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Childcare and Telecommuting

The following is excerpted with permission from All Moms Work: Short-term Career Strategies for Long-range Success by Sharon Reed Abboud (Capital Books, www.capital-books.com).

You may or may not be able to avoid paying for daycare if you are a telecommuter. Many companies require that another person is present and responsible for your child’s care if that child is a baby or preschooler. You may need to hire a nanny, au pair, etc., to help you with your child while you’re working. Why? In most jobs, it’s impossible to focus attention on your work if you’re trying to simultaneously work and care for your child. It isn’t fair to your employer or your child. You cannot maintain professional credibility if your baby has a melt down in the background while you’re talking to a client.

Kathleen J. Wu, a Dallas, TX, lawyer/partner and expert on issues facing women in the workplace, said it’s “absolutely” essential for telecommuters to have childcare while they’re working at home. “You can’t think with screaming kids in the background,” Wu said. “If you’ve ever tried to make a phone call with your kids in the house, you know this already. They could ignore you all day, but the minute you get on the phone, they have a crisis they absolutely must talk to you about. Besides, SpongeBob just isn’t a very good babysitter.”

At-Home Care

Most moms are okay with having on-site childcare because they enjoy working at home. The child’s caregiver can bring the baby to them for a feeding, and the mom can take breaks to spend time with their child. The best part is being able to observe the interaction between the child and the caregiver to see if it’s an optimal relationship. You may be able to hire a caregiver who also does housework, eliminating some of those chores for you and your spouse. Other moms choose to put their child or children in daycare.

If you’re telecommuting part-time, you may be able to schedule your work around naps and your spouse’s schedule, depending upon the particular job and your child. Some children nap at predictable times—others are like the “Energizer Bunny” and take brief naps whenever. But what happens if your normally predictable child wakes up during a conference call? For this reason, most moms seek childcare for children under five or six.

Older Children

Telecommuting is a good option for moms with older children, according to Kellyanne Conway, president and CEO of The Polling Company/WomanTrend, based in Washington, DC and NYC.

“Telecommuting is not just for the new mom or the women whose children are in the pre-K tender-age range,” Conway said. “We have witnessed an increase in the number of women whose pre-teen and teenage children seem to need or desire a more direct and regular maternal presence during those at-risk hours between 3 and 6 p.m. structure their days to accommodate this.”

Split Shifts

Moms with school-age children might be able to telecommute without hiring childcare. Many stay-at-home career moms work during the hours that their children are in school. Some moms might work a later shift after their spouse returns home and takes over the supervision of the children; this often works well with telecommuters who interact with clients in other time zones. As a telecommuter, you may be able to arrange your workload so that you can attend school activities or work at home if your child is ill.

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