Sunday, 27 September 2009

Work Options

Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

People are often surprised when I tell them that I’ve never had a permanent full-time job. I have worked full-time hours as a waitress and in office administration, but they weren’t permanent positions – I was doing temp work or extra shifts as a student mostly.

I was a student doing a double-degree before I became a mother. I intended to go to work, to study further, to do something with my life. I’m glad I realised that being an at-home mother is a wonderful way to live. A blessing. A privilege.

I’ve been at home whilst my husband studied, did an adult apprenticeship, worked very long hours, worked away and worked part-time. We’ve always found a way to pay for our expenses and move ahead. We have struggled, but we made it through!

I have usually dabbled in some sort of paid hobby:

For awhile I did some design work on the computer – stationery, address labels etc.

I have usually sold our excess household items etc through auction sites and on internet forums.

For awhile the children and I were packaging our saved seeds and bulk-bought seeds and selling these online. This appealed to us because growing food is something we are passionate about.

We’ve also sold excess eggs, produce, jams and plants from a roadside stall.

I have done some freelance writing and editing. Sometimes a lot of hours for reasonable pay, and sometimes only small amounts of work and financial reward. I stick to my interests with the freelancing, and don’t pursue work outside my field of parenting and education and my passion of gardening.

A couple of years ago I decided to buy an online business from a busy friend who had returned to full-time study and couldn’t keep up with the business. It is called Spiral Garden and is a real blessing in our lives. It is growing slowly into another stream of income for me, while I’m at home with my children – homeschooling, growing food and planting trees.

Ideally our home-based business would also support us all, but then I would be stuck in my home office several days a week keeping the business going. At the moment my husband can earn much more than me per hour, so he’s still out there working. He'd love to be at home with us on the farm, though.

While my hobbies have paid me, they’ve been very much about keeping my mind active and showing my children how there are many ways to make money. The pocket money is lovely, and has helped to support my hobbies at least – more plants for the garden, some fabric for sewing, magazine subscriptions etc.

Now that they're older, the children have developed their own streams of income - husking and weighing out macadamia nuts from our trees and breeding chickens, ducks and guinea pigs. The older three also busk at local markets.

If I needed to make more money to be able to stay at home I would initially look at where I could further save money. A dollar saved is a dollar earned – more because it’s not taxed! If we were still struggling I’d further pursue one of my 'jobs' above or even take in ironing or childcare, because these fit with my lifestyle of being at home with children. If this didn’t work, I would look for casual work outside of normal working hours so that I would go to work when my husband was at home with the children. Now that they’re older (our youngest is five), I can see that this would be much more manageable. I would try to avoid commuting a great distance and a job where I needed to outlay a large amount for clothing etc. I’d want to keep as much of my earnings as possible. For example, I'd rather drive 3 minutes to clean rooms at a local Bed & Breakfast than travel across the region to a more complicated position of employment.

I hope this post helps you to think about your own employment options, especially if you have young families. I encourage you to think about what you’re good at, where your interests lie, what sort of work you prefer, what’s lacking in your community and how you can perhaps make a little extra money to help the family budget or save for the future. I’m not saying that staying at home is better than working, but it has been a wonderful lifestyle for us. Watching my sister juggle her children and work, and seeing my own mother (against her wishes) do the same from when I was three years old – I choose this way because it’s what I can handle. I prefer to be home, cooking from scratch, growing food, bartering with friends and neighbours, mending clothes and making do, and feel blessed to have been able to do so for over 15 years.

Further Reading:
Bringing it Home by Wendy Priesnitz
Hundreds of Ways to Make Money From Home by Rosalind Fox and Tessa Stowe
Making Money from Home by Better Living Collections
Making Money from your Garden by Jackie French
Write to Publish by Vin Maskell & Gina Perry


Katja said...

Thank you for this post, it was exactly what I needed right now. My daughter is only 19 months old, but I too would like to stay home with her and future kids as long as possible. I have been getting some raised eyebrows as well from my friends and family because no one can understand that raising kids is more fullfilling for me than participating in the rat race. My husband is working fulltime out of the house; but we have a small horse farm and rent out a stable for other horse owners. This means a lot of work for us but also some extra income.
Thank you again for sharing your experiences on this blog! Very encouraging!

Jude said...

What a wonderful post! You have given yourself and your family such a great gift. I've been 'at home' with my autistic twins for 32 years. You know, there's a 'freedom' that can't be bought with a second income. And that's the freedom to nurture your children, work more in tandem with your mate, grow your survival skills, and be there to help those you love when they need you.

