StorkNet interview with
Darcie Sanders and Martha M. Bullen
Authors of
Staying Home: From Full-time Professional to Full-time Parent

Click here to order through AmazonDarcie Sanders and Martha M. Bullen are co-authors of Staying Home: From Full-Time Professional to Full-time Parent (Spencer & Waters) and Turn Your Talents into Profits: 100+ Terrific Ideas for Starting Your Own Home-Based Microbusiness (Pocket Books). Publishers Weekly called Staying Home "a must for all mothers who are (or want to be) at home with their children." As recognized authorities on at-home motherhood, self-employment and family issues, the authors have appeared on "The Today Show," "CBS This Morning," CNN, "Roseanne," "Montel," and NPR. Their books have been featured in Time, USA Weekend, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, Working Woman, Ms., Good Housekeeping, The Chicago Tribune, Parenting, Parents and Woman's Day, and in dozens of other publications, radio and television shows. They both work from home in order to spend more time with their children.

For more information on Sanders' and Bullens' books, please visit their website and related information on StorkNet:

Articles written by Darcie Sanders and Martha M. Bullen

Darcie Sanders and Martha M. Bullen are the authors of Staying Home; From Full-time Professional to Full-time Parent. Below is an interview with them both. The Q's and A's are categorized so our readers can easily search for specific concerns. Just click on a topic link. Enjoy our informative discussion with both authors! (Disclaimer)


Making the Decision
Amanda: I am being pushed to go back to work by my in-laws. My son is only seven weeks old. I had intended on returning to work, but I just cannot leave my boy. I had no idea it would be so hard! I am staying home! My husband and I have decided it's in our son's best interest for me to stay home. We are doing our best to save and scrimp, and we have at least managed to cover the next four months of expenses so I can be at home with my Stevie. And now we are thinking of clever ways to earn and save for another four months of expenses.

My in-laws are pressuring me to go back to work and my MIL has even decided to retire early so she can babysit. How do I explain to her AGAIN, that I am staying home, without taking a guilt trip for not saving this money for my sons future/education?

Darcie and Martha: It can be difficult to make a decision about whether or not to stay home while encountering pressure from other family members. You may not be able to please everyone about your decision—the most important thing is for you to make the decision that feels right to you and your husband.

If you'd like to explain to your in-laws why you want to stay home, the following list might be helpful to you. When we asked the women we surveyed why they made the decision to stay home to raise their children, these compelling reasons came up again and again:

  • I'm the best one to raise my child; no one else can do it as well.
  • I'm not missing my child's childhood.
  • I have a deeper relationship with my child because I am home.
  • We're raising our children with our values.
  • I'm my child's first teacher.
  • I don't have to feel guilty or worry about how my child is cared for when I'm not there.
  • Parenting is joyful work.
  • Parenting is work that focuses on people, not things.
  • Parenting is work that promoted a better quality of life.
  • I'm there when my child needs me.
  • I can enjoy my time at home, and reenter the workforce when I'm ready

Your in-laws seem to be concerned about your son's education. Remind them that the first few years of life are crucial to a child's personality formation and intellectual development, so by staying home you'll be getting his education off to a strong start.

If your in-laws are worried about your family's finances, you might point out that the costs of your continuing to work can be very high. By the time you add in the cost of daycare, commuting, business wardrobe, meals out, household help and professional expenses, you may have very little of your paycheck left over. We'll address ways to make money at home in answer to another question (below). Perhaps you could take on occasional freelance assignments or telecommute for your former employer in order to supplement your family's income.

Finally, the decision is yours and your husband's, not theirs. In the end, you may just have to say, "We're confident that we've made the right decision for our family. We're sorry if you don't agree, but our decision has been made." Good luck!

Lorianne: Help! I am expecting my first child in July. It is financially feasible for me to stay home and not return to work full time, however I am not receiving the support in this decision from my husband or in-laws. I am starting to feel guilty about wanting to stay at home with my child. I have gone from being very excited about our new arrival to dreading my decision making. How should I handle this?

Darcie and Martha: Lorianne, read our answer to Amanda (above), since most of the advice we gave her is also relevant for you.

We sympathize with your dilemma. Many women think this is the toughest decision they'll ever make. Although it can seem that way, the decision to become an at-home mother is not as black or white as it appears. There are any number of possibilities—taking a few months' leave of absence, staying home for a year or two, or staying home until all your children are in school or longer—and these decisions can be modified at any time.

