While pregnant with my first child, I had a plan for my career. I would have the baby, stay home for six months, return to the office, and be a mom who juggled work and family brilliantly. But somewhere between the baby arriving and the epidural wearing off, my priorities changed. I needed to work and I enjoyed my career, but suddenly I had no desire to go back to an office or leave my daughter with anyone else. I had to invent a new career plan — quickly.
My transition from office to home employment was anything but smooth. I first convinced my then employer to let me telecommute. For two years, I managed a full workload plus one baby’s schedule. When baby No. 2 arrived, however, I could barely manage to make lunch. So I left my salaried position in search of opportunities that allowed me control of my schedule.
For the next decade, I worked freelance, consulted, and started more than one company in an effort to make money while being home with my kids. Though I have no regrets over embarking on the journey, I believe the path to being a work-at-home mom could have been straighter had I put a plan in place before starting a family.
Below is what I believe is the shortest route to being a work-at-home mom:
1. Pick the right field.
Whether you’re planning to be a work-at-home hairdresser, bookkeeper, programmer, or writer, choose a trade or field of study that lends itself to work that can be done remotely and autonomously. Web designers can effectively telecommute. Surgeons typically need to be in the operating room.
2. Pick the right employer.
Establish your career in an office, as needed, but choose an employer that supports telecommuting and has family-friendly policies so the perks will be available when you need them.
3. Prove your reliability beforehand.
The best way to prove you can be an effective work-at-home mom is to first prove you can simply work from home. Your employer is more likely to allow you to take your work home after the baby arrives if you have already proven that you can reliably self-manage.
4. Start your own business.
Sometimes you have to create your own work-at-home opportunity. Start the company or start working freelance before the kids arrive so you have time to put in the additional hours needed to establish a client base or ramp up the business.
My little sister learned from my experience and followed this advice. She majored in graphic design in college and got a job in web design after graduation. While working for a design firm, she took small freelance jobs on the side (with her employer’s knowledge). While pregnant with her first child, she moved to part-time employment and used the additional hours to increase her freelance work. When the baby arrived, she left the company to work entirely for herself.
Although my career changed awkwardly, I’m grateful the lessons learned enabled me to chart a course that my sister and other women I advise could follow to become work-at-home moms quickly and easily.
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