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WAHM Tips I Follow

I have been a work at home mom (WAHM) since 2008 when my first daughter was born. It’s really the best fit for me as I enjoy having my own roster of author and small business clients.

Across the U.S., Moms are forging their own career paths, juggling home duties with client responsibilities. There are 10.1 million women-owned businesses in the United States, according to the Center for Women’s Business Research. No statistics exist on how many are run by stay-at-home moms, but I’m sure it is growing in numbers. I’ve met many Mom bloggers and businesswomen in the Philadelphia area alone.

As I mentioned in my book Mastering the Mommy Track, both of my girls stayed home with me the first eighteen months of their lives until they went to daycare. I scheduled conference calls, deadlines and meetings around their feedings. That’s a benefit for a WAHM—you can stay home with the babies and work when they nap and are asleep.

Here are some guidelines I try to follow:

  • Work during your peak time. For me, this is the morning and early afternoon when I schedule media interviews, write and edit. I recently turned down an adjunct Communications role at a local university. I was flattered to be offered a teaching job, but the pay was not enough to give up my mornings three days a week for a semester.
  • Make sure you have signed contracts and upfront payment. I recently took on an assignment without payment upfront—the business owner wanted a release out right away, so I spent a part of my weekend writing the press release and sending it out to media. I usually don’t do this unless I receive payment first. Be careful you don’t get stiffed.
  • Be prepared to walk away. I have walked away from many assignments over the years. Time is money, so each offer should be reviewed closely. You can’t work for less than what you are worth. Long-term relationships are key. I check in with clients from time to time, which has led to more work over the years.
  • Be careful with phone calls when the kids are home. You don’t want to set calls with major clients when the kids are home. I try to set my calls in the morning and early afternoon. If I have a call before dinner, I will bring the girls over to neighbor’s house for 15 or 20 minutes so I can make the call without screaming in the background.
  • There’s always the evening to work. If can’t get it all done during the day, there’s always the evening after the kids have gone to sleep. Some of my assignments are deadline driven and I need to get edits done within a day. If I cannot get this done during the workday, it has to be done at night or on weekends. That’s how the publishing world works.

With technology today, WAHMs are able to build solid businesses, sometimes even from mobile devices at the playground. At the same time, they can manage the home front and accomplish the never-ending list of household chores that need to be done.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mom Power

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a MomMixer at the XIX Restaurant at the Bellevue run by Whitney & Colleen of Mom Mixer Events. Mom bloggers from Philly, Jersey, NYC, Baltimore, DC and beyond attended.

Brands had fun activities planned at their tables – from cool toys to interact with, to makeovers, a photo booth, massages, a make-your-own perfume bar and more. I admire Whitney and Colleen for building a successful event business.

I always enjoy Mom blogger events because I have so much in common with these women. We are all entrepreneurial and risk-takers—creating brands, redefining brands, putting a product out there and hoping it is well received, and so forth.

I wrote a book Mastering the Mommy Track, which targets Moms with young kids or babies, those who are struggling with tough decisions: Do I pursue a business? Do I go back into the workforce? How can I stay positive when life is so challenging right now? Do I need to change gears or continue on the same path?

Life gets pretty hectic, so some of these Moms I only see once or twice a year. But it’s always good to catch up and hear what they are working on.

It is during the struggling times that you will need your true Mom friends the most. Your true friends will not judge you by the type of car you drive or the clothes you wear. They will stand by you when you hit a wall and are not sure which direction to turn.

Your true friends will understand that entrepreneurial women succeed and fail, and that failure is not always a bad thing but you have to get back up. You have to get back up even if it feels like the forces have aligned against you. And that is only the first step. Given these changing times, you may have to redefine your career.

I am grateful for the local Mom friends I have made, as we tough it out together and build our businesses and brands.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Back to School Time

If you have a child headed to school for the first time or back to school, are you ready? Did you purchase uniform items and school supplies or are you still tracking items down?

As the mother of a soon-to-be Kindergartner, we are set but still have over a week to go. I secured school uniform, gym uniform, dark shoes, sneakers and school supplies. I did this over a few weeks to prevent a last minute rush to the stores.