We counsel women in your position that it's not possible to know what it's like to be an at-home mom until you experience it. For that reason, you should not make a final decision before your baby is born. Our best advice is to give staying home a try while you're on maternity leave. This will give you the opportunity to spend those important first few months bonding with your baby, and will give you a glimpse of what your days would be like as an at-home mother.

One caveat, though: the first few months can be very tough as you adjust to your new role as a mother, cope with lack of sleep, and start getting to know your baby. Be patient. You'll start to feel more confident in your parenting skills after you have more on-the-job training. And at this point, you'll be able to make a better decision about whether or not staying home is the right choice for you. Your husband and in-laws will also have more information about how much work is involved in caring for a child, and perhaps a better appreciation of what moms do all day!

Rachel: I am an attorney and have always thought I would stay home once my husband and I decided to have children. As the time grows closer, I have begun to doubt my decision and have been trying to figure out how to have some sort of outlet, or on the other hand, how to adjust to being a stay at home mom without feeling insecure and of little value. I know staying at home is what God would have me do. My husband is completely supportive and has offered to try to work from home a few days a week so I could work if I wanted to. If you have any practical suggestions on how to adjust to the transition or how to manage working part time and being at home to raise my child, I would love to hear them. Thank you in advance for your help.

Darcie and Martha: The first we thing we'd like to tell you is "Don't worry!" While on one hand this topic is so important we devoted an entire chapter of STAYING HOME to it, on the other hand you have to remember that it's not the last decision you'll ever make. The choices you make before the baby is born may be very different from the ones you will make after you and your husband are actual parents. You say you have already made your decision but now have doubts. Like so many things in life, you won't know if staying home truly satisfies you until you try it. It is hard for you to imagine the value now because the person that will give this new life meaning and value is not yet on the scene!

Rachel, you don't sound doubtful to us—you sound cautious and practical. There is nothing wrong with segueing from one life into another, and keeping a foot in both worlds, as long as both continue to give you pleasure and fulfillment.

Practically, there are several things you can do. First, take the longest maternity leave you can. If you have a profession you enjoy, try to arrange for part-time or consulting work—your former employer is your natural first choice and best bet here. Barring that, another good way to keep current in your field and maintain valuable professional connections is to do volunteer work for a local, state, or national professional organization.

Regarding working at home with a young child in the house, we have several recommendations. Yes, do arrange for child care during your work hours at home, or else the "little" interruptions will soon eat up all your available time. It's also advisable to get a separate phone line/answering machine/answering service that can take messages for your business when you are otherwise indisposed. See a good small business accountant who can give you recommendations on how to structure your business and work environment in order to take best advantage of home-based business tax breaks. And finally, no matter how tempting, don't take on a new client or freelance work during your first two months at home with a new baby. Your biggest and most important project then will be getting to know each other!

Adrianne: How do I decide whether or not staying at home is for me? What if I can't stay home and have to work for financial needs - How do I not feel guilty to want to be at home with child/infant? There any way I can work from home while raising my kids?

Darcie and Martha: In coming to terms with your work/family decision, here are some important questions for you and your husband to think about:

Financial Considerations
Can you afford to quit your job? How much will you have to give up? Are your finances overextended now?

Job Satisfaction
Do you think that being an at-home parent can be satisfying? How much satisfaction do you get from your current career? How much satisfaction do you expect to receive from your new career at home?

Job Attachment
How much do you enjoy the status and prestige of your job? How much of your identity is tied to your current job?

Lifestyle Change
How will you and your husband react to this change? Can you both live on a budget? How attached are you to your current lifestyle?

Is the Money Yours, Mine, or Ours?
Who has control of the checkbook? Who will make minor financial decisions for the family? Who will make the major financial decisions?

Pressures on the Working Spouse
How will your spouse react to being the family’s sole financial support? Given greater financial responsibilities, how will he find time to participate in family life?

How Can You Divide up Household Work Fairly?: How will you achieve an equitable distribution of chores and responsibilities? Do you respect each other’s roles? Are either of you making unrealistic expectations about what the other spouse will take on?

Personal and Parental Goals
What kind of family life do you want to have? Is your vision compatible with your spouse’s? How can you help each other achieve those goals?

Support from Family and Friends
How much support can you count on from other family members and friends? In the absence of that support, will you and your spouse have to rely mostly on each other?

What is Best for Your Child or Children?
What kind of childhood would you like to provide for your children? What was your own childhood like?

