How To Land A Work-From-Home Job

In October, over 11.1 million Americans were unemployed. As moms, we are taking care of our homes, our kids, and ourselves, but with over 11.1 million Americans out of jobs — 6.3 million of whom are women — we are also facing an uphill battle to prepare for a workforce that looks a lot different today than it did a year ago. What happens when there aren’t enough jobs to go around, when unemployment may be running out, when your kids still need to eat and bills still need to get paid? There are people out there to help, and jobs you can do from home.

Scary Mommy spoke with mom of four and founder of Hire My Mom, Lesley Pyle, to shed some light on how to find an online job. Whether you’re looking for a steady gig or a side hustle, we can all learn something from our conversation with Lesley. Working from home, especially during times such as these, might just be the right choice for you. Here are a few ideas:

Blogging

Perhaps your jaw will fall to the floor when you read this (as mine did), but bloggers can make anywhere from $1,000 to $50,000 a month. If you love to write and if you like to share your perspective, perhaps starting your own blog is a route you’d like to go. One blogging mama I follow is Kumiko Love, The Budget Mom. She also gives tips on how to start your own blog. It takes time to establish a presence, though, so this is only a good option if you can afford to be patient.

Social Media Marketing

Social media is not going anywhere, and with the rise of influencers, you can sell products right from your Instagram page, and you can make money doing it. This is something brand coach and influencer Jenell B. Stewart does well. She even has a course she offers (for a fee) to teach other mamas how. The idea behind social media marketing is that you, as the influencer, can offer a product or service and earn a commission if the item or service is purchased through your unique link.

Bookkeeper

You can earn $60 an hour by recording financial transactions for small business, including nonprofits. You can take a course to learn how, and you can also apply and work for a company or be a freelancer. It’s completely up to you how you break into the field, but you definitely can do it from the comfort of your own home.

Finding work online is just like finding work in-person: first impressions matter. We all know that your cover letter and resume must succinctly and clearly summarize your desire for the position you’re seeking and why your experience makes you the best person for the role.

Lesley notes, “One of the barriers is understanding the importance of making a great first impression with your cover letter and resume. Oftentimes, I see moms throw a resume and cover letter out there that has not been customized to the job or make any effort to sell themselves to the business owner/hiring manager. If you are not making a genuine effort to show the hiring person why you are a great fit for the role and why you really want this job, they will likely move on to the next candidate.” Finding a job is like anything else we do — it takes time, care, and persistence to find the right role to match your skillset.

COVID-19 has increased the number of people who are working remotely. Working from one’s dining room table or finding whatever space you can to take a Zoom call from the comfort of your own home is now our new normal. Companies like Google, Twitter, and Salesforce have embraced letting their staff work remotely, extending what was supposed to be temporary into something that resembles a more permanent fixture within their corporate culture — working from home. With these changing times, remote work is our normal.

“I think businesses that were afraid or hesitant to hire remote team members prior to the pandemic have been given the chance to see how well it can work,” Lesley says. “With the right systems, processes, and oversight, working remotely can work beautifully for everyone, especially moms. For moms, the freedom and flexibility are worth everything and is the reason I was so drawn to find a way to connect moms with remote jobs. I also believe that because of that, moms will go above and beyond to do a fabulous job because they are so thankful for the opportunity to work from home.”

For me, I initially had to do a lot of praying and daily meditation to get me through my days with my 13-and-under coworkers, but now I’ve grown to love it. Working from home both as a writer for Scary Mommy and a full-time director of programs for a non-profit has given me a freedom I’ve not known during my entire professional career, and for this, I am grateful. If it weren’t for COVID-19, I’d still be traveling into New York City to work to achieve a mission I believe in, and serve people with whom I am honored to work. And yet, I want to continue to work from home. For me, it gives me the kind of work-life balance I’ve always wanted, even with my kids at home.

Lesley agrees that this work from home life is here to stay. “I think moms that have been given the opportunity to work from home and have loved it will have a hard time going back to fully on-site jobs,” she says. “There are just so many benefits to have that flexibility as a mom.”

Working from home has given me the unexpected gift of being able to advocate more for my needs — to speak up when I need to, to stand firmly in my decisions, and to express myself more.

Being stuck at home and continuing to provide for our family, we are forced to look in the mirror and see ourselves — even if we are a hot mess, unshowered, and one second away from losing it on our kids. But we must never forget to invest in ourselves; we will be better for it. Lesley shares with us why that is important, now more than ever: “If your goal is to work from home, take the time to invest in yourself, whether that is an awesome resume and cover letter or investing in some online training. If you are looking for training, make sure to read lots of reviews and talk to others who have done the training to make sure it’s a great fit for you before you invest your money. Really take time to think about what you would like to do, what you enjoy doing, and then go for it!”

There is no time like right now to try that side hustle, or launch into a new career. Much of the corporate world has been working online — why not you?

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A Day In The Life Of A Mom Working From Home During A Pandemic

On an impromptu department lunch call this week, my colleagues were discussing the books they’ve been reading and the shows they have been watching on TV. I had nothing to add to the conversation. Zero. Zilch. Why, you ask? Don’t you read for leisure? Don’t you decompress with eye candy on TV?  Truth be told, I can’t remember the last time I binge watched a show or had several uninterrupted hours to read a book. I have dozens of partially completed knitting projects in my closet and too many house projects to list.

As a lawyer, I’m used to keeping track of my time. Here’s an example of my typical day working from home with three kids during the pandemic.

5:45 a.m. Wake up. Say hello and good bye to husband for the day as I walk out the door to go to the gym and he prepares to leave to go teach high school. Read text from my mom at 6:00 a.m. (“Looking for Christmas gift ideas for the kids!”)

6:15 a.m. Work out (check email while warming up on treadmill). Have been working on PRs lately (bench press, dead lift, squat). Set PR on dead lift (185)!

7:25 a.m. Arrive home. Check email. Confirm 16-year-old daughter has packed a lunch and water bottle before ushering her out the door for school at 7:40 a.m. Put dinner (planned on Sunday) into crock pot and forget about it. Another text from mom (“Looking for Christmas gift ideas for the kids!”)

