Working from Home Mom

There tends to be a stereotype that stay at home moms have a lot of free time.  Most stay at home moms would vehemently disagree with that.  However, for a first time mom with an infant, there is a golden age when the baby takes consistent naps, and you can get stuff done.  With this naïve understanding I undertook a part time job working from home last winter preparing tax returns for a small CPA firm.

Here are some things to consider when looking to work from home.

What Is Your Motivation?

I had a certain dollar amount I wanted to make over the winter.  I wanted to be able to fund my Roth IRA; this was the first year since high school that I have not worked, and in order to fund the IRA you need to have earned income.  I daydreamed of making so much that I could save for the family vacation and put money into Bugaboo’s Coverdell IRA.

I also wanted a project to work on so I could feel useful during naptimes.  Although I enjoy reading, playing the violin, writing, and sleeping, I felt that I should be useful.  I felt guilty that I could pursue those hobbies while my husband was at work.

Finally, I wanted to keep my skills alive.  I wanted to be able to add the CPA firm to my resume and references when I returned to the workforce.  Or at least, I wanted to be able to tell a future employer that I was a hard worker, keeping up to date with accounting news, software, and practices.

Work from Home Tip #1

Sit down and write down your motivations for working from home.  Consider the pros and cons not just of working from home, but for each motivation.  For instance, when I sat to consider the money I could make working from home, it finally dawned on me that my husband and I have enough!  It gave me a sense of peace to realize that I don’t have to try to bring home the bacon (except when I’m shopping at Aldi)!

How Much Time Can You Give?

Work When the Baby Sleeps

The first question I had to address was how many hours a week I was able to work.  Because I was “testing it out” I decided to “low ball” him – I told him 10 hours.  But then I added up the time in my head.  Every day Bugaboo was napping about 2-3 hours in the middle of the day.  I had to use some of this time for myself, doing personal things like eating, getting dressed, and cleaning up.  In addition, I was still napping myself because Bugaboo was going through a pretty difficult sleep regression.  Every night, I could put the baby down for bed around 7:30.  If I went to bed at 10:00, that was an additional 2 1/2 hours of free time.  But once again, it wasn’t so free.  Of course, I had to spend some time getting ready for bed too.  And then there was my husband, who came home around 8:00, and we would want to catch up.

Committing to 10 hours of work would mean about 2 hours a day during the week.  On paper, I had about 4 hours a day when Bugaboo was sleeping, but in reality, I had to spend every nap time and bed time working because of the inefficiencies discussed above.

On the weekends, I had expected to be able to put in some longer days.  I could have my husband watch the baby and sit down for hours at a time looking at tax returns.  However, I had made a previous commitment to him.  I had decided that I would give everything I could to help him get through his MBA program.  So when he took a particularly hard winter course, all of the sudden I was doubling down on baby duty on the weekends.

Work from Home Tip #2

If you are planning to work at home as a stay at home mom, consider 10 – 30 hours per week.  Take into account all the other tasks that you would usually get done when the baby sleeps.  A rule of thumb is to take your entire amount of free time each week and cut off 50%.

Never Get a Break

I had also imagined long ago that I could just typety-type-type away on my computer while the baby rolled around happily on the floor, grabbing her toes, rocking back and forth, and singing.  This was an impossible dream.  Bugaboo demanded constant attention, and even when she didn’t, I didn’t feel right dividing my attention between her and the tax return.  I was afraid at how easily I could get involved in what I was doing and forget about the baby.  It also didn’t feel ethical to bill time that was divided.  As part of the job I had to call clients to discuss questions – and I could only do that when Bugaboo was safely asleep for what promised to be a long nap.

The hardest part of adding up all the time I could spend was realizing that I was setting myself up for impossibly long work weeks.  My “job” was to be with the baby whenever she needed me.  If I took on work in addition to that, I was risking major burnout.  Fortunately, the type of work I was doing was fun for me – it was nice to switch gears from the baby and do something I knew I was good at.  There were times I was stressed out, though, because I felt like I had a deadline to live up to, and I knew it was affecting my patience as a mom.

Work from Home Tip #3

If you plan to work from home, make sure to schedule time for self care!  Also consider the potential for lost time with your baby.  After all, you made a decision to quit work and stay at home for a reason.

Consider your baby’s age – newborns nap irregularly and may need a lot of attention.  However, you may be able to sit with them and get some work in while they play in a swing.  As babies grow older, they may want more attention from you.  At some point, though, toddlers will

Is It Worth It?

Needing to work remote and only being able to put in 10 hours a week severely limits your job opportunities.  My employer and I had settled on a fair wage for my time.  As an accountant, I was confident that I was making more per hour than I could at practically any other part time job.  However, in the end I didn’t work 10 hours a week.  I averaged closer to 7 just because my employer did not give me an aggressive workload.  In addition, I had mentally planned to start working January 1.  I didn’t receive my first assignment until the second half of February.  In a flash, I had “lost” 60 hours worth of income but gained six weeks of free time.

There was also a lot of time I put into the job that I didn’t bill.  I struggled for hours to set up my remote workstation.  I also travelled to meet with my employer a few times.  Finally, I took a 10 hour course on income taxes that I had to pay for myself.

Work from Home Tip #4

Consider the additional costs of working from home, beyond the time commitment.  Do you have to set up a home office?  Pay for better internet or computer security?  Perhaps you have to pay for in-home child care?

Planning for the Future

What I did earn, at the end of the day, was the opportunity to try again.  The paycheck I received in April covered the fee to renew my CPA license, the costs of continuing education classes, and the antivirus software I installed on my computer.  If there had been anything left over, I would have to pay double payroll taxes on the income I make.  (When you work for an employer, you pay 6.2% in social security taxes and 1.45% in Medicare taxes, and your employer matches these.  If you are self-employed, you pay the employee and employer portion, or about 15% in taxes).

I was happy for the opportunity, even if I didn’t actually make much if any money at the end of the day.  My status as a CPA is safe.  In addition, I can add this work to my resume for when I re-enter the accounting workforce.  I can keep up my skills with computer programs and technology and add the skill of tax preparation.  When I look for a job once my children are older, I won’t necessarily have to start from square one.

Work from Home Tip #5 – Get In Home Daycare

To do this again, I would like to find a reliable source of in home daycare.  That way I can still be involved in Bugaboo’s life and make sure that she is receiving quality care, but I can get a lot more work done.  I think if I could offer 20 or more hours per week in remote work, I could negotiate a better rate for my time.  Unfortunately, after considering my own costs and taxes, it wouldn’t have been cost effective to hire someone to watch Bugaboo while I did my tax work.  At a certain point, chasing some extra income negates the reason why I decided to stay at home with my daughter at all.

I’m always having to stop and remind myself that I don’t have to take advantage of every nap time and night time.  I’m not the sole breadwinner in our family.  I don’t have to be the productive person I used to be.  I can just enjoy these good old days with my baby while she is young.  There will be plenty of time to work soon enough.

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1 Comment

  • Patty Gordon December 17, 2018 at 8:30 pm Reply

    Shared this today on DailyMomBlogs on Facebook and Twitter.

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