What do you think of when you hear the term work-at-home mom? Women selling make-up at parties? Moms sewing cloth diapers?
Well, yes, but there’s a huge range of other jobs that moms are doing from home. I work from home full time (and then some), as a freelance writer for three different websites.
I have friends who sell things at parties for extra income, but I also have a ton of friends who work from home in lots of other capacities: part-time, full-time, telecommuting to huge corporations, and entrepreneurs who have forged their own businesses.
One of the most interesting parts of interviewing these women was what I found along the way: all the women had several things in common, that had made them tremendously successful as work-at-home moms.
All the women are flexible. Whether they had changed paths in their careers, or simply made the best of a bad situation, all the women I interviewed had a history of thinking creatively and solving problems. Susan, who is a Senior Editor for a national optical trade magazine, had proven herself a hard worker and team player, always pitching in where needed, before landing her current work-at-home gig. Lauren, who works part-time as a medical textbook editor, also started an Etsy business. And Carrie, a personal concierge, tailors her work exactly to her clients’ needs.
The women who started their own businesses took risks and worked hard to make them pay off. Being an entrepreneur means taking risks. Whether you’re becoming a full-time babysitter or launching a photography business, you’re taking a gamble that you’re going to find and maintain a client basis that’s going to bring in enough money to make it worthwhile.
They all work really hard. Sure, working from home seems glamorous. There’s the whole sitting around in your jammies thing, for example. But in fact, if we don’t bust our asses, we don’t get paid. In fact, many work-at-home moms feel compelled to work even harder than they did in an office, because they don’t want bosses to think they’re slacking off.
They’re all highly disciplined. While many of these moms enjoy the flexibility of setting their own hours, when they’re working, they’re working.
None of the women have their kids home full time. It’s virtually impossible to work full-time from home and have kids at home. Maureen, who provides child care, is an exception to this rule, and even her kids are in school full time now. The women I interviewed work almost all of their hours while their kids are in school. Sherry, a professional photographer, has her toddler in daycare three days a week because (no surprise here) toddlers don’t really enjoy sitting quietly while Mom edits photos, nor are they going to stay in one place while Mom’s at a client shoot. If you’re thinking about making the jump to working at home, do not make the mistake of thinking that you don’t need child care.
Check out how these ten amazing women have combined their career experience and passions into great work-at-home jobs:
Alison, Part-Time Assignments Coordinator, University Housing 1 of 10Alison, who works 20 to 30 hours a week for a major university, spends some of those working hours in an office, and some at home. <br
"I enjoy working from home primarily because it saves time," she says. "My commute is about 45 minutes each way and, let's face it, every minute counts. The hours that I work from home are also much more efficient. I can truly focus on projects without distractions like conversations with co-workers, random interruptions, and ringing phones."
"I also appreciate being able to work from home because it gives me the chance to do things during the day such as volunteer at my girls' school or take care of an errand without missing work. On the other hand, when I'm at work I get the benefit of conversations with grown-ups, a bathroom that I don't have to clean myself, and a lunch break that doesn't involve folding laundry. I can also put behind me the 1,001 things I can see need to be done around the house if I'm at the office. Both situations have their own set of benefits and challenges but I'm glad that I get to experience both."
Carrie, Full-Time Personal Concierge 2 of 10Before having her boy-girl twins, Carrie worked in the medical field. After being a stay-at-home mom for the last five years, Carrie decided she was ready for a change, and started her own business as a personal concierge.
"I sat down with pad and paper and wrote down all the things I love doing," Carrie told me. "After a few minutes, I looked at my list, and I found my new profession."
Carrie now works full-time as a personal concierge to busy moms. "I help organize and de-clutter basements. I wrap birthday and holiday gifts. I organize toy areas and closets. I run errands to the bank, post office and grocery store. I pick up and drop off prescriptions at the drug store. I help plan birthday parties and other events," Carrie told me, ticking off some of the different tasks that she does for her many clients. "As moms, we have so much on our plates. I started this business so moms could spend more time with their families."
Carrie gets almost all of her work done while her own kids are at school. By keeping her rates reasonable and networking among friends, her new business became a full-time job in less than two weeks. "I love what I'm doing and I hope my clients are finding life made just a little easier when they hire me."
Lauren, Part-Time Editor and Part-Time Crafter 3 of 10Another mom of twins, Lauren found that being home worked best for her family when her son and daughter were born seven years ago. "However, having me not work at all was not a good financial choice for us," she told me. "Thankfully, my job translated into working part-time from home very well. I edit and typeset medical textbooks."
Lauren works on a project-by-project basis, so her hours vary, but she's generally able to set her own hours. "I'm able to work more when they are at school, and be flexible when they are home on vacations. It hasn't made us rich, but I wouldn't trade the time with my kids for anything," Lauren said.
Being home also gave Lauren the flexibility to discover a new passion. "I also discovered my inner crafter--which my friends will tell you is very out of character for me! I now have a pretty busy holiday season creating custom Scrabble ornaments and teacher nameplates. This seasonal crafting income really makes Christmas a lot sweeter in our house. I have also branched out into making seaglass jewelry- which is something I've always wanted to try."
While still bringing in needed income, Lauren's been able to spend more time with her kids. "Being home has allowed me the time to realize some of my own dreams and skills, as well as giving me the time to savor the childhood of my kids--which is full of fleeting moments and little memories that I am grateful to have been able to experience firsthand."
Marj, Part-Time Dog Sitter 4 of 10"I had just graduated from college with a degree in education when I found out I was pregnant with our first child," Marj told me. "I actually found out the day I received my certification in the mail."
