The good, the bad and the ugly of being a work from home dad
I have seen many posts around the internet about being a stay-at-home dad (SAHD), but none about dads who works from home either as a blogger or as something else. Me, I am a remote employee for a NASDAQ traded company. The work I do as a work from home dad is very fulfilling, as I help nonprofits every day in the work that I do. I have found over the years that what I do is typically more than a 9-to-5 job where I find myself working well beyond the 5 o’clock mark for various clients I have who are nonprofits to meet deadlines on either a fundraising website or email communications platform so that nonprofits can share their missions with their supporters.
Working these sorts of hours got me thinking lately. In what ways am I blessed and in what ways do I differ from the normal commuter parent. I realize I am more fortunate than most that my company can be based on the other side of the United States and I am here in Reno, NV. However, being at home has its drawbacks among many advantages. Just like any employment position.
Here are a couple of advantages and drawbacks that I want to confess where it rocks to be a work from home dad and some ways things could be different as a work from home dad.
Ways that this gig, being a work from home dad, rocks!
- Commute time.
My commute is about 1 minute from the top of the stairs to the bottom and into my dedicated office space in my home; unless the dogs or kids are between me and the office, then I consider that to be rush hour at 1 minute 30 seconds.
- Dogs at my side.
I have my dogs at my side every day and they are great companions to have at my side as I meet with clients over a WebEx screen share and conference phone calls. There is a drawback, however, and I will mention it here while I am on the topic. When they fart… I could do away with catching a waft of their flatulence. They also snore a lot, but that doesn’t bother me as much as their air buscuits. But overall, it is an advantage, hands down.
- Break for a siesta.
I can take a break in the middle of the day and come back to my work later that night… a siesta, if you will, to run an errand, go to a dentist or doctor’s appointment, etc.
- Break for “honey-dos”.
I can break from work, mow my lawn, clean a bathroom, change the laundry, etc. and get back to work once those “honey-dos” are completed.
- Time of day to go to the store.
I can run to the store at an off-peak hour to avoid crowded stores for things like milk, dog food, etc.
- Dress code.
I can work in whatever clothes I want to wear and no one would be the wiser. For me, it is typically shorts or jeans and a button up t-shirt or regular t-shirt.
- Bus stop adventures.
I can take a break and walk my kids to the bus stop and pick my kids up from the bus stop and be there for my kids.
- Multi-tasking on personal and work tasks.
I can multi-task like a mad man on personal things as well as work on my job-related things at the same time and no boss will see over my shoulder or micromanage me since I am remote; as long as my work is on-time and on-budget, things are all good with my supervisors.
- Pandora Radio for the win!
I can listen to any music I want as loud as it needs to be to get me pumped while working on my tasks at hand
- Coffee shop office hours.
I can take my laptop, go to a local business and work from there, any time I want (not that I ever have though because my desktop monitors are so large that it helps me get my work done much easier than looking at a laptop screen). Staring at a computer screen all day can do a number on your eyes after a while and that is why I insist on very large monitors so that my eyes don’t strain as much.
- There’s a restaurant in my house.
Lunch is always on the other side of the wall to my office and I can cook anything I want without having to pack a lunch every day.
- Time with my kids.
I get to see my kids from the minute they wake up and go to school until they get off the bus getting home from school.
- Sick kiddos means I still can get work done.
If a kid is sick, I can keep on working while they are resting in the other room.
- Soccer dads unite!
If a kid has an appointment or an extracurricular activity like soccer or gymnastics, I can stop what I am doing, pick them up, drop them off or wait until practice is over and return to work later that evening to finish what needs to get finished.
- Does this thing get UHF?
If I wanted to, but I really don’t, I could leave the TV on in the background to catch up on the news or a TV show while working.
- I can steal a car in GTA V (for those not in the know, GTA stands for Grand Theft Auto and this is a video game).
If work is slow, I have other things to entertain me like video games, TV or even working on a blog or website.
- My home office. My own hours.
