A few weekends ago I was in the midst of 40 other mothers, all eager to learn more about the work-at-home lifestyle. Some were already working from home and looking for more inspiration, while others were in corporate jobs but eager to take a peek at what the work-at-home lifestyle had in store for them. The first WAHMderful Life workshop was a success and I’m very happy to have been a part of it. While I’ve been a WAHM for two years now, it is a path that I still haven’t gotten the hang of so learning from other mothers was indeed inspiring.
I talked about how I transitioned from corporate girl to work-at-home-mother. Here are the 9 tips I shared which I hope help others shift gears smoothly too.
Define your objective. It’s easy to want to jump into the WAHM life. Many things can trigger it – a bad day at work, a crying baby as you ride your cab off to work, missing out on your child’s milestones while you’re in a meeting, not getting to take care of him when he’s sick because you have to be in a meeting. These are just a few of the struggles a corporate mom faces. I’ve been there. During all those moments I wanted to resign right then and there. Emotions can take away all rationale though, so I tried to keep strong. Never quit on a bad day. I knew I wanted to stay home with my baby though, so I had to take a step back and be objective and rational about my decision. Why work from home? My objective was clear from the moment I sat down and thought about it: “Be closely present during my son’s toddler years.”
Setting an objective makes your goal measurable. It’s what you go back to time and time again when you’re having a bad day while working at home. It’s what I go back to when I reflect on how I’m dealing with working from home, whether it’s a good day or a bad day. It’s just like preparing a strategic plan for yourself – where are you headed and how do you get there? Defining an objective helps set a path for you. In my case, I wanted to be closely present during my son’s toddler years. I could only do that if I worked at home. I was comfortable with that objective so I began the next part of shifting gears.
Ask if you can work from home at your current job. I filed my resignation when my son was 6 months old, but it was rejected. It was the best rejection I got because I was offered to work from home during some days of the week. My boss knew about my motivation for wanting to work from home. She told me that she’s been in my situation, but didn’t want to lose me as part of the company. A deal was made, and I began working from home a few days a week. What a wonderful turn of events that was! It was a big, unexpected blessing. I am very thankful to my former boss for allowing me to continue a job I enjoyed very much but felt I had to give up on to care for my son. Apparently, all I had to was ask if that arrangement could have happened and she would have said yes.
Not all companies are this family-friendly though. On the flipside, a lot of companies are becoming more family-friendly. It won’t hurt to ask your boss or your HR manager what arrangements can be made for working virtually. For all you know, you may be the one to kick-start such an arrangement for mothers in your workplace.
I resigned from my corporate job when my son was one year old, after having missed out on a lot of things I didn’t want to miss out on anymore. I went back to my objective of spending his toddler years closely with him, and started working from home when he was one year and five months old.
Get referrals from those who’ve been there. Motherhood is a sisterhood. The Mommy blogging community here in Manila is one of the most supportive I’ve seen. I felt the love of some local Mommy bloggers when I was pregnant and had a lot of questions. They were just a Plurk or a Tweet away. The same happened when I was looking for work-at-home opportunities. Two Mommy bloggers directed my attention to a writing opportunity two years ago, and here I am, right now, still writing for The Philippine Online Chronicles.
Use your expertise as support for new work paths. Working in the advertising industry is amazingly dynamic and a lot of fun, and I was eager to apply my expertise in strategic planning into other work paths. Another Mommy blogger referred me to an American company looking for social media strategists. My exposure to social media at that time was limited to my own personal experience with Facebook, Twitter, blogging and managing my blog page on social media. However, I did feel I contribute added value to the position by leveraging on my strategic planning skills. I now work for this American company and have applied a lot of what I learned in strategic management into the realm of social media. It’s very fulfilling and always a joy to bring something new to the team.
