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A work at home parent is an entrepreneur who works from home and integrates parenting into his or her business activities.
Entrepreneurs choose to run businesses from home for a variety of reasons, including lower business expenses, personal health limitations, eliminating commuting or in order to have a more flexible schedule. This flexibility can give an entrepreneur more options when planning tasks, business and non-business, including parenting duties. While some home-based entrepreneurs opt for childcare outside the home, others integrate child rearing into their work day and workspace. The latter are considered work-at-home parents (WAHP).
Many WAHPs start home-based businesses in order to care for their children while still creating income. The desire to care for one’s own children, the incompatibility of a 9-to-5 work day with school hours or sick days, and the expense of childcare prompt many parents to change or leave their job in the workforce in order to be available to their children. Many WAHPs build a business schedule that can be integrated with their parenting duties.
Integrating Business and Parenting
An integration of parenting and business can take place in one or more of four key ways: combined uses of time, combined uses of space, normalizing children in business, and flexibility.
Combining uses of time involves some level of multitasking, such as taking children on business errands, and the organized scheduling of business activities during child’s down times and vice-versa. The WAHP combines uses of space by creating a home (or mobile) office that accommodates the child's presence.
Normalizing acknowledges the child’s presence in the business environment. This can include letting key business partners know that parenting is a priority, establishing routines and rules for children in the office, and even having children help with business when appropriate.
Lastly, the WAHP can utilize the inherent flexibility of the work at home arrangement. This may mean working in smaller increments of time instead of long stretches, looser scheduling of day’s activities to allow for the unexpected, and working at non-traditional times.
A business that demands 9-to-5 business hours, a polished office, intense one-on-one time with clients, dangerous materials, or impromptu appointments may not work well for a parent with children at home. Thus, not all professions lend themselves to work at home parenting. Without good organization, the WAHP may experience decreased productivity due to added responsibilities and unexpected interruptions.
The concept of the WAHP has been around as long as small businesses. In pre-industrial societies, merchants and artisans often worked out of or close to their homes. Children typically remained in the care of a parent during the day and were often present while the parents worked. Societal changes in the 1800s, such as compulsory education and the Industrial Revolution, made working with children around less common.
Entrepreneurship saw a resurgence in the 1980s, with more of an emphasis on work/life balance. The term WAHP began gaining popularity in the late 1990s.
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