Posts filed under 'Working moms'

Five dirty little secrets of working from home

Last week my editor at ABCNews.com asked me to write a column outing what goes on behind the closed doors of freelancers, telecommuters, and kitchen-table entrepreneurs who work from home. I had a load of fun collecting the confessions of virtual employees and self-employed folks who work from their domicile (catnap, anyone?). As you’ll see below, I’ve got a handful of confessions of my own. Feel free to chime in with yours in the comments below.

Last fall my significant other and I moved in together. Although he was no stranger to my feral freelancer habits — living in my robe, working late into the night, not leaving the house for days on end — I cringed at the thought of him seeing me daily in all my unkempt, agoraphobic glory.

So I did what any disheveled freelancer would do: I got an office job — one that required me to show up at approximately the same time each day, looking fresh and professional.

Three months into the gig, I began to miss my bathrobe. Six months into it, I gave notice.

Now that I’m back to full-time freelancing, I’m trying to prove to myself and my new husband that working from home doesn’t necessarily mean living a life devoid of structure. But it’s not easy.

On any given day, my best-laid plans for a morning walk with the dog might be foiled by an urgent question from an editor about a story I’ve filed or an elusive source calling to say she’s available now, and only now, for that needed quote. Although I no longer skip the daily shower, I do sometimes skip out on date night with my sweetie when work gets too overwhelming. And while I’ve stopped working in my robe every day, I’ve taken to working in his.

Not all freelancers, telecommuters, and kitchen-table entrepreneurs are untamed insomniacs given to various states of undress. Many boast of adhering to professional attire and rigid work schedules. I’m convinced, however, that they’re in the minority.

To prove my point (or perhaps just make myself feel better), I informally polled dozens of self-employed professionals about their dirty little secrets of working from home. Here’s what they had to say.

[Read the rest of this story on ABCNews.com.]

8 comments April 28th, 2011

Anti 9-to-5 profile: Erika Teschke, dog walker

With everyone talking about career change these days, I thought it would fun to examine the work/life balance of those who’ve transitioned to some of the most coveted careers out there. First up, Erika Teschke, who in 2005 left her 10-year career as a legal professional to start her own dog walking and pet sitting business. I recently interviewed Erika by e-mail. Highlights follow. 

[Photo courtesy of Erika's Pet Service]

Q. What’s your typical work schedule?

A. Mondays through Fridays I do dog park runs 5 hours a day, between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. I also do about 30 minutes of stopovers during the week, where I feed and visit a pet that’s home alone, either before 2 p.m. or after 6 p.m. On weekends, I’ll do about three hours of paperwork and stopovers. I try not to work before 9 a.m. and past 6 p.m., but I have to be flexible on this if I have a pet that needs medicine or a walk at a particular time.

Q. How has your work/life balance changed since starting your business?

A. I definitely have more personal time now. However, the anxieties are different. Whereas being in an office made me a slave to the man, now I am responsible for everything: income, business success, client development, dog safety, responsibility as a walker, giving back to the parks I use, to name a few. I also have to be available for clients. At first I made myself available at all times when I was trying to grow the business. But now, since my clients and I have well-established relationships and they trust I will get back to them in a timely manner, I feel more comfortable making the evenings my own. I still work many weekends doing vacation stopovers. It is just the nature of the business.

Q. Still, a 30-hour workweek sounds pretty great. What’s the catch?

A. I make about $25,000 less than when I worked at the law firm. [Read the rest at NWjobs.]

4 comments July 10th, 2009

Motherhood earlier vs. later: which is easier on the career?

Hello. Happy August. Blogging will be back. Eventually. When I stop feeling burned out. Which I hope will be any day now. Especially since it’s my birthday Saturday.

In the meantime, if anyone would like to discuss the topic mentioned in the subject line, I’d love to hear from you. No, I’m not having a baby. But I am looking to write an article by the weekend on whether having kids sooner vs. later affects a woman’s career more — and how. There will be experts and stats, but I’m asking because I’d love to hear from “real” women who’ve pondered the question, regardless of whether you have kids now. If anyone cares to share their thoughts/experiences on or off the record (let me know which), email me here. The article is for a national news site. Thanks and have a lovely day.

1 comment August 5th, 2008

Bathrobe! The uniform of champions

This year’s skyrocketing gas prices are enough to make even the most diehard office suck-ups fantasize about finding a job that lets them telecommute. But is finding a new job that lets you work from home a realistic goal or just a pipe dream?

Thirty-three percent of U.S. companies allow employees to telecommute on a part-time basis, while 21 percent allow it full-time, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

In other words, although work-at-home jobs do exist, they remain few and far between…

You can read the rest of this abcnews article written by yours truly — complete with tips on how to find a telecommuting-friendly job — here.

Favorite tip from the article:

Rather than waste your time reading scam after scam advertised on Craigslist and through Google ads, see RatRaceRebellion.com, which screens work-at-home job listings and posts the pick of the litter on a daily basis. Run by the authors of The Two-Second Commute: Join the Exploding Ranks of Freelance Virtual Assistants, this site features both “earn a little pocket money” job listings (such as filling out online surveys) and “earn a living” listings (such as transcription and call-center jobs), as well as a list of telecommuting-friendly companies and a goldmine of tips for weeding out work at home scams.

Okay, here’s the rest of the article — for reals.

1 comment June 24th, 2008

This just in: Working women still conniving C-words (and other charming headlines)

roaches.jpgChildless women “hostile to working mums” In the UK, with maternity leave lasting up to a year and “the right to ask for flex work” now an option, boardroom-bound non-moms see working moms as corporate enemies to be quashed like cockroaches. (I’m paraphrasing, people.) Furthermore, “the Working Mothers’ Report found that 52 percent thought it easier to blame a faulty alarm clock or heavy traffic than to admit that child-care problems had made them late.” (UK Telegraph)

Is she really going out with him? Now that women in their twenties who work full time in New York, Chicago, Boston, and Minneapolis are bringing home more bacon than their male counterparts, they’re fraught with new dating dilemmas (says this article). Specifically, guys who make less and are intimidated by the fact that their girlfriend makes more, or guys who just can’t keep up financially (say, if she wants to go to a pricy restaurant and the opera but he wants to stay at home and swill beer). I dunno, even before researchers were announcing that women consistently made more than men in some age groups/cities, I developed this little dating tenet known as Don’t Date a Moocher, Slacker, Stoner, Agorophobe, or Drunkass Loser. At the same time, I’ve dated a number of respectful, respectable guys who said they’d be happy to be a stay-at-home househubby if we ever shacked up, an idea I rather like since I destest most domestic duties. And I know I’m not the only woman who feels this way. What I’m saying is, this smells like another BS “Style” section trend story. What do you think? (New York Times; now free online!)

Do working women need permission from their employers before getting knocked up? This is an older piece, but worth sharing: “The US has the most limited parental leave policies in the world; conservatives are furious about efforts to catch up.” Of course they are. Rat bastards. (AlterNet)

Too many tchochkes on your desk? Don’t expect a promotion any time soon. “If more than one in five items that adorn a worker’s office or cubicle is personal in nature, others may view that worker as unprofessional.” In case you were wondering, “this is largely an American phenomenon.” (Michigan Ross School of Business)

Mary-Kate (Needs A Steak) Olsen: I don’t just shop, I work hard. The life of a celebrity is haaa-aaard! Sorry, I couldn’t resist. (Fametastic)

7 comments September 26th, 2007

The new mommy track

cover_hp90x123.jpgReporter-on-the-rise Kimberly Palmer wrote the ultra-cool cover piece for this week’s U.S. News & World Report. The subhead: More mothers win flextime at work, and hubbies help (really!) at home.