It’s a good idea to discuss your financial situation with your spouse and to plan carefully before taking the plunge from the workplace to the home. Many couples use this opportunity to make a family budget that tracks their income, fixed expenses, and job-related spending. By the time you calculate the annual cost of child care, work clothes, commuting and meals, you may be surprised to discover how much money it would take to continue your full-time career once you're a mom. The cost of working can eat up as much as 80% of the lower earner’s wages!

Staying home does not have to mean that you are completely divorced from the workforce. It is very possible to find creative ways to continue your career at home. See our answer on Working from Home for more advice.

Kim: How do I justify 6 years of college, and then only working 4 years before quitting to stay home?

Darcie and Martha: If you think you'd like to give at-home motherhood a try, please don't assume that you'll be wasting your education. Full-time parenting requires a multiplicity of talents and such professional skills as teaching, negotiating, supervising, and communicating. Heidi Brennan, a board member of the national association Mothers at Home, told us that she sees motherhood as "the ultimate management challenge."

Several of the professional women we interviewed said they can't think of a better use of their education than helping their children grow, learn, and discover the world. Teaching young children can be an intellectual challenge, as you search the depths of your memory for the answers to your children's endless questions about the world around them.

Unfortunately, many people have stereotyped views of at-home mothers as dimwitted housewives who do nothing but watch talk shows and soap operas all day. A steady diet of these stereotypes can lead even the most enthusiastic at-home mothers to question the wisdom of their decision. The truth is that 42% of the women we surveyed report that they work 14 hours or more a day caring for their children and running their households!

You can apply your hard-earned knowledge and professional skills by volunteering in your children's schools and in your community, or in running a home-based business. Consider taking parenting or psychology seminars, learning a sport, joining a local association, or researching other careers that you may eventually want to pursue.

Staying home can be a time of tremendous intellectual and personal growth—through continuing education, exploring new interests, and developing new career ideas. We hope you won't let others convince you that you're no longer a contributing member of society just because your home has become your workplace.

Deborah: My husband has always been proud of the profession I have away from home. I am too, as I worked hard to get here. I have to admit that I'm nervous about staying at home and still having that self respect, gratification and interesting life I have now. I think once my child is two or three, I may want to return to my job, part time, at least. When is a good time to go back to work? Are there advantages to waiting a couple/three years?

Darcie and Martha: Yes. If you are able to stay home for the first few years, your child will greatly benefit from your presence, your love, and your active involvement in his or her daily life. Parents play an enormous role in their children's mental, physical and emotional growth, language development, and development of social and moral values. Research studies in "attachment theory" have shown the importance of early bonding between infants and their mothers. As a result of a strong attachment to a parent or caregiver, babies and young children feel safe, secure, and free to explore their environment. These children tend to develop a strong sense of identity and trust that the world is a caring place. One of the mothers we surveyed for Staying Home put it this way: "At the beginning, what children really need is to be loved, and no one else can do that as well as I can."

Another reason to stay home with young children is how much fun they can be, and how rewarding it is to watch their accomplishments and share their hugs. Being able to lie on the floor and play with puzzles, run around the house playing hide-and-seek, visit parks and playgroups, blow bubbles, read storybooks, and play make-believe with your child can be among life's most pleasurable experiences.

That said, if you do not feel that being an at-home mother will be personally rewarding for you, then don't do it. A clinical psychologist who participated in our survey, while adamantly believing that it's best for children to have one primary caregiver until they enter preschool, nonetheless feels that the decision to stay home must be voluntary. "There are women who hate being home and don't enjoy young infants, although they love their children," she explained. "If you're miserable being home and wish you were working, you're not going to be the kind of parent you could be." You will not be doing yourself or your child a favor if you resent full-time parenthood but choose to stay home out of guilt.

The only way to know how you'll feel as a mother at home is to give it a try. If you're dying to get out of the house and back to your desk during your maternity leave, then investigate other options such as working part-time, job-sharing, telecommuting, or starting your own business.

Jennifer: I'm not pregnant yet, but trying. I have a one of a kind job in my state that I dread losing. I'm torn between wanting to stay home with my baby (if that day ever comes) and worrying about losing my spot in the system where I work. Somedays, I obsess about planning how things will work out, and others I just say "go with the flow, it will all work out somehow." Is this something I should try to figure out *before* I get pregnant? My contract is up for renewal in a few months. Thanks!

