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