As a mom, it is practically inevitable when you meet another mom that you will have the conversation as to whether you work or stay at home with the kids.
"I work full time, but on some days I work from home."
If they work full-time too, the response is usually in the area of: "You are so lucky! It's sooooo much easier."
Hold it right there, my friend. I don't know if "easier" is really the right way of looking at it. I'd say it's more beneficial in the long run for both me and my family. Lucky, yes. But easier?
Working from home is ultimately a blessing, but challenging for a series of reasons. You must have a significant amount of self-discipline, set up appropriate resources for your situation, and have a work situation that facilitates working from home as a logical or practical option. Not to mention you need to have had the forethought to select a profession that allows for it (clearly, you can't be working in retail, or waiting tables, or dancing on Broadway). With that said, I'm a huge advocate of it for any parents, particularly moms, who can pull it off.
My current position gives me the opportunity to work from home two afternoons a week. I need the flexibility to bring my son to and from preschool (we carpool; his friend's mom tackles the other two days). I'll also often work from home when there are doctor's appointments, school activities or other personal or family activities that need some attention. This helps to cut down on travel and make it a more efficient and productive day for me. I have to admit the situation is a bit of an anomaly in my profession...advertising and marketing typically demand very regular 9-5 hours and well beyond that...full-time plus, if you will. Before committing to it, there is a lot to consider.
Flexibility to work from home could affect compensation. You could say that I took a "pay cut" to have the benefit of working from home. Had I gone back to work in Manhattan, I could be bringing home a much fatter paycheck. But the benefits aren't there: the lack of commute, the proximity to home in case of an emergency, and most importantly, the extra quality time that I have with my kids. As difficult as it is sometimes, I am proud I have not given back in to temptation simply for the cash. (At least I've been blessed with a natural sense of priorities.)
Child care...a much deeper topic than I care to address here. While my circumstances now (breastfeeding a newborn, and preschooler-wrangling) are different than when I was freelancing from home and I had one toddler to worry about, it's good to have consistency with child care. That has to be the number one thing you are comfortable with before being able to commit to this. I hope to have the same situation in the future...my goal is to be able to work a majority of my hours from home as my work situation evolves.
I could wax poetic about child care options, and how to make working from home work, but the reality is that everyone feels comfortable with different situations, and only they can determine the impact that child care can take on their household budget.
There are also the issues of setting boundaries within the house while you're home, how you address it with your family, how you agree upon it with your employer (or decide to take the jump on your own) and--very critical--the space you work in. I'll address these in some follow-up posts; this one is long enough for now.