I can choose when I am on the clock, unless there is a meeting with a client, to get administrative or client background tasks completed as long as I have 40 or more hours logged for the week.
- It’s so cozy in here.
I get to choose the temperature of my office environment. For some it can be too cold or hot while working in an office environment and those people have no control over it other than to bring a fan or sweater to work. Me, on the other hand, I have full control over my thermostat and I can keep it the temperature I want at all times.
- “We’ll be there between 10AM and 5PM” says the cable guy.
If I have a maintenance worker or installation of something scheduled, I can schedule it at any time of the day as I will be there working while someone installs cable or repairs a refrigerator, etc. No stressing over when a person is going to show up and taking a day off of work for it.Source: GIPHY
- I feel so zen about this whole thing.
Work-life balance is almost complete with all things where the minute I am done working, I am then engulfed in family time.
Some areas where being a work from home dad falls short
- “Hello? Is it me you’re looking for” – Lionel Richie.
First, I have to admit, working from home is very isolating. I don’t see people face-to-face that often. Although, I do have adult conversations during my WebEx conference call meetings, but it is not that face-to-face water cooler chit chat. You know the kind that builds trust with colleagues and clients alike. I do “jelly bean” at the beginning of my conference calls, but that is to wait for everyone to join as well as melt the ice before the meat and potatoes of the call begin. My friends nearby, geographically, see me as somewhat of a hermit at times. I find that I often have to work hard at my interpersonal relationships outside of work because I don’t venture out of the house much. Often, I can go a week or two without getting out of the house for anything other than shopping for groceries.Source: GIPHY
- I just love my wife so much.
I rely on my wife for face-to-face interactions. Much more than I should. She is my saving grace in working from home and my recreational outlet. My muse on all things in life when I should rely on friendships with others as well.
- “He always gets that way when he’s writing” – Stand By Me.
When 5 o’clock comes rolling around and I am still glued to my computer due to a deadline, because I have glass French doors to my office, I feel like my wife and kids are staring at me waiting for me to get off my computer and turn it off. It is like that scene, in the movie “Stand By Me” at the end when the kid says, “he always gets like that when he’s writing.” I feel that I get so engrossed in my work it is 6, 7 or 8:00PM at night before I realize I am still working. Maybe it is because I love my job so much or maybe because of my deadlines, but I tend to almost always work past 5 o’clock and not realize it without getting a nudge from my kids or wife that I have been working much later than I should. Speaking of “Stand By Me” it is my favorite movie of all time, so here are a couple great quotes from that movie, just because. Please be advised, there is some adult language ahead in this video.
- You get a snow day, you get a snow day, you don’t get a snow day.
There is never a snow day or day off due to inclement weather. I am always there, rain or shine for my clients.
- I’m not here. You never saw me.
My kids don’t realize when I am working and come into my office and start talking to me when I am on the phone with a client, even if it is past 8AM (the time I start work each day). They also don’t realize when I am still working in the evenings. I find myself saying, and it nearly breaks my heart when I do, “I am at work. I am not here. Go ask you mother.” Even when I don’t know what the question is. It hurts to say to my kid, I haven’t stared my fictitious car to drive home yet from work. Of all of the drawbacks of working from home, this has to be among my top drawbacks.
- “Work, work, work, work, work.” – Rhianna.
The work is always there. There is no turning things off and leaving the work to be done the next day. The work is always there and I can always go back to it. With my personality, I find myself always working until things are done and not putting it off until the next day if I can. Maybe it is because I fear being let go and that motivates me to give my boss every reason not to let me go or maybe it is my powerful work ethic that I saw in my own father than I am emulating, but I can’t leave things unfinished and fight to keep going until the tasks at hand are done.
- You’re, like, such a burn out, man.
Burn out can happen very quickly if you work from home and aren’t careful. As mentioned above, the work is always there. As such, there is a temptation to burn the midnight oil, literally. I have been known to work past midnight on several occasions when a deadline is lingering. Productivity can turn into challenge and further disdain if one isn’t careful and paces themselves when working from home.
- There’s refreshments?
