We thought we'd heard enough of the "having it all" debate, since, for most of us, working while simultaneously raising kids is not a choice, but a straight-up necessity. But then we read something smart, honest and hopeful that could apply to working women across a wide spectrum. In the Huffington Post's "A Working Mom's Hallelujah Moment: Working Remotely, We Can (Almost) Do It All," Deborah Levine writes that, while working mainly from home as a project consultant for a non-profit agency, she was able to feel pretty darn complete--achieving everything from professional success to school drop-offs and grocery shopping.
"For a working parent, it's hard to overstate the benefits of being able to do your job from home even one day a week, let alone four or five. Not having to commute to the office means you can drop your kids off at school, pick up your dry cleaning and still have time to go over your presentation one more time before that 9 A.M. conference call," writes Levine, a Brooklyn mother of a boy, 7, and a girl, 10.
Levine told Yahoo! Shine that, before landing the dream gig, she spent several years freelancing part-time, which came after a layoff from a full-time job at a major media brand. There, she said, "Working from home one day a week is not unheard of, but it carries a big stigma. I was constantly reminded, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, of what a privilege it was…Coworkers without kids definitely resented those of us who worked from home-even though many of them rolled into the office at 11, when official hours started at 9:30. Even after doing it for 6 years, it never felt comfortable."
Finding a full-time job that respected her responsibilities as a mother, then, was what Levine called a "revelation." As she wrote in her piece, "There may not be a perfect solution to balancing the two full-time responsibilities of earning a living and raising children (even working from home creates its own set of stressors), but a professional environment that welcomes its employees to work remotely and has the systems in place to support them comes close enough for me."
And for this writer. After many years of in-office editorial jobs, I have spent the better part of my daughter's almost-four years working from home. Unlike Levine, I have been self-employed, as a freelance writer; but like her, I have had the good fortune of working for publications that have both respected and understood my practical limits-which have been set, by and large, by me. A common workday scenario for me has been this: walking my daughter to preschool, running back home to write, picking her up, buying food for dinner on the way home, cooking and eating together as a family, and then tucking her in before working on deadline alongside my partner (also self-employed) till midnight or 1am. Am I sometimes exhausted or time-crunched or anxious about money? Hell, yes. But I also spend a good amount of time pinching myself for being able to be so present for my daughter while still making ends meet.
But freelancing is not for everyone--including Levine, who told us she found the constant hustling for work very stressful. Luckily, there are more and more employers willing to give full-time workers the flexibility of working from home (though overall numbers remain low). A 2011 report on telework trends by the Telework Research Network crunched statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics and other federal sources to find that 2.9 million Americans (just 2.3 percent of the workforce) mainly work remotely. Still, the number of telecommuters in the workforce rose 61 percent between 2005 and 2009, and the report concludes that the number of regular telecommuters will jump to 4.9 million by 2016-a hopeful leap for moms who, like Levine, strive to do it all.
For some good places to start your work-from-home job search, check out the Fortune 2012 list of best companies to work for. Of the 85 best companies that allow employees to telecommute at least 20 percent of the time, a somewhat diverse range have the highest percentage (up to 92!) of telecommuters: non-profit Teach for America; techno companies Cisco, Accenture, Intel and World Wide Technology; international law firm Perkins Cole; hospital system Baptist Health South Florida; and insurance provider American Fidelity Assurance Company. As far as work-at-home jobs that are particularly available to women, Holly Reisem Hanna cites many in her Work At Home Woman blog, including caseworkers, consultants, public relations representatives, administrative nurses, customer service representatives, medical transcribers, sales reps, and doing direct sales for commissions. And there's always the freelance/entrepreneur route, with blogging, social media marketing and life coaching particularly hot right now, Reisem Hanna notes.
All told, working remotely shouldn't-and doesn't, according to Levine-require a miracle. "All it takes," she writes, "is an employer's trust and common sense." Here, here.