7:50 a.m. Encourage 13-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son to eat breakfast while I grab a quick shower.

8:30 a.m. Put birthday card to friend in mailbox (hooray for remembering). Make a cup of coffee. Sit down to work at dining room table. Force 9-year-old to sit at table with me to help minimize distractions. Remind 13-year-old not to doodle and to pay attention during her zoom calls. Respond to son every five minutes when he says, “Mom, look at this! Mom, look how cute the dog is! Mom, what does this mean? Mom, I don’t understand what I am supposed to do!  Mom! Mom! Mom!” Breathe. Revise a lease amendment.

9:50 am.  13-year-old is jumping around doing gym class warmups in living room. Dog starts barking incessantly. Dog clearly needs to go out. Argue with kids over whose turn it is to take dog out. Remind 9-year-old to do asynchronous gym class (supposed to be 20 minutes of soccer drills). He wants to do this with a friend. Text friend’s mom, invite friend over for outdoor, socially distanced gym class soccer drills. Witness child and friend biking in circles around back yard.

9:55 a.m. Revise a purchase and sale agreement. Send a client comments and instructions on another purchase and sale agreement. Begin to review a zoning ordinance for an upcoming redevelopment submittal.

10:55 a.m. Realize that the load of laundry I ran overnight using the delay setting was done about four hours ago. Throw load of laundry in dryer. Throw frozen pizza in oven for lunch.

11:00 a.m. Send emails. Call with a paralegal regarding a title and survey matter.

11:20 a.m. Remind kids to eat lunch.

11:22 a.m. Review and respond to emails. Remind kids to eat lunch.

(Thank goodness the dog is now asleep.)

12:28 p.m. Kiss 13-year-old and 9-year-old good bye and wish them a safe walk/bike ride to school for their hybrid start times of 12:47 and 1:00, respectively (which are an hour earlier on Wednesdays, as if this isn’t hard enough to keep track of).

12:30 p.m. Breathe in the blissful quiet. Walk in kitchen to make a cup of tea. Notice sink overflowing with dirty dishes. Open dishwasher to put the dirty dishes in it and realize the dishwasher is full of clean dishes from dinner last night. Unload dishwasher, reload dishwasher. Eat lunch while catching up on emails.

12:45 p.m. Sit down to work.

12:49 p.m. Receive call from nurse at son’s school. I forgot to submit the daily Covid self-certification form online (again). Submit the forms for the two younger kids before I get a similar call from the junior high nurse.

12:50 — 2:45 p.m. Calls, drafting, work, emails, texts. Yes!! Almost 2 straight hours of work!

2:45 p.m. 16-year-old returns from school and interrupts the quiet. We discuss her day and the latest election news.

3:00 p.m. Sit down to work again. Text from mom (“Looking for Christmas gift ideas for the kids!”)

3:40 p.m. 9-year-old returns. The noise is home.

3:50 p.m. 13-year-old returns. More noise. Remind 16-year-old to leave for her sports class at the gym at 4:00.

4:00 p.m. Encourage children to go to park to enjoy the beautiful, unusually warm November day. Children park themselves on couches to play Minecraft and Fortnite. Argue with children over whose turn it is to take the dog out.

4:05 p.m. Make a cup of coffee. It’s a little late in the day for coffee, but such is life. Escape back to my “real” office upstairs. Express silent gratitude for having an office upstairs.

5:05 p.m. Husband returns from work. We are two ships passing in the night. We discuss what time the 13-year-old’s basketball practice starts tonight. Encourage 13-year-old to eat dinner before basketball practice. Return to office to work.

7:00 p.m. Take a break from work to have dinner with 16-year-old and 9-year-old. Express silent gratitude for the crock pot. After dinner, we clean kitchen and then walk the dog. I then sit back down to continue working while the 9-year-old returns to the Xbox and the 16-year-old does her homework.

8:30 p.m. Husband and 13-year-old return from basketball. We all say hello and I help them find dinner. I encourage the 9-year-old to take a shower. I remind him 5 more times over the next 35 minutes.

9:25 p.m. 9-year-old is finally out of the shower. I remind him to brush his teeth. We read a chapter of A Series of Unfortunate Events, book 12: The Penultimate Peril. I tuck him in and kiss him good night. The 13-year-old puts herself to bed. I return to work at the dining room table with the 16-year-old.

11:30 p.m. I’m unsuccessfully trying to stay awake so my 16-year-old daughter and I can “do our homework together” and retreat upstairs at about the same time. When we both get to a stopping point, we head up. I realize I forgot to respond to mom’s text. Bleary-eyed, I finally text mom: “gasoline gift cards for CC, Lego Avengers for AJ, Xbox headphones for CJ.” Collapse into bed and ruminate for 30 minutes while trying to read a book to settle my mind.

Today’s time sheet:

1.5 hours cooking; 0.5 hour wrangling children to walk dog; 0.75 hour household chores; 0.5 hour conversations with family; 1.5 hours to and from the gym and working out; 0.75 hour shower/get ready for the day; 2 hours of silly interruptions; and of course, all those billable hours …

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Doug Emhoff Is Quitting His Job To Support Kamala Harris When She Becomes VP

Doug Emhoff is set to leave his job as a lawyer to support his wife’s role as VP

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are set to make history when they step into their duties as President and Vice President at the end of January, but their spouses are also breaking all sorts of barriers and shattering stereotypes. Jill Biden has previously said that when she assumes her First Lady duties, she’s not going to quit her day job teaching at a community college (as she did when Biden was VP), which would make her the first FLOTUS to keep her full-time job. And Harris’ husband Doug Emhoff is going to leave his private law practice to focus on his role at the White House, and yassss, normalize stay-at-home husbands! Equality starts in the home, even if that home is the White House!

A spokesperson for Harris and Emhoff told the AP that come inauguration day, he will cut ties with DLA Piper, his private law practice, from where he’s actually been on a leave of absence since Harris joined the Biden campaign over the summer. Emhoff hasn’t officially selected his title, though Biden has referred to him as the “second gentleman.” Also, Emhoff is already breaking boundaries by becoming the first Jewish spouse of a president or a vice president.

