.

Questions you may want to ask yourself:
- can I work weekends? Will this job really be a mere 40 hrs a week?
- can I work 4 hrs a day more than now, perhaps getting up 2 hrs earlier and going to bed 2 hrs later?
- what else will I need to drop or put down, or severely modify? Meals from scratch, grocery shopping, TV, etc? (I order groceries online and do curbside pickup weekly. I went from cooking elaborate meals from scratch to cooking simple meals from scratch. I only watch TV if I am also folding laundry.)
- draw out a 24-hr chart. Cross off work for 8 hrs a day, sleep for 8 hrs a day. The remaining 8 hours are all you have left daily. What goes there? What gets dropped? Include showering, laundry, EVERYTHING.

I get exactly 5 hrs of alone time a week. No more, and sometimes less if one of my kids gets sick. I guard those hours like gold! No coffees with friends, no shopping. I either write or do household planning during that time. If you are an introvert, you will need regular time alone beyond work to recharge. It's doable, but you have to put serious thought into work and home boundaries or you'll get burned out fast.
posted by mdiskin at 12:29 PM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: An update -- I applied but haven't heard anything, and the link to apply online has been removed from the org's site. I decided if they call, I'll tell them I've changed my mind since applying and I can't take on a full time job right now (in better words than that, of course). If they'd just post a part-time remote job, it'd be perfect. But all of their remote jobs I see are always full-time. Thanks again to all.
posted by trillian at 12:02 PM on January 21, 2012

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