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.

May 18th, 2011

Should Stay at Home Moms Feel Guilty About Depriving Their Kids By Working at Home?

If there’s one thing many mothers are good at, it’s guilt. Doesn’t matter how hard they try, many moms can make themselves feel guilty about every imperfection in their parenting, whether or not it’s really a problem.

This can be particularly acute for stay at home moms who find a need to start working at home. Didn’t they start staying at home to be there for their kids? Are they depriving their kids by taking a part of their day in order to work?

It gets even worse when others add to the guilt trip. Some people insist work at home moms can’t be fair to their children while earning an income from home. What’s a stay at home mom to do?

Quit Letting the Guilt Get to You

You can’t always keep from feeling guilty about the things that keeping you from being available to your kids every minute. Not do you only have other things to get done around your home, you have the right to some amount of your own life.

When it comes to doing the things you need to get done, you shouldn’t feel guilty if you need help with the kids or if they have to wait a bit for your attention. This includes doing the things you have to do in order to earn enough money from home that you can stay at home.

You don’t have to be immediately available to every whim of your child to still be more available than you would be working outside your home. You’re also showing your children the reality of what it takes to earn a living. That’s not a bad example for them – odds are they’ll be doing that themselves someday, whether at a job outside their homes, or following your example and working from home.

There may be times when the stresses of working at home will make you a little short tempered with your family.  It happens to the best of us. But it’s real, and rather than feeling guilty about it, make sure you’re setting the example of handling the stresses and your temper as best you can. The way you handle these times will make an impression on your kids.

Schedule Around the Needs of Your Children

Your schedule when you work at home is often quite flexible. As much as you can, work it around the needs of your children. This allows you to be more available to them when they need you.

That means working late nights or early mornings for many work at home parents, plus naptimes when you need daytime hours with an infant, toddler or preschooler, or during school hours for older kids.

It doesn’t always work out for all of us to work such a schedule, but you do what you can. If you really need work time when the kids are going to be around and active, try trading babysitting, getting a mother’s helper or even paying for daycare, especially if the need is going to be a regular thing. It’s not that unusual for a work at home parent to need some help with the kids, especially the younger ones.

Remember That Children Need to Develop Independence

Particularly as the kids get older, teaching them to entertain themselves as you work is a way to encourage their independence. As kids get older, they really don’t need your attention every minute, even when they think they do.

I don’t mean leave your very young child unsupervised unnecessarily or unsafely. I do mean teaching your children how to have fun without you in age appropriate ways. Coloring, playing with blocks and other toys, reading, things like that.

If you have a laptop you can often lightly monitor your kids as they play on their own, even outdoors if you find a place where you can read your screen comfortably. It all depends on how much supervision is needed, and how much you can be distracted and still get work done, which varies quite a bit depending on what you do and your work style.

Take Breaks

Be sure to take breaks not only from working, but from parenting too. During your work day, take a short break every hour or so, and longer ones every few hours. These are great times to get a bit done around the house, interact with the kids or just relax a little.

Take breaks from parenting sometimes to remember who you are on your own. Get out with your spouse or with friends. Read a book you want to read just for the fun of it. Make time for one of your hobbies. Be you.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

This is important both in your professional life and your personal life. Spend too much comparing yourself to others, and you won’t appreciate so much the things you do get done.

You can’t compare your progress in your working life to how others are doing. They probably aren’t doing exactly the same thing, and they don’t have your exact home situation.

You can’t compare how you keep your home to how others manage it. They probably have different priorities, different rules, a different amount of time to care for their home, and so forth.

Just forget the comparisons. If you’re doing well enough for what your family needs, that’s pretty good.

Know How Much You Can Take On

It’s all too easy to take on too much when you work at home. The commitment to being a stay at home mom or dad is already pretty huge. Add in working at home, and the time commitment grows tremendously. You have to know how much work you can take on with everything else you need to get done, and balance that with the income you need to bring in for the sake of your family.

Remember the Alternatives

If you weren’t working at home, what would you be doing? Could you afford to be a stay at home mom or dad without the additional income? Would you have to go back to work outside your home? Would you have to tighten your belts but otherwise make it without the income you bring working at home?

A lot of parents work at home because they need the income for their families. Others don’t need it quite so badly, but work because they love what they do. Still others are keeping their skills in so that they can go back to work when the kids get older.

Whatever your reason for working at home, you probably gave it a lot of thought. Working at home isn’t so simple that most people can just plunge into it. There’s usually a long search for just the right job or home business opportunity, and much concern about scams.

Working at home may keep you busy when the kids wish you were free sometimes, but how would it go if you worked outside the home? You’d be gone for hours a day and have much less choice in most cases about which hours you work. You’d have a commute, whether short or long. You’d have to figure out how your children would be cared for while you’re at work.