Between Emhoff and Dr. Jill Biden, this is one modern pair of political spouses. During an interview with CBS in August, Dr. Biden — an English professor who holds a doctorate in education and kept teaching throughout her eight years as Second Lady — said she had no plans to ditch her job when her husband becomes president.

“If we get to the White House, I’m gonna continue to teach,” she said over the summer. “It’s important, and I want people to value teachers and know their contributions, and lift up the profession.”

Emhoff, on the other hand, has worked as a lawyer for most of his life, and is still working with the transition team on what causes he’ll support and tackle in the White House. For example, Mike Pence’s wife Karen promotes art therapy and focuses on military families.

“We’ve been waiting for this sort of gender switch for decades now,” Kim Nalder, a professor of political science at California State University-Sacramento told the AP. “There is a lot of symbolism from a man stepping back from his high-powered career in order to support his wife’s career.”

It’s progressive, it’s awesome, and the country is ready for a second gentleman with big “wife guy” energy in the White House.

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I Was Furloughed From My Dream Job

It’s been exactly four months since I was furloughed from my dream job.

If you had spoken to my colleagues and me earlier this year, before COVID-19, you would have thought we were on top of the world. Our phones were ringing off the hook, our schedules were filled to capacity, and we were even looking at expanding our team just to keep up with the demand. You see, for the last nine years, I have enjoyed a diverse creative leadership journey at one of the largest entertainment companies in the world. This industry is cutthroat, highly competitive and despite there being a plethora of highly skilled and talented people, there are not enough roles out there to employ every single person who has the skills and talent to do the job.

I always knew this, and was always up for the challenge. In fact, I’d been conditioned my whole life to be a workhorse — my family immigrated from Cuba with nothing, and I watched my parents work multiple jobs as a child: my mom graduating from ultrasound school when I was 13, etc. Hard work has never been a stranger to me. I was a straight-A student, have held multiple jobs since I was 18, conditioned to believe in the American Dream. Earlier this year, at 33 years old, I thought, wow, I’ve finally found it. I have a new house, a beautiful family, and a dream gig I worked so hard to land. I am finally living this American Dream!

That is, until COVID-19 shut my industry down.

When I first heard about the furlough in April, it was gut-wrenching, but also a necessary evil as “we were all in this together” to stop the spread of COVID. I knew that as a society we had to do our part, and sacrifice our jobs for the greater good of beating this pandemic. I was sad that I wasn’t deemed “essential,” but felt almost relieved at the temporary break that this time off would provide me. I was thankful that I could spend this extra time unpacking into our new home that we had just purchased in February, and relished the fact that I could spend this quality time with our two daughters.

I inhaled my girls with snuggles and cuddles while we played dolls and watched movies. I’d have Zoom chats with my friends at night, drinking cocktails and making fun of Tiger King. I shared and made funny quarantine memes on social media, and laughed at the fact that we were living in some sort of #coronapocalpyse. I set my out-of-office alert to expire in July and thought, how nice to have this #coronacation.

But then, slowly, in June and July, despite this pandemic not being over, the world started opening back up, and my friends started slowly being contacted one by one to report back to work. This gave me hope, as I thought, “Wow, I shouldn’t be that far behind.” I’d reach out to my other friends still on furlough almost daily, and we’d comfort each other and give each other advice as we tried to navigate this complicated puzzle of why some people were already back and some of us were still at home.

My husband, luckily, was deemed “essential” and has been working this whole time. I was able to qualify for unemployment benefits (thank GOD) and with the extra $600. Although it was a pay cut from my normal salary, we were able to continue to pay our bills and put food on the table. I thought how blessed I was to be able to get paid to stay at home with my children. I thought how lucky I was to have a job to come back to once this is over. I thought how lucky I am that I am not alone and that other people have it way, way worse than I do. Even in the midst of my worry, I found things to be grateful for.

Some days I’d have bursts of motivation and do arts and crafts with my daughters and organize closets, and some days all I could do was silently cry as I held my children, as we watched yet another cartoon or Disney movie on the couch. I even polished my resume and applied to several jobs, thinking maybe I could find something temporary.

Other days, I’d wake up with a sense of heaviness in my bones, feeling sad and bogged down by the negativity in the world. This heaviness would paralyze me and make any simple task like taking a shower seem too daunting to manage. Some days I’d obsess over why I hadn’t been called back yet — was it because I was late too many times? Was it because I was too loud in the office? Did I write a bad email? Was I not talented enough? Not liked? I’d obsess over my insecurities … being a working mother, being a person of color, being a female in a white, male-dominated industry. I’d obsess over old conversations with my leaders, analyze what I could have possibly done wrong to be left in the dust. My self-doubt would encapsulate my brain and keep me up at night, leaving a painful pit in my stomach and an intense anxiety every Thursday and Friday as I stared at my phone, waiting for my job to call me back.

I felt silly feeling this way as I FaceTimed my parents, now almost 60 years old and still working in Miami like the workhorses that they are and have always been. I’d see the scars on my mother’s face from the three masks she has to wear all day, every day as a healthcare worker, and watch my poor father try to continue to safely run his business in the COVID hotspot that is South Florida. They’d comfort me and love me. My husband would do the same, holding me as I’d cry and giving me the space I needed when I’d take that extra time every night in the shower to scream into the scalding hot water that would burn my skin and soothe my devastated soul.

I know this sounds dramatic, but this has been my reality. When you pour your heart into a career, it becomes a part of who you are. When you work in my industry, you literally work night and day, and find yourself spending more time at work than at home. Your coworkers become your extended family and you all live this incredibly hectic yet fulfilling lifestyle. When you get to be a part of an exciting, creative team, you feel like you’re part of an exclusive club — one I worked SO hard my entire life to a be a part of. And as a working mother, I felt like I was even more thankful to be a part of this club, since I was only met with support when I was pregnant, was provided a wonderful maternity leave, and never ever given any kind of drama when I pumped milk for my baby for over a year after she was born. I thought it couldn’t get any better than what I had. I was so loyal, totally in it for the long haul, dreaming of getting older and retiring with this company.

I embraced the chaos that was being a working mother. I got to know my daughter’s preschool teachers, many times dropping them off at school after working an overnight shift. They knew I had a demanding job, but they also knew I loved it, and my daughters did, too. I wanted to inspire them that they, too, could “have it all” like Mommy! And my husband was the best: always an equal partner, supporting and believing in me, telling me how I was well on my way to greatness. I was just so happy! 2020 was going to the BEST year!

The hardest part of the furlough has been the lack of communication. From my understanding, there can be serious legal restrictions when you are on furlough, and the company is apparently not allowed to contact you unless it is to return to work. It’s especially hard when your leaders and coworkers become a part of your extended family and they are not allowed to talk to you or give you any kind of information. This only adds insult to injury and makes the whole process seem even more personal, and even more painful.

When you become friends with the people you work with, and then you see them go back to work, and not be able to talk to you, it adds yet another layer of despair. And with this lack of communication, you are left in limbo, without a timeframe, wondering how much longer this is going to last. And the more time that passes, the less hopeful it seems, the more depressed you become.

Also, when you do not have any sort of timeframe, it is impossible to plan your life. How are we supposed to know how much money to save? Or what to do for the new school year? This uncertainty, depression, and anxiety put me in a really terrible mental state, probably the worst I have gone through in my entire life.

So when the job that I let define my self-worth and happiness was taken away from me for nothing that I did wrong, it resulted in a complete mental crisis. I remember one particular night in August coming to the realization that I may never go back. I was heartbroken and felt like a part of my life had died.

I grieved my old life, trying to come to terms with that fact that things will never be the same again. My whole body ached and trembled as I wondered how I was going to be able to make a living for my family, now that unemployment benefits have expired, and now that none of the 30+ jobs that I’ve applied to so far haven’t called back. I melted into my poor husband’s arms, shaking, as I buried my face in my pillow, completely soaking it with tears. I felt my entire face swell up as my head throbbed from the pain. I cried, and cried, and cried, until there were no more tears left inside of me. I woke up the next morning feeling like a shell of the person that I used to be. I walked around my house like a zombie for a few days until something clicked. I found hope again. I found an opportunity to make my own path.

I am still furloughed. It has been two weeks since I had that emotional breakdown, and even though I hit an emotional low that I’ve never hit before, I’m finding the resilience to pick myself back up again. I am no longer waiting by the phone, no longer analyzing what went wrong, and no longer questioning my talents and abilities. Through the support of my close family and friends, I am starting my own company in the middle of a pandemic and actually feel a lot of peace and calm around the notion that I will be okay. I will be okay, and my family will be okay, because we always have been and we always will be. There is really no other way to look at it.

Even when accepting a situation sucks, if you can find the power to take control of your life again, your entire world will change. That is the path that I am on right now, and if you are furloughed, underemployed, unemployed, or laid off right now, I encourage you to do the same.

You did not lose your job because of anything you did. Your job does not define your self-worth or your happiness. Whether or not you are part of that exclusive club that gets to return to work or not, you are still exactly the same person that you have always been. You now have the choice to redefine yourself and create your own path. Think about what it is that you have always wanted to do, and just DO IT! You have nothing to lose!

And when you put yourself and your family at the forefront of your future, you will only have something wonderful to gain.

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I Was Post-Divorce And Excited To Go Back To Work––COVID-19 Changed Things

Like millions of other Americans, the pandemic has been forcing me to work from home since March. While I am grateful to still have a job, I’m also a little bummed. I had literally just gotten back into the workforce after being a stay-at-home mom for nine years when the coronavirus started.

I left my career after my child was born to allow my husband to focus on his career. After daycare and gas, it didn’t make sense for me to continue working. I absolutely loved the fact that I never missed out on a single thing while my son was little, but if you’ve ever been a stay-at-home parent, you know that it comes with its own share of struggles.

Although I had found a job as a writer, working from home, by the time my son started kindergarten, I still needed to be home for before and after school. We were financially stable, so this was doable. That was, until we got a divorce.

The divorce happened last year, and although I was sad and feeling overwhelmed with all the changes, I have to admit that I was a little excited to finally have a reason to work outside of the home again. Living on my own made it a necessity, and since my son was in school full-time, I was able to work without the help of a sitter.

I found a job working the exact same hours my son was at school, and it worked out perfectly for several months. Then, the coronavirus hit and the whole world shut down. If I had known that the last Friday I worked back in March would be my last “real” workday, I would have savored it a little more.

I know some of you may find that statement absolutely ridiculous, and I get it. Working can really suck sometimes. Even if you totally love your job, it can be stressful. But going from a stay-at-home mom to a working mom gave me a sense of freedom and purpose again.

I loved the work friends I made. I loved what I did. For nearly a decade, my world revolved around taking care of my child and my home, and while I wouldn’t change those years for anything, I definitely lost a bit of myself in the process.

I Had Just Started Working Outside The Home -- Then COVID-19 Hit
urbazon/Getty

I think it’s common for stay-at-home moms to crave what working moms have, and for working moms to crave what stay-at-home moms have. If you’ve never been a stay-at-home mom, let me tell you, you really start to miss that adult interaction. Work friends are a real thing and they are absolutely wonderful. It’s a definite trade off to be able to spend that precious time with your children, but still miss that connection with other adults.

So here I am, back to being a stay-at-home mom. But now I’m a divorced stay-at-home mom who is also working full-time from home and doing remote learning. I mean, it just keeps getting better and better.

I know I’m not alone in this. Everyone’s lives have changed. Whether you’ve been an essential worker this whole time, lost your job, or started working from home, this pandemic has affected all of us. This “new normal” is anything but normal.

We all do what we have to do. We make money however we can because the bills need to be paid. We take care of our kids because they are little humans who rely on us. We lose our cool sometimes because the world has completely changed and none of us really know how to deal with it.

I’m doing this whole stay-at-home mom thing again because it’s just what needs to be done. I am able to work from home and have my son participate in remote learning, and I am very grateful for that, but I still miss the job I had to leave in order to do that.

There will likely come a time when I will work out of the home again, so for now I’m going to savor these extra moments with my child that I otherwise wouldn’t have had. I’m going to try to embrace being a stay-at-home mom again, even though it was not a part of the original plan.

If there’s one thing this pandemic has taught me, it’s that you can make plans and stress about those plans all you want, but when it comes down to it, life is going to throw you some major curve balls. Whether it be something as big as a pandemic and a divorce, or as small as a new layout at your favorite grocery store, you have to just roll with the punches.

What we have planned for ourselves isn’t always what life has planned for us. Right now, life wants me to be a stay-at-home mom again. While I thought this stage of my life was over, I’m going to make the best of the second time around.

I will always believe that stay-at-home moms have one of the toughest jobs around. Their paycheck consists of lollipop kisses and piles of Dreft-scented laundry. It is one of the most undervalued professions there is. Shaping tiny humans into adults and sending them out into the world to succeed and conquer is no small feat.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Many stay-at-home moms do it all on their own. I know, because I’m one of them. To all of the stay-at-home mamas- whether by choice or by necessity — know that your job is essential. In fact, it’s probably the most essential job in the world.

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My Husband Was The SAHP While I Worked––Then COVID-19 Happened

I grew up in a big family. Four children, two parents, eight sets of aunts and uncles. I have four cousins on my mom’s side and even more on my dad’s.

My mom’s mom, our grandmother, was our matriarch and she earned it by being loud, welcoming, and wild. Her life motto was “Be a bother!” and she often joked that her first marriage was for procreation and her second marriage (which started well into her senior years), recreation. She was one of the first women in her community to go to college – at age 16. When her first husband passed away, she went to work as a secretary and then built herself a career in real estate so she could take care of her five children on her own; three of whom were still living at home.

Her only daughter, my mother, followed in her footsteps. For as long as I can remember, my mom was a managing partner in her own accounting firm. Both my parents worked, but it was clear that my mother brought home most of the family income in our house. My dad was the one whose career was a little more… “flexible.” His time was more geared towards field trips and dinner duty rather than long hours in the office for which my mom was known.

I was born in the 1980’s and this is how I formed my world view. Moms were kick ass. They got shit done. They worked hard.

Dads did, too, by the way. But, if there was volunteering to be done or dinner to be cooked. it was dad, not mom, who came to the rescue. Even so, with both parents working, summers were spent at babysitters’ houses or Girl Scout Camp until we were old enough to just look after each other at home. Parents were there for the big things, but it was rare to have a parent home all. Day. Long… on a random Tuesday, no less.

A Shout-Out To Stay-At-Home Parents Everywhere
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This all formed my attitude about what it meant to be a stay at home parent. I spent late summer nights as a pre-teen guffawing at the housewives I saw depicted on Nick at Nite reruns of the Dick Van Dyke Show.

“How could they!?” I’d wonder out loud. “That will never be me,” I vowed. I didn’t understand how someone could subject themselves to that fate.

Here’s the thing, though… I was wrong. So, so wrong.

In 2017, my mom sadly passed away. Our daughter was three at the time and my family had moved in with my mom six months earlier to help as her health quickly declined. My dad had passed away six years earlier. It all felt too much for me to bear.

My husband and I both took a year off from work following the death of my mom. We healed. We traveled. We connected for the first time in years – having normally been too busy taking care of our family, the everyday grind, or my mother to even think about ourselves too much.

After a whirlwind year, it was time to get back to real life. Our daughter was starting Kindergarten in the fall, and we needed to find our footing again. I eventually went back to work. But, my husband? My husband stayed at home.

Let me just say: the contribution of a stay at home parent is nothing short of earth angel status.

For two years, while my husband’s main responsibilities centered around managing the household, I had never felt more supported and more in synch as a family. His role allowed me to dive head first into mine. Promotions, new opportunities, travel, and professional development – all of this soared while our home was single-handedly well managed by my husband. We never scrambled for childcare for things as simple as school pick-up, the grocery shopping always got done, dinner was almost always home cooked, our house was a home, and I was able to be fully present in my professional life through it all. Hell, we even moved internationally for a new job opportunity of mine.

A Shout-Out To Stay-At-Home Parents Everywhere
MoMo Productions/Getty

I felt incredibly lucky to have the role of “breadwinner” in the family. Sure, work could be stressful. Of course, there are ways that working outside of the home can be challenging. But, in the meantime, I got to feel fulfilled in my own identity outside the home. I had a purpose and meaning beyond my title of “mom” or “wife.”

Instead of viewing my financial contribution as the important one, as I had been indoctrinated by society to believe was the only one that mattered, this set-up allowed me to see it as just one part of a winning combination. I immediately realized my husband’s role was just as important and key to our success as a family as mine, and I was baffled I could have ever looked down on such a sacred responsibility. I started reaching out to all my friends and family who were their own family’s stay at home partner or parent, and giving them unsolicited praise for the major contributions they provided their household.

Even so, my husband did so much, and so seemingly effortlessly, that it was eventually easy to overlook all of the effort that went into keeping things moving so seamlessly every day.

Then COVID hit.

We live in Italy which was the world’s first hotspot outside of China. I had just gotten major surgery right before they announced the country-wide lockdown. It was clear I wouldn’t be going back to work for a long, long time.

Like most, at first our family was at home together 24 hours a day. What became the norm was the “stay at home parent,” or the “work at home parent” for those fortunate to have kept their jobs. The only outings we were allowed were trips to the grocery store or pharmacy. Given my lowered immune system due to recent surgery, my husband managed all of those.

As we’ve finally crawled out of lockdown, our roles have now reversed. I’ve been furloughed, and it is uncertain if there is a job waiting for me on the other end of all this. My husband was able to find work outside the home and I now suddenly find myself in a role I never thought I’d have: I am a stay at home mom.

The cliché rings true: it is a very tough job, certainly not for the lazy or unmotivated. What I find particularly difficult is feeding my family. The decisions on what the menu will be, the act of buying the right ingredients, the fear my cooking skills aren’t up to par with my husbands (they aren’t) – all of this sends me into a tailspin before noon.

I am also not a very natural homemaker. Sure, I can keep a place tidy – but does our house look like a home? The jury is still out.

I absolutely love love love all the time I get to spend with my daughter. But some days, keeping her entertained is not so easy and my capacity to focus most of my attention on her can easily wane. This is especially true when I hear the words, “Mom! Watch!” seventy times a day, only to look over at her doing something that can only rationally be described as nothing, but since she clearly needs the attention and love, I oblige — trying to maintain enthusiasm. It can be exhausting.

