Growing up, I often considered what kind of career I would pursue. Would I be a teacher? An architect? A writer? Along with a career, I also knew that I wanted to get married and have children. Although I was quite happy that my mother chose to stay home with my siblings and me, I never assumed I would do the same.
Fast-forward to being a communications specialist, recently married, in my late 20s. As I looked at a positive pregnancy test, I felt excited. I felt nervous. I was (of course!) feeling sick. I was also feeling conflicted. I wasn’t sure what I would do once the baby arrived. I loved my career. I hadn't considered being a stay-at-home mom, but even before my son was born, I was already reluctant to leave him.
Despite my lack of forethought on this major life decision, things worked out in a way that was a great fit for our family. I didn’t become a SAHM (a stay-at-home mom, for the uninitiated) nor continue with a 9-to-5 job. Rather, I became a WAHM—a work-at-home mom.
I work several part-time jobs within my preferred field that have allowed me to build my career, not just maintain it. I'm a wife, a mother of a two-year old and an eight-month old, an editor, a communications director, and a freelance writer. Juggling all these hats is challenging. But I'm grateful for the opportunity to watch my sons grow. And I am invigorated by the deadlines, assignments, and projects I can pursue throughout the week.
While it is just one of many choices for women with children, many people have asked how I was able to find this career path. Some of it was being in the right place at the right time. But there are ways women can prepare to pursue the WAHM path, even before marriage.
01. Plan your career path in light of your desire to stay at home.
It seems obvious, but not all careers will lend themselves to working from home. In this increasingly digital age, there are a multitude of jobs that you can conduct from your living room couch. Marketing, teaching, graphic design, writing, and consulting, to name a few. But if your dream is to be a nurse, you’ll likely have to put on scrubs and head to where the patients are.
02. Consider your temperament.
As any parent who stays home with children can attest: It is rewarding but can also be exhausting. When you add baby’s nap schedule and toddler’s insistent demands to a workload of deadlines and Skype meetings, you’ve got yourself a one-woman circus. This may sound like just the challenge for you or it might sound like utter chaos that is best avoided. It's not going to be the right choice for everyone!
03. Network. Network. Network.
The best time to continue a career at home is after you’ve already established yourself in the field. Be on the lookout for opportunities to expand your career, even when your day job is in the office. Maybe you can teach an online course or write some articles for an online outlet. Contract out your skills and expertise to a few private clients. Or make some extra money with direct sales. These side gigs could easily turn into career paths when you are ready to make the switch.
04. Build a reputation for being punctual and responsible on your deliverables.
While meeting deadlines and being thorough is always important, it is even more crucial in a digital environment. Managers can’t pop in to check on your progress. So reliability, punctuality, and thoroughness become key attributes of a work-at-home mom. The more I exhibited these qualities, the more likely I was to receive projects that I found attractive.
Today, my schedule includes unpacking from a weekend trip, writing an email blast, reading to my toddler, participating in a phone meeting, nursing the baby, editing articles, and making peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches. It’s a varied and busy day, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.