Fun excerpt:

…a new generation of American mothers who are rejecting the “superwoman” image from the 1980s as well as the “soccer mom” stereotype of the 1990s. Mothers today are more likely to negotiate flexible schedules at work and demand fuller participation of fathers in child raising than previous generations did, giving them more time to pursue their own careers and interests. Some so-called mompreneurs start their own businesses. Nearly 26 percent of working women with children under 18 work flexible schedules, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, compared with 14 percent in 1991.

I’m quoted in the article a couple times. (Happy dance!) You can read more here:

5 comments August 29th, 2007

Flex time: Where to find it, how to get it

I’m writing a series of articles affectionately dubbed “Take This Job and Love It” for the salary site PayScale.com. The first one’s on how to find and negotiate a flexible day job. Here’s an excerpt:

You can’t open the business section these days without seeing a story on companies that let employees work when and where they want. It’s good for morale, great for the bottom line, and with any luck, the wave of the future. All well and good for the country’s millions of flextime and telecommuting workers. But what if you, too, want to be there when your kids get home from school or would love Fridays off to pursue your side business? How do you find the flex-friendly companies, and while we’re at it, how do you convince your current employer to cut you a piece of the flexibility pie?

Targeting flex-friendly employers
It doesn’t matter how open-minded your employer is — your job can’t be done off company premises or outside “normal” business hours, you don’t stand a chance of nabbing a piece of the flexibility pie. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume a little flexibility wouldn’t compromise your getting the job done. So how do you spot a flex-friendly employer?

Read the headlines. Obviously, if a company you have your eye on makes the Working Mother Top 100 annual list, it’s cause to celebrate. Ditto for companies that prominently feature press releases and media coverage singing the praises of their work/life balance programs. “Employers who have something to brag about usually do,” says Pat Katepoo of WorkOptions.com, who’s been consulting hopeful flex workers for 14 years. But don’t stop at corporate propaganda. Pay attention to the local headlines and see what dirt a Google search turns up, too.

Get references. Use your personal network, professional memberships, and social networking sites such as LinkedIn to track down current employees of your target companies and see what information you can glean. Katepoo also suggests contacting your local chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and asking what companies in your neck of the woods offer flex packages — and how their employees rate them.

Check the company culture. Once you’re on site for a job interview, play detective. Unless you get a job offer, avoid asking the hiring manager about company hours and the possibility of flex work. Instead, see how many cars remain in the company parking lot after 6 p.m. and how many of your potential co-workers have pictures of their kids on their desks. After the interview, ask to talk to some of your potential colleagues. Sniff out who has a flexible arrangement and how it’s going for them.

You can read the entire article here.

Add comment August 25th, 2007

Talking ’bout my generation (aka, of stereotypes, cluelessness, and cleavage)

take the cakeMy Oprah-style-roundtable piece on the way working women relate to each other across generations appears in the Seattle Times today. Here’s the start of the article:

Now that the country has four generations of women in the workplace, the stereotypes are piling up faster than to-do items in an overworked middle manager’s inbox.

According to the latest lore, today’s youngest workers are a bunch of midriff-baring, self-entitled whiners who demand constant praise. By contrast, their midlife counterparts are workaholic technophobes unlikely to hold open for younger women the doors they had to beat down themselves.

To hear what those in the trenches think, we invited eight Seattle area women ranging from age 26 to 63 to lunch. Excerpts from their conversation follow…

You can read the story in its entirety here. And you can share your two cents — or duke it out — with other Seattle Times readers here. Oh, and in case you’re wondering what generation I hail from, it’s X. I turn 40 this Thursday.

2 comments August 5th, 2007

Newsflash: Working moms prefer part-time employment

GooI’m a little late in commenting on this, for reasons I’ll explain later this week (no, I’m not knocked up). But I couldn’t let Friday’s media feeding frenzy du jour slip by without weighing in.

