Don’t want to leave your baby for nine hours a day, spend your lunch hour pumping, and risk missing important milestones in your child’s life? If you’re working a traditional 9-5 job, these are your choices: reduce your hours, take a significant amount of time off (if allowed), or quit your job.
What Working Mothers Are Doing
A 2013 Pew Research survey showed that 42% of mothers have taken the first option, 39% the second, and 27% the third. Let’s compare that to fathers: 28%, 24%, and 10%. Okay, so we know that women are more likely than men to let family obligations interrupt their own career advancement, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There is a bright side to that third choice of quitting your job: creating a new, more flexible one. One that you can do in your PJs.
There’s Another Option
I’m not talking about network marketing. I’m talking freelancing. NPR calls it “the gig economy.” And ambitious, creative women—especially those with families or planning families—are catching on and joining the freelance nation. They’re becoming solopreneurs. “Mompreneurs” if you will. As a freelance writer with a 15-month-old, I’m one of them.
I’m a college-educated woman who had a career in education before deciding to start a family. When my daughter was born, like many moms, I was torn between my work and my family. I tried toughing it out, because I truly loved my job, but my parenting, my marriage, and my work performance were all suffering. So with the full support of my principal and coworkers, I quit my job mid-school year—a sacrilege decision in the martyrized field of teaching, but one that saved my sanity and the well-being of everyone around me.
Why Not Network Marketing?
So as a newly minted stay at home mom still craving a purpose outside of doing diapers and dishes, why didn’t I turn to network marketing? I had my pick from a Facebook feed sea of Jamberry Nails and Young Living Essential Oils. But it just couldn’t meet my needs for professional, intellectual, and gainful employment. I think multi-level marketing is a great solution for the existing stay-at-home parent who wants to pad their spouse’s income, but it’s not a viable option for someone looking for a resume-worthy pursuit during their children’s formative years.
What’s the Solution?
I believe, wholeheartedly, that the solution is freelancing. And don’t worry if grammar isn’t your strong suit, because “writer” isn’t the only option in this field. The freelancing world is full of create-it-yourself jobs in fields of social media, design, consulting, technology, administrative, sales, service, marketing, and others.
If you have credentials—whether it be in accounting or as legal professional—you can offer your services on retainer to small businesses. If you’re a licensed teacher, you can instruct online or offer tutoring services. Computer engineer? Try designing mobile apps, databases, or eCommerce platforms. Jill of all trades? Be a virtual assistant and help bloggers and professionals alike outsource their administrative tasks.
Of course, there is still the traditional world of freelance writing. But it’s been flipped on its head in the last few years with options like writing ebooks, ghostwriting blog posts, and generating sales copy for landing pages.
What Are the Perks?
The point is that being a freelancer allows you the flexibility you’re looking for. Being a small business owner means that you can shift your schedule to allow for the unexpected hiccups or the more fun adventures.
Say you’re a freelancer and your daughter spikes a fever during your scheduled work time? Put down your laptop and heat up some chicken noodle soup. You can wake up early tomorrow to meet that deadline. Want to make it to that mommy and me music class at the local community center at 9 am, in the middle of your typical work block? Stay up a little later tonight working on your client’s project. Your family gets a surprise, last minute vacation to the Great Barrier Reef? Pack your laptop and find a hotel with WiFi. No need to arrange for coverage or ask permission to use vacation time.
With freelancing, gone are the days of feeling pressure from your boss to take a short maternity leave. Gone are the days of worrying about pumping to provide enough food for your baby without sacrificing your time and schedule at work. Gone are the days of feeling like a daycare provider has more influence over your child than you do.
More Flexibility Is Key
I understand that freelancing isn’t for everyone. Our economy couldn’t sustain a strictly entrepreneur workforce. But I do know that it’s a real option for highly-educated women who become mothers and struggle with a work/life balance in a traditional job.
You may have heard of the “opt-out” revolution where 10% of women with a master’s degree or higher are choosing to leave their careers to stay at home with their children. However, a 2009 Center for Work-Life Policy survey of these women found that 69% wouldn’t have left if their workplace had offered more flexibility.
Freelancing offers that flexibility and the ability to avoid a resume gap should these educated women choose to go back to a traditional career. But the amazing thing is that they may never have to. Since I’ve “gone rogue,” I’ve met countless bloggers and freelancers making full-time incomes online. Some make over six figures from just their blogs alone. Working from home isn’t every mother’s dream, but for those of us who want to have the best of both worlds, it is the ideal solution. And staying in your PJs all day, if you like, isn’t half bad either.
Have you transitioned to working from home? How did you do it? Have you been happier as a result?