Save up before making big changes. Walking away from corporate meant walking away from a lot of financial benefits. We said goodbye to medical benefits, performance bonuses, rice subsidies, and other perks that came along with working for a big company. That is why before resigning, my husband and I made sure we had money in the bank to fall back on. The average, I’ve been told, should be 18-24 months worth of your salary. I honestly didn’t have that much money in the bank, but we transitioned pretty well nonetheless.
Having less money when you transition to work-at-home is a reality you have to face. If you get a work-at-home job that pays more than what you made at corporate, then wow, good for you!
Align the bottom line with your support system. The big cut in cash flow was a big hurdle for me and my husband. Since I didn’t have a work-at-home job right away, we were a single income household for a few months. To manage expectations, we talked about what things we had to cut back on over the next few months. Trade-offs were much discussed. We could save on hiring a nanny, for example, as I’d already be staying at home with the toddler. Transportation expenses would also take a big cut since I would no longer be commuting to Makati. Aligning expectations with your partner, even the rest of your household, is very important. Their support is invaluable during your transition from corporate to stay-at-home Mom.
Find a schedule that works for you and your family. “I work when my child is sleeping.” That’s the schedule I often hear from work-at-home Moms. That’s how I get to squeeze in work too. Nap times, even if it’s just an hour, is a very good time to catch up on correspondence and do research. The bulk of my work occurs when my son has gone to bed. I’m working on Pacific Standard Time, which sadly, isn’t very healthy. I’m most productive that way though, getting most of my work done when the rest of the household is asleep. I get enough shuteye to recharge upon waking up in the morning, making sure I’m not half-asleep while feeding my son breakfast. I also go out of the house one to two times every other week to meet my team. The schedule has been working well for me and my family, though honestly, I wish I could work during the day more.
Enjoy reporting to your new boss. You’ve heard of helicopter parenting? Be prepared for helicopter kids. Picture this: You’re on your laptop, your toddler on your lap while he plays with his cars. Other times he’s seated at your feet, stacking blocks and knocking them over again and again. Sometimes he’ll just be by your desk, staring at you while you tap away on your keyboard. Staring, just staring, and not doing anything else. It’s fun some times, but other times, it can get a little frustrating. It’s a test of concentration and patience, and I’ve lost my temper a couple of times. I’m ashamed to admit that, but it really does happen. Your child is your new boss and you have to learn how to manage “reporting” to him. Will you attend to him at every whine and crying bout? Will you be okay with him hovering over your shoulder while you work? You’ll eventually learn how to deal with it, but it’s not going to be easy. But with that struggle comes a lot of rewards. Hey, at least you can keep an eye on him while you’re doing your research. Hey, at least you can scoop him up in big hugs anytime you want to. Those are the perks of working at home and reporting to that new boss of yours – unlimited cuddle time, anytime, anywhere.
Measure your objectives. You will have your weak moments when working at home too. The financial challenge often irritates me, but I’ve learned how to simplify the past two years as a way of dealing with it. I go back to why I worked from home in the first place – to spend my son’s toddler years closely with him. Going back to my objective always puts things in perspective for me. A bad day at home becomes just a small bump in the road when I get to spend lunchtime with my son and sing him to sleep in the afternoon.
Going back to your objectives also helps define where you want to go next. My son is turning four years old next year. That’s no longer toddler age. I’ve met my objective of being by his side during his toddler years. I can put a big, fat, red check on that to-do of mine. What next? I have to write a new plan for myself, write a new objective for next year. If I continue being a WAHM, what would my objective be? Will it be “to home school my son during kindergarten years”? If I go back to corporate, what would my objective be? Will be “to save XX amount for my son’s formal schooling years”? (I already have an answer for my 2013 career path, but I’ll save that for another story.)
These are some tips on how to shift gears from corporate life to the WAHM life. It’s hardly easy. It’s crazy scary. But it’s worth it when you know why you’re doing it and who you’re doing this for. Working from home for the past two years has been an incredible experience for me, and I don’t regret it one single bit.
“The longer you wait for the future the shorter it will be.” — Loesje
* This post first appeared on The Philippine Online Chronicles.