This process is new to me but I did learn a few things over the summer. Here are a few areas to consider before your youngster starts school:

  • Allow a few weeks time to get all supplies. You don’t want to be in a panic a few days before school starts. If shirts need insignias, allow for ample time. If you don’t get to a uniform store in time, you could end up being late on the insignias if there is a backlog of orders.
  • Realize you might not get all items at one location. I searched several stores and could not find navy blue sweatpants. Instead of spending more time searching, I ordered them online on hanes.com.
  • If you cannot find what you need, ask friends for help or turn to social media. A friend of mine posted on Facebook that she searched four stores but could not locate three subject, single spiral 9×12 notebooks, per the teacher’s request. You will likely get replies if you post on Facebook and have a network of parent friends.
  • Break homework into increments. If you receive a packet on Monday that is due on Friday, break it into sections. Don’t get stuck the night before in a crunch where your child is overloaded. My daughter had to complete a summer homework packet. I took the advice of my math professor Mom and divided total pages up by the number of weeks. Each week, Kaitlyn had to complete a set number of pages. This made the task a lot easier for her. It was a relief to have that off the table and to submit the assignment for her.

Moms, I wish you a successful school year for your kid(s)! It’s an exciting time!

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

 

Self-Care Vital for Moms

When I wrote my book Mastering the Mommy Track, my daughters were ages 3 and 1, ages when “self-care” is often at the bottom of a mom’s to-do list. I thought it was important to explore the topic in a chapter, and posed the question “How do I find alone time?”

If you have a baby or toddler, how do you break away during the week or on the weekend? Some moms like to get their nails done or get a shoulder massage; others may find walks or runs helpful for releasing tension.

Working moms face the risk of burn-out if they do not take time out for themselves, if they always place their spouse’s or kids’ needs about their own.

Weekend breaks are an extra special treat if you can swing it. Can you break away to visit a friend in another city? I try to go to NYC twice a year and stay with a friend for the weekend. Since I lived there for ten years, I always enjoy returning.

This past weekend, I spent time in Baltimore to attend the wedding party of a friend and former coworker. I was thrilled to celebrate my friend’s nuptials with her and her spouse, family and close friends.

* Traveling does not have to be too expensive. I took the bus to Baltimore—it cost less than the train and I had a chance to do some reading. Stay with a friend to avoid the cost of a hotel—or if you have to book a hotel room, share the cost with other friends. If you need to get a room solo, use your credit card points.

* Explore a city you are not familiar with. If you get the chance to visit a city solo for a day or two, do it. I am not a big clothes shopper but in Fells Point, I did stumble upon a work outfit I had to buy—only $30 at 60 percent off. In addition, I ate a few mouth-watering oysters for only a dollar each that a restaurant was selling outside. You never know what you will stumble upon if you have some time to walk a city by yourself.

After a weekend in Baltimore, I was ready to return to the family late Sunday afternoon. The best part of being away for two days? Returning to your kids’ warm hugs as you walk in the door and hearing the words, “I missed you Mommy!”

A Milestone Achieved

Today was a big day – Kindergarten orientation for my daughter Kaitlyn. While I was filling out her paperwork, I got a bit misty eyed as she colored next to me. We’ve reached another milestone!

The five years have gone by fast, and have been busy. Here’s a partial rundown of what I’ve been doing:

  • Gave birth to two daughters
  • Juggled conference calls and deadlines with breast feedings
  • Hired babysitters
  • Took the girls to doctor and dentist appointments
  • Attended networking meetings
  • Prospected for new clients
  • Was accepted into American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA)
  • Wrote a book for working moms
  • Obtained certification from Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)
  • Applied to local charter schools for Kaitlyn
  • Booked media interviews for authors
  • Organized playdates and birthday parties
  • Drove the girls to visit their grandparents
  • Met with prospects, submitted proposals
  • Organized month-long virtual tour for myself
  • Arranged book signings

Today, I patted myself on the back for what I’ve accomplished so far. I love a flexible work schedule and am grateful to the clients who have given me business over the years.

Career moms face tough decisions: Work full or part time? Start a business or fold an existing one? Explore an entirely new field? It’s not always easy, but we put on a brave face and do what is best for our kids.

After the orientation and out of the school building, I put my sunglasses on and shed a few tears. Then I grabbed Kaitlyn’s hand and walked out of the schoolyard.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Books Make a Difference

Moms influence. Moms read books. In the May issue of Books Make A Difference magazine, mom bloggers discuss how blogs and books have made a difference in their lives.

In honor of Mother’s Day, the online magazine www.BooksMakeADifference.com will feature mom bloggers in its Turn the Page column. The blog-style article, with contributions from four different blogging moms, will be the jump-off point for an extensive blog-hopping conversation. I was invited to take part in the Books Make a Difference-sponsored bloghop.

So what difference do I hope my book about motherhood, and my blog posts, will have for other moms? Two years ago, I did research to find a self-help book for working moms with babies or toddlers who were recovering from the economic slowdown. That book did not exist … so I decided to write my own.

