As more American mothers find freedom and flexibility in the workforce, the creation of a new acronym may be in order. This fresh grouping of letters would represent a blending of Stay at Home Moms (SAHM) and moms working outside of the home to reflect growing options for women.
Mothers striving for a more family-friendly work environment have opted to leave corporate America and other 9-to-5 gigs to pursue flexible jobs such as freelance work or home-based businesses. Many companies, both new and well-established, make remote work possible by utilizing technology such as Zoom meetings, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger and Marco Polo. These innovative solutions are empowering mothers to discover adaptability in their current jobs or to re-enter the workforce. Some are able to experience those previously missed special moments with their children and families while others have learned that earning income and finding a career identity has awoken parts of themselves that have been missing.
These four Coastal Virginia women share their experiences, pros and cons of working from home and how they’ve coped with the many components of the balancing act that most moms experience at one time or another.
Photo by David Uhrin
Jennifer Ryan: Plexus Worldwide
Ruby Ambassador, mother of two, Virginia Beach
Jennifer Ryan has been earning her own way since she was 15 years old. She opened 25 locations for a global gold buying company and was the district staffing manager for Macy’s. Though Macy’s was flexible with her return to work after her first child was born, the mornings of getting up at 6 a.m. to pump milk for feedings and then driving anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours away, with the pump in tow, soon came to a head. One day while Ryan was stuck on the other side of the HRBT, her husband had to board for a Navy mission, and she scrambled to find a way pick up their daughter.
“I’m not a quitter,” Ryan said. “Even though it was a huge career opportunity, managing the day-to-day process was difficult. Family needed to come first.”
In September 2013, Ryan started her life as a SAHM. She quickly discovered how difficult it can be to take care of a baby all day, every day, and living on coffee and managing stress through eating brought her to a place of exhaustion.
“I was staying at home and not realizing at the time that I had options,” Ryan shares. “I began feeling better, wanting to go out and not being as frustrated with my daughter after trying Plexus’ pink drink.”
Ryan researched Plexus Worldwide, a network marketing company that focuses on health and wellness products, and soon realized she could work for them and do everything from home. She built her network-marketing business over social media, and when comparing what she made before to time investment and the cost of childcare, Ryan feels she’s, “doubling” her salary.
As for managing it all, Ryan shares that it’s all about communication as a family and her own daily planning.
“I’ve let them know that there are times when I’ll need to take a pause and answer a message or email,” Ryan says. “It’s not easy to lay out my week. I feel more at ease scheduling day by day.”
Creative Wedding Design and Consulting, Rodan + Fields, mother of three, Chesapeake
After five years as a special education teacher at Green Run High School, Blair Daniels followed her passion for wedding design. When she started her own business, it required heavy weekend and evening hours, and with the dream of having a family, plus her husband’s demanding schedule as a merchant marine, Daniels knew it wouldn’t be easy. Soon, she had to limit herself to one weekend of weddings a month.
“Looking for childcare on the weekends was hard,” Daniels said. “The cost has skyrocketed, and even though I was saving us money staying home, I didn’t feel like I was contributing.”
Then Rodan + Fields, a social commerce company specializing in skincare products, came into the picture, and after Daniels earned her money back on her first kit, she dove in and is making more than she did with weddings.
“It’s easy to work my business into my schedule now,” Daniels shares. “I’m not stressed, and I can be there for my kids.”
As for the pros and cons of working from home, Daniels says the kids can be demanding. “It’s hard to get a thought completed on a call when they’re yelling ‘Mom’ in your ear or asking, ‘Can you come wipe my butt?’”
Dishes and laundry sometimes distract Daniels, triggering feelings of guilt when the house isn’t spotless or a great dinner isn’t on the table. To cope, maintaining both her business and shedding guilt, Daniels sets specific work hours and creates a slew of alarms on her phone. To tackle loneliness, she conducts business outside of the house at a coffee shop or restaurant, holds video calls and attends conventions.
The Gypsy Boutique Owner, Yoga Instructor, mother of two, Virginia Beach
Heather Menchinger has undergone many transitions, including moves, careers and motherhood. After teaching first grade in Baltimore for five years, having her first child and a move to Pennsylvania led to her spending some time as a SAHM.
“We didn’t have family in Pennsylvania, and I had few interactions and stimulating conversations with adults,” Menchinger shares.
Menchinger’s loneliness wasn’t the only emotion that crept into her changed life; soon guilt for not contributing to the family monetarily crept in along with a loss of her identity. While caring for their son at home, she struggled with the domestic aspects; it simply wasn’t what made her feel whole, she says.
“I’ve always worked, starting in high school,” Menchinger says. “I always knew it was temporary, but it was hard.”
To restart her career life, Menchinger began working with LuLaRoe, a multi-level marketing company that sells women's clothing, before opening an online boutique of her own a year later. This year she added yoga instructor to her resume.
“With the boutique I am behind a screen," she says."My identity is coming back more with yoga. I’m in front of people, going somewhere, and they are face to face with an actual human being.”
With one child in first grade and the other at home with her part time, Menchinger manages her business life and family life one day at a time.
“I don’t have office hours, I’m not very linear, and I sort of fly by the seat of my pants,” Menchinger admits. “I do turn my phone off and put it away when my kids need me and it’s too distracting.”
Rodan + Fields, mother of three, Virginia Beach
Kim Checcio had job security and a guaranteed paycheck as a program specialist and business analyst for the Navy. She had one child in school, one in full-time private kindergarten and her youngest was in preschool when Rodan + Fields came into her life.
At first, Checcio was mainly working it to pay for her own products.
“As I started to see the income potential, I worked my business at night and during my lunch break, even listening to training calls while driving.”
Two years ago, Checcio left her government job to work her home business full time, but time management and home life distractions were harder to deal with than she realized.
“I had to create a designated working space at home, and sometimes I have to leave. I love finding new places to work. I also set office hours and plan ahead,” Checcio says. “Now I own my time.”
When her youngest is home, she doesn’t schedule work hours. While some women report losing their identity when they chose to work from home, Checcio has found the opposite is true.
“I’ve found my identity again,” she says."I’m using more of my talents now and empowering other women. This is the person I want to be.”
As for a new acronym, we may have enough of those for now. Whether a mother works full time outside of the home, stays at home to care for her children or blends both, they are all moms, and that’s one title you can’t abbreviate.