by Heather Mundt
In 2009, Lisa Melli Gillespie was at a career crossroads. A business prospect had dissolved, and her son and daughter were getting older. She felt lost with newfound time on her hands until she saw a magazine article encouraging her to say “yes” to new experiences. That spawned her idea to try “101 New Experiences in 1,001 Days,” beginning in January 2010.
The journey exceeded 101 experiences, helping Gillespie establish an artistic-soap company in her Boulder home. Learning to make soap in 2013 was “experience 120,” she says, and soon neighbors, friends and relatives were begging for more of her unique, artistic soap. “That started to make me think it could be more of a business than a hobby,” she says.
Earning Income While Caretaking
Gillespie is one of a growing number of women redefining what it means to be a stay-at-home mom by adding family income, either via in-home businesses or telecommuting jobs.
In fact, nearly two-thirds of stay-at-home moms (62 percent) contribute to their household income, and 25 percent said they ran a business from home, according to the 2016 survey, The Mom Gig. Launched by Redbookmag.com and conducted by Laura Vanderkam, author of I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time, the study illustrates the prevalence of today’s work-at-home moms.
“It turns out that staying at home has become a gig all on its own,” Vanderkam says. “Because most of today’s stay-at-home moms aren’t just taking care of their kids—they’re caretaking and working.”
Denver-based career coach Anne Gottlieb Angerman says she often consults with stay-at-home moms who find themselves job-searching.
“Especially for first-time moms, they’re very excited about staying home,” she says. “It seems so romantic to be at home with kids.” But oftentimes, she says, moms are soon compelled to find work, either due to increased financial demands associated with raising kids or simply a need for a purpose outside of motherhood. “I think a lot of (job-searching) depends on if the woman has had a profession before,” Angerman says.
The Value of Keeping Your Skills Up
French teacher Melissa Gherardi, a Longmont mom, was shocked at how difficult it was just to get a job interview after a five-year hiatus while staying home with her daughter, despite having a master’s degree.
“I decided that if I couldn’t fill the work-experience void on my resume from my time as a stay-at-home mom … maybe I could start to close it a little by volunteering,” Gherardi says.
With her daughter in kindergarten, she began volunteering once a week as an Adult English-Language Learners teacher at a Boulder-based church school. Three years later, she landed a part-time job teaching French at a private-language school in Boulder. She can teach anywhere from two to 10 hours weekly during the day to ensure she’s home at night with her family.
Gherardi says getting back to teaching makes her a better mom. “By being away from my home and family, I actually appreciate the time that I have with them more,” she says.
For Heather Williams, being an interior designer means she’s been able to keep skills fresh by taking on freelance projects that fit into her stay-at-home mom schedule. It’s been critical for the Longmont mom of three boys to maintain her pre-kids career. “It’s more about enjoyment and fulfillment so I don’t feel like I’m getting lost,” she says. “It’s about maintaining my self-worth and sanity.”
Angerman says moms often benefit from a feeling of purpose outside the home. “When you feel some sense of purpose in your life, you’re going to feel better about yourself,” she says. “I think that’s important.”
Heather Mundt is a freelance writer and mother of two based in Longmont.
Advice for Work-From-Home Parents
If you’re thinking of trying to work at home while remaining flexible for children’s schedules, consider these points.
Determine priorities. It’s important to identify what’s most important to you in a part-time job. For instance, does your family need benefits? Can you work weekends or do you need to be home for kids’ activities? Are you earning money for a goal or to get out of the house? Answering such questions can help you focus your job opportunities, career coach Anne Gottlieb Angerman says.
Try something new. Not sure what to do? Think about what you enjoy. If you need to learn more, take a class first. Do you need to build experience? Volunteer first.
Consider service. Some people are willing to pay for services that make their lives easier, Angerman says, whether that’s driving people around, cooking meals, completing errands, walking a dog or even organizing digital photos. “If people want a service to be done, they’re willing to pay for it,” Angerman says. Think about tasks at which you excel, that others want to delegate.
Network, network, network. Over 60 percent of job hunters find jobs through people they know, Angerman says. “So much of getting jobs is relationship-building,” she says. Text your inner circle about your job-searching efforts, bring it up to parents and staff at your kids’ school or consider posting your intentions on social media. You never know who will have a connection to a job that would be perfect for you.
Love what you do. Everyone wants a flexible schedule, but if the work is not a good fit for your skill set, chances are, you won’t stick with it long. You have to love some aspect of what you do, Lisa Melli Gillespie says. “That’s why my soap business centers around me being an artisan, creative, teacher and speaker: I love the work.”
Flexible Work To Consider Based On Your Gifts
- Blogging for companies
- Tutoring students
- Providing part-time or after-school childcare
- Teaching exercise classes
- Personal shopping
- Home organizing
- Pet walking/grooming/sitting
Finding Work From Home
After Alaina Forbes had her first child in 2000, she wanted to work from home. But the Littleton mom struggled to find reliable online resources in her job search. “As I researched, I started making a list of legitimate companies that hired work-from-home employees,” she says. “Over the years, I kept getting requests from friends of friends who wanted the list. And I basically eventually turned all that research into my blog.”
Now the mom of four manages social media as a virtual assistant, in addition to earning money from her blog and freelance-writing opportunities. To get started on your own work-from-home job search, check out Forbes’ blog at telecommutingmommies.com. Other sites she recommends are: