November 29th, 2011

How Do Stay at Home Moms Get the Holiday Shopping Done?

One of the more difficult things to do as a stay at home mom is to find time to get out without the kids tagging along, especially when they’re younger. It’s bad enough the rest of the year, but when the holiday season comes and you want to get presents for the kids without them catching you at it, things can get pretty difficult. How can you handle all that shopping when you need to watch the kids?

These are just a few of the ways I handle things. It’s not always easy to get time on my own, but something is usually possible eventually.

Shop Online

This one should be obvious these days, but it’s not always easy to keep kids from peeking over your shoulder, nor is it always a replacement for going out and actually seeing the things you want to buy. When you’ve got just a little time and privacy, it’s one of the easiest. Great selection, shipping free from many sites, this stuff can be good.

Amazon is a common favorite because they carry such an amazing range of things. I also have a deep fondness for ThinkGeek. I’d imagine you have your own favorites too.

Shop During School Hours

If the kids go to school and you have a few hours without them, it’s a great time to get your holiday shopping done. It means watching the clock a little, but that’s not usually a major problem.

Have Someone Else Watch the Kids

I love this option. Usually it’s my husband or a grandparent watching the kids to give me time out for holiday shopping. Grandparents are particularly useful if my husband and I want to go out shopping together. It’s fun picking things out with someone else to talk to, after all.

If you don’t have family nearby, see about trading off with friends. Surely you know someone else who has a hard time getting out to shop because of their kids. Make a deal which benefits you both.

Remember Toddlers Don’t Really Understand Everything

I do a lot of my holiday shopping with my toddler in tow, even if it’s for her. I can show her things, even put them into the cart and buy them, and know that by the time I give them to her, she’ll be excited all over again. She also doesn’t yet have the vocabulary to spoil any surprises for her siblings.

Shop Later

One of the presents my kids ask for most often is that I take them shopping after the holidays or a birthday. They love that a big part of their present is time out with me or their father, whoever they pick. A budget is set, the kinds of things I’ll be willing to buy explained, and off we go. Usually there’s ice cream or a movie involved as well. It’s fun and it ensures that whatever is bought is what that child wanted.

I try to make this one on one time, but it can be done with siblings along if desired. Just make it a little extra special.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

October 26th, 2011

How Do You Find Work After Being a Stay at Home Mom?

“Are you going back to work when all your kids are in school (grow up, etc.)?”

It’s a common question stay at home moms get, and not the most welcome one in a lot of cases. Many people assume that once your kids are in school, you don’t need to be a stay at home mom for them anymore, despite all the challenges of getting them to school and back home again after, coping with sick days and so forth. And certainly you won’t be staying home once all the kids are grown! What are you going to do once that time comes that you need to find a job when you’ve been spending years as a stay at home mom?

This can be a real dilemma, although it gets worse if suddenly you can’t be a stay at home mom anymore because your family needs more money coming in for one reason or another. Then it can be urgent.

I get this question here and there, even from fellow stay at home moms. In my case, I’m fortunate enough to have a business that I love and that may allow me to continue to stay at home, kids or no. We’ll see what the future holds. It doesn’t hurt, however, to plan ahead so you know what you’ll do when you’re no longer able to stay at home.

Keeping Up or Building Your Job Skills

What kind of work would you like to do when you’re no longer staying at home? Do you have a dream job you’d love to have? What would it take to get you into that job?

If it’s a job you had before you became a stay at home mom, you may have skills you need to keep up. There may be journals in your field you should be reading to keep up on the latest, or short classes you can take here and there to maintain your skills. These are the kinds of things you might be doing even if you were working in the industry now, and there’s little reason to give it up just because you’re at home now. Hopefully they’ll come in handy again in the future.

If you have a dream job you’d like to get into when the kids are old enough, at what point should you start taking classes to help you in that direction? Are classes available online that you could take while watching your kids?

For example, I have considered the possibility that I’ll go into Instructional Design someday. I took a course in that in college, and it was a lot of fun. My college had a Master’s Degree program for it, so if I want to do that in the future, I’ll have to look at how I’d qualify for that program.