That’s not the worst thing; many families have no choice but to have both parents working, and make it work for them just fine, but if it’s not what you want for your family, you only have so many ways to avoid it. You can work at home and lose some of the free time you have available to your family or you can deal with having a single income and all the risks and limitations that entails.

Don’t try to be Supermom and have the perfect home, perfect family while working long hours to add to the family’s income. It doesn’t work that way all the time and you’ll burn out trying to do it all. Get everyone to help out and know that the small stuff has to slide so you can take care of the big things.

Too often work at home moms try to keep their home as perfectly as they would if they didn’t have a job, plus be there every moment for their kids. That’s not fair to anyone. Not you as a parent who never gets a moment alone. Not to your kids who learn that parenthood means running around completely frazzled, doing things for everyone else and not for yourself. It’s not the example I suggest you make.

If everyone is safe, reasonably happy and properly fed, you’re doing it right. The rest is extra. Odds are your family will be impressed with all you accomplish no matter how guilty you feel about the things you think you should have done.

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.

March 14th, 2011

5 Tips to Make the Most of Being a Stay at Home Mom

It’s kind of odd being a stay at home mom much of the time. People have such varying expectations of you. Some figure you for lazy. Others know how much work you do. Too often immediate family takes you for granted.

There’s a lot to get done every day, and never enough time. You could drive yourself crazy with stress, but you’d be better off figuring out how to make the most of being a stay at home mom. With the right perspective and some good family support it’s a lot of fun. The parts where the kids are silly and you get to see them reach so many milestones are always fun, but some days you’ll wish the stress and noise would give you a break.

1. Take a break for you.

That’s right. When you need a break, find a way to take one. It won’t always be easy, but you need to take time for you.

The problem many stay at home moms have is that they’re on call 24/7 and they don’t ask enough help from their husbands. It’s that feeling that he works all day, discounting what you do all day yourself as just part of the deal. The simple truth is that you’re working hard too; it’s just a different kind of work, a different kind of hard. Much of what you do may seem like play to others, but if someone else did that for your kids, you’d probably have to pay them.

That’s why you need and deserve breaks. Children are demanding little rascals. You need a break so that you can deal with the demands in a better frame of mind, more relaxed, and with plenty of time to pursue your own interests.

There’s no good reason to drop all your interests just because you’re raising children, and many good reasons to keep them up. Reading to amuse yourself is a good example for the children, as is showing them that you have interests outside of their care. Nothing selfish about that. Instead you’re teaching your kids about things you like to do and that they can amuse themselves when you need time for yourself. You may still have to keep a bit of an eye on them while you pursue your interests, but the independence they learn in playing on their own, or with siblings and friends is a great skill.

2. Take time for your marriage.

Your kids need you quite a bit, but so does your husband. You need him too, and you both need time together. Make time for it.

Dates don’t have to be fancy, or even away from home. Put the kids to bed, shut off the TV or put a great movie you’ve been wanting to watch together, just make time for the two of you. A special dinner, some massage, even just talking, whatever sounds fun to the two of you.

That’s not to discount getting out on your own away from the house and the kids regularly. It’s just to point out that you don’t have to pay for a babysitter if you want to be spontaneous or the budget doesn’t work out. When you can get out together, do so. Have some fun.

It’s important to keep that connection in your marriage. It’s good for the both of you and a great example for the children. They need to know that your partnership as a married couple is a vital part of life.

3. Take time for your friends and other family.

Being a stay at home mom can be really lonely if you let it. Don’t.

This is a good time to quit talking about the kids and remember who you are. It will help encourage you to keep up your other interests, and of course it’s fun to have time with your own friends.

4. Take time for your career.

That’s right. Just because you’re a stay at home mom right now doesn’t mean you should neglect your career entirely. Stay at home moms have a lot of options right now to be there for their families and still either work from home or keep learning so they don’t lose all their work skills. Make the most of these opportunities.

This is important even if you think you’ll always be a stay at home mom. None of us know what the future holds. Death, divorce, layoffs, disabilities, all these things can mean you suddenly need to plunge back into the workforce. You should prepare in other ways financially as well, but keeping up some sort of job skills or running a home business can mean a lot in the long run.

There are a lot of ways to work at home, whether you telecommute from your usual career, freelance, take a simpler job that can be done from home or start your own business of one sort or another. The internet gives you more possibilities than your own mother had for an income from home.

You could also take time to further your career. Night classes, online classes, take something that will give your career a boost later on. Most of us don’t remain stay at home moms until retirement. Better to work to advance your career than to fall behind because your skills are out of date.

5. Have pride in your work as a stay at home mom.

Despite the common description, you aren’t “just” a stay at home mom. There’s nothing so little about it. You do complex, challenging work. Don’t minimize it. The work isn’t for everyone, but what job is?

You know you don’t have that much time for sitting and watching TV. Your day won’t sound like much to some people, but those who have been there know how much is really involved. Have a little fun talking about it when the topic comes up.

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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