When the home office, for me it is in Charleston, South Carolina and Austin, Texas have a meeting and there is food, and/or if it is a meeting right up until 5 o’clock locally, and afterwards there are drinks offered by the company, we remote employees are left to our own food without any consideration that we might want to get some food or drinks on the company’s dime as well and feel like we are appreciated as employees. There might be other companies out there that do reimburse for these things, but through 5 years on the job, most of these meetings are something where remote employees (remotes) are just that, remote and really not given consideration to join in on the refreshments offered, even in a virtual capacity of expensing food during or after the meeting to share in the goodies offered by the company to those who are on-location and in attendance for the meeting.
- See that corporate ladder over there? It’s not for you unless you move over there.
Promotions and advancement opportunities are very few. If you are out of sight, you are also out of mind when it comes to those considered for promotions or advancement or even an open position. I admit that not all companies might be this way, but most of the managerial positions in my company are held by those who are on-location and not remote. It is difficult to compete with someone who can attend a meeting in-person because facial expressions, interpersonal relationships are often stronger in-person than they are in a remote capacity. Here is a good article on the topic for anyone else reading who is a work from home dad.
- “Everyone get down with the sickness.”- Disturbed.
When one or more of my children are sick, even a small child, I am on the hook for being there to pick them up from school or being there while they are sick, even while I am still “at work”. This is a tough one for me. Even though I have a lot of sick/vacation/PTO time available working for my company (seriously, I have never seen as much leave as this company provides for even new employees and it is one of the reasons I love working where I do), I find that I can’t claim a sick day out of the blue because of pre-scheduled meetings that if I were to take one, I would fall behind on project deadlines and deliverables. I really like the fact that I can be there, don’t get me wrong, for my children, but being there when anyone is sick is often a job in itself when checking in on them to make sure they are drinking enough water, aren’t face-down and not breathing (I am just exaggerating here, but really, I need to be there checking in on them while working) and are resting instead of watching their iPad or playing with toys or video games. Keeping their volume down while I am on a conference call is often a challenge too.
- Wake-y, wake-y, eggs and bake-y.
My commute is so short, I can’t mentally get ready for my day quick enough. I am a person who needs to amp up for work. To get my mind in the game and think about my meetings I am going to have during the day and how I am going to manage my daily tasks. My commute is often so short that I find my brain just waking up during my earlier calls in the day.
- I had better build an ark for this flood of emails.
This may or may not be a work from home thing, but it is worth mentioning, as my company is a worldwide company, with employees in Australia, England, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Chicago, Austin, San Diego, and remote employees sprinkled everywhere in between, work never really ends and emails come in as early as 5AM and I find more than 20-50 emails each day in my inbox to sift through when starting my day. I am sure it isn’t as bad for remotes living on the east coast, but for me, being on the west coast, I find myself catching up every day with email before I technically start at 8AM. I also find myself checking my emails before I begin work each day to get ahead on the deluge of emails that come in through the day. On the flip side, however, around 2PM on the west coast, emails tend to die down where I can get work done, so this one is both a positive and a negative when you walk away from looking at it closely.
- Did you get your chores done before you went out to play?
If you are not disciplined enough, you can get caught up in the time you can take to yourself during the day and not get the work done you need to get done. With the TV in the other room or for some, in the same room, or the ability to go grab a bite to eat that could be a 2 hour or more affair, if a remote employee isn’t disciplined, you can get caught up in all of those things and not get your work done on time or on budget. I am glad I have this discipline, but it is always something that can creep up on a remote employee if they aren’t careful.
- They’re so close I can practically reach them.
Family time can be a huge draw to working at home, but you can miss a lot, even while in the next room. Just as I mentioned above, when 5 o’clock comes around, I find myself working well beyond that time. My family could be having a good time without me, making dinner, eating dinner, or playing in our backyard or more and I might not be aware of what is going on and miss important opportunities to bond with my wife and kids. It is really stressful knowing that they are there and I can’t do much about it with deadlines looming and I am so close to everything yet so far away from it all while it is happening.
