Working at Home

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Husband working at home - need my space

Feb 2004

For the past 2 years, my husband has had his own company that's office is on our property. Our house is small, so when he comes in, we are all in the same area. I'd like suggestions on working out a schedule or system that works for both of us. It seems we are still struggling with the idea of separate time. I am a stay-at-home-Mom,but hate that term, as I'm certainly not at home all the time! I do,however, want to have some times at home that I can count on that are all-mine or mine with the kids. I am more productive that way too.

We've tried figuring out certain hours that he can't come in, but so often there are exceptions. And when the time is up, I know it bothers him/ is a hassel to have to call just to use the bathroom. And my kids have ever-changing schedules, so what works Monday, doesn't work Tuesday, or what works for one month doesn't work the next. And having hours that he can't come in is just so negative. Plus, he's doing what would normally be considered 3 jobs at work,typical for starting your own company, so he's already maxed.

The home-office idea turned out to be necessary longer than he thought. He does plan to get regular office space eventually, so short of installing a porta potty and creating a kitchenette, any ideas?

I know in my gut that we need more boundaries between work & home, but I don't know how to put it in place. Also, he could use a male support group, of men working from home, &/or other men who are entrepreneurs. His job is very solitary, and he could use some others to meet with, face to face and share their ups & downs. I know it's nice for me that I get to see a lot of other Moms at the schools and around town. Thanks for any ideas!

Need space

I don't know what your husband does, but could he do at least part of his work at a cafe or at the library? Many cafes offer wireless connections to the internet if that's what he needs. anon

I'm not getting what the problem is there. It sounds like you don't want to see your husband at all during the day, which sounds like a burden on both of you. To be gentle about it, I'd suggest you reconsider your motivation and find something that really works for both of you. I understand the desire for space and privacy, but telling your husband that he can't come in to use the bathroom seems extreme. And if you're going to disallow him use of the house or bathroom, then you should make it regular and predictable for him too. What's the real issue here? Quite frankly, I would love it if my husband worked at home and wanted to stop by and say hello. Most work at home folks work IN the home, so would have more boundary issues than you have. I'm guessing there's something else at! issue. (Is he sloppy? are you embarrassed about your activities? do you have other conflicts?) Most of us don't have full opportunities to stay at home, go out when we want to, schedule lots of things with the kids, AND demand full privacy whenever we want. Maybe you should plan more time away from home with the kids so you can get your privacy, then schedule an hour or two on a regular basis, or schedule it at the beginning of the week, so you can have some privacy. good luck

Babysitter while working at home

Jan 2005

We're thinking of hiring a babysitter to care for our 3 month old one day a week so I can work at home that day. I don't see much on the Network about this set-up. What I'm wondering about mostly is cost and the best place to find someone. It would seem to me that if I'm home and the baby will be brought to me for breastfeeding, the cost shouldn't be as much as for an in-home nanny. My understanding is that nannies are paid minimum $10 or $12 to care for one baby, so how much should the babysitter be? Or is there not really a distinction? Should I look for a Cal student who might be enticed by being able to do homework while the baby sleeps and/or while I breastfeed? I know Bananas is great for nannies; are they the best place to advertise for student babysitters too? Thanks.

There is no cost savings when a baby is brought to the mother for breastfeeding. You must pay for the entire time, beginning to end, that you are reserving a person's time - it is no benefit to the caregiver to bring the child to you. You cannot dock pay for this - you are suggesting a situation like... I'll pay you for 45 minutes of this hour and 15 minutes you can sit here and do what you like, with no pay. It seems unlikely you'd find someone willing to go along with this arrangement. HOWEVER, you can offer slightly less per hour to end up paying exactly what you really want to pay, and then everyone feels like they got a decent deal. Also, just so you're aware, nannies have the freedom to do as they wish, on the clock, when babies are sleeping anyway, so that's not a perk. It is true some nannies also handle a small bit of child-related household help, so if you want your day nanny/babysitter to handle some of the baby-only laundry on his/her workday, most caregivers are willing to do this. This might be a way for it to be more reasonable for you, since you appear to be looking for a cost-savings. This way, at least you end up with more free time each week. All that said, yes, you can pay less to a student or a very young caregiver with little experience. Sometimes you can find a non-English speaker for less money. Someone with poor English is a good deal at this age, where the baby doesn't need to learn language skills as much as s/he needs to feel loved and cared for. Best of luck finding a good, fair match.

