The Evolving Parent: Handling High-end Jobs and Diaper Duty

The sweet and savory smell of freshly-baked cheese pastry wafting from her mother‘s oven in Guyana told Nermala Hariprashad that her mom did something extraordinary just for her.

She still can’t figure out how the now 64-year-old woman had time to bake pastries and breads every day to serve her and her siblings, along with a cold glass of milk, and help run their family’s general store.

Now, no matter how busy the Avalon Park mom is marketing the App she and her husband developed, Hariprashad makes sure that snack time for her 10-year-old son, Vepaul, and 3-year-old daughter, Trisha, is special as well. Whether it be a grilled cheese or ham sandwich—their favorites—she makes sure it’s something hot from the stove, something she made just for them.

Hariprashad is the face of what some are calling the “evolving parent”. More and more people are taking advantage of work-from-home jobs in order to have more time with their families as companies abandon traditional desk jobs and embrace the home office. Virtual jobs aren’t new but hiring pros say they’re now available in more professional, high-wage fields.

“It used to be all stuffing envelopes and scams,” President Roger Lear said. But now at-home careers have dipped into industries such as health care, education, marketing and technology.

“The list is just endless,” he said.

This does more than just save employers on overhead and workers from traffic-jammed streets. University of Central Florida Women’s and Gender Studies Program Director Maria Santana said it can make for happier parents and happier children. She said working around playtime, naptime and mealtime can make for a longer day but also a happier one.

On really busy days, Hariprashad sets an alarm a half-an-hour after the kids go to sleep at night in case she dozes off or forgets about something she needs to do for her business, East Orlando Deals. Even with the long hours, she said she wouldn’t trade her flexible schedule for anything.

“My daughter will be doing a puzzle or playing with her Legos while I’m on the laptop on the floor next to her. If she needs me, I just flip over and help her and then go back to work,” she said. “Sometimes it’s hard, like when I’m on a really important phone call and she’s wanting my attention. That’s when Princess Sofia (a cartoon) or ice cream comes out.”

Sara Bailey said working 30 hours a week from home doing data entry for a gourmet food company means a lot of crock pot meals, high piles of laundry and a tad more television for the kids than she’d like but it works for the Waterford Lakes family of four. They get the additional income and she’s there for all of the important things—school pick-ups, playdates and even occasional trips to the movies with 3-year-old Logan while 6-year-old Christian is at school.

Working out of the home is not for everyone. Jennifer Houston said she doesn’t think she’s organized enough to pull it off. But the Avalon Lakes mom was still able to achieve her own work-life balance by developing the Early Childhood Education Program at Timber Creek High School where staff and students get hands-on experience by caring for employees’ children. Her 7-year-old daughter Emma spent her pre-school days there and her two-year-old daughter Ruby is there currently.

When she first went back to work, her family watched Emma. But when they couldn’t do it any longer and the then two year old had to go to a traditional pre-school, Houston said something had to change.

“We both cried every day,” she said. “She wasn’t ready for it.”

At the time, she was primarily an English teacher, teaching one early childhood education class. The program was in its infancy—just a classroom, no day care. She applied for a grant to get funding to expand the program. Today Houston directs the program, which employs five staff and cares for 30 kids.

“I said, you have no idea how motivated I am right now,” Houston said of the early conversations with her administrators about expanding the program.

Of course, bringing your child to work is rarely an option. But Lear said he expects the stay-at-home job market to continue expanding.

“All you hear about is work-at-home jobs. Everyone loves it,” he said, adding that there have been so many requests from job seekers for a work-from-home category on their site that they’re in the process of creating one.

Hariprashad said in the past, clients might have been put off by hearing children in the background during a work call but now she said it’s accepted and it even helps her to bond with those clients who are also parents.

“Parents want to be more involved so they don’t feel like they’re missing out. They just grow up so fast,” she said.

Santana cautioned that some people—especially women—have an issue balancing desk work and house work, feeling pressure to put others’ needs ahead of their own.

“It’s a good thing but it’s also delicate. You can’t have first shift and then second and third shift. Women will forget they’re there because of their flexible hours, not because they’re a homemaker,” she said. “You have to be able to compartmentalize your day.”

Bailey said she learned how to keep the housework to a minimum, without sacrificing the important things, and her husband also chips in on some chores, such as doing the dishes.

“It’s a lot harder than I ever thought it would be to do everything,” she said.

Santana believes the work-child care role will eventually shift from primarily women to more men doing it as well. Although there are perks to staying home, some people can get burnt out on limited adult interaction.

“That’s why I’m a huge proponent of taking turns,” she said. “Let one person stay home for a few years and then switch. If one makes more than the other, save that money from the bigger salary. That way the woman gets a chance to see other people, vent and wear high heels.”

By Megan Stokes