Look into any grants or scholarships you may qualify for when you’re getting ready to go back to school. There are grants available in some places for homemakers who want to build marketable skills. Check with your local colleges to see if something is available to you to help with the costs. An online search can help too, just be careful of scholarship scams.

Working from Home

Many stay at home moms keep their skills or build up new ones by working at home. You can find a job you can do from home, freelance for a variety of clients or start your own business. This is the option I took, and I’m glad of it, as it has allowed me to stay home with my kids even when my husband was laid off work, plus  I’m continuing to pay into Social Security in the hopes that it will continue to be there.

Even if you believe you’re always going to stay at home, earning some amount of income is a good idea. Not only do you never know what’s going to happen in the future, you need some way to save for retirement. If you aren’t earning your own money, make sure to take some of your husband’s income for a retirement account. Odds are you’ll need it someday.

I like working from home. It’s rough getting things started, but for me it has been well worth the trouble. I’ve had pathetic months where my earnings have been miserable, and great ones where I’ve earned more than my husband, all while being there for our kids.

I have skills now that I could use in a job outside the home if I had to. If it comes down to it, I might still go for that, but I could certainly show a potential employer that I could help them with certain online parts of their business. It’s not a bad skill to have. Alternatively, I could brush up my old medical transcription skills, although I’d have to learn to cope with electronic medical records.

Earning some amount of your own money at home can be very good for the future of your career as well as your retirement. You may not want it to take over the time you mean to spend with your kids, but there are always early mornings, nap time, school time and/or night time to work if you want to be mostly focused on the kids during the day.

Setting Up Your Resume

The resume is the hardest part for a long term stay at home mom. You may not feel as though there’s much to put there, and just where are you going to get references anyhow?

The important thing to a potential employer is that they know you are truly interested in getting back to work. They don’t want to hear how you’re missing being with your kids or other such things. If you might have childcare issues, be upfront about that.

As a stay at home mom, you’ve done a lot of work keeping your family organized, dealing with finances, possibly you’ve volunteered at the school or other places. These things can be highlighted on your resume, along with any work you’ve done or classes you’ve taken to keep your job skills up to date. Volunteer work may be a good place to get references. Don’t be ashamed of having been a stay at home mom; just point out the skills you used as one. Skip silly titles for the work you do at home and go for realistic ones.

Remember to tweak your resume for each job you apply for. You want to emphasize the skills the job listing asked for. Focus more on skills than on dates, but have the dates available on your resume, as many employers still want to know. A flat out chronological resume may not be your best choice, but a combination format allowing you to emphasize your skills while giving employers access to the dates they may be interested in is often your best choice.

Don’t stress too much about keeping your resume down to a single page, but don’t make it excessively long either. These days you’re more likely to be sending your resume by email or through an online form.

Make sure you know how to write a good cover letter too. Some companies care about them, others don’t, but you usually won’t know that in advance.

Try a Temp Agency

If you just aren’t finding a permanent job of the sort you’d like, try a temp agency. Sometimes these jobs turn permanent, but even when they don’t, you’re building up your skills and making them more current while earning money. That’s far better than being out of work.

Don’t expect a temp agency to be the solution to your job search woes. They won’t always have work available to you immediately. They are simply another tool you can use as you look for a job.

Update Your Wardrobe

Make sure you have a reasonably current wardrobe appropriate to the type of work you’ll be doing. Just what you need depends on the job, and it may not be exactly what it was when you last worked outside the home. Many are more casual than they used to be. Fortunately, dressing up a little for interviews is still a good plan in many industries.

Returning to work after being a stay at home mom for a few years or more can feel pretty strange, but it’s entirely possible to make the transition. Search hard, prepare well and do your research before interviews.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

October 19th, 2011

Are Stay at Home Moms Really Bored?

Sometimes I still get caught off guard about how people see stay at home moms, even other stay at home moms. There’s this assumption that you aren’t really doing anything that happens all too much. I dealt with this problem recently with a fellow stay at home mom at my children’s school.