So, this is my ode to the stay at home parent.

Whether the house is spotless, or filled with loving chaos… You are amazing.

Whether you are left standing at the end of the day, or regularly sink with the sun into a wine-happy bundle on the couch… You are unstoppable.

Whether you have chosen this role, or have been pushed into it by unforeseen circumstances… What you are providing your family is valuable beyond comprehension.

Whether society would look at you and pin you as the “breadwinner” or the “homemaker…” You are the perfect person for this job.

Whether your partner regularly says this or not… It is because of your dedication to this role that they can be fully realized in theirs.

I do look forward to going back to work one day and putting the stay at home parent status firmly behind me. But, for now I know it is the very best thing I can do for my family.

And it is an absolute honor. 

The post My Husband Was The SAHP While I Worked––Then COVID-19 Happened appeared first on Scary Mommy.

10 Ways To Stay Sane While Working From Home With Kids

When I started my journey of self-employment, it was with my kids. They were newborn and 16 months. It was in the midst of the economic crash of 2009, approximately one year after we purchased our first house, which conveniently was about three months before the bottom fell out.

My husband and I are not wealthy people. We were both raised by hard working, middle class parents and had jobs at the age of 14. Relaxing is not something that comes easy to either of us, and as parents, we just want our children to have comfort, security, and confidence.

So much of what we desire for our kids shows up in the decisions we make in our professional lives. My husband is from Ohio – he honestly is the epitome of Midwestern values. Get up early, work hard, don’t complain, and do your best every day.

I am a word nerd and have always been writing. One Saturday, when I was unknowingly pregnant with my daughter, in a move I still blame on an internal nesting instinct, I created a free Google site, positioning myself as a freelance business copywriter offering services that included resume writing and corporate communications.

Within a week, my first client had found me, hired me for a resume, and my business was born. Fast forward approximately two years and two kids later, and I made the bold decision to leave my full-time job (with just one month of savings and no real plan) to go into business for myself … full-time. I quickly realized I needed help, which started out as traveling to visit grandparents two days a week, then hiring a sitter. This morphed slowly into daycare and a different sitter, all requiring a degree of flexibility and adaptability that I was previously unaware I was capable of.

When I look back, I can’t even believe I had the courage to do it. What gene was I born with that made me think I could build and run a business with two tiny people crawling around?

In retrospect, I don’t recommend this fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants method to starting a business. I would highly suggest a more thought-out approach; however, I did make it work, and I believe I owe that success in large part to a set of loosely-tied-together principles that have become my non-negotiables.

What’s my secret to working at home with kids?

1. Accept failure.

You will absolutely not get the things done that you planned.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

2. Build an “Oh, Sh*t” block into your schedule.

It’s a great cushion for the things that will fall through the cracks.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

3. Get up and move.

A lot. Like at least once every hour, to ward off the anxiety that creeps in when you’re not getting all the things down.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

4. Exercise.

Daily if possible. This balancing act is hard. You need to combat stress, and exercise is the best thing I’ve found.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

5. Get dressed and put on makeup.

You just feel more effective when you look the part. My other secret? Shoes. I always put on shoes when I’m in my office. It’s a small psychological trick that works really well for me to reinforce work vs home.

6. Find your rhythm.

Learn when you are most productive, and block that time. Using a calendar app like Calendly with rules built in is a great way to manage that.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

7. Train your partner.

They will forget that while you “worked” all day, you were interrupted every 20 minutes. So the reason you work when they get home is because you can actually get stuff done.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

8. Be prepared to sacrifice.

Weekends, vacations, typical time off all goes out the window when you’re self-employed — but you don’t have to miss plays, concerts, school meetings, and all the other things.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

9. Find (and stick to) systems that work.

These are different for everyone. The hardest part is sticking to it, but routines will save you.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

10. Be disciplined.

I can’t tell you how hard it is some mornings to not just binge watch Netflix. But I don’t. Mostly.

Things have changed over the years, not least of all my kids. At this point, they are pretty self-sufficient and have a sitter who keeps them busy while I’m wrapping up my day. There are days when I wonder if I made the right decision. Then 2:52 rolls around. Every day, my son gets off the bus and silently crawls into my arms, tucking his head under my neck (being careful not to make too much noise because he knows Airpods in means I’m talking to a client) to give me a hug, and my “why” comes back into focus.

The post 10 Ways To Stay Sane While Working From Home With Kids appeared first on Scary Mommy.

The Pandemic Is Absolutely Crushing Working Moms, But Does Anyone Care?

I’m the Executive Editor of a parenting site, and I still can’t find work/life balance

A new study published in the academic journal Gender, Work & Organization shows that in households where both parents work, the pandemic has exacerbated the gender gap in work hours by 20 to 50 percent — meaning that a working mom’s schedule is being upended while dad’s work schedule stays pretty much the same. I doubt there is a working mom out there who is surprised by this. Many working moms are being forced to cut hours they work from home to maintain the household — and care for kids who are now home full time.

I’m sitting at my dining room table — my makeshift office. It’s in the center of my house, but we live in an old Hudson Valley home, and there’s not exactly an “office” proper. I’m the Executive Editor of Scary Mommy — the largest parenting brand in the country. Currently, I’m overseeing our Deputy News Editor, who is assigning a team of writers articles that we’ll push out to our four million fans on Facebook in real time. She works from her dining room table too, as her husband “needs the office for his work.” I’m also overseeing our Snapchat channel, which will push out stories to our over three million fans on that platform. In between that, I’m attempting to launch a book club for our site — an endeavor we’ve never taken on before — but the importance of new revenue streams is not lost on anyone trying to maintain some sort of job security in this economy. And my nine-year-old son is sitting next to me playing Mario Kart on his Nintendo Switch, complete with all the sound effects you’d expect to come from a child his age.

