There are many reasons to work from home. It offers you greater flexibility, you get rid of the commute, and if there are any "office" politics to deal with, they are easy to get a break from.
However, the main reason people seek at-home work is their children.
The reasoning is clear. The kids need you at home, and your household also needs your money, so why not make money while at home? That is all well and good, but it brings up the question: who is watching the kids while you are working?
Can You Simultaneously Work and Watch the Kids?
If you Google advice on this subject, the answer you will find most often is no, you cannot watch the kids and work from home. But I do not feel this is an absolute truth. It comes down to a few different factors.
My Experience with My Son
My son is an only child who is more independent than most children his age. He can easily play by himself for an hour without any direction for me, needing me only for sporadic conversation and food throughout the morning when he is home with me. By afternoon, he needs more attention, so I pause work and we play a bit, then I can settle him in with an activity or--gasp--a movie.
As a freelance writer and editor, my work is not as time sensitive as someone who is working a 9-5 from home or who does things like offer customer support. This means that if my son needs a little extra attention on a day he is home, I can offer him that without issue. I can also work from anywhere in the house and I have special laptop tables to allow me to do that; I can even work from the front yard while he plays.
My home is also filled with items to keep him occupied. Does that mean he is spoiled? Sure, I suppose, but it also means he doesn't get bored easily. There is always something for him to do.
With all of that said, even though my situation seems ideal for working from home and watching my son, it was never an option I considered. I do it when he is sick or it is a holiday, but it doesn't seem ideal to me as a full-time solution. My son would feel lonely occupying himself all day and I would feel stressed to finish my work too quickly so I could spend time with him. Would I get more hours with him if he were home? Yes. But they would not be quality hours.
So, what are some childcare solutions that can work for work-at-home parents?
Enroll Your Child in a Nearby Daycare
Yes, this is a highly traditional option, and it may not make you very happy, but it has its benefits. The most obvious is that your child will be cared for while you are free to work. However, your child also gets to socialize, and many daycares have an educational focus as well.
Depending on the daycare, you may be able to only have your child attend half a day and pay a lower rate. Ask around to find the right fit for you.
Hire a Nanny
Do you want your child at home but supervised? Then a nanny could be the right solution for you. This is great for when your child is young enough to depend on you for feeding or is immunocompromized and cannot attend daycare. While it is a pricier option, it may still be the right one.
Find a Mother's Helper
A mother's helper is someone who is generally younger--in high school or college--and may not be experienced enough to care for your child independently, but can play with your child as you work. The pay is much lower than with a nanny, but the end result is similar. If you need daytime help, ask local colleges to post the position for you; students who have night classes will be interested in the work.
Start a Childcare Cooperative
Do you know other work-at-home parents? If you can get together a group of five, you can rotate childcare so everyone watches the kids one day a week. That one day a week may be a bit overwhelming, but you will get four days a week free to work undisturbed and you will likely end up with a social group, combating the loneliness of working from home.
Shuffle Your Hours
Finally, depending on your job, you might be able to work early in the morning, during naps, and after the kids are down for the night. This will leave their waking hours free so you can get in quality time with them.
Freelance writer and editor with an education background, working from home and living abroad.