After I had my first baby, I imagined I’d stay home with my daughter for at least a few months. I had a strong desire to be present during her infancy. But before I knew it a year had passed and I was still at home nurturing my not-so-new baby. People kept wondering (out-loud) when I’d go back to work. But I’d already gone back to work, just not in the conventional way that I’d imagined I would. Not long after her birth, I began working from home.
I started working from home out of financial necessity. At 24, I was a relatively young mother. Our household income was stretched thin without adding in the massive cost of childcare. At the end of the week, after the expenses were paid, I’d bring home such a measly amount that it didn’t feel worth it to be away from my baby just about all of the time. So I simply stayed home. I figured it was temporary. But after another baby and eight more years, I’m still working from home as a freelance writer. I’m still pulling double-duty, many days meeting deadlines while taking care of my toddler son at the same time.
I didn’t exactly picture myself here, but in many ways, working while child-rearing feels common. In fact, these days, it almost seems like a staple of modern-day parenting. While I once felt like a lone wolf, now I know dozens of moms who do the same to minimize or eliminate childcare costs. For many, it's the only good option, given that many modern moms are steadily being forced out of their jobs due to consistently rising costs of childcare. For those that need to work in order to make ends meet, working from home has become a booming trend, and with more opportunities now through the internet, work-at-home jobs aren’t all that hard to find. They range from writing, to online teaching and tutoring, to direct sales jobs. Even many traditional office jobs now allow parents to work from home either full or part-time.
For those that need to work in order to make ends meet, working from home has become a booming trend.
Emily Martin is an account director at an advertising company. She says it became financially necessary that she work from home after the birth of her second baby. “If I couldn’t be working from home I would be doing something else entirely while my children are small,” she says.
Martin says if it were not for her small company, run by a woman who understood the need, she may not have the opportunity because it's rare in her industry. “The larger organizations are missing the boat by not allowing moms to work from home and driving women out."
Martin feels grateful for her secure position but admits that blending work with home-life has challenges. While she has part-time help with her children during the week, feeling overwhelmed is her new normal. “The over-communication necessary with my husband about schedules, work needs and family needs can be an exhausting task. Creating separation and compartmentalizing work versus home is critical for my sanity,” she says.
Moms who work in direct sales know a lot about pulling double-duty, too. Mother of two, Corinne James runs an international beauty business online selling makeup with Younique while staying home with her kids. “At first I started this business because we could not afford for me not to work, but we had the struggle of childcare costs,” she says. “Then this amazing opportunity came into my life 3 years ago, after the birth of our second child. Since then, I have been able to continue running my business from anywhere I have cell service.” James is hugely successful in her business, but still feels the heat of all of her obligations. “Finding balance and prioritizing is not easy. I am still trying to figure it all out,” she admits.
So are most families. According to a 2017 survey from Bankrate, about 63 percent of Americans can’t afford a $500 emergency. Young families among some of the most hard hit. Working from home is not a perfect solution, but it can be a financial necessity. Yet, mothers who work-at-home are often criticized for their decision.
According to a 2017 survey from Bankrate, about 63 percent of Americans can’t afford a $500 emergency.
As a writer, I've experienced this first-hand. Mothers who write, specifically mothers who write about motherhood are often seen as not being real writers. I’ve had my work called a “hobby” plenty of times simply because I worked from home, or perhaps because I write about life and family. Writer and mother of two Sara Farrell Baker can relate to the frustration of not being taken seriously in her profession. “Just the fact that people see me posting multiple articles I write a week, then when I mention ‘working’ they say ‘Oh, I didn’t know you worked! What do you do?’... I’m a writer, jerk!” she quips.
Moms who work in direct sales for companies like Younique, DoTerra, Jamberry, and Lularoe are particularly targeted for their hustle. It’s been said that they are taking advantage of friendships by bombarding their social media feeds with ad posts in order to earn their paycheck. They’ve been bashed in just about every possible way. And it’s usually done on websites directed at mothers, so these hit pieces are hard to miss. While some moms in direct sales experience a great deal of success, the scrutiny feels relentless.
Perhaps it’s not the moms who need to be critiqued, but some of the companies who prey on the modern childcare predicament. LuLaRoe, for example, has been under the microscope lately for what some say are less-than-ethical business practices. The company is up against a billion dollar lawsuit and at least 24 women who sold the products have filed for bankruptcy, calling it a “pyramid scheme.”
While some moms in direct sales experience a great deal of success, the scrutiny feels relentless.
Jen Armstrong (who asked for her name to be changed for privacy reasons) worked for the company after the birth of her daughter during maternity leave, and then as a side-gig on top of her full-time job. “At first sales were great. They really were,” she says. “I was bringing in an extra $3,000 per month for my family.”
But the company grew too fast for their own good, she says. “In my year span of being a consultant they went from 5,000 to 80,000 consultants. The market was so over-saturated,” making it almost impossible for consultants to do enough business, she adds.
While Anderson has her own gripes with the company itself, she says she purposefully will not read negative articles targeting moms working in direct sales. “I give women a lot of respect to women who are able to run a successful business while having a family,” she says. She also credits the company with helping her in one profound way — giving her a piece of her identity back after having a baby. “It gave me the chance to meet a ton of fantastic women,” she adds. “LuLaRoe helped me break out of my postpartum depression. It helped me connect with young moms, which was something I’d been missing.”
LuLaRoe helped me connect with young moms, which was something I’d been missing.
While some are able to make work at home careers work for them, families still deserve the option of affordable childcare. Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director and CEO of Moms Rising, a grassroots organization that helps communities mobilize on issues that affects modern families, says it’s one of the biggest economic struggles families with young children today face. “Parents need safe, enriching places for their children to be so they can earn the paychecks their families rely on. And children need safe, enriching early education so they can thrive,” she wrote in an email. “So when childcare costs are out of reach, parents are in an impossible position. We have an urgent need to make childcare affordable and accessible in this country, and to make sure those caring for our little ones are able to support their own families with a liveable wage.”
Moms Rising is working on passing the Child Care for Working Families Act, which would ensure parents pay no more than 7 percent of their income for childcare. They also support expanding childcare tax credits for low and middle income families.
These days, too many modern moms are struggling for options. And when they find one, they are undervalued, scrutinized or seen as less vital for choices that don’t often feel like choices at all. Let’s stop crucifying the moms who stay home and investigate the system that forces them to pull double-duty in the first place.