Now a Facebook message from a parent at school who needs help with the PTO. Now a meeting rescheduled at the last minute. Now the sales team needs a pitch approved for Snapchat. Now my kids are hungry. I’ll put everything on hold to make them lunch, rushing through it like I usually do. I’ll exist on a cup of coffee until about 4pm — when I have time to grab a snack. I’ll feel like a live wire the entire time. I might raise my voice when my kids get too loud. I might respond to a Slack message in a short fashion. I’ll probably be deemed “bitchy” at several points during the day. I’ll wonder when the last time one of my male colleagues was tone-policed. I won’t have an answer.

“Among telecommuting-capable parents with children aged 1 through 5, we find that the reduction in hours worked per week between February and April is nearly 4.5 times larger for mothers than fathers,” the study, called COVID 19 and the Gender Gap In Work Hours, reads. “This indicates that even when both parents are able to work from home and may be more directly exposed to childcare and housework demands, mothers are scaling back to meet these responsibilities to a greater extent than fathers. Ultimately, our analyses reveal that gender inequality in parents’ work hours has worsened during the pandemic amongst mothers and fathers with young children, even among those who were able to telecommute.”

And this just speaks to households where mothers can scale back. There are plenty of households where that is not an option — and what do you think the result is there? I’d guess that mothers are working more than ever, based not on any scientific study — just my own life. My partner is a working musician, and you can imagine what the pandemic has done to his income stream. The weekly trips to the city have dried up — as have the paying gigs. This has made our once, two-income household a one-income household. And it’s given him a lot more time — and he is a partner who cooks, cleans, and maintains the home. But the kids still want their mom. They always want their mom. “We know that young children are more likely to disrupt mothers’ sleep and leisure than fathers’,” study author, Caitlyn Collins explains. “Even in U.S. households where parents aim for equal parenting, it’s typical that for children, ‘If something needs to get fixed, mom is the name they know.'” And working moms trying to manage working at home during a pandemic know this all too well. But let’s get back to those households where both parents are still able to telecommute.

Woman's choices
Scary Mommy and ONYXprj/Getty

“This study provides early evidence that the pandemic has increased gender inequality in the labor force with troubling consequences for mothers,” the study reports. “Despite the increased necessity and visibility of domestic labor brought about by school and work closures in the face of COVID-19, fathers appear to not have reduced their employment contributions as much as mothers. Instead, mothers have scaled back their hours to meet new caregiving demands.” I don’t have to look far to see that this is what’s happening daily — my company employs dozens of mothers who are now working from home. And in so many cases, I’m hearing the same refrain: “My husband closes the door and tends to his Zoom calls while I’m left wrangling children while I tend to mine.” “My husband never blocks out time on his calendar to handle lunchtime for the kids, so I’m left scrambling my schedule — or worse, making lunch while on conference calls.”

And then there’s the interaction kids need; They need to go outside. They need to not be on their screens all day. They need to maintain some sort of schedule for their own well-being, as their lives have already been turned upside down so much in the face of COVID. And that’s where the overwhelming mom-guilt comes in. Speaking of that — have you ever heard the phrase “dad guilt?” You haven’t. It doesn’t exist.

“The future is unknown, but our results indicate mothers are bearing the brunt of the pandemic and may face long-term employment penalties as a consequence,” the study reminds us. “For this reason, it is critical for employers, managers, and other leaders to recognize the gendered implications of the pandemic on workers to avoid this consequential mistake: the loss of women workers.”

I work for a website whose sole focus is moms, and I still haven’t been able to find that work-life balance. I’m not even sure what that would look like, to be honest. I ascended the ranks from a news writer to Executive Editor in three years because I’m what my male bosses have described as on several occasions, “a beast.” This is something I’ve always taken pride in — I know I have the grit and work ethic to build and accomplish pretty much anything professionally. But the chronic anxiety and feeling like I am always stretched thin is making me wonder if this is the reward for being an amazing employee when you’re a mom; utter exhaustion and the feeling that you’re failing at pretty much everything.

The study did find that there are those who work from home whose days haven’t been completely upended during COVID: Dads. “In contrast to mothers’ work-hour reductions, we observed very little change in fathers’ weekly work hours…These trends indicate that the pandemic is exacerbating gender inequality. Mothers appear to be taking on a larger burden of childcare and homeschooling at expense of paid work time, as evidenced by their larger reduction in work hours compared with fathers.”

Whenever someone writes about the unfair balance of the domestic workload in the home, there are always those who demand that this is an easy fix: tell your partner to do his share! I’m not sure if that’s intentionally obtuse, or just naive. Often, women don’t talk about the mental load of being a mother, because we don’t want to sound like we’re feeding into the stereotype of the incompetent father who doesn’t help around the house. Our partners do help.  They get up, they feed the kids, they participate in household chores… but it’s just not the same as the burden most women carry every day. The mental load.

Think about your own household. Think of the last time your kid had a fever. Who stayed up with that kid all night? Now think of the last time your fridge was filled. Insurance papers were filled out. Old clothes were rotated out of their drawers and donated. Who makes the mental note that you’re about to run out of milk? Who communicates with teachers? The answer, overwhelmingly, is moms — and we all know that. This isn’t something that can change overnight, and implying that it is displays a true misunderstanding of what the mental load actually is.

It’s going to take a lot of work on the part of employers and partners to change this dynamic. But if we don’t want women to drown, we have to start somewhere.

“To avoid long-term losses in women’s labor force participation, employers should offer flexibility to keep mothers attached to employment, including allowing employees to work shorter hours,” the study authors recommend. “Further, fathers should be encouraged to provide more hours of care for their children, which may mean sacrificing paid work hours to do so.”

Great suggestions. But is anyone listening?

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Stop Relying On Working Moms To Handle Everything

Since our children were born, my husband has been at every doctor’s appointment I can remember. We are always together at every parent teacher conference. Yet, when it comes time for questions like, “Do you feel like your daughter is getting a balanced diet?” or “How’s it going at home with long division?” the teacher or doctor always looks to me, and only to me. This is in no way ill intentioned; these are professionals who are engaging in a kind of pattern recognition. If your experience shows that matters related to the care and comfort of children are the domain of the female, you will turn to that person instinctively.

In the U.S. – as it is around the world – women are seen as default providers of care for their families. One study found that women are 10 times more likely than men to take time off to stay home with their sick children.