Marj found a good fit for her, and her family, in dog sitting. "Dog sitting fit in well with my schedule," she said. "It's relatively easy to do, and I make a decent amount of money. Plus I got to be home with my babies."
Now the mom of two active boys with a variety of special needs, Marj still finds that dog sitting works well for her. "I continued staying home when my children were diagnosed with their various special needs as toddlers and because putting them in a daycare situation or sending them to a babysitter was nearly impossible, given their challenges," said Marj. "Here I am twelve years later, and I have no plans to return to the traditional work world any time soon."
Maureen, Full-Time Babysitter 5 of 10Maureen worked in Human Resources before making the jump to being a work-at-home mom. "The impetus for me working from home was 9/11," she told me. "I was at work, and everyone was gathered around a TV, watching the plane hit. My son was at school in one place, and my daughters were at the babysitters' in another place. It was scary wondering what my son would be told in school, and how it would affect him. It was almost impossible not to be with them at that moment in time. I was already selling PartyLite part-time, so I started talking to friends who have done babysitting and making plans."
In April of the following year, Maureen quit her well-paying office job to babysit and sell PartyLite. "I feel like I'm there for my kids more often," she says.
Meghan, Full-Time Telecommunications Marketing Manager 6 of 10Meghan had already worked for her employer, a Fortune 25 telecommunications company, for a few years when she decided to switch to working from home. "I started working from home about eight years ago when I was pregnant with my daughter," Meghan said. "It certainly made it easier to not have to buy a bunch of maternity work clothes."
Allowing employees to work from home actually saves the company money on office space, so it works out well for both employer and employee. "I'm a happy telecommuter," Meghan said.
"The big plus for me is the commute time. In the morning, I get my second grader on the bus, my 16-month-old to day care, and when i get home, I can start working right away. No more hour-long commute. And at 5:30, I'm done. I don't have to spend another hour to actually get home. I just shut the computer down, turn off my work brain, and get back into mommy-mode."
Barring any work-related emergencies, Meghan makes a point of not turning the computer back on until the next morning.
Meghan loves working from home, but notes that "you have to be pretty disciplined to work from home. There needs to be a balance so that from 9 to 5, you are dedicated to your work life and then focused solely on your non-work life the rest of the time."
Sherry, Full-Time Photographer 7 of 10Sherry worked in corporate communications and PR, doing some photography work on the side, before taking the leap into making it her full-time job.
"I work at home full time, but I have a non-traditional schedule," said Sherry, who, as a photographer specializing in weddings and family portraits, often works weekends.
"Walden is home with me on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and goes to daycare the other days," said Sherry. One of Sherry's favorite perks of working from home: when she's not seeing clients, she lives in yoga clothes. "Nothing better!"
Carole, Part-Time Quality Assurance Specialist 8 of 10"My job was a huge part of my identity," said Carole. "So after I had my triplets, I was back to work seven weeks later."
"I loved working and enjoyed what I did, for years. Until I didn't." As her travel time increased, Carole said, "I hit a wall and decided enough was enough. It was one thing feeling guilty leaving my incredible husband with three infants for four days. It was another leaving him with three toddlers for six days, and being three time zones away. They cried when I left and my daughter especially held a grudge for days upon returning."
Carole now does Quality Assurance for a large large wireless phone provider. "Today, my schedule is pretty flexible. I give them the hours I can work, and they send me a schedule. It varies from 10 to 25 hours per week."
Most of all, Carole appreciates the flexibility of her job. "It's simple to allow time for orthodontist appointments and to pick the kids up from Jazz Band and Cross Country practice by working other hours in the day or week. There's no pressure when the kids have to stay home sick or when their dad needs to travel for his work. It's not the career I thought I would have when I was in college or when I completed my Master's, but even after nine years, it's a still great gig for me. I still define myself by my job, but now that job has an even bigger title, Mom."
Traci, Part-Time Market Research Analyst, Part-Time Nonprofit Manager 9 of 10Traci became a freelance, work-from-home market research analyst, helping companies to interpret research data, after being laid off in 2009, an event she now called "a blessing."
Working from home has given Traci more flexibility in managing her son Lucas' complex healthcare needs. She also has founded a nonprofit organization, Feeding Tube Awareness Foundation.
While she loves the flexibility of working from home, Traci missed the social aspects of working in an office. " I miss having co-workers and talking with them," she said. "Nearly all my communications during the day are electronic. And my son is non-verbal, so our conversations consist of a lot of yes/no questions."
Susan, Full-Time Senior Editor 10 of 10Susan has always worked in journalism, and is now a Senior Editor for an optical industry magazine. When her son was born, she juggled several different part-time freelance jobs, trying to make schedules work for her family. One of the places she had worked previously, both full-time and on a freelance basis, was a trade journal for the optical industry.
"This job was a godsend," Susan told me. "The job offer fell into my lap right when my husband had been laid off."
The offer may have fallen into her lap, but Susan had also maintained a good relationship with the magazine's editors, and had always pitched in where needed. "Sometimes karma works for you," Susan said.
After spending nearly two decades loving working in a noisy newsroom, Susan misses the camaraderie of working in an office. She fins some balance in enjoying her current job's travel requirements, which are about five times a year for industry events. "The travel gets me out of the house, out of town, and necessitates big-girl clothes," she said.
Susan noted that working at home requires a lot of discipline. "It's still a full-time job with all that entails. If I procrastinate, I have to make up for it, which means I am often putting in hours on weekends and/or evenings, which eats family time." Plus, when her son isn't at school, Susan still has to get work done. "I can't tell you how many times I've had to interrupt an interview I'm conducting to tell my son to be quiet," she said.
(All photos used with explicit permission of the moms interviewed.)
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