I was telling her how happy I was to finally have a way to get my volunteer hours in at the school with my toddler in tow. To get guaranteed admission for my kids into this new charter school, I had agreed to do 50 hours of volunteer work at the school. This has been a bit of a problem as she’s not allowed to be with me if I volunteer in the classrooms. However, as the school has a room for parents to work for the teachers while watching their younger children, I decided to see if I could do reading with individual students. Happily, they gave me permission to do that, so long as I don’t leave my little one alone in the room. She’s two, so that much was obvious to me.

The other mom congratulated me on having a new way to keep busy.

Busy? I thought I was busy. I’m raising 3 kids and have a reasonably successful online business. My life isn’t exactly quiet. Adding in reading with my son’s classmates makes my life busier, sure, but it’s not the only way I do that by a long shot.

I always wonder if these attitudes come about because so many stay at home moms don’t see their own work as work in that sense. It just has to be done, as though that makes it less valued than other sorts of work, and it’s certainly not enough to keep you busy.

I also don’t consider this sort of volunteering to be social time. I won’t even get to speak to the teacher much, since we’ll be in separate rooms, she’ll be busy with the kids in the classroom and I’ll be busy with each child she sends to me, plus my little one. I’ll be more interested in how many kids I can get through each day before my youngest gets too frustrated with the whole process. She loves listening to stories so I hope she won’t be too difficult, but she’s two. It happens.

I’m not a big believer in stay at home mom boredom. I don’t think most moms who really chose to stay at home are bored. If you are, it’s probably a good time to find something to add to your day, just don’t assume that I’m bored too. I have too many things I’ve chosen to add to my days for boredom to be a major part of my day.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

October 10th, 2011

How Do You Cope When You Feel Stigmatized as a Stay at Home Mom?

We all know the stereotype of the stay at home mom lounging on the couch, eating bonbons and watching soap operas. It’s a little out of date, but switch soap operas to texting her friends all day, and too many people keep the image of the lazy stay at home mom in their minds. Others are recognizing that many stay at home moms blog, but that isn’t always treated as a positive. Clearly she’s ignoring her family and not respecting their privacy. There has to be something wrong about what a mom does, right?

I’ll admit to being a big fan of being a work at home mom. I like the challenges of earning a living from my business, and frankly it’s the only way I could stay home with the kids anyhow. My husband doesn’t earn so much that I could focus entirely on raising my family. That way lies financial disaster for us, not to mention frustration for me. But that doesn’t mean I don’t respect those moms who choose to be stay at home moms, no work at home job, no home based business, just focusing on the needs of her family.

There can be a certain lack of respect for that choice, however. Many people say stay at home moms are wasting their educations and talents. They’d be surprised to learn that being a stay at home mom doesn’t turn your brain to mush. Most days at least, and anyone who has ever held a job knows working outside the home can do that too.

I think a lot of the problem is that raising a family isn’t seen as a serious contribution to society. After all, working parents do the same while holding down a job. Surely a mother doesn’t have to stay home with her kids and only stay home with her kids, right?

That’s certainly possible, but it’s not the only valid choice, and it shouldn’t be the only valid choice. Just because you can work outside the home and still be a wonderful mother doesn’t mean you have to work outside the home if you believe another choice is better for your family.

Being a stay at home mom doesn’t mean you’re like one of the housewives on a TV show. You probably aren’t a trophy wife, although hopefully your husband is proud of you. Your life is rarely all that dramatic, just filled with moments that make being a stay at home mom worthwhile.

You don’t always have time to watch someone else’s children, run errands for them or volunteer for everything that comes up. You may or may not love to bake. Your home is as clean as you care to make it, and if that’s too clean for some people and not clean enough for others, that’s their problem, not yours.

You are absolutely qualified to have an opinion on world, national and local events. You aren’t so obsessed with your family that you don’t pay attention to the world around you.

You do know the many advantages to being home. It’s not just raising your family and being there for your kids, although that’s a pretty huge advantage. Some stay at home moms are also helping with elderly parents or other family members needing special care. You can help friends out when it fits in with everything else you’re doing if you so choose. Plus you get lots of special time with your children.

Stay at home moms give up a lot, and many don’t realize just how much, especially financially. It’s not just the loss of income. It’s less savings for retirement. It’s a long delay in her career, which means missed promotions and opportunities. The sacrifices aren’t for the faint of heart.

