WHAT WORK-AT-HOME PARENTS CAN SNAG ON THE NET
Four years ago, while pregnant with her second child, software engineer Cheryl Demas did something that surprised even herself: She quit her job to stay at home. But she didn't want to stop working. While rooting around the Internet for job possibilities, says Demas, ''I discovered there were thousands of women who would like to be at home with their kids--and they're intelligent, well-educated women.'' She had an idea: Why not create a Web site that would offer resources and support for work-at-home moms?
Today, Demas' site generates half a million page views a month through its business directory, book list, and classified ads. A popular feature is Demas' monthly humor column, which recently described her lifelong quest to be No.1 in line at Disney World. And the site supplies answers to frequently asked questions such as ''How can I convince my boss he should let me work from home after my baby is born?'' Answer: ''Show him how he benefits, too.''
Demas' site is just one of many Web resources for working parents as they alternately glide and stumble through their frenetic lives (table). Think about it: Using the Web, you can nab a freelance job, track down some advice about the nanny tax, and solicit tips on parenting. You can do your banking, unload a stock, or window-shop online. And, if you're feeling lonely in your home office, or guilty about the time you spend on business trips, you can click on to sites that let you chat with like-minded souls.
''A lot of the best sites for working parents don't even have the word 'parents' in their title. They're just the best of their genre for time management, child management, and cooking for your family,'' says Melissa Wolf, author of Parenting Online: The Best of the Net for Moms and Dads (Equinox Press, $16.95). Once you locate one site, it invariably provides links to others: Work At Home Moms, for example, provides a jump-off to Home-Based Working Moms (www.hbwm.com), Entrepreneurial Parent and Bizy Moms (www. bizymoms.com).
SYMPATHETIC EAR. The best part is the interaction the Web allows. ''Parents on the job are often isolated in their roles. There's no one they can talk to that long,'' says Katharine de Baun, co-founder of Moms Online (www.momsonline. com or America Online, keyword: MO). Like many generic parenting sites, this one offers message boards targeted to people in the work world. At its Professional Moms board, for example, a working mother described feeling overwhelmed. ''How do women work full-time, take care of the kids, take care of the house, feed and walk the dog, shop for groceries, find a decent day-care center, and pay the bills?'' she wailed. Sympathetic cohorts E-mailed in their tips: everything from ''buy cheese in five-pound bags'' to ''put more hours in the day.''
While some people use these Web sites merely to vent their frustrations, others seek concrete help--such as job leads. At Entrepreneurial Parent, ''Katherine'' was looking for a way to make money at home using her word-processing skills. ''Where do I begin?'' her E-mail message asked. Another E-mailer referred her to a placement service for at-home computer workers: www.workingsol.com.
The Web is also a terrific source of advice on child rearing. Susan Weaver, director of the megasite Parent Soup, often uses message boards for problem solving. When her 10-year-old balked at doing homework, Weaver visited a board for parents of school-age children. ''In 24 hours, I had six beautifully written, informative, and smart responses,'' she says. One tip--giving her son frequent play breaks--did the trick.
HOMEWORK HELP. For working parents, who always seemed to be pressed for time, the Web offers myriad conveniences. You can order someone a bouquet of flowers (www.1800flowers.com), buy books (www.amazon.com), pick out toys for your children (www. etoys.com), or buy school clothes (www.landsend.com). If you're too busy to prepare dinner or food-shop, you can order take-out meals through www.cybermeals.com, and groceries from Peapod's Website.
And if your kids need a hand with their homework while you're stuck at the office, you can send them to help sites. B.J. Pinchbeck's Homework Helper, hosted by an 11-year-old wunderkind from Pennsylvania, supplies links to newspapers, encyclopedias, and other reference sources. AOL members can take advantage of the Ask a Teacher service (keyword: homework). And anyone who has a modem will be able to call up www.homeworkheaven.com.
Of course, these sites represent only a fraction of the parenting fare you'll find on the Web--from 24-hour pediatric advice to children's entertainment. For today's working parents, that connection to others helps make their jobs inside and outside the home a lot easier.
By Joan Oleck
Updated Aug. 6, 1998 by bwwebmaster
Copyright 1998, Bloomberg L.P.