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Could you handle being a work-at-home parent?

Sarah Caron is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and editor. She lives with her wonderful husband, two adorable kids and two funny beagles. Check out her food blog at Sarah's Cucina Bella.

The truth about working at home

It sounds like the ideal situation -- working and being home with the kids all at once. But not everyone is cut out for the special challenges that come with being a work-at-home parent. Could you handle it?

work at home mom with daughter

Working from home sounds like a dream. You can get up whenever you want, don't have to get fancied up and can make yourself a delicious homemade lunch every single day. Except that isn't exactly reality.

Actually, working from your house, as opposed to an office, is challenging -- especially when you add kids into the equation. So, what's the reality?

You must get so much sleep! (And other myths)

Work-at-home parents are super rested, right? Sleeping in seems A-okay...until deadlines, meetings and other commitments fill your schedule book. Yes, working at home is freeing, but it also comes with responsibilities. And going to bed early can be hard to accomplish. "Hands down, the worst problem is that I don't get enough sleep, since I can easily work until midnight," says Darla Demarrow, author of the upcoming book The Pregnant Entrepreneur.

As for working in your pajamas, it's possible. Heck, it happens sometimes. Right now, I am writing this article in my robe. But I've learned over the years that not getting dressed all day often can negatively impact my mood. Plus, its generally better to be wearing clothes for preschool drop off and grocery shopping.

And those gourmet lunches? Sometimes they happen and other times, it's no different than being in an office. You know how you get busy and sometimes work through lunch? That happens to work-at-home workers, too. A lot.

The real pros of working at home

All of this said, there are a lot of pros to working at home. Most professionals who do it love the freedom and flexibility of it.

Here's what several freelancers had to say:

  • "My kids tell me that they feel I am around a lot and it makes them happy to know I will usually be at home when they get here. Big plus," says Jessica Butler of Attain Consulting Group and Attain Academy.
  • "[I] save on the commute time, giving me an extra one-and-a-half to two hours per day and everything is all here, so no more...'I forgot that X, Y or Z at home,'" says Natalie Nevares of Mommywise.com.
  • "[I] can arrange my schedule around kids' activities," says Stacey Hylen, a business optimizer coach and author of the upcoming book, The Power of Leverage: Get More Out of Less in the New Economy.

The downsides of working from home

Of course, working at home isn't a cakewalk. There are some serious challenges, such as keeping the kids occupied while getting work done (or taking conference calls). And the blurred line of home and office can be a challenge to manage. "I've discovered I'm never really 'off.' My daughter says I work all the time, which isn't true. But I'm always checking email and responding, and I probably do tend to work more than I would if I left my job at an off-site office," says Julie McDonald Zander of ChaptersofLife.com.

Also, housework can be overwhelming. "When I worked at an office, I'd clean the house at home, but it stayed cleaner during the day because it was empty. Now my husband and I both work from home (I help people publish their memoirs and he grows Christmas trees), and finding that 'off' time to clean house can be difficult," says Zander.

But one of the hardest parts is the potential isolation. "[Working at home] can be lonely and it's harder to make friends," says Hylen.

Is working at home right for you?

So is the work-at-home life for you? Maybe. You need to weigh your ability to do your job from home with your responsibilities and the potential demands that will be placed on you.

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