I was looking to hear from working moms who were struggling either at home or at work. I selected career moms who were willing to share their unique stories, and posed them questions about their tension between family and career. Through my research, I found that many were exhausted from working full time and managing their household, fearful of losing their job, working longer hours for the same pay, and so forth.

I hope Mastering the Mommy Track helps other moms who are faced with questions such as: My husband has been out of work for over a year, what should we do? I lost my main client, where do I go from here? How can I alleviate my stress level during this trying time?

Some of the women featured in my book are bloggers. How did I start blogging? I had to start blogging on working mother topics because I was writing a book on career mom issues. Every author today has to have a blog page just like every business needs to have a blog.

When inspiration about motherhood hits me, I try to blog about it. My first priority is paying clients and prospecting for new business.  However, I do push out a blog every month or so, with the goal of encouraging other moms to take care of themselves, seek help when needed and take control of their careers.

Moms, if you have experienced setbacks like those in Mastering the Mommy Track–dust yourself off and get back on your feet. Tomorrow is a new day, with fresh opportunities to pursue. We face challenges today our parents’ generation never had to face—record unemployment, terrorist attacks, and so forth.

Blogging has brought me in touch with a virtual and local community of other mom bloggers. We’re all in this together…

 

Persistence More Vital Than Ever

Today’s job marketplace is more competitive than ever before. If you are seeking a job or new clients, you know it is fierce out there—regardless of the field you work in.

I am always looking for new clients—it is something I have been doing for almost twelve years. My business comes from word of mouth and referrals, so I have had to do a lot of networking over the years.

Two of the lessons I have learned are:

1. Don’t get discouraged. When prospecting for new clients, I send out emails or make calls. Some reply, but many do not. You have to keep going. Do not lose focus or get sidetracked.

2. Don’t take it personally. Sometimes I get repeat business from past clients—that is always gratifying. Some former clients do not reply to my emails. I have learned not to take it personally. You cannot—otherwise you might feel glum that day.

Since the Fall, I have been pitching my book Mastering the Mommy Track to media outlets and bookstores. I just learned the other day that Sears is selling my book online: http://www.sears.com/unknown-mastering-the-mommy-track/p-SPM540272114P. This is exciting as Sears is a major retailer.

When seeking endorsements for my book, I sent emails to some high–profile mommy bloggers and authors. Many did not reply—maybe they did not want to support an unknown author, maybe my book did not fit with their brand. Who knows the reason why? Eventually, I got some nice endorsements.

I believe in my book, its message and want it to sell well. I am realistic, however, and realize I am not going to be the next EL James.

Bottom line: If you are selling a book or product that you believe in, do not get discouraged. You have to throw a lot of pitches out there—Have faith that some will break through. Keep going!

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Helping Those in Transition

The target market for my book Mastering the Mommy Track is working mothers with young kids, and those who are unemployed or underemployed. The national unemployment rate rose slightly in January, from 7.8 to 7.9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  The unemployment rate has been in that range since September 2012.

Unemployed parents face great stress because of the need to provide for their kids. If you know a Mom (or Dad) who is in a transitional stage, here are some ways you can reach out to help them:

  1. Lend an ear. Invite your friend out for a coffee, a chance to hear what they’re dealing with. They might need a shoulder to cry on or would welcome time away from the computer searching for job leads or new clients.
  2. Recommend local resources. If you know of local services they would benefit from, speak up. If their unemployment is a long length of time, they may have to find a lower cost family health insurance plan, assistance services or even go on food stamps.
  3. Offer a playdate. If your child is the same age as your friend’s, offer to watch him or her for an afternoon so your friend can have some much-needed free time to decompress.
  4. Babysit for an evening. Offer to babysit your friend’s kid(s) so she can go out on a date with her spouse. They don’t have disposable income, so a night out would be a treat for them.
  5. Cook some meals. Drop off some meals for your friend so she does not have to cook for a few nights. This will alleviate her stress level just a bit. She will appreciate it (Who can refuse a hot dinner at one’s doorstep?).

Philadelphia’s Career Wardrobe is one of 74 groups nationwide competing for $250,000 and recognition on The Huffington Post through the JobRaising Challenge. The competition runs from January 21 through March 1, and winners will be determined by how much money and awareness they can raise in that amount of time.

If Career Wardrobe wins The Job Raising Challenge, they pledge to replicate their innovative model of social enterprise and social change by expanding their services into a new community. A few years ago, I donated suits to this charity and realize the great need for their services. Philly had a staggering unemployment rate of 8.7 percent in December 2012.

