All moms know that being a mom is a full-time job in itself. But since it doesn't pay the bills, many continue to work a traditional job while raising their children. Others are finding creative ways to morph the stay-at-home-mom role to a hybrid stay-at-home/work-at-home role. Sara Haley is just one of the many moms raising a family while working from home.
Haley is a divorced, single stay-at-home mom raising her 3-year-old daughter, April. She does this while simultaneously running an online business which offers a variety of professional services, including desktop publishing, ghostwriting, data entry, and audio transcription. Here's her story.
What type of work did you do before your daughter was born?
At the time, my then-husband and I owned our own business, which we had to stop after the birth of April because we no longer had time to run it. I was already at home at the time, caring for my husband's son (my stepson) full-time, as well as running the business. Before we started the business, however, I was a desktop publisher at a local copy and print store, and had thoroughly enjoyed using my "creative juices" on a daily basis on a nice variety of print projects.
How did you come up with the idea for your business?
After the birth of my daughter, we had to stop running our business and neither of us had a job for about six months until my husband found some work. During that time we lived strictly off of our savings (and with a newborn that was hard) and I was trying to find something that I could do from home, during my daughter's nap time and down time. I stumbled across a freelancing site called oDesk.com. I created a profile, applied for some jobs, and got an audio transcription job the next day. I've been hooked ever since!
What is the best part of being amom?
During my marriage, I was a stay-at-home mom that dabbled in freelance work during my spare time. When I started going through my divorce and moved out on my own, I knew I was going to have to be the sole provider for my daughter and me.
Freelancing seemed the perfect alternative -- I could stay home with my daughter and watch her grow and spend time with her, but at the same time could pay the bills and keep us afloat on our own. This eliminated daycare costs and other expenses related to working outside the home, plus I got to set my own schedule and work around naptimes, bedtime and TV time. I love that I can be with her all day, every day, and can save money on expensive daycare and working costs at the same time.
What is the most difficult part of being a work-at-home mom?
Sometimes I overbook myself and my daughter decides not to be cooperative that day. I have learned to overestimate job times, just in case, and also have a very supportive network of family and friends that can pitch in to watch my daughter if I'm in a tight spot with a rush job. Another challenge of being a work-at-home mom, doing freelance work, is that it can be extremely challenging to budget with inconsistent income.
Some months are worse than others, and I have to find a balance and pay the bills as the money comes in, in order to ensure I have a roof over our heads, food on the table, and clothes on our backs. Because I am unable to afford daycare, I probably work what would be considered "part-time" hours, but can afford the basics, which is really all we really need.
How do you schedule your work?
I schedule work in when I can, and utilize my daughter's quiet times to really crank out some productive hours. I've never actually "tracked" my hours, but like I said, I probably work the equivalent of a part-time schedule most weeks.
How do you make time for yourself?
It is so hard to make time for myself. Since I'm at the beck and call of my clients, I typically work every day -- no days off, and no vacation or sick days. I recently completed a marathon, and did so with the help of a local gym that provided drop-in daycare. A lot of my "me" time was spent running miles on the treadmill, sweating to an intense yoga class, or even enjoying a long, hot shower at the gym with no interruptions. (Most moms can only dream of this!) After my workout, I usually take my daughter for a swim and spend some time with her, before heading back home and hunkering down at my desk for the day. Not only is the gym excellent "mommy time," it is also a healthy way to spend a weekday morning!
What's your top time-management tip for working at home while raising children?
Plan for the unexpected. With my clients, I find that I typically overestimate the length of time it will take for a project, but I do so to plan for the unexpected phone call, errand, or emergency that may arise. It also helps give a little leeway if my daughter decides to be a little more fussy or dependent on certain days. She's 3, so her mood and cooperation can directly effect how much I can get done on a particular day. I would suggest not overscheduling yourself, and overestimate turnaround times, or you're setting yourself up for complete disaster! Clients understand that you are caring for a child, but they don't want it to affect the quality and timeliness of your work for them.
What advice do you have for other moms who are considering working at home while raising children?
Seriously: if you are considering it, do it. It is an amazing opportunity to enjoy the best of both worlds -- being home with your kids and still bringing in an income (or support income, if your husband is working outside the home). It saves on so many other expenses as well, which can make it an economically advantageous option for families looking to save money on gas, daycare, and work attire. It can be difficult to juggle personal and business at first, but once you get into the groove of being a work-at-home mommy, it can be so extremely satisfying and rewarding!
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