Nov 10, 2021Remote lifestyle15 min read
Your kids will thank you for working remotely
I grew up with the original remote workers as parents. Both my mother and father ran businesses out of our home growing up. I remember one morning when I was a Senior in high school (and only had 3 classes each day), I sat at the kitchen table eating breakfast and talking with my father.
“Do you think you’ll retire soon?” I asked him. He thought for a moment before responding. “I’m not sure why I would,” he answered. “It’s 10am on a Tuesday, and I’m sitting at home drinking coffee with my son.”
While it wasn’t his intention at the time, this moment had a profound effect on how I would view work, and its role in my life. It never occurred to me that I would have to go into an office for 8+ hours every day, because my parents never did. I didn’t understand that most people waste a decent fraction of their day commuting. I tried these things out for myself when I grew up, and ended up dreading it.
The advantages to working remotely are obvious and well-documented. What I want to discuss here is how amazing growing up with parents who work remotely is, and the deep impact this can have on the life and development of a child.
I’d like to argue that your children will thank you for working remotely.
Your kids will see you more
Many of my friends growing up didn’t see their parents much. In their younger years, they went to daycare after school. Once older, they went home alone, or bounced around random activities until their parents got off work. They often couldn’t do things because their parents were busy or unavailable.
It was rare for me to come home from school and not have my parents waiting. I can still remember the sound of my father’s footsteps coming down the stairs from his home office when I’d get home from school to see how my day was. Or walking in the door to hear my mom downstairs exercising on the treadmill.
My parents rarely worked late nights, and when they did, they still came down for dinner or to put us to bed. They never had to work weekends. Because they didn’t spend their daytime commuting, they got their important work done so they could spend time with my sister and I when we were off school.
Remote parents are there when it counts
I used to think it was very strange in movies how a parent would get a call at work that they had to leave the office because of a sick kid. When my sister or I got sick, both of our parents were already home. Same if we forgot our lunch or a school project. My parents never made excuses for missing things, because they almost never did.
This ingrained a feeling in me as a child that my parents would always be there if I needed them, and this had a profound effect on our relationship. As I grew up and went through adolescence, I inevitably encountered a number of crises, as one does. My parents were there to help through all of them. They volunteered on field trips (to my dismay as I grew into a teenager), and drove my friends to concerts in other towns much more than parents with traditional jobs.
They were also there when I would get in trouble. I remember sitting in many principal's office chairs knowing that my parents would pick up the call on the first ring and be over to the school immediately. They were even home to get a call from the police once that I had broken a window of the police department with a frisbee while ditching school. I was not happy about these things at the time, but in hindsight, it was certainly a net positive for my development.
It’s not just about the quantity of time remote parents get to spend with their children, but the quality. Remote parents are more present. While their kids are at school, they are getting meaningful work done instead of commuting to an office. There is no guilt for being away from the office spending time with their families, because there is no office.
For every major moment of my life growing up – from my first steps to winning my first regional climbing competition – my parents were there. Sure, for many important events parents can take time off of work. And to be clear, even while working remotely they still should. But not everything is a major planned moment. You can’t know when your child’s first tooth will pop out. Working remotely turns the numbers game in your favor. You are statistically more likely to witness the important moments of your child’s life.
Remote parents are less stressed and more energetic
I do not have young parents (sorry mom and dad). They didn’t have my sister and me at a young age. Still, I remember them having more energy than most other parents. They regularly took us hiking and climbing. In the winter, we would ski and snowshoe as a family. They would travel with us around the world. If you were to guess based on lifestyle, you’d say they were 10 years younger than most other parents.
It’s not difficult to see why. My parents admitted to me recently that some days they would go back to bed after we left for school. Ha! When we were babies they had more flexibility to cope with sporadic sleep schedules. They had time to exercise every day, elongating their health.
They also seemed less stressed. Honestly, a large part of this might just be not having a commute. It’s pretty hard to shift from being stuck in traffic to smiling for your family. There are many studies claiming that remote work reduces stress. There is little downside to having less stressed parents.
Remote kids travel more
My parents did not intentionally raise us with travel as a priority, but it soon became a given since my sister was a professional rock climber. I first left the country to go to China at age 10 and it changed my life forever. I don’t know the exact number, but my guess is that I traveled to roughly 15 countries before even graduating high school. During my Junior year of high school, my parents took me out of school to travel so much that I attended school an average of 3.2 out of 5 days a week.
While my school didn’t love this, I did. I was the most well-traveled kid in the entire town I grew up in, and that translated directly to my ambitions. It gave me an incredibly wide perspective of the world from a very young age. It also gave me a lifelong passion. Given that I became a nomad in my twenties and now work at SafetyWing building a global social safety net, you could say it also gave me a career.