Extended unemployment can wreak havoc on a family—unfortunately, some couples don’t survive the bumps when faced with drastic cuts. Financial worries are a main reason couples split up.

Reach out to those locally who need your help—consider these ways to assist your neighbor or friend in transition.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Five Things I’m Grateful for This Year

As the year winds down to a close, I’m counting my blessings. I’ve been meaning to write a blog for a while, so here it is. It’s been an exciting year, with my book published in September. As you know, I am not shy with posting media mentions.

I made a quick list of items I am thankful for. Here they are:

Health: Fortunately, everyone is healthy in the Jay and Flynn families. My parents and brothers survived Hurricane Sandy (parents had some downed trees; brothers had longer commutes in the NYC area)—but nothing catastrophic. Do you appreciate your good health? Don’t take it for granted. Appreciate your weekly activities like playing with the kids at the park or driving them to birthday parties. Your health is your greatest asset.

Family: My girls are really good kids. They are both doing well in school and adore their teachers. Kaitlyn has proven herself to be quite the artist and can draw figures better than I can. She is always asking me how to spell new words. Emma is now three—we are still working on the potty training but will get there in due time. Jason loves the company he works for.

Clients: I secured some new clients this year and look forward to winning more business in 2013. The entrepreneurial side of me won’t die, so I will continue to seek new contract work next year.

Book Reviews: I’m promoting my book to save the cost of an outside publicist. Garnered positive reviews from Small Business Trends, Huffington Post, The ASJA Monthly, Midwest Book Review, and more. Thrilled that Mastering the Mommy Track is being well received.

New Opportunities: I was accepted into the American Society of Journalists and Authors; will be moderating a panel on the book tour at their annual conference in April. Did a local book signing at Barnes & Noble in Marlton and will be scheduling some new signings in 2013. NY Mom’s World chose me as their keynote speaker for their Bonanza event in Westchester, NY last month—enjoyed connecting with other Moms there.

Last week, I got #22 on Circle of Moms Top 25 Book Author Moms – 2012; the website Circle of Moms has 6 million members. It was a fierce competition—I asked everyone to vote for me because I knew it would be close!

What are you thankful for this year? Try to slow down and enjoy the special moments as they happen. I’ll try to blog more frequently in 2013. Happy holidays!

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Living Well on Less while Juggling Kids and Career

These are trying financial times for countless working mothers in the US and their families. As of summer 2011, eight million former US workers are searching for jobs; an astounding six million have given up. Corporations have matched earnings reports from 2006, but with 2.5 million fewer workers. Most workers who lost their jobs during this recession have been unemployed for over six months – a majority over 12 months – and are fearful they will never recover economically. And the companies that show the most dramatic increases in profitability also add the fewest workers.

Are you living on less income? Here are five ways to live decently on less income while managing a career and active young kids:

  • Buy in bulk. Every six months, we go to BJ’s and buy bulk items to last us for half a year. The purchase then might be several hundred dollars, but it is worth it over the long haul. We buy necessities like paper towels, toilet paper, dish and laundry detergent, soap, shampoo, deodorant, tissues. Calculate the discounts yourself–it’s often half the savings over the long term. We have a BJ’s membership–my parents swear by Costco’s.
  • Buy items from discounted places. The Dollar Store or consignment stores are wise options for the thrifty. Do you shop at consignment stores? You can bring in hand-me-downs and exchange them for other needed clothes. Babies and kids outgrow clothes quickly, and this can be a major expense for moms. Consignment shops offer brand name items at a fraction of the original price. My mom has purchased clothes for the girls at a local store. They’ve been gently worn but I have been impressed with the quality.
  • Dine in! My husband Jason is a great cook and likes to take over on our meal preparation. Seriously, he should have been a chef. We rarely dine out in restaurants and have saved a tremendous amount of money over the years by his home cooking. Calculate the amount of money you spend on restaurant dining. If too high, you’ll want to spend more time cooking in your home.
  • Avoid impulse buys like designer suits. Place high dollar items also considered “wants” on a “watch list” for 30 days before purchasing the items. Perhaps a new suit for work or new smartphone can be placed on the watch list. After 30 days, revisit the items; perhaps you have passed on the new item because you spotted a suitable replacement at a consignment store. Or you may realize that your current smartphone is perfectly fine, and you don’t need the latest and greatest gadget.
  • Consider public education. Private schools in your area may be costly. For many families, it is a priority for their children to attend private school. I attended private school growing up; there is a good chance my girls may end up starting Kindergarten at a public school in Philadelphia. Have you considered your local public school? There are quality public schools children can be sent to for free; your tax money already goes there.

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