But what happens when life turns into one long sick day? It looks like a “shecession” with women’s unemployment considerably outpacing that of men. As it is, the employment gains for women have been erased in only a few short months since COVID-19 took hold. New Oxfam research from various countries around the world shows that in the midst of the pandemic, women are spending their days doing unpaid care and domestic work – cooking, cleaning, shopping for the family — not advancing their careers. And while two-thirds of men report that they are cooking and cleaning as much as or more than women are, only one-third of women agree.

Mother trying to stay concentrated for work while holding her son in lap
miodrag ignjatovic/Getty

The imbalance in care is particularly acute for Women of Color and Asian women. Oxfam and Promundo’s new research in the US found that while 57% of White women say that their daily domestic and care work has increased, 71% of Black or African American women, 71% of Latina women and 79% of Asian women said their care duties have increased.

Now, as the economy opens back up and employers start wavering on accommodations around caring for children while working from home, we need to avoid falling into accepted patterns that women should shoulder the continued uncertainty around school and daycare availability.  If we don’t address this, we’ll see widespread attrition of women from the workforce and women becoming more economically dependent on their partners. Not only will women be worse off, but, if men pull back from caregiving as women stay home at higher rates, our sons and daughters will be worse off too.

It is time for men to lean in. Men themselves benefit from greater engagement in caregiving, including improved physical, mental, and sexual health and reduced risk-taking. Men who are involved in the home and with their children report the relationship is one of their most important sources of well-being and happiness. It is good for children, too. There is ample evidence from all over the world that engaged fatherhood has a positive impact on boys and girls – and the relationships they will have as adults.

Busy woman multitasking
jackscoldsweat/Getty

But large-scale shifts need to happen to keep us all from backsliding.

Men can advocate for their employers to strengthen parental leave benefits and paid family leave benefits while carrying out workplace-based campaigns that demonstrate a workplace environment that fully supports the caregiving duties of women and men equally. Men should encourage other men to lean into childcare. Humans are social creatures, taking cues from those around them. What people believe, what they see in the media, and what those around them believe often determine how individuals behave and act.

We can all call on our lawmakers to support the passage of the Child Care is Essential Act, which would provide $50 billion in immediate funds to the child care industry.  This Act would ensure that essential workers—men and women alike—will not have to choose between keeping their jobs and staying home to care for their children. Additionally, it will ensure that the already fragile childcare industry will not collapse due to COVID-19, meaning workers—again, particularly women workers—can depend on childcare services that were present before the pandemic and go back into the workplace.

The question is, what kind of future do we want for this country? We are at the precipice of going back in time, of losing the gains for women in workforce engagement and of men in equal roles in caring for their children and families. Men – and women – must act now to push for changes that are good for all of us.

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As A Black Woman In The Workplace, I Hope Times Are Changing

We heard the cries from mothers across the world, responding to George Floyd’s final plea, calling his mama begging for help, yearning to be heard one last time. Over the last few weeks, we’ve also heard from protesters in the streets marching in communities from Brooklyn to LA screaming, “No justice, no peace” and “Say her name,” a call to action for our federal and local governments and police departments across the country to do better. A call to hold those accountable for their crimes against the very humans they were meant to protect and serve no matter the color of their skin.

As some of us dust ourselves off, push forward, and return to the world of work, as a Black person, it all feels different. How could it not? Particularly as a Black person going back to an all-white work environment, like I am. I work side by side with white women. My boss is a white woman. The small organization I work for was founded by a white woman.

As the only person of color on staff, and the only Black woman in my office, the Black Lives Matter movement has given me the fuel I’ve long needed to use my authentic voice while at work. While many days over the last few weeks have been emotionally unbearable at times, finding my voice and using it has been the silver lining for me — if there could be such a thing at a time like this.

Don’t get me wrong, I have colleagues who understand and truly want to learn and do better. As my colleagues, but more importantly as white people, they understand the need to act now and to keep putting in the work. They read books on race. They explore the hard questions with interest and commit to improving their understanding of the plight of Black people, my people. They attend trainings in hopes of leaving said training with more self-awareness and an unspoken mandate to go out and be an educated ally, to walk the walk.

Yet I can’t help but fear and wonder with great curiosity if my newfound voice will, after, say, a year has passed, be welcomed the same way. Will using my authentic voice push them into a corner, building walls to shield themselves from the truth of my words? Will I retreat back into the cocoon which has kept me safe throughout my entire professional career? Will I revert to being the woman who toed the line to keep the peace? Will I be the woman who worries that speaking from her heart with passion and authenticity will be seen as a threat instead of a conversation starter? I know I cannot go back to being “that woman” who doesn’t use her voice in the way it is meant to be used. 

Trending hashtags like #ShareTheMic attempt to amplify the voices of Black women as white women hand their mics over to Black women for the day, allowing them to be heard — Black women who work in fields like journalism and acting, are business owners, and more. But is the #ShareTheMic Instagram initiative enough? What about the black women who wake up every day, who work in hospitals, who are nurses, who are housekeepers, who work in daycares, who sit in board rooms shoulder to shoulder with people whose skin color does not match theirs — what about those voices?

In a 2019 article in the New York Times, editor and reporter Lauretta Charlton dissects a report called “Being Black in Corporate America.” A year out from when this article was published, I believe we are turning a corner — and we didn’t need a study to get us there. We needed the bravery of everyday people, Black, white, brown, and all bodies willing and able to take a stand against racism, injustice, and fight for equality. George Floyd’s murder in May was, and will remain, the catalyst for the changes ahead of us. They must stick.

For Black women like me, I am hopeful that the words that leave our lips can help tame the troubled waters ahead. The fight for equality in the workplace, the right to be heard, and the battle yet to be won, will continue to propel us forward into what I hope is our new normal.

I, for one, am foregoing the opportunity to mop up the perceived hurt feelings of my white family members, friends, and colleagues. I am standing in my skin, ready to be heard. There has been a shift — albeit a slow one, but it is happening nonetheless. It is spilling over into the workplace and trending hashtags like #blacklivesmatter and #sayhername and #alllivesmatter stir a pot overflowing with emotion.

As a community of many, we are entering a new world and have a better view of what it looks like to give a Black woman her voice back. 

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