I have many things to thank my parents for, but travel is at the top of that list. Think of what having total work flexibility could mean for raising a family. You could do a roadtrip anytime. Move somewhere to upgrade your life. Even move to another country for a few years (or more).
Your family will develop good habits together
Speaking of my top things to thank my parents for, my health is another. I don’t fault most parents for not instilling a sense of exercise and nutrition in their kids. If you are out of the house from 8am to 6pm, cooking a meal for an entire family is daunting day after day. Similarly, having the effort to exercise can be a struggle. Even if you want to, you haven’t seen your kids all day and it’s already 6pm, so do you really want to leave for the gym right away?
For whatever reason, my parents chose to exercise right before we came home from school. They exercised every single day, almost without exception. This taught my sister and I to do the same. Learning habits like this at a young age has compounding benefits. It’s a bit like learning a language, in that it’s much easier to do when you're young. Plus, it tends to stick with you for life. I’m now almost 30 and I still exercise every day. I love it. It’s usually the favorite part of my day.
Nutrition falls into similar categories. I love to cook, but I wouldn’t if I had less time and less energy. Cooking at home while you work remotely is quite fun. I actually have a 48-hour short rib sous vide going right now. I’ll take a late afternoon work break to prepare my food to cook later. For lunch I can cook something quick that’s both healthy and delicious.
In hindsight, it’s obvious these habits are things I developed as a kid by watching my parents' lifestyle. I’m not a nutrition freak. I enjoy eating out, and occasionally order junk food. But I also cook most of my meals, and keep a relatively close eye on my nutrition. I don’t think my family was unusually obsessed with health growing up. We just had the time and energy to put importance behind it.
Your kids will learn to balance work and life
Parents tend to dread their kids growing up to be lazy and unambitious. However once this fear fades, there is also a concern of working too much and not enjoying life. The truth is, it’s pretty hard to find a balance. Remote work is enabling us to approach this challenge with more precision and experimentation.
Children will take notice of this in their parents. I watched my parents take a day off during the week to go hiking. I also remember being told I couldn’t bother my dad some evenings because he had urgent work to take care of. When I went off to college, I applied the same techniques. I scheduled all of my classes early in the morning so I could go rock climbing in the afternoon. My parents subconsciously taught me how to be simultaneously ambitious and free.
Traditionally, parents have had to teach a work ethic by either a) forcing them to get a job at a young age, b) become militants about academics or c) waiting to see what happens naturally. None of these are great options. I’m not convinced my first job at a cookie shop taught me anything besides how much I hate dessert. The older I get the more I realize academic performance has almost zero correlation to real world success. And had my parents just left me to the wolves I probably wouldn’t have turned out so great.
I think I am the way I am because I literally watched my parents work every day. I also watched them stop working every day. I wasn’t limited to just witnessing their personal life, I learned by experiencing what their work life looked like as well.
Do it for your kids, and yourself
Truthfully, I’m not sure how office parents do it. From the outside it seems impossible. I completely understand why many parents rarely exercise and rarely cook at home. Part of me can (almost) understand why a young single person might want to work in a downtown office. But once a family is in the picture, I am convinced remote work is the only practical way to have it all.
If you are a parent, it’s quite possible that working remotely is the single greatest thing you can do to increase the quality of life for your children and yourself. For the first time in human history, it’s possible for most parents to take this route.
What about parents who don’t have the option of remote work?
Everything in life is a tradeoff. There are careers that unfortunately do not allow remote work. If everyone were to take my advice, we would have no doctors, construction workers, or any other physical jobs that keep society going. My argument is not that to be a good parent you HAVE to work remotely. More that it makes it infinitely easier.
This is so undeniable that it’s genuinely worth calculating into your life plans. Perhaps you choose to take a remote role for the more formative years of your children’s lives. Maybe you decide to work from home a couple of days a week. Sacrifices are always required in life, you just have to choose what will be sacrificed.
BONUS: How to succeed working remotely with kids
I won’t say there are many downsides to having your parents work remotely. I’m sure there was a learning curve in “training” us to have good manners as kids with parents working from home. Here are some things I got from my parents:
- Set boundaries in terms of spaces and times that are calm and quiet during the day
- Don’t download anything while the parents are working
- Knock on office doors before entering
- Don’t take supplies from offices without bringing them back
- Define social times so kids know when they’ll be able to spend time with you again
- Be flexible and understanding – it’s a learning curve for everyone!
About the author
Head of Growth
Sam Claassen is the Head of Growth at SafetyWing and a serial advocate for remote work. A longtime nomad himself, he has been to 65 countries while doing growth and remote work consulting for startups and accelerators. Through his work at SafetyWing, he is working with a team to create BuildingRemotely.com – a podcast, online resource and soon to be book on building a thriving remote company.