What Do You Do When Someone Doesn’t Respect You as a Stay at Home Mom?

You aren’t always going to get the respect you deserve as a stay at home mom because some people just don’t get it. That said, the more confident you are in the value of what you do, the harder it is for someone to say it to your face. The things you do all day aren’t too trivial to be mentioned. They may not be topics that everyone enjoys discussing, but then not everyone enjoys talking about sports, that awful traffic jam, who got that great promotion or shopping either. Find something else to talk about to the people who find your work as a stay at home mom boring.

As for stay at home dads, yes, I know people stigmatize you too. It’s usually a rather different sort of stigma than moms get, perhaps even less comfortable since stay at home dad isn’t so traditional a position as being a stay at home mom. Keep doing your best and know that there are people who appreciate you too.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

July 21st, 2011

What Can Stay at Home Moms Do When a Money Crunch Hits Their Family?

Having one parent, usually the mom, stay home with the kids is often seen as a benefit to the family. One parent is always there for the kids, you don’t have to spend money on daycare, it just sounds better.

The only problem is that when finances get tight, you have less flexibility. There’s a certain financial sacrifice already when you have one parent stay at home, and when the one income drops or disappears suddenly, your family may be in trouble. How can you, as a stay at home mom or dad, help?

I’m going to assume at this point that you’ve already cut back on spending in the usual area. It’s the most obvious and simplest step to take, even if it’s not without discomfort. When money’s tight, don’t spend on the things your family doesn’t need, and know the difference between needs and wants. There’s a lot of ground in there, but you can find what works for your family.

Here are some other ways to help out with a money crunch while still being a stay at home mom.

Find a Way to Earn Money From Home

Whatever you do, don’t be desperate about this one. It’s easy to get scammed when you’re trying to get a work at home job or start a home business. You have to pay attention to what you’re getting yourself into.

Don’t expect miracles. Most people earning money from home don’t earn millions, or even thousands per month. If you find some good work to do, it’s still something you can contribute financially to your family.

I have a post on how to earn money from home if you’d like more ideas on how to get started.

Increase the Income You’re Already Earning

You might be earning money from home already, in which case it’s time to step things up and bring in more money. That can mean increasing your rates if you’re a freelancer, working harder on getting more sales if you’re an affiliate or if you sell your own products, or asking your employer for more hours if you have a work at home job. Find a new affiliate product to offer that complements the products you’re already offering.

The thing to remember if you’re already earning money is that you can find ways to increase it. It may not be easy, and may add to the stress in your life, but that’s often what it takes to dig yourself out of a bad financial position.

Get a Job Outside the Home

This can still be compatible with one parent staying at home. If your spouse is still working, just with a decreased income, consider taking on a job at night, and being the at home parent during the day. Working opposite shifts from your spouse sucks big time, but if that’s what it takes to support your family, you may have to do it.

If your spouse is completely out of work, it may also pay for both of you to look for work. It might just be that you trade who’s the one at home, assuming the parent who had been working can stand the switch. Not all can.

Sell Things You Don’t Need

Selling things you don’t need only takes care of the short term, but that can be important in the long run. When my old car broke down, we didn’t have the money to replace it, but we also realized we didn’t really need it. Selling it for the little bit it was worth not only brought in a little money, it cut down on insurance and gas costs. I almost hated replacing it when the time came that my husband’s car was no longer enough.

Garage sales can be pretty easy to organize, although you do have to be aware of the over enthusiastic bargain shoppers. Some areas require you get a permit in order to hold a garage sale. The money is quick, and you get rid of things you truly no longer need.

Same for selling on Craigslist. It’s a fast way to get some money, but probably not a complete solution.

Try Not to Rely on the Credit Cards Too Much

While it may be necessary to put more than usual on the credit cards when times are tight, do what you can to minimize that. Credit card debt can take a very long time to pay off, and can keep the financial stress up even after your income improves.

The most important thing you can do when your family has money troubles is to find a way to work through it together. These things don’t last forever; they just require some extra effort to find your way through.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.