I work at home too. I actually don't believe it's that much easier for the babysitter when I'm there so I didn't pay less than when I was out of the house. I've used students occasionally, but found that a long-term relationship was better for my children. You want someone who's able to handle the small things and let you work. Once your child is mobile, they will be knocking on your office door; hire someone who can distract, entertain, and keep them happy. Ann

I don't see the difference between having a nanny when you're at home and having one when you're not. I work at home, and I paid standard nanny rates for my son's nanny when he had one. nelly

I freelance and work from home. What I found as I looked for babysitters is that most didn't have a different pay structure for a mom who was home. Except for the breastfeeding (which now that my son is 9+ months is not nearly what it was when I first hired her) she is primarily responsible for my son's time, needs, and wants. I definitely don't feel she is doing any less since I am nearby - it's my choice whether I will go upstairs and have a 15 minute visit with him, and I consider that my bonus. Interestingly, I have been looking for a NIGHTTIME babysitter for my son, who is asleep no later than 7pm on any given night and stays asleep. Everytime I contact a sitter from BPN about sitting at night, they ask for $12-$14 an hour (I pay my siitter $13 during the day). When I express that the baby is asleep, you can do homework, eat, watch movies, talk on the phone, etc, they basically tell me no way. I am fine with paying $13/hour for someone to interact with my son, but that's a little more than I can stomach for the nighttime scene. Good Luck anon

Sorry -- the price is the same whether you are there or not. As long as you want the person to actually care for your child while you work -- it doesn't really matter to them whether you are there. The nursing thing is nice but doesn't really change the job for the nanny. If anything, man! y nannies find it MORE difficuult to take care of a child with mom in the house. Be careful to set up a clear pattern in which the NANNY is the caretaker during the time she is there and if your child understands that and s/he is a good nanny, this will work great. anon

Regarding your question of whether you should be able to pay less because you are breastfeeding, my opinion is no. (I am a mother of a 16 mo. old and have an in-house sitter/nanny twice/week.) While the sitter may not be feeding, she is still at your house and therefore at your service--i.e., it is not her time. You need to pay for that time, regardless of whether that person is doing homework or whatever. Who wants to sit at someone else's house to do their own work? They are there for your convenience, regardless of whether the baby is napping or breastfeeding. As for resources, you should post your need in the BPN Childcare newsletter. As for cost, you might expect to pay a tad less for a once/week babysitter than an everyday nanny, but not much. You probably would get the best deal from a college student or teenager. Best wishes. Tracy

I had a babysitter while working at home and paid her $10 per hour (her hourly wage). While I was breastfeeding she would sit and talk with me or read a book. It worked out well. I have a friend who works from home and she hired a UC Berkeley student to care for her child. (She found the sitter by placing an ad on CraigsList). This arrangement has worked out very well for her, as she has a flexible work schedule. One thing to consider when hiring a student is that their class schedule typically changes each semester/quarter. The going rate for one baby is bet! ween $10-15 per hour for one child. My philosophy is that if I pay closer to $15 per hour I expect the person to do more (e.g., light housework) when my child is sleeping. Good luck! Anonymous

Positive experiences with home-base companies?

May 2002

Does anyone have positive experiences with home-base companies? My family and I will be moving to southern California next month and I will be at home with our 1 year old son. I would like to supplement our income by working from home, however I have not found anything that doesn't require selling something. I would love to hear people's experience/advice on this subject.

There are a lot of Work at Home telephone pole posters around - these are all apparently soliciting people to sell HerbalLife per a recent article I saw. See also the Federal Trade Commission's page about Work at Home scams here:

The Work at Home Mom site seems designed to help moms find legitimate jobs they can do at home. Take a look: (Note: I don't work at home and I haven't actually used this site, but it looks like a decent place to start your research. Offers bulletin boards where you can talk to other WAHMoms, e-mail newsletters, etc. Seems to be run by a mom.) Dana

