I quit my full-time office job back in 2006 after having my first child, and have been working from home ever since. I love it. It offers me maximum control over my schedule and allows me to keep my skills sharp while doing something I love.
However, while it’s a perfect fit for me, working from home is not necessarily ideal for everyone. By understanding the truth behind the most common misconceptions of this nontraditional lifestyle, you can decide whether making the switch is right for you.
Myths & Misconceptions About Working at Home
1. A Flexible Schedule
While working from home can give you much more control over your schedule, it doesn’t automatically give you complete flexibility. I maintain strict hours to help keep myself organized, and, depending on your line of work, you may have to connect with a satellite office that requires you to maintain specific hours.
Don’t assume that working from home automatically means getting to set your own hours or only working when the kids have gone to bed. My first at-home job (as a marketing assistant) required me to be at my computer from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday, just like a regular office job. A solid schedule means a predictable schedule, which you need if you’re working around school pickups, homework, and your general day-to-day responsibilities with kids.
2. Your Job Is Your Hobby
It’s true that many work-at-home moms (WAHMs) have made successful businesses out of their hobbies and talents – Etsy, for example, is a craft marketplace filled with WAHMs who create and sell their wares as their full-time jobs. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that “working at home” means you’re working a hobby job. Many such positions are just like office work, which means professional titles, technical requirements, and employee-like benefits – just not an office.
In fact, a 2012 time-use survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 56% of self-employed individuals worked out of their home, but so did 20% of traditional salaried employees. The work done by WAHMs might be more traditional and technical than you think.
What’s more, because a WAHM position might be considered a “hobby,” those moms working from home are often asked to render their services for free. Whether it’s knitting hats or providing graphic design, work-at-home moms consider their jobs careers, not hobbies.
3. Working Alone Is Always Awesome
I consider myself an introvert, so working independently from home is an ideal situation for me. While it might sound like a dream when dealing with office drama or a boss always peering over your shoulder, it’s actually not perfect. Being isolated from others in your profession can actually be detrimental, leaving at-home workers feeling lonely and disconnected.
Working from home means forgoing many of the social events that help form relationships in the workplace: luncheons, office parties, training sessions, and even day-to-day chatter around the water cooler. If you want to keep up the social aspect of working, you may need to form your own groups. Meetup offers a number of groups and events for WAHMs, which can be an ideal way to socialize and network outside your home office.
I’m also a proponent of ensuring person-to-person relationships when working from home. While I could always email clients, it’s nice to talk on the phone to maintain those relationships and enjoy a typical work-based social experience. Shying away from all contact when working at home can simply be isolating, so an extra effort to reach out and stay connected is often necessary.
4. You Don’t Need Childcare
If you stay at home for work, you never have to pay for daycare again, right? Not necessarily. Working from your home office might mean you’re in the same building as your kids, but that’s not the same as actively caring for them.
I originally stopped working outside of home to spend more time with my daughter. But as she grew older and her younger brother was born, I quickly found that I’d bitten off a little more than I could chew. I realized I could either be a professional or a mother – but not both at the exact same time.
If your children are in school (mine are gone from 9am to 3pm), you do have an excellent block of time during which you can complete your work. However, during summers and on days off from school (or if you have young children), it is a completely different story. You may still require daycare out of the home in order to do your work sufficiently.
Some child care options for WAHMs include the following:
- Out-of-home daycare
- Local preschool
- In-home daycare
- Mothers’ helpers
- Swapping babysitting with another WAHM
The solution that works best for you obviously depends on your situation, schedule, and disposable income, but don’t make the mistake of thinking you can do it all. Some WAHM jobs require conference calls or deep concentration, both which are challenging when you have kids clamoring for your attention. Planning for childcare can help take some of the pressure off and enable you to give your all – both when working and spending time with your children.
5. It’s Completely Stress-Free
The idea that working from home simply removes all work-related stress for a mellow experience is laughable to those who do it on a day-to-day basis. Just because you’re not in the office doesn’t mean you’re exempt from deadlines, projects, performance reviews, coworker relationships, and other stress-inducing work experiences. In fact, working from home can actually add stress to your day. If you don’t believe me, just wait until your child squishes Play-Doh into your laptop.
One major facet of being a WAHM that I find particularly stressful is that I can’t leave the office. Since my home is my office, it would be possible for me to work 24-7, if I chose. Making the decision to stop working for the day – shutting down my email, turning off the computer – can be difficult when deadlines are looming. Striking the right work-life balance is challenging, so WAHMs have to be vigilant when delineating between work and home life.
6. Working at Home Requires Sales
Many WAHMs work in direct sales for companies like Mary Kay, Avon, and Pampered Chef. Of course, those aren’t your only options. When I decided to leave a traditional office job, it was hard to find a job that didn’t involve sales – but it wasn’t impossible.
Here are a number of technically based careers that are ideal for those working from a home office:
- Freelance writing
- Transcribing records
- Graphic design
- Virtual assisting
- Translating services
- Personal training
- Internet marketing
- Customer service
The requirements for each job vary, but any job that can be done without face-to-face communication with clients, coworkers, and customers works well for a WAHM position.
7. WAHM Is the Same as SAHM
Don’t mistake work-at-home moms for stay-at-home moms. One isn’t better than the other, of course, but they are different, and each has its own challenges and benefits.
Sometimes my child’s teacher doesn’t understand why I can’t come to a class field trip – I’m home all day, aren’t I? Unlike a SAHM, a WAHM has professional requirements to meet in order to complete her job. When you’ve got deadlines and clients to satisfy, you simply cannot participate like a SAHM likely can. Making sure friends, family members, teachers, and coworkers understand the difference can help you set boundaries. It can also help save your sanity and manage expectations others might have of you.
8. It’s Ideal for Everyone
People often romanticize the idea of working from home. However, just because it’s right for me doesn’t automatically mean it’s the best solution for everyone. Certain jobs, personality types, schedules, and families simply don’t play well with the idea of having dedicated work time at home. For example, if you’re an extrovert, it might make you absolutely miserable. It’s important to discover what’s right for you.
My advice to others considering making the change is to do a trial run: If you work for a specific company, ask about working from home a couple of days per week to see if it’s feasible. If you’re planning on launching your own venture, start taking on a few clients – you can always build from there. Don’t put all of your eggs in the work-from-home basket until you’re sure you and your family can really make it work.
Do you work from home? What’s the most common misconception you experience?