Some time ago, a relative told me that she simply couldn't imagine how I 'spent my day'. I think she expected me to get defensive and start spouting a chore list. But I thought about this woman, going off every day to do the same thing for someone else -- no time to watch a beautiful sunrise over coffee -- never putting together a 'home made meal' -- homemade meaning from garden to table. And I felt sorry for her, smiled dreamily and replied 'no, I guess you couldn't'.

You have chosen the right path. It's not the easiest one -- especially today, but you sure can't put a monetary value on the rewards.

Rachel B. said...

When I didn't have a job for about a year I turned to sewing as a hobby. At the time I also had pet rats and belonged to a large small pet forum. So one day it click. I started to sew hammocks for pet rats and selling them through the forum. It didn't earn me much, an estimated $200, but it sure was fun and it funded my endeavors. I was planning on a decent garden this year and selling extra produce on the roadside, but due to unexpected delays, the decent garden didn't happen.

Chiot's Run said...

Mr Chiots and both work from home. I manage a business and we own our own business. It's actually a ton of work, we work more hours than most people, but we have the flexibility to work at night if we want to spend time in the garden that day. We love it and wouldn't have it any other day. I would do just about anything to be able to stay at home and work.

I think it's more than just working when you work for yourself, it's freedom.

A Bun Can Dance said...

Thank you for writing such a gentle yet persuasive post. You've shown how it is possible to live contentedly without being tied to the employment treadmill. I can relate to lots of what you say, as I've had a similar experience for the last 3 years. Your post has reminded me how fortunate I am to be content with this simple lifestyle.

Bellen said...

Great blog. Way back in the 60's we called it Patchwork Economics - add enough sources and it covers you well, just as a patchwork quilt will.

Rinelle said...

Like you Bel, I've never had a full time job. I've done plenty of casual and part time work, but it didn't make sense to put my career first when DH was earning more than I could, and I planned to stay home with our children anyway. Once DD was born, I stopped working casual or part time as well. DH and I are both in agreement that having a parent at home full time is worth far more than a second wage, even if we have had much opposition from my IL's.

While DD was young, we had dreams of me making enough money from my photography for DH to be able to stay at home as well, but we were never able to actually achieve this, due to the lack of time with a young child. Then, through an unexpected set of circumstances, DH found himself out of a job. With a little big of savings under our belt, we're setting out to try to realise that dream, of both of us being able to stay home.

It's hard work though. I'm spending a couple of hours each morning working, and I do feel like I'm missing out both on time with DD, and time working on the garden. But we are hoping it will only be for a short time, until I build up my photos, then it should take far less time.

Bel said...

Katja, best wishes with your horses! Sounds like a great bit of extra income.

Jude, what a wise response to your relative. What a blessing you are to your twins. x

Rachel, good on you for your initiative! And best wishes for your future gardens.

Chiot's Run, the freedom to garden in the day is such a blessing!

A Bun Can Dance, thank you.

Bellen, "patchwork economics" - I love it!

Rinelle, thank you for sharing your story. I hope your photography endeavours really take off now. It seems to be your time - enjoy! x

Chookie said...

If I can just drop a few bricks in here... Staying at home is great. But you do need to have alternative plans worked out. People get sick, or lose their jobs in a bad economy. Sometimes they die. A substantial number of marriages end in divorce. SAH wives suffer badly financially when these things happen, especially if the divorcing husband turns nasty. If you are completely or mostly financially dependent on someone, make sure that the money will be there if something goes wrong, and that you have the ability to make some yourself.
I write this as my husband earns good money but is in the least stable end of the IT industry. I work permanent part-time as a librarian. I enjoy my work too, but it's there for the times when DH is out of work. Not if, when.

libby said...

Great post Bel. And so very true. I'm lucky enough not to have to worry about finances but I also know that being a SAHM is one of the best jobs there is. I wish more Mums realized there are options besides a out of home job to get more money for their families. So many do it for the "extras" when really the kids would just rather their Mum be there for them.


Toña Elena said...

Thank you so much for sharing these encouraging words. I really appreciate the references you've included too. Lots to think about.

Bec said...

What timing for your post Bel! Since I was six months pregnant I have only ever worked from home,aside from one day a week for six months before having bub number two. People at my fulltime work thought I was mad for going on maternity leave early, but it was the most enjoyable time preparing for baby; and time that you cannot recapture.
Looking back to the times of our grandmothers and great grandmothers can give alot of inspiration I find. Egg money to name one. Those women knew how to manage their households on small incomes. (generally speaking of course)
As for single mums; I know quite a few single mums that are at home, homeschool and manage without having a working dh. Yes, it is tough at times for them but us married ones have tough times too.
I am so very pleased you wrote about this Bel; families don't have to have two incomes and there are many ways out there to earn a little pocket money or alot. You don't have to trade your time for money with a boss.