I have no personal experience with this, but I do have a couple of friends who have worked at home as Medical Transcriptionists. It requires some training (community colleges seem to give the necessary courses) and you may have to buy your own transcribing equipment (basically a fancy tape recorder), so there's investment involved, and you have to scare up doctors to work for (the job basically involves making a written copy of the taped recorded messages doctors make about patients so that the paperwork can be put in the doctor's file.) The people I've known who've done it said it was reasonably profitable for them once they got started, and did let them work at home. Again, I have no personal experience, so I can't really vouch for this one way or another, but it could be worth looking in to. I think you could find info by googling on the term ''medical transcription.'' elise

Boy, I have been in the same boat as you! My mom told be about Dr. Laura's web site. As controversial as she may be, she has a whole section devoted to work-at-home parents full of ideas and contacts, not scams, and ways of figuring out what would be the best job for you. I will soon begin the process of publishing the first edition of ''Moms Inc. Business Directory of Work-at-Home Parents'' for the east bay, due out this fall. It is a great way to get the word out about your at-home business and looking at it could give you some new ideas such as, flower arranging, language instruction, accounting, bookkeeping, legal work, massage etc. etc. You might want to check out if there is one like that in the area in which you will be living, or you could start one! Liza

If you are organized and good on the computer, you might want to look into becoming a virtual assistant. This is a growing field of folks who provide support staff services from their homes(primarily for small business people who need a little bit of help but don't need a body in the office fulltime). All tasks are assigned and accomplished via a combo of computer, fax, telephone and snail mail. I think there is a national organization of virtual assistants; you could probably find more info by doing a little search on google or something. Janet

I have been working part time as an online reader to grade the essays of California High School students exit exams. If you have previous teaching experience this might be an option since you can do this at home. ETS will open applications for CAHSEE readers this fall (see the ETS website for details-the same website for GRE and GMAT exams). Alice

Is it realistic to plan to work at home one day a week?


We're first time parents and our son is due in March. We're trying to figure out our work options. One option is for each of us to work at home one day per week. How realistic is it to think we can get work done from home with a newborn around? Lisa

I'm self-employed and I worked at home when both of my children were newborns--up until they were three months, when they went into part-time childcare. Whether or not you can do the same depends a lot on how well the baby sleeps, which varies from newborn to newborn. But I managed to get in about four hours a day during their naps and I felt really good about being able to continue working while being home with my little ones. I do know, however, that some parents don't like working during those early months because they want to be able to relax (or even sleep!) while the babies are snoozing. Susan

Forget about the diapers and the 2:00 feedings! For me, trying to balance working from home and watching my child at the same time was the most difficult part of raising a baby so far. This is a really tricky thing to forecast before your child is born. I have a job where my office is in my home and I go out to see clients a few days a week in their offices. I took off four months after my child was born and planned to work from home largely when I returned. I had heard that newborns sleep up to 14 hours a day and envisioned myself working happily and productively at home, occasionally beaming down lovingly at the infant asleep in a basket next to my desk. The reality was that even as a newborn, my son slept great at night but only took two 30-45-minute naps during the day for the first year of his life. And he wanted to nurse every two hours because he doubled his size in the first four months of his life, and kept growing at a similar rate. I needed to be on the phone with clients and although keeping my son in the room with me was ok in terms of his safety and mobility as a newborn, it wasn't always feasible to have a professional conversation even when he was sleeping, because newborns can be fitful sleepers and wake up howling from gas pains or bad dreams etc. This dramatic interruption happened enough times to be very embarrassing and disruptive for me, even though the clients were very understanding. (Of course, my friend has a baby who slept 4-6 hours during the day and was on a more regular 4 hour feeding schedule, so it wouldn't have been a problem for her.) Between nursing and crying getting my work done was incredibly difficult and very stressful, even though I am largely self-directed and no one was putting any outside pressure on me about my performance.

My employers and my family were very flexible and understanding. I went from full to part time, reshuffling my responsibilites from five days a week into three days a week, and my husband (opposed to daycare) was able to actually take our son into work with him two days a week (he works for a family business) from about 4 mos of age until about 7 months. Once my son could crawl though, there was no keeping him at the office in an exersaucer or a playpen. It just was not enough stimulation for him and he became very difficult in that setting. Again, different children have different temperaments; some children love their playpens, and my son IS extremely active. For the past nine months I have been fortunate enough to have my sister take care of my son on a part time basis, with her own daughter who is a year and a half older. My son has loved being around his cousin and learned a lot from her and has clearly not suffered being away from me part time. However, I still need more hours in the home office and it has become more and more of a struggle for me to work at all when he is here as he has become more active and able to get himself into situations where he can get hurt if he is not constantly and closely supervised. Having an infant or toddler around means a high probability of being constantly interrupted, as you probably know if you have ever even tried to have a phone conversation with a person with a small child. The sort of work that you do will determine if this will work for you or not. I have a lot of freedom in my job and with my company, but it has even been too much for me, and I am leaving the workforce at the end of this year after struggling through for 16 months, because my sister is going back to school.