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that the Pew Research Center revealed that the number of working moms who find part-time employment ideal — as opposed to full-time employment, or sitting out the employment merry-go-round altogether –has jumped to 60 percent in the past decade. (It was 48 percent in 1997.) You can read more of the stats here.

On the one hand, is this really news? I mean, doesn’t anyone with multiple responsibilities and to-do lists coming out of their ears want to work less? We’re not our first-wave feminist mothers and grandmothers with something to prove: We now know we can take office work or leave it (that is, if we can afford it, which most of us unfortunately can’t).

On the other hand, only 12 percent of the working dads Pew surveyed thought that part-time work was ideal for them. Sure, most single- or dual-parent families can’t live off a part-time salary (or two). But why are today’s dads so much more squeamish than their female counterparts about sitting out a couple days of office work? Is it that they don’t want to get “stuck” at home changing diapers and folding laundry? Are their identities — even in this sensitive-DIY-male day and age — so wrapped up in being the manly breadwinner? Or is it just that they (wisely) can’t get past the hits in pay, benefits, and even career advancement that often come with part-time work? (And since women can get past all this more often than their male counterparts, are we just a bunch of suckers? Or are we simply more disposed to putting quality of life first?)

Hopefully studies like this will continue to drive home the need for more fair ‘n flexible work options for parents and non-parents alike. And for parents, my hope is that more and more couples will continue to take that long, hard look at the division of household/financial labor when weighing who should work and who should stay home (if that’s even a financial option). And hopefully the next time someone does a big fancypants study like this, they’ll bother to ask the non-parents what they think, too. I, for one, would love to see the number of non-parents who prefer part-time work. I have a sneaking suspicion they’d be similar across the gender lines.

7 comments July 17th, 2007

To spawn or not to spawn

ozzy-newborn.jpgI’m guessing many of you saw this MSNBC article on how women and men who delay breeding (a) because they want to focus on career, etc. first, and (b) because they see fertility technologies as a sort of impregnation fallback, may find themselves getting bitten in the womb when they decide they’re ready for parenthood.

Now before you get your panties in a twist, let me say that the focus of the article was not on pitting mothers against non-moms, or employed moms against stay-at-home moms (thank god). Nor was it on commanding all able-bodied women to squeeze out a litter as soon as humanly possible. The focus of the article was on how many would-be parents who put off breeding till their late thirties and beyond find that, even if they can afford the costly fertilization hacks, the odds are often stacked against them.

As someone in her late thirties, I’ve given the baby thing a lot of thought lately. I have friends my age who are trying to conceive, and it has not been anything close to a cakewalk for them. I have a guy in my life that I feel deeply committed to, and I feel like we need to get square on where we stand on the conception thing, given that the window of biological opportunity is rapidly slamming shut. And in case you’re wondering, my mom-o-meter is currently on pause, which is pretty much where it’s been for as long as I can remember.

Given the above, I initially came away from the MSNBC article thinking, “Hmmm… so… if by the time I’m 40 I’ll only have a 5 percent chance of getting knocked up, I wonder if I can stop using birth control…” To which my far more practical, mathematical boyfriend replied, “That’s still a 1 in 20 chance of getting pregnant.”

After I stopped gazing at my bumpless navel (and purchased another case of condoms), I started to think how sad it was that career and motherhood have become so either-or for so many women in this society. How many women would have a kid sooner if more companies would make it easier for them to do so without career or financial penalty? And by “easier,” I of course mean offering flex and part-time schedules, as well as the same wages and advancement opportunities as their non-mom counterparts. I’ll try to dig up some stats on the number of women who say they postponed motherhood because they didn’t want to sacrifice career. In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you think on all this.

14 comments June 17th, 2007

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Hi, my name's Michelle Goodman and I've been freelancing since 1992. I'm author of My So-Called Freelance Life and The Anti 9-to-5 Guide. Read my full bio here.

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