Although attitudes are certainly shifting, working from home is still a rather unconventional choice and it’s even less conventional to go into business for yourself. These were realities that I knew all too well when I decided to embark on this freelance writing journey. With the imminent arrival of my first child, my perspective on this kind of working dynamic is once again being brought to the forefront and the biggest factors are different from when I was “just” a solopreneur.
Gender (In)Equality Works Both Ways
You might remember a few years ago when I wrote about the difference between work-at-home moms (WAHMs) and Internet entrepreneurs. Even though these are both relatively new phenomena and new demographics, they already carry with them a number of stereotypes.
In the case of a WAHM, she may have difficulty being taken seriously. People may see what she is doing as just a “side hobby” and “it’s nice that she’s able to keep busy.” There may also be some folks who say she should focus more on raising the kid and not get “distracted” by the nonsense of running an Etsy store, for example.
On the flip side, you take a look at male Internet entrepreneurs–most of whom work from home–and people may view them as enterprising or inspirational risk-takers. The public at large don’t pay much attention to the family side of these men’s lives until you bring up the “daddy blogger.” Somehow, even if these dads are doing fundamentally the same thing, they can be seen in a different light. They can be emasculated or they could be ignored as a demographic entirely.
Don’t Call Me Mr. Mom
We talk a lot about gender equality and how it’s getting better. We also recognize that these viewpoints rooted in “traditional” gender roles can also be very harmful. Why can’t the WAHM be taken more seriously as a legitimate business owner? Why must the stay-at-home dad (SAHD) be shamed for not being the primary breadwinner of his family?
Consider the real value that the primary caretaker brings to the table. This is the person who takes care of the kid (childcare isn’t cheap), runs the errands, cleans the home, cooks the meals, handles the household finances and takes care of all sorts of other responsibilities. It’s a lot of work that doesn’t necessarily generate a paycheck.
This is a role that should be neither male nor female by default. Referring to the stay-at-home dad as “Mr. Mom” is akin to referring to a rising female professional as “Little Miss Executive” or something similar. Most of us would agree that the latter isn’t appropriate or nice.
A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats
Looking ahead to the potential career aspirations for my own child, I feel like “traditional” gender roles should not serve as major boundaries. If a little boy wants to grow up to be a fashion designer or a nurse, that’s fantastic. If a little girl aspires to be an automotive technician or a plumber, I don’t see why she can’t pursue those kinds of jobs too.
And as I continue to work from home as a freelancer, I will also be adding the role of the stay-at-home dad. There are many diapers and plush toys in my future… and I just might have a baby bottle next to my beer and my laptop. This work-life balance paradigm could increasingly become the norm for a lot of people moving forward. Just as I commented about the gaming industry in an entirely different context, we’re all in this together, regardless of gender or career choice.