One really good alternative that I have heard from other moms who work at home is to hire someone to watch your child for you in another part of your home while you are there. That way you can check in/nurse, etc. easily, but have someone else to take the pressure off of you when you need to focus. You don't want to add the emotional fuel of work related frustration and stress to the already potent combo of post-natal hormones and sleep deprivation. A few women I know have a helper or nanny come in just mornings so they can do what they really need to accomplish without interruptions, and then they take over in the afternoons. A lot of tasks can be done with your infant, such as errands to Fed Ex, Office Depot, bank etc etc. I loved my job and I love being with my son, so I managed to get through it for a long time, and I don't really regret the extra energy it required of me. The time when you have your child before they go to school etc is short and very finite, so if you can be flexible and have both at no cost to your child and a manageable cost to yourself, it is definitely worth trying as many ideas as you can come up with. Good luck! I hope you get a sleeper! cheryl

This is very hard to do, because newborns need constant care. It's very hard to focus on a task when you are constantly being interrupted to care for an infant. The only way to have any hope of success is to have someone be a designated sitter and that person does only child care, nothing else, for the duration. Jennifer

whether you can realistically expect to work at home depends on both you and the newborn, and the nature of your work. When my baby was two months old, I did manage to do a fair amount of work at home. But I had a single defined project (writing an appellate brief on one case, where most of the research was supplied to me by someone else), and a very mellow baby who took long naps, and I was very motivated to do it (unusual for me - normally I'm very distractable). And - I only did it for one month! Can you handle distractions - change a diaper, nurse, walk around for twenty minutes, and then go right back to work where you left off? Can you ignore the temptation to take a nap or clean the kitchen if your baby naps for four hours? Can your work accommodate being squeezed into whatever time you have available? And - the great unknown - will your baby take naps, by him or herself, or will you have the kind of baby who takes 20 minute naps, wants to be held and cries a lot otherwise? My advice is, give it a try, but don't count on it (i.e., have a backup plan if it doesn't work out). Fran

You ask how realistic it is to work at home with a newborn? Depends on many things: when you plan to start back to work, what kind of work you do, and what temperament your child has, to name a few.

First off, don't expect to do much of anything during at least the first 4-6 weeks of your baby's life. You'll be desperately short of sleep and your head will be spinning with all the adjustments you need to make.

After that, IF your baby has a good temperament (sleeps easily, no colic), you may be able to work for short stretches at a time, interrupted by a lot of feeding and diaper changing sessions. From the time my son (who is very good-natured) was about 6 weeks to the time he was 3 months, I was able to answer emails, prepare conference presentations, and other computer-related things with him on a nursing pillow in my lap, or for short stretches in a gymini or under a mobile on the floor of my office, and while he slept.

He's now 5 months, and it's getting harder. My husband is working at home one day, and I'm working at home (part time) 2 days a week, but we don't always get much done. The baby's sleeping less, and he's more demanding when he's awake (he very much wants to play interactively, he's reaching out for the keyboard when he's in my lap, etc.). It may get easier when he's older -- he's at a very frustrating phase of development, where he can't quite sit up independently or crawl, but he's aware that these are possibilities, and trying very hard to make them happen, without a lot of success (and with a lot of frustrated wailing). We're continuing as is for now, but I'm thinking of hiring a mother's helper -- a teenage babysitter to come and entertain the baby for a few hours in the afternoon/early evening of my days at home, to enable me to get a bit more done.

