Working from home while raising a family

Whether it’s running a small business, freelancing, or becoming an “influencer,” more and more people are working online.

This has many advantages: there’s no commute, you can wear whatever you like, and you can spend your lunch breaks with friends and family.

Working online no commute

But while all this is true, it’s also true that working online creates some more fundamental changes for your lifestyle. It can completely change your relationship with work, your lifestyle, the way you handle money, and more.

This is never truer than when raising a family. As a new father of one, I’ve discovered that running an online business (or three) is a whole different ball game when you add kids into the mix.

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In this post, I’ll break down how to make the most of working online as a primary care giver, or as the main bread winner.

Working online for primary care givers

For stay-at-home Mums and Dads, or even single parents, earning money online is a very viable way to generate income in a flexible manner; to fit around the unpredictable demands of raising a child.

In fact, there are whole communities of parents who work online while also raising children and sites dedicated to finding that kind of work (like this one, or this one).

How viable is this really, though?

work online raising children

Realistically, as a single parent (or as the only stay-at-home parent), you will have about two or three hours during the day to yourself, and two to four hours in the evening after your child has gone to bed. Most babies will take two or three naps during their first year, while older toddlers reduce that amount to just a single nap. These naps last between 30 minutes, to two hours. Ideally, they’ll then go to bed at about 7.30pm, and stay there until 6am or 7am. (But sometimes it’s 3am.)

This adds up to around four to five hours of spare time most days. Remove your lunch break, and that’s roughly equivalent to a very short working day – especially if you also work one or two days of the weekend.

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So can you earn a full-time salary online while raising kids? Even as a single parent?

Perhaps. But there are a few glaring caveats:

  • You also need a life. You will need “down time” to watch TV, see friends, etc.
  • Life doesn’t stop: you also need to cook, clean the house, pay bills.
  • Then there are all the additional chores created by having a young child: cooking baby meals, cleaning bottles, disposing of nappies, cleaning inordinate amounts of clothes.
  • You are going to be exhausted all the time.
  • There will be nights they don’t sleep at all.
  • There will be times they refuse to go down for a nap and you spend 40 minutes bobbing and shushing.

Most difficult of all, is the simple fact that none of your time is “guaranteed.” You can never say with absolute certainty that you will be free during specific hours of the day. Even at 2am, you can’t be sure you’re safe!

This means that in reality, working a full-time job is going to be soul-destroying at best, and impossible at worst.

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But the good thing about working online, is that much of the work can scale to meet your available free time. For instance, if you’re working as a freelance copywriter, then you can take on as many clients and commit to as many words as you realistically have time for (leaving a generous buffer in case things go wrong!).

You can work “part time,” but that doesn’t necessarily have to incur a part-time salary.

Getting paid per unit (per word for example), or per project, is also a much better idea than being paid per hour. Again, your time is not guaranteed. But if you are completing a certain amount of work, then you can slot this into whatever opportunities arise. If you fall badly behind, you could even try working while a friend or relative comes to help out.

This flexibility is what ultimately makes working online such a great choice for primary care givers: especially married with the lack of commute or office.

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Better yet though, is to select a business model that doesn’t involve exchanging time for money, and that is enjoyable to work on.

Selling arts and crafts through a site like Etsy is a great way to make money online, as this is something relatively relaxing you can work on in front of the TV. Then all you need to do is handle fulfilment to ensure your buyers get their orders.

Passive income

The ultimate expression of this, is to create a source of passive income. Passive income is money that flows in even while you’re not working. For example, if you create a website and sell a digital download from there, you will earn money whenever someone clicks “buy.” That will continue to happen even while you sleep!

Working online at night

Most passive income business models take a long time to begin generating profit, so they may not be a viable option for single parents that badly need cash. If you have a partner who works though, this might be the perfect opportunity to work on a blog, an Instagram account, an app idea, or a reseller business. If it doesn’t take off, you won’t have lost anything. If it does, then it could significantly help with the financial burden of raising a child!

