No work situation suits a Must-Have Parent quite like working from home.
I should know. I've been working from home since I became a parent 10 years ago.
Our lives are unpredictable. Erratic. Ever changing.
We have to be able to respond to every situation that might arise with our children, which makes it hard for us to commit to sitting in an office all day.
We take our children to every doctor's appointment and sports practice. We're on duty for all of the teacher's conferences and school holidays. When a pair of shorts gets ripped during P.E. class, we're the ones to rush another pair to school.
In our households, if someone has to be home to meet the cable guy -- it's us. Always us. Just sitting there, waiting, from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., never quite sure when he'll actually show.
(3:45 p.m., by the way. He always shows up right as you're calling the cable company to complain that he didn't come.)
We also want to be flexible with our spouses' schedules, which tend to not be very flexible. We want to take vacations when our spouse can take a break.
We don't want to be bad employees, so we seek out arrangements that will grant us the flexibility we need so we can do all the other life stuff that we have to do.
Mary Matalin, who spent two years as an assistant to President G.W. Bush before stepping down to spend more time with her daughters, once wrote: "Having control over your schedule is the only way that women who want to have a career and a family can make it work."
Work from home: It's the holy grail for MHPs.
It's also kind of B.S., it turns out.
Socialbakers, a company that specializes in social media analytics, developed an app to let businesses find and get rid of their fake social media followers. Business don't want fake followers, you see. They want real people who not only like -- but will actually buy -- their products. To screen out the phonies, Socialbakers looks for several things, including the number of friends and followers the person has and the number of Tweets they send out. But they also look for this:
"They repeat spam phrases like "diet," "make money" and "work from home."
That's right. "Work from home" is right up there with "diet" on the fake scale. Scammers try to tempt you with work-from-home promises like they're Nigerian princes offering magical diets that will shrink your thighs and enlarge your penis -- whether you have a penis or not.
When you type "work from home" into Google, the word "scam" pops up as a suggested query term, right after the words "call center."
And lots of work-from-home so-called jobs really are scams, so many that hundreds of news articles and blog posts have been written with tips for how to spot the scams and not fall for them, like these red flags offered by The Work At Home Woman blog:
- Vague job descriptions
- Lack of contact information
- High payouts with little or no work
- Poor ratings on the Better Business Bureau website
- Deceptive marketing and advertising practices
- Boasting fake affiliations and partnerships
- Negative reviews
- Too-good-to-be-true offers
But that doesn't mean all work-at-home opportunities are fake. When I conducted an informal survey of my Facebook friends, I got 35 responses in less than 24 hours from friends who say they work from home doing very real jobs than vary from television producer to energy analyst to radio ad sales -- and most everything in between.
The key -- a few private messaged me to say -- was that they had to negotiate for the ability to work from home; it was not offered to them by their employers.
And, of course, I work from home -- and I know that my job is real.
Still, many jobs advertised as being home-based can be a little disheartening to consider, especially for an MHP who previously excelled in a professional career.
This Kiplinger's story about "10 Great Work-at-Home Jobs" features opportunities that many would not really consider "great":
But again, all hope is not lost. The world, even the corporate world, is changing. Employers are seeing that employees who control their own schedules are often more, not less, productive because they're willing to work nights and weekends just so they can catch that school play or nurse that sick kid back to health.
The president of Power To Fly, a global platform matching women with highly skilled positions that they can do from home, was the darling of all social media last week when she said in Fortune Magazine that she now, as a mother, sees where she previously treated mothers unfairly as a boss. Her words went viral probably because so many mothers felt vindicated by her message.
With platforms like Power to Fly being created, it's likely we'll only see more -- real -- work from home jobs in the future, and more MHPs finding ways to meet their families' needs. And earn a paycheck.
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