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Work from home jobs for women may seem like a panacea for working mothers, but evaluate whether it is right for your situation.
By Aparna V. Singh
Once upon a time, you either commuted to your workplace and worked 9 to 5, or you stayed a homemaker. There was no possibility of dipping into both worlds. Today, technology allows for many jobs to be performed from remote locations and ‘work from home’ is one of the flexible work formats becoming popular. Whether as an arrangement with your employer, or as a self-employed woman working from home, it makes sense especially for people with young children or the elderly to care for.
And let’s face it – most of this care-giving is usually done by women, which is why working from home is especially attractive to working mothers in India. But, is a work from home arrangement suitable for all working mothers? Here are a few things to think about before you furnish your home office!
One of the major reasons that working mothers in India choose a work from home arrangement is because there are young children that need constant attention. Yet, working from home can sometimes defeat both purposes!
If you have elderly parents or in-laws living with you, do they understand that working from home does not fundamentally change the nature of your work?
If an important report needs to be handed in by 3 o’clock and an irritable 2-year old is clinging to your legs, you may end up both yelling at the child and doing a sub-standard job on the report. It’s important therefore to not think of yourself as being completely available to your child simply because you are at home. Every work from home deal needs one adult – a grandparent or nanny, for example, who can ensure that young children’s basic needs are taken care of.
If no such adult is available, other options could include working during the child’s nap times (or school time, for slightly older children) or in the evening when your spouse is at home, or even at night or during weekends. This of course works only for jobs that do not require your presence at specific times of the day; even in that case, you may not be able to accomplish as much as you would in an 8-hour day at office.
Jaya Narayan, 36, a Bangalore-based freelance HR consultant (and a regular writer for Women’s Web) considers that having a distinct space to work, “physically away from the action in the house” is the first requirement for a working mother in India.
Since many working mothers in India live in extended or even joint families, it is important to have the family’s support. If you have elderly parents or in-laws living with you, do they understand that a work from home option does not fundamentally change the nature of your work? That what you are doing is not a ‘hobby’ but work that needs serious commitment?
If your family believes that your being at home is primarily to be a better homemaker, they may constantly interrupt you during your work or fail to give you the privacy you need. Unless you can get them to understand that you are still a working person (although with a little more flexibility than a formal workplace offers), you may be better off working outside the home!
Savitra Rajan*, 41, New Delhi based independent videographer, tried to set up a small studio at home but eventually changed her mind about it and coughed up for rented premises. She says, “My in-laws, while sweet and helpful, belong to the older generation which believes that a woman’s first priority should be her home and family. They would constantly knock on my door to discuss even simple issues that could have been taken care of later. Since my children are 12 and 10, and largely able to take care of themselves once they return from school, I decided that paying rent for a small studio was worth the resulting gain in productivity.” In fact, Savitri feels that working outside the home, she is able to focus on her work, complete it faster and spend more quality time with her children.
Some people thrive on the camaraderie of an office – the shared lunches, the networking, the team meetings and brainstorming together. If you fall into this category, a home office may be depressing. Working alone day after day, with no one but your family to talk to, may dry up your powers of thought and creativity.
Working alone day after day, with no one but your family to talk to, may dry up your powers of thought and creativity.
If the needs of your child make a work from home option imperative, you could consider building in at least one day a week where you go in to office and your spouse works from home, or the child stays with another responsible adult. (While working from home is still largely used by women, a small number of employers are beginning to offer it to men as well). You could also network online, or if you are self-employed, join local business groups that you could meet up with occasionally.
In short, work from home jobs for women may sound great, but is not ideal for every working mother. Think through your career goals as well as family needs before you decide to try it out!
* Name changed on request
Founder, Editor of Women's Web, Aparna believes in the power of ideas and conversations
Very thoughtful article. At this moment I am a WAHM (Work at home mum). I face often the challenge of meeting deadline and daughter asking help for homework at same time. No I am not in a joint family but I do feel irksome at times when I am taken for granted to do the repetitive housework by my husband who used to share it half and half when I went out for work. I do earn a lot less, and a background noise continues in my mind that my market value as a bench scientist is getting lesser each day I am staying more at home. Though I do enjoy working in pyjamas but whole day of work with no colleague to talk with makes life very boring sometimes. But it is off course better situation than not working at all. And when I see the working mum around me fighting hard to make all the ends meet, I feel life is never fair!
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