The work-from-home movement has been around long enough now that there is an entire generation of adult children who grew up with parents working from home. In this interview, we spoke with two generations, the parent who has been working from home with the same company for 15 years, and the child, now an adult, who grew up with a work from home parent. We wanted to learn what it was like from the child’s perspective, growing up with a parent who worked from home. We interviewed Caroline and her youngest daughter, Macayla, now a junior in college. Here’s what they had to share.
Caroline’s Interview –
What was your first work from home job?
TeleReach Corporate was my first work from home job, 15 years ago, where I totally worked from home 100%. I started in August and my youngest was starting in first grade in September. She is now a junior in college. Now my four kids are grown, two step kids were grown when I started working from home and together David and I have nine grandchildren. When I first started working from home, it all happened simultaneously. We moved to west Tennessee, my youngest started first grade and I started my job with TeleReach all within a month. My oldest had just graduated high school. At that time, I had two school age kids living at home with me.
What were some of the ways you were able to make it work?
I was able to work during the day when they were in school. My day was cut a little shorter than some people because when they got out of school at 3 p.m., that pretty much ended my workday. I worked a little longer on the days when they had something going on after school. It just worked because I was there in the morning to help get them off to school and I was there in the afternoon when they came home. I had the flexibility if they wanted me to come have lunch, or if they had a school program, field trip or a doctor’s appointment. I had the flexibility to say, I’m going to be out for a couple of hours.
What did you do in the summer when they were out of school?
I didn’t work full days all the time in the summer. I would get them occupied with activities and then go in to work. They knew what I was doing and they just had to learn to be respectful. When I was in my office, they knew they couldn’t just come barging in making noise.
Because I worked from home, our house tended to be the gathering place for kids. We had an open-door policy so neighborhood kids knew they were welcome here. I preferred it that way so I could keep tabs on my own kids and know that they were OK.
How has it made a difference in your life working from home vs. the traditional way of work?
I’m out in the country here in Tennessee. My significant other drives 1.5 hours one way to work every day. If I wasn’t’ able to work from home, I don’t think I would have actually even worked. I wouldn’t have felt safe letting them come home from school and not being there. I wouldn’t have wanted to have to find daycare for them and I didn’t want the guilt of putting them in daycare. If I hadn’t done it this way, I really don’t know what I would have done. I remember the times when I got a call from the school, somebody is throwing up, if I had been working in the city, I would have had an hour and a half drive to get to the school and I wouldn’t have been going back to work.
And we wouldn’t have the income that I’ve brought in all these years. I have friends who work in traditional jobs and they have to miss some events at school, but I don’t. I have been able to attend everything and be there for the kids.
What would you like to say to people who may have similar circumstances and are looking for solutions?
Since I’ve been in this job, I’ve heard many times from others who work here, you have to want to do it. It’s difficult to be disciplined. I mean the phone is not going to dial itself for you, and it’s not going to happen when you are sitting there watching TV or taking a nap. You have to want to do it. It’s doable and it can be very beneficial and lucrative. It’s what you make it. Our children are our greatest investment. I didn’t have to wonder if they got on that bus. There are just too many things that could go wrong so I wanted to make it work. It was reassurance to me to see them off to school and be there when they got home from school. It feels like it is becoming more mainstream now to work this way, especially because of COVID, but it’s not really different for us since we’ve been doing it for so long.
To anyone who is thinking of working from home, I can’t think of any downside to this job and working from home. When I watch David walk out the door to make that long drive to Memphis every day, all I have to do is walk into the kitchen, get my coffee and then walk into my office. With this job, you can put in the hours and make as much as you put into it. There’s no cap on your income. It’s everything in a nutshell. I mean, how can you beat that!?
Macayla’s interview –
What was it like growing up with your mom working from home?
I loved my mom working from home, mainly because she was always there when I needed something, whether it was something at school, or I needed clothes or I was running a fever, she was nearby and would always be right there. I loved it. My mom was able to be there for me when I was growing up because she had more flexibility than the other parents, and I feel like that caused me to be more invested in my schooling and my life.
How did you guys juggle things within the household so that everything got done?
What helped is that my mom is a really organized person. We had a lot of structure which allowed for both of us to be successful. I remember watching my TV shows sometimes when she had to get work done and she taught us to respect that work time at a young age. We had our activities, playing with neighbor kids after school and things like that until dinner time. So, during that time my mom was working until it was time to have dinner. We ate dinner at the same time. Although I was playing outside of the house, my mom was always right there to keep an eye on us. I remember a time when I hurt myself and had to come home and my mom was right there to take care of me.
Did you have friends who had parents who worked from home?
I remember I had friends and we would go over to their house and their parents wouldn’t be there because their parents worked outside of the home. I thought it was strange that they would be home alone. My mom was always there at every school event. I was in cheerleading. I was in dance. I competed nationally with DECA. My mom was at every bake sale and she traveled with me to California and Florida for competitions. My mom was the mom who not only shuttled me around, she helped other kids get to their activities too because their parents were at work. I think my friends see my mom as a motherly figure who will be there for them too if they need help.
What did you do about meals and meal planning?
My mom always had a good home cooked dinner. We ate around 5:30 or 6 p.m. My mom had things cooking in the kitchen and I would see her run into the kitchen to see about something and then head back into her home office. She got her work done and still made a fantastic meal for us every single night. It wasn’t always a five star something that took a long time to make. Sometimes it was just spaghetti, but it was never spaghetti out of a can.
What would you like to convey to anyone who might be looking for solutions to similar situations?
I feel that I benefited a lot having my mom around when I was growing up, not only materialistically because of the income she brought in, but I feel that it brought us closer together as a mother and daughter. I had the security of knowing “mom’s here,” and my mom had the security of knowing that I’m OK. As I got older, I could have taken the bus but I actually asked my mom to drive me just because I liked spending the time with her, and to me, that was better than the bus. I feel like as a culture, we’re realizing that it is more possible to do valuable work from home and we’re moving more in that direction.