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And there’s another thing you may not have considered: just how much it can help psychologically to have a project to work on. With the best will in the world, raising a child can sometimes get monotonous. You love that little person to bits, but you also give up so much of your own life that the days can sometimes feel a little repetitive and you can even feel like you’ve lost some of your identity.

Having something of your own to work on is, for many, the perfect antidote for this!

Of course, all of this becomes even more challenging if you have more than one child. Though nursery and school will help take the pressure off just a little.

Working from home with a family

But what about the other parent? What about the Mum or Dad who goes to work while their partner looks after the kids?

This is the boat I find myself in, and in many ways, it is a wonderful boat to be in. It is a yacht.

Because I don’t have a commute, I am able to spend the morning with my daughter. I get her ready for the day, feed her, and play with her from 6.30am to 8.30am (at which point I go and get showered). I then get to eat lunch as a family, and clock off at exactly 5.15pm (it works for me).

Thriving in the Gig Economy

This takes some of the pressure off my wife (I hope), who at least gets something of a slow start to her day while I take care of the little one. More importantly, I get so much more quality time with my child than 99% of the Dads I know. Many fathers struggle to get home to see their children before bed and get zero time with them in the mornings or afternoon. Whereas they feel lucky to get one hour of quality time, I get at least four!

Which is amazing.

But it’s also really hard. Shutting myself away in an office while I hear my wife and child having fun downstairs can feel especially lonely (headphones help). Worse, is when I hear things going wrong and know that my wife is probably wishing there was someone available to help.

Also read: What is the gig economy? Why the future of work is online

And then there are the times I do help. Because as much as we try to be strict, it’s inevitable when there will be times things go wrong. Maybe my wife gets sick. Maybe she has been trying for over an hour to get the baby to sleep and is so desperate she turns to me.

Maybe there’s a doctor’s appointment. Maybe she says a new word and I’m called down to come and see.

I want to be available to help, and it’s human nature that sometimes they’ll call on me. And it’s wonderful.

But as a result, I’m constantly being dragged away from my work, losing my “flow,” and falling behind.

Then there’s the guilt you feel when you need to work late. It happens from time to time – even when you’re self-employed – and especially because of the reasons I mentioned above.

Back in the day, I would occasionally catch up on work by working late into the night. That’s not really an option any more, given that I’ll often be working at 3am or 4am!

My advice

I wanted to write about this, because I feel it’s a perspective that isn’t touched on all that often: how modern technology and workflows are affecting family dynamics, even for those that still work 9-5.

Business calls working online

I don’t have any particular solutions to these issues though. It’s something I’m still working through myself right now.

Some things that can help:

  • Be as strict as possible with your working hours and as productive as you can be during that time.
  • Assume you are going to lose an hour of your day!
  • Be realistic about what you can accomplish.
  • Occasionally head out for a coffee shop or library.
  • Structure your business model to be as flexible as possible – again, passive income and getting paid per project or unit is preferable!
  • Divide your work into things that require 100% attention, and things that you can do while
  • Identify times where you can catch up on unfinished work – for example by
  • If you have lots of clients and you’re falling behind with one or the other, you have the option of taking “holiday” from them in order to focus solely on other jobs.
  • Be strict with your actual It’s not paid after all!

The other consideration for those living this lifestyle, is just how much more pressure you’ll feel as a parent to make sure you keep bringing in money. It’s no longer just the two of you: there is a little person here now who is 100% reliant on your ability to provide for them.

Keep in mind that your happiness is equally important for them though. And I have always believed that being self-employed is in some ways actually more reliable in terms of generating a steady income as compared with working for someone else. After all, if you have 20 different clients, they aren’t all going to go broke at once! (Right?)

Working online in coffee shop

But do keep in mind that all the responsibility now lays firmly on your shoulders. It’s a very specific kind of pressure, and you need to be ready for it.

But at the same time: this is only for a short period of your life (what are a few years in the grand scheme of things before all your kids are at school?). And in the meantime, you’ll be able to share more of those amazing moments watching them grow up.

It’s a tough life, and for now it’s a fairly rare one. But it has the potential to be something quite wonderful.

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