- Excuse me, did you see me here trying to work?
Having an office means I can close the door, however, family members can just walk in or pile things in my office space, like mail on my desk. It can be a challenge to keep things organized when things like that happen. Also, when a family member comes into the space, even if I am doing tasks and not interfacing with clients, it can be disruptive when they are shuffling things around or nearby making noise and making it difficult to concentrate.
- Job description includes cleaning toilets and mowing the lawn. Are you good with that?
Being responsible for chores while working is often a challenge. Working remote as a work from home dad means that I am responsible for my own bathrooms, floors, etc. I don’t have a night janitor to vacuum, clean toilets etc. Also, I am not reimbursed for any kind of housekeeper expense, although it may be a write off, so that means, I am taking up time I could be working cleaning things during the day or during the weekends that get heavier use than if I were in an office out of the house.
- “I wish this old train would break down, so that I can take a walk around.” – Jack Johnson.
To add to the thought above, the wear and tear on things like air conditioning, toilets, water faucets, etc. and other things around the house is much more than if I were in an office as well because I am using these things throughout the day rather than only when home in the evenings and on weekends. That means that I will be replacing or fixing these items sooner than when working out of the house in an office. So, as a part of my taxes, I make it a point to write off the dedicated office space and portion of the utilities that I use while working, as those are not reimbursed by my company as well.
- “Coffee’s for closers” – Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross.
It may seem like this is inferred from the discussion above about meetings and food, but really, most offices supply coffee, breakfast at times and much more for their employees to use during the day. I must supply my own. Sure, I get to pick what I want, but I must pay for these things if I want them while working remote as a work from home dad.
- “Have you seen my stapler?” – Office Space.
Computer equipment. Computer equipment, a laptop and cell phone were provided when I started with my company 5 years ago, but things like USB keyboards and USB mice (I think that would be its plural there) were not. The company only provides basic mice and not good/quality ones, so I am on my own for these items if I want to have a good one like this Logitech MX510 I use every day. I am sure this is the same for those who work in an office environment as well. But it is something that I call a drawback, supplying all of my other equipment like computer monitors that are not on an approved list, mice, wrist rests for keyboards, etc.
- “McFly, you bozo. Those boards don’t work on water, unless you’ve got power!” – Back to the Future Part II.
Phone and other utilities. I briefly mentioned this during my comments about wear and tear on the house as a work from home dad but no utilities are reimbursed from phone, to water to electricity. They are tax write-offs, sure, but not reimbursed by my company. For other companies, that might be the case, but for mine, they aren’t. I often get notices from Nevada Power about how much my household is above the average for this area, but if only they knew I worked from home, I likely wouldn’t see them.
I am sure my list isn’t completely comprehensive on the advantages and drawbacks of being a work from home dad, but for those considering a remote position, I have to say it takes a lot of discipline and patience to be a work from home dad and I wanted to remain balanced in this discussion so as not give one side more credit than the other. Some of these might be great reasons to work from home dad.
For some other dads out there, this write up might perhaps, help you reconsider a position, but I ultimately hope to help you make an informed decision on whether to take a remote position while raising your children.
For me, I am absolutely in love with my day job. I love what I do and I love how I get to work with nonprofits every day, especially from Reno, Nevada since the nonprofit industry here isn’t as robust as say Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin or even Washington, DC, but I get to work with each of those organizations in those locations and beyond. I love being able to stop work in the middle of the day, take care of what needs to be taken care of personally and then being able to go back to work later on in the day. Sure, I don’t like that I never get a snow day, yet get to shovel snow and watch my kids while they have their snow day, but overall the perks, for me anyway, far outweigh the drawbacks of being a work from home dad.
I find that my work-life balance, like all things in life, is something I should always consider, but, at the moment, it is perfect and what fits for me and my family. What about you? Are you considering a remote position with a company? Have you considered these advantages and drawbacks yourself? What did I miss, if anything, that would make this list stronger? I’d love to hear from you about it. Let’s start a discussion about this topic. Thanks for stopping by.