Life / Careers

Work-from-home parents more likely to be women: Experts

Experience of dad who went viral during BBC interview common for women who work from home while caring for young children.

Robert Kelly went viral when his kids crashed his live TV interview with the BBC.

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Robert Kelly went viral when his kids crashed his live TV interview with the BBC.

If you spent more than a nanosecond online over the weekend, you probably saw the video of a toddler bombing her dad as he’s giving a live Skype interview with BBC News.

You also probably laughed out loud as the little girl bounced into her father’s home office, followed by a younger sibling in a walker, then their panicked mother who drags the kids out of the room. But for those working from home, that comedy of errors is all too familiar.

With many workplaces offering little flexibility as to when and where parents can work, and daycare costs continuing to rise, more parents are choosing to leave their careers to carve out new paths as freelancers or entrepreneurs.

More often than not it’s women, not men, who are entering this new fray: not quite stay-at-home moms, not quite working moms, but some sort of hybrid version of both.

Irene Boekmann, assistant professor in the department of sociology at the University of Toronto, says children are a big driving factor forcing women from work, and that this doesn’t tend to be the case for fathers.

“There is definitely an interesting gendered story here,” she said, pointing out that mothers with younger children are more likely to work from home than other women. “Research shows that children increase Canadian women’s (but not men’s) likelihood of self-employment.”

When home life and work life are one in the same, there’s no real break from either.

Melissa Milkie, a sociology professor at the University of Toronto, says a lack of feasible part-time professional work, along with workplaces with inflexible work hours, can be push factors that drive women to entrepreneurial work from home.

“The unfriendly workplace, full time work, (they’re) not easy to combine with motherhood,” Milkie said. “But it may be difficult to re-enter the workforce down the road.

“What we call ‘role-blurring’ between work and family roles, is actually linked to more distress for workers — more anxiety, depression, anger and so on.”


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