Ah, maternity leave — that magical six weeks of paid time to breastfeed and bond with your newborn. Nice benefit, if you can get it. Better still are the additional four to six weeks of paid paternity leave for which dads can file. Back to back, you can manage to have parental in-home care for your infant for up to three or four months. If that sounds like too little a block of dedicated time, that’s because it is. The first four months with a new baby are a sleepless, nerve-fraying, shower-sneaking, barely eating blur for many first-time parents. If any of them are like me, they barely feel they’ve had time to make an emotional, enjoyable connection to their baby in that brief a time. They’re too consumed with the need-meeting, the task-sharing, the so-milk-laden-breast-wringing. Truth is, sometimes, parenthood doesn’t begin to get awesome until four to six months in. If by then, it’s time to go back to work from 9-5, a parent can feel like she’s really being cheated.

It makes sense, then, that more parents are opting to scrap the office grind altogether and are finding ways to integrate their work life into their home life, rather than the other way around. Sheryl Nance-Nash of Forbes.com profiles four families who’ve decided to make the shift, and while she’s quick to add that this doesn’t exactly mark a national trend just yet, it’s a concept that’s gaining appeal as the demands of office work increase and time at home with the children decreases.

She adds that the decision isn’t purely emotional. Some parents are making the shift out of necessity.

For some, maybe there is no job to go back to, as companies go out of business or downsize. Others feel vulnerable in this economy and want some sense of control, even if it means starting a business in these uncertain times. For all the talk about work-life balance, in many workplaces, it’s still more myth than reality, or real, but costly in terms of career trajectory. It’s not my imagination. In The Career Cost of Family, Harvard economics professors Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz write, “Some female MBAs with children, especially those with high earning husbands, find the trade-offs so steep and leave or engage in self-employment.”

Then, too, nostalgia is in the air. Some people are craving a time when family really meant something and they made a living as a farmer or sold homemade goods at the market. They made a living, but not a killing, and everybody was seemingly happier. Much of the family somehow contributed to the business, too.

I can certainly attest to the necessity, if not the nostalgia. As an adjunct professor whose course load and income fluctuates semester to semester, working a second job from home has been a must, as was starting a business. The endeavor affords me time with my toddler, saves in child care costs, and provides a much-needed second stream of income. A quick cost-benefit analysis tells me working 9-5 wouldn’t be worth the time away from home during these critical years of my daughter’s early childhood development, since I’d spend a great deal of what I’d make paying someone else to raise her. And it’s likely I’d be taking a job about which I’m not as passionate or invested as I am with teaching or writing.

Working from home with a small child is difficult — next to impossible without spousal or family support — but as Nance-Nash’s article asserts, with the right caretaking partnership in place, the decision to opt out of returning to work can be the best one for all involved.

Would you work from home or start a business  to spend more time with an infant or toddler? If you intend to have children, is the stay-at-home mom thing for you?

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  • Me

    Neither sounds easier than the other to me. Kudos to entrepreneurs, but for me that always means trading an 8-10 hr workday for a 24-hr workday (and I already hate working 8 hours, but let me not rant about that). There’s no getting around the fact that working means sacrificing time with your children/spouse/friends/aging parents/whoever. We have a work from home option at my job, which I love, but my only responsibility at the moment is me. For my co-workers who do have kids spouses, or older parents that they provide care for, and work from home, you can tell the difference in their performance when they’re away from the office. Kids et al require/want attention. Your job (wherever it takes place, and whoever the boss is) does too.

    It’s a tradeoff either way, but given the option, I’d choose no commute over any commute anyday. So, I’d go for the work from home mom as my 1st choice, work at work mom: 2nd choice, and if I really get to the point that I have something so innovative and worthwhile to offer that I prefer not to just work for a company that already offers it, I’d be a start my own company (but would likely rent an office and hire a part-time nanny to give my startup the dedication that such an endeavor would deserve from a perfectionist) mom.

    • Kam

      You should read the book the Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris. It’s all about how you can cut the time that you work so that you’re working smarter and not longer.

    • Me

      Thanks Kam, I’ll check it out. I will say though that I hope it’s not one of those “if you’re doing what you love, it’s not work” books. I’m part of the “if someone is paying you to do it, it’s work, and you still have to answer to somebody if you want that money” camp. My ultimate goal is to have enough money in the bank to not have to do anything all day but pursue my hobbies on my schedule–paychecks be damned.

    • Kam

      Lol, it’s a “Make everybody work for you” type of book.

  • Kam

    I’m actually working at home right now for the summer as a Google Rater. You can find lots of work at home jobs on various forums like Wahm.com or whydowork.com. They are out there. Ivetriedthat.com also has a list of work from home jobs that you can get for 7 bucks. I highly recommend it. You can also make money on Fiverr and craigslist. If you can make things try Etsy or you can sell things using Shopify. Point is there are lot of opportunities out there. What holds people back most is fear.
    Try reading books like the 100 Dollar Startup to find ways you can start businesses without much capital. I would totally be a stay at home mom, or work at home mom, as long as I could provide financially for my family. I personally do not want my kids educated by the standard American education system.

  • Kam God bless you for this list. I recently resigned from my very stressful bank job to join my hubby abroad after i had so well managed a clothing label i founded last year. It hasnt been easy finding buyers in this highly black populated city n ive been considering selling online in addition to my facebook page. I was about trying esty when i read your comment. Im going to go all out n make this work. Thx again and pls keep the positive energy on. :). And y’all if u want beautiful n trendy african inspired attires fr cheap prices, lemme know. : )

    • Kam

      Ooh you got African attire? Got a website? I’m in the market for it.

  • latifah

    I’m a bit surprised to see that you american woman get only 6 weeks of maternity leave.. Here in the province of Quebec in Canada, we get 1 year… I now see that we’re really lucky..

    • Canadiana

      I was about to say the same thing. In Ontario (Canada) its also 1 year.

    • i was going to comment the same thing! i couldn’t imagine having to go back to work just after your body has healed and bonding has begun!!!!

  • MK

    it is sad that here in America we only get six weeks, in my home country we get three months and like another user commented, in Canada they get a full year, I know this because my sister in law got 1 year after she gave birth to my niece.