One other thing: I wouldn't have missed my days at home with him for the world, even if my work productivity has suffered a bit. Good luck! Karen

I did that a few days a week, until we had full-time childcare for my son around the age of 4 months. Unless we had a babysitter during the time I was working, I could not get an honest day's work done. But my son was a cat-napper: he never took long naps so I never had a long period without interruptions. You might try it out with your baby while on maternity leave and see how it goes. Fran

Depends on the baby, depends on what kind of work you do... I'm a grad student. I had a baby who needed to be held or in the sling most of the time. She hardly ever lay down for naps. I could read and (to a lesser extent) work on the computer, but talking on the phone would often wake her. She also didn't nap for long stretches, so I had to work sporadically, because she wasn't content to be still when she was awake. But I could sometimes nurse and read at the same time too... Hope that helps. Ilana

It was my fantasy to work at home, with my newborn at my side in a basket. It lasted 2 weeks (until she was 4 weeks old). The baby, who was not a difficult infant, moved alot, wanted cuddles (or maybe I wanted to offer them), and her schedule and my exhaustion made it too hard to pay attention to work and baby.

In retrospect, I wish I hadn't tried to work when my baby was so little, and had enjoyed more of the baby time and sleep time when it was available.

I'd recommend planning for some time, at least, when someone else can watch the baby (even if she's sleeping), so you can focus a bit and do some work. Good luck.

My baby is seven months old and I am now working fulltime, 2-3 days from home, but I have a babysitter here on those days. For the first three months after he was born, I had planned to reduce my work schedule to 10 hours a week, thinking I could do a subset of my work, such as answering email and fixing small bugs. I am a computer programmer for a research project, so all my work can be done at home and there is not much pressure with deadlines and releases as with an industry job. So I thought 10 hours would be just enough to keep the basics running for my job, and that I could easily fit it in when the baby was sleeping. This was my third child so I figured I knew what I was doing. Ha. It turned out that I was only able to get about 4 hours a week of work done. (But I am very efficient so it may have seemed like 10 hrs/wk to my boss!) It was mostly at night when my husband was home and the baby went to bed for his first stretch of nighttime sleep. I soon realized I needed a babysitter even for short tasks like reading email everday.

I have a very mellow baby, but those early days were filled with long stretches of feeding and rocking him, and many short naps. It was too hard to start working on a problem, get interrupted, and try to pick it back up hours (or days) later. Even if my Mom came over and I had an hour or two at a time, I found I was very low on energy from waking up too early and staying up too late and didn't have the focus or the desire to work on the computer. I also found that I was using spare time during the day to be with friends and family, in person and on the phone, partly sharing the happiness of the new baby but also because I was feeling lonely being at home all day without adult company.

I know it can be done because a couple we know who are both engineers are each working half time at home in shifts and doing it without a babysitter. But in my case, it did not work out at all! Ginger

With my baby it was absolutely impossible. I know it is hard to imagine, and I don't want to make it sound like you won't be able to do things that are important to you. It all depends on what your baby is like. My little guy was colicky into his fourth month, which meant we were constantly walking, bouncing, driving, and rocking him. He didn't sleep much, not nearly average. Many days one half-hour nap was all he slept, and boy, I tried to sleep then too. If I got my teeth brushed once a day, it was an accomplishment. Kim

I did freelance writing at home for a number of months, five of those months after my baby was born. Before he was born, I mistakenly thought I could continue work without a hitch. You didn't say what kind of work you and your husband would be doing at home, but one day out of the week sounds more doable than trying to work full time. My work had deadlines, so I managed to have my mom stay with us for the two weeks I had a lot of work. When my mom couldn't stay with us and I tried to do the work anyway, it was really tough. I had to be on the phone a lot, interviewing people, and had to schedule them while my son took his nap in his swing. At one point, I even did a phone interview while nursing (when I knew he'd be quiet). Otherwise, I did a lot of reading and writing while he was nursing and sleeping, and at some point managed to work on the computer while he slept in a baby sling. When my mom could no longer help us out and I still tried to work at home and take care of him, I nearly lost my mind. We finally did the sensible thing and found a day care provider. One final note, when I could hear him cry and my mom try to comfort him downstairs, it was extremely difficult to concentrate on my interviews and writing. Many days I couldn't get any work done when it was just me and my son, and I had to stay up late to catch up. It's a reality check, but I hope you and your husband are able to do it. Patty

