When Mahi Gupta had her daughter, she received help from her mom and mom-in-law. Mahi had a job in an MNC and resumed work after maternity leave. It was a mad phase of planning, managing, multi-tasking, that left her stressed and worn out. She was tired of juggling career, maids and day-care, her husband’s long working hours and many things in between for four years. Then she discovered she was pregnant for the second time.
“There was no way I could handle the job, my four-year-old, husband’s long working hours, maids and a baby.” Mahi chose to quit her job. When her son started school, she decided to search for a job.
“I realised that the professional world had moved much ahead while I was busy bringing up kids.” This often happens with women who take a break from career for bringing up kids, elder-care or other reasons.
Mahi enrolled in a graphic design course which she loved. Today, she works from home as a freelance designer. “I changed tracks completely and find this a convenient option as I arrange and set my schedule according to my requirement. It still requires planning, but I don’t panic if the maid doesn’t turn up.”
A report by Labour Bureau says that there are about 1.8 million women on career break in urban India. The common reasons are maternity, child-care, eldercare and burnout.
Meet the Work-From-Home Moms
Women find it difficult to get back to work after a break in their career. This motivates to explore alternatives like freelancing, flexible working options or work-from-home. However, it can also be a conscious decision to find other options.
Hema worked as a health physician in a corporate company and left the job when she was pregnant. After her baby was born, she was at home. Hema started browsing through the net in the free time and observed many questions on forums about baby care. She started replying and posting tips and decided to compile the information based on her knowledge and experience as a doctor, in a form of a blog. She started her blog MyLittleMoppet writing articles on for new moms on baby care. Later, when traffic increased she customized her own website. Today, Hema has a huge following. She has diversified her business and sells instant porridge powders, millet noodles, and organic powders through her online shop LittleMoppetFoods
Janaki Srinivasan chose to quit her job after the birth of her son, as both, she and her husband did not want to leave the child with a maid or in a day care. For two years, Janaki was a full-time mother. She searched for options to work-from-home. “I decided to utilise the available time to do something useful so that my skills don’t get rusted.” At present, Janaki works as a freelance content writer and blogger and blogs on Jankiweb
Lakshmi Kannan had a teaching job in the University when her husband became very ill. It became difficult to manage the home, work and also take care of him. She decided to work full-time as a freelance editor and writer. She takes on projects for institutions and works from home.
Poornima Kulkarni an engineer by profession worked in the corporate sector for about 12 years. When her daughter was two years old, she opted to become a stay-at-home mom to give time and attention to her bright and very active child. Today, Poornima is a mompreneur, a new term for mom entrepreneurs. She runs a story telling and activity club Book-A-Story for kids. She also has a blog for moms and kids – Aspoonfulofideas
Shruti Bhatt, mother to a daughter was working full-time outside home until September 2015, she found her 9-5 job stressful and started hating Sunday nights. Her husband was promoted and had to travel frequently, which increased Shruti’s responsibilities. It became so stressful, to manage home, office, the commuting her daughter’s studies that leaving the full-time job outside home was the only option. Shruti manages her website ArtsyCraftsyMom.com from home. She works 30 hours per week working on her blog. Her blog extremely popular and Shruti is doing well.
The Reality of Working from Home
Working from home gives you the opportunity to carve a career around home, kids and family without compromising economic freedom. You work at your own convenience and on your conditions by having a flexible routine that adjusts to your requirements.
The option looks easy, but in reality, it entails a lot of planning, focus, self–discipline, consistency and dedication.
Poornima feels “adhering to strict discipline and schedules as maintained while working in an office,” is essential to be successful.
It also compromises on income “Don’t over-expect the pay. Working from home may sound fancy, but the take away is pittance in comparison to the hard work that goes into it. Be realistic and work to the best you can.” Cautions Janaki. She also feels that working from home mom gets less respect than an office going mom.
It is easy to get sucked into working for longer hours while working from home. Shruti works far more hours than when she was in a full-time job. “It can also be extremely lonely as you are struck at home alone for long hours,” she adds.
For Hema, the biggest advantage of being a WFH mom is that if her kids need her; she is there for them. However, Hema feels this can be a disadvantage too. Many times when she has some urgent office task, there will be some equally urgent need for her to attend the kids. In such situations, no work gets done, which increases stress.
