More Reader Questions: WAHM

>> 9.14.2012

It's been a while since I've written about being a stay-at-home mom. I started the conversation with a post about Budget and Sacrifice, how we crunched the numbers to see what would work for our family. Then I answered some of your questions.

When I got my gig as Deals Editor with Wise Bread, I entered the work-at-home mom club. And now that I've slowly started to launch my own photography business, things are getting busy.

As you guys have followed, I have received a few more questions that I thought I'd address on the blog versus via email.

#1: How did you get your at-home job? Were you looking for work?

At the time, I wasn't actively looking for a position. I had planned to let the first year roll on and start looking for something after the 2012 holiday season. In part, I decided to wait to give myself a break. My last months working at the university weren't the best. However, and more importantly, I wanted some time to adjust to my role as mom.

Actually, let's take a step back. I started training for a job at the local YMCA when Ada was just 6 weeks old. I was psyched to get a very casual gig as an aqua aerobics instructor. After attending and shadowing classes for a while, things just weren't working out with childcare, naps, nursing, etc.

More times than not, the entire time I was away, Ada was freaking out, not taking her bottle, or refusing to go to sleep. I would return home to a screaming baby. After a while, I dreaded leaving and it became absolutely overwhelming. I realized I had started the job-thing too soon for our situation. So, I bowed out of that, but would love to revisit the opportunity someday.

So, I took my break. If you can call being a mom to a newborn and breastfeeding round-the-clock a break. I have a friend who works for WB, and she has always been so fantastic about passing along freelancing opportunities to me via ProBlogger. Anyway, several months after the YMCA-fail, she told me about the gig. I didn't know if I was ready. I felt intimidated and out of practice having been home for so many months. However, at only 10 hours a week with all work from home, I decided to take the plunge.

I applied, interviewed via email, and got the job. It was perfect timing because Stephen was home for the summer, allowing me to ease into learning the responsibilities and figuring out how to make it work with the little one at home.

#2: I am looking for part-time, preferably at-home employment. Do you have any suggestions for where I should look?

I got this question from many people. As I mentioned above, if you're a writer or other freelancing type, ProBlogger has some great opportunities. I had also considered writing for Demand Studios, as my mom currently writes for them and makes good money.

For other legitimate work-at-home situations, see this article with 10 of the top "real" at-home jobs. I am always very skeptical of online work that I come across, so I can't speak much to other avenues. I would just suggest being discerning in your search.

Better yet, try to seek out local offices that might offer some flexible at-home tasks. I know my mom once did some light office work, like preparing mass mailings for a local company, from our kitchen table.

#3: With Stephen back at teaching, how do you schedule your own work without childcare?

I'd love to do my work in the super early mornings or late evenings when Ada is sleeping. I can do some of my blogging that way, so I do. But to be entirely honest, I am wiped out a lot of the time, so I try my best to go to sleep at a descent hour and get in 7 to 8 hours whenever possible. You never know when your child might wake every 15 minutes. And as you all know, that happened to us not too long ago.

I digress.

For my job at WB, I work 2 hours a day and need to complete everything by 12 pm ET. Typically the best deals aren't posted in various places until around 9 am, but more like closer to 10 am. So, I am heavily relying on Ada's first nap of the day right now.

Thankfully, there is enough for me to start work on around 8am, so the schedule looks a bit like this:
  • 7:00 am (roughly) wakeup/nursing/changing
  • Then we play. I also turn on my computer and check a few emails.
  • 8:00 am -- I put Ada in her Pack 'n Play and she watches a Yo Gabba Gabba for 24 minutes on the dot. I work the entire time.
  • We play some more when the show is over. Until I see her rub her eyes and yawn.
  • 9:00 am is nap time. Usually for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. At least for now. I work mostly the entire time. I usually finish up 10 minutes before she wakes.
I have a worst-case scenario plan. If she doesn't nap, I do my work in spurts, going to check on her every 10 to 15 minutes, if necessary. Thing is: She usually only needs a few checks. She has been napping really well lately (knock on wood!).

I see so much about TV and children under the age of 2 being this terrible thing. Obviously babies shouldn't have too much screen time because their brains are still developing. They need experiences and stimuli -- non-TV stimuli -- to to learn. I don't think 24 minutes a day, though, is going to have a big impact.

Plus, when I am not working, I am present with Ada. We play indoors. We go for walks and jogs. We go to the library. We go to the Discovery Center. She sits in her high chair while I cook and talk to her about what I'm doing. Basically, I try to find ways to engage her the rest of the day.

At the same time, Ada has had a huge jump in her ability to have independent play in the past month. So, I go with it. If she seems content  crawling around and talking to her toys, I encourage it. She'll sometimes do it for a half hour. Once even 45 minutes. I was there the whole time, but was able to actually read some of a book. It was fabulous.

#4: How many hours do you work each week? And do you feel like you are making enough $$$ to make it worthwhile?

My WB job is 10 hours a week. Blogging, which does not pay our mortgage by any means, is about 10 to 15 (but I enjoy it so much!). Anyway, I have been thinking of other ways to bring in a little money here and there.

Ideally, I would like to be able to bring in half of what I used to make at my desk job after taxes. Those of you who have done independent contractor work know that approximately 40% of your take-home pay goes to the government. It hurts!

I thought about starting an Etsy store. I wanted to make hair bows. Or sew children's clothing. Or something related to kids and babies. I might revisit this in the future, but it's rough to create stock and maintain a store when you have a child under the age of 1. Too difficult for me, at least.

I had also considered looking for part-time employment out of the house. The problem with that is childcare, as I didn't find many affordable part-time options in our area. Basically, any of the PT jobs I would get couldn't cover the cost of the childcare, so it wouldn't have made much sense.

So, after taking photos for friends and family for the last several years, I have decided to start my own photography business. Right now, and likely always, I am focusing on doing family photography sessions for friends and friends of friends, etc. I am hoping that by taking on a bit of work, I will improve on my own skills and also make a little extra money to help us buy groceries/etc.

We'll see where it goes, but so far I have had an encouraging response. But with starting a business comes expenses. Like registering a business name, maybe a new lens or two, photography props (and I have fun ideas for those!), etc. It all adds up.

To answer the question of if I feel it's worthwhile for me to piece together a career and stay home with Ada? YES. Definitely. I am working a lot. It's hard. I don't get vacation days or sick days. At this stage in my life, I am willing to sacrifice and be creative to make it work. I just hope it continues to work as well as it has!

If you have any more questions, I'd be happy to answer them in another post. Just email us at writingchapterthree [at] gmail [dot] com.

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