I worked part of the time at home when I went back to my job when my son was 6 months old. What worked for me was having my 13-year-old cousin watch my child while I was in the other room 2-to 3 hours per day. That way I had dedicated time to make phone calls and do other tasks uninterrupted. (Nap time gives you time, too, but they're not predictable.) It worked for me because 1) I could do a lot of work by email ; 2) my job is quantifiable, so I could show that I was keeping up with the work load; 3) I have a great boss; 4) I could do work after hours after my son was asleep for the night. So, it can be realistic depending on the type of work that you do. If it is a lot of phone calling, forget it. But if you can be interrupted a lot and can finish up after hours, it can work. Helena

This may not help you much, but in my experience, it all depends on the baby. We have three kids, and I tried working from home when each of them was a newborn. It worked beautifully with one, but not well with the other two. It was, I think, a matter of individual temperament and sleep habits and not a function of birth order or my attitude or experience as a parent. It just so happened that my third baby slept many more hours a day than his older siblings, so I was able work effectively at home just as long as the older ones were at school or child care. Ricki

I had fantasies of working at home with my newborn. I quickly found that they were just that, fantasies. Taking care of a newborn is indeed a full time job. The lovelies need to be fed, rocked, or changed, seemingly every 15 minutes. And when they do sleep, you'll probably need to too. If misfortune has frowned on you and you are already an insomniac, you could possibly work at three hour stretches at night. It is also conceivable that if fortune smiles ever-so broadly on you and gives you a rare easy-going low maintenance baby, you could begin getting very minimal amounts of work done at 2 months. But when I consider the 20 babies in my mother's groups, I notice very few (1) who would afford you the time to even finish a phone conversation in the early months. My mother's groups agreed that if the newborn's primary caretaker got time to brush his/her teeth that was indeed a very good day! Our culture perpetuates a burden on parents when we maintain the myth that they can work and caretake at the same moment. My advice is to go slow on yourself and your babe, especially early on... if you have a day off work to be with him/her, do just that, be with him/her. Cuddle and coo but don't push a cursor. (What kind of work do you do? Loosely scheduled errands and lunches are all that might be possible.) If you must work while at home, you will most likely need a second person to help care for the babe--a grandparent or part time sitter. Of course as they grow, you do gain minimal time and personal freedom, especially if you actively teach them age-apropriate independence each step of the way. But still, until they are at least 8 months old, I wouldn't encourage you to even consider the ability to get serious work done. Newborns are helpless--you are their hands, legs, mirror, etc., etc.-- until they have basic motor control it's not nice to divide your time. Remember that many animals rely on others in their pack to hunt for them and their babes until the babes are old enough to at least play at hunting themselves. I do, however, strongly believe that resuming some kind of work as soon as you can (hopefully after at least 2 months w/ the child) is very good for your self esteem. It is also excellent that you and your spouse are planning on sharing as much as you can. FYI, my child is 16 months old. I am only now able to complete a project in his presence and it takes much more multitasking than I've ever imagined possible. Enjoy you new little one! Donna

I work at home, and started up again 8 days after my son's birth. In general, the first 3 months are the easiest, because your baby will sleep many hours. After that, I found it necessary to have a nanny at home to play with the baby. I have had great luck finding good nannies, and appreciate having their help with household tasks while the baby naps. During the first three months, I could work with the baby in a sling, but I must admit that it was difficult to get much done with nursing and diaper changes when the baby was awake. Some babies will hand out in a car seat or something when they are very young. Mine wouldn't -- my husband was also at home for the first few months, and were able to trade off many duties. Good luck to you! --Elisabeth

Working at home is a great option for new parents, **IF** you have childcare in your home while you are working. It's not clear from your post, but I'm afraid you may be considering working from home one day a week so that you can care for your son at the same time. If that's the case, I'd have to say that you are nurturing a total fantasy!

Working at home works beautifully if the following circumstances are met: a) Someone other than the working parent is on duty as a childcare provider b) Your home offers a private workspace, with a door that shuts securely c) The working parent can get used to not dashing out of the workspace to see what's going on any time his or her child cries.

That said, I work at home three days a week, and my husband telecommutes from home on the other two days. During my three workdays, we have a sitter; on my husbands two at-home workdays, I take care of our daughter. Since my husband and I each have our shared office to ourselves on our at-home work days, we can be very productive. If you're nursing your newborn, working from home will be heaven compared to dashing to the company bathroom to pump every few hours. Darcy