Lakshmi feels that apart from saving time on commuting and distractions in office working from home provides freedom to plan your work depending on targets and deadlines in the comfort of your work-space. “It gives you a sense of peace, of working on your own rhythm while meeting your targets.”
Organization and Balance
For most moms working from home the mornings when the family leaves home for the day is the most productive time.
The average work hours for work- from-home moms are in the range of 20-30 hours per week. Moms agree that setting clear boundaries between work and home is helpful. Spending time with family and pursuing other interests and hobbies are required for work-life balance.
Poornima works on blog posts and prepares for her classes when her daughter is in school. “I have arranged my class schedules to be in tandem with HER class schedules so that when she is learning something new, I am taking my own classes” she shares.
Shruti also works in the mornings, “I record videos, take photographs when the sun is bright. She sets a well-defined work hour schedule and avoids phone calls and emails during the first part of the day. Her daughter comes back at 4 pm and then “It’s our mom & daughter time until 8 pm.”
Lakshmi feels time management is crucial when working from home. “If one is diligent and disciplined about the office work, then things fall into place smoothly.”
Janaki divides her time and strictly between house and office work and adheres to it as much as possible.
Time for Self-Care
Balancing work and home often leaves no time for self-care and as moms are guilty of ignoring their needs, it is easy to fail at self-care as Poornima says. “I tend to avoid many self-care routines ending up in health problems.” She has improved by setting up some necessary routines for physical and spiritual well-being.
“Self-Care? What is that?” Laughs Shruti!
Responsibilities are never ending, and she has learned not to feel guilty. “As much as I try to run a tight ship, making sure I eat healthy and have nights off is crucial for self-care.”
Janaki takes up work that she knows she can complete. “I don’t over estimate myself nor do I make false promises.”
Role of the Family
Work-from-home for moms is feasible only with the cooperation of family. The family needs to understand the importance of the woman’s work and cooperate to make it possible.
Shruti has a supportive family. She feels it’s never easy being a mom trying to juggle work and family, more so, when you are working from home. “Both of us realize that working from home is beneficial for us so it is much easier to overcome any hurdles that arise. Teamwork is everything.”
Lakshmi also has family support but feels that there is a lot of gender bias for women working from home. A woman has to make an effort to ‘educate’ the family about the need for her work. “I have often noticed how men who opt to work-from-home either as Chartered Accountants, Architects, Lawyers, Consultant Engineers, or Doctors, find it very easy to concentrate on their work because of the conventional power equation – that the man of the house is `at work’ so the woman, invariably his wife or mother, ensures that she looks after all other things at home and gives him the quiet, undisturbed space and time to work,” Lakshmi explains.
Psychological and Social Aspect
Working independently as an entrepreneur or freelancer requires realistic assessment of your capabilities, ambitions and self-worth.
Progress is achieved by taking slow and steady steps towards the goal. It takes few years to settle in any work. Feeling sad and frustrated with every failure obstructs success.
“It’s going to be a long journey. Hold on! You need to know what success means to you and how ambitious you are as an individual,” warns Poornima.
Janaki says you might face sarcasm from family members because of the low remittance in comparison to the work you do.However, if you are passionate, these lows can be handled. Companies quote an extremely low price and expect you to put in more hours.
There are many misconceptions, bias and prejudices about this way of working. Moms working from home are unable to explain that it also entails similar commitment, deadlines and accountability like an office job. They have to face comments and gossip.
In Lakshmi’s opinion, working from home is taken casually by the community and acquaintances, they concede that it is `work’ at all and even impose upon time and encroach upon work-space in the excuse that `she is at home any way’.
Lakshmi has also experienced sarcasm from people around. She feels that many times as a woman working from home is in minority, others are unable to understand. To face cynical remarks about work and way of life is disheartening. She finds ignoring such comments is the best option.
Suggestions for Aspiring WFH Moms
For moms who want to start working from home independently, need to find a niche based on their qualifications, knowledge, experience and passion. A profitable niche is one that offers a solution to a problem that helps your target clients, creates value and earns you an income.
- Identifying your passion and strengths
- Recognizing weaknesses and understanding what you would not venture into
- Exploring jobs that you can start on the side and eventually making it into full-time WFM business
- Brush up your skills and pursuing courses to increase qualification
- Ensuring co-operation from the family before venturing
- Ready to put in hard work and being optimistic
Featured Image: Flickr