Darcie and Martha: Well, you can plan and plan and plan, but you won't be able to fully predict the strength and nature of your feelings until you're holding that baby in your arms. At this point, the best plans to make are those that keep the most options open for you! Keep your job and get your contract renewed, so that you can take the longest pregnancy leave possible, thereby giving yourself a taste of life as a SAHM. And while waiting for the baby, there are three additional things you can consider doing.

First, start saving money like crazy. Try to bank your entire salary if you can. This will let you know if you can live on one income. If you and your partner are carrying a lot of debt, instead of banking your salary use it to pay down the debt and get your monthly nut smaller. This will be a useful exercise to you whether you stay home or not, since even if you still work outside the home your family budget will have to accommodate childcare costs, which can be considerable (see next recommendation below).

Second, investigate childcare options in your area. Some of your future decision-making will be driven by the reality of what's available in your area, and what it will cost. Speaking from a strictly financial viewpoint, you need to make as salary about 2-1/2 times your childcare costs in order to break even.

Third, start networking for life as a SAHM, in case that's what you decide to do. Take on some additional freelance or consulting assignments in your field to see if there's a possibility for future part-time or freelance work—this will lay a nice groundwork for you. Contact your local chapter of a mothers group, such as Mothers & More, to see what support and enrichment opportunities they have to offer. Ultimately, both sides of your nature are right: "Yes," you should do some planning, and "Yes," it WILL all work out!

Making the transition / Life as an at-home mom
Angela: What type of activities do you recommend for staying intellectually stimulated and connected with other adults while learning how to transition to being a SAHM?

Darcie and Martha: This is a concern that many career women share when they first start staying at home. It's important to remember that your character, skills and experience don't disappear with your last paycheck. You can transfer the skills and positive self-image you earned at work to mothering, community work, and other activities. You might find that your at-home years are a great opportunity to explore new ideas and interests. Finding ways to exercise your mind through book groups, adult education classes, mothers' groups, community work, and continuing involvement in your occupation or professional association will make it easier to revise your resume and reenter the workforce when you're ready.

If you don't plan to return to paid work for many years, you can participate in a variety of activities you enjoy without worrying about how they'll look on a resume. Learning new skills while you are at home can give you a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment—just as it did while you were in school and in the office.

Staying connected with other adults is also essential. When we surveyed 300 women about their experiences as at-home moms, we found that isolation is the biggest problem they faced. You can combat isolation by finding, joining or creating networks of like-minded women with children. Consider joining a national organization with local chapters that help at-home mothers find support and friendship, such as Mothers & More or the MOMS Club. A full listing of the major support groups for mothers is included in STAYING HOME and on the publisher's website, http://www.spencerandwaters.com. These groups also offer intellectual enrichment through speakers and book discussions. Also consider joining a neighborhood playgroup or babysitting co-op, and signing up for mom and tot classes in your community.

Alisa: I'm not sure how exactly to word this question so here goes . . . as a SAHM of three year old boy/girl twins I feel like all I do is pick up toys, do laundry, and yell. Any suggestions?

Darcie and Martha: First, a confession: all parents, whether they stay home or not, feel like this sometimes! It is easy to get overwhelmed by the drudgery aspects of childcare. Taking care of children, especially twin toddlers, IS exhausting, and if you're yelling a lot we suspect you're beginning to feel out of control of the situation.

There are several things you can do to get the situation under control. You didn't say how much time off from childcare you get during a typical week—whatever amount it is, you could probably use more. At three years old, your children could probably benefit from a high-quality preschool program—not only to give you a break, but because socialization with other children is very important for twins. If a good preschool is not available, either due to location or financial concerns, then do play day tradeoffs with another parent so that you get some time off and your kids get socialized.

Also, review your housekeeping standards. Our first Ground Rule is that an at-home mother needs to know what she wants her job to be. If you feel the housekeeper aspects are taking over the real reason you're home, then it's definitely time to reevaluate. If your housekeeping standards are so high you are turning yourself into your own house slave, consider lowering them—at least temporarily until the children go to school. Also, you must realize that your home with young children in it is never going to look like it did B.C. (before children).

In addition, we'd like to suggest that three years old is not too young to start introducing the concept of the children putting away their own toys. You need to be realistic, of course—they won't be able to put them neatly away on shelves or sort them. But what worked reasonably well for us was having a big laundry-style basket in each room of the house. "Pick up your toys now, please" (often repeated several times) meant sweeping the room for toys and throwing them into the basket. This kept the house from looking like a total battle zone and dramatically reduced the incidence of adults tripping over toys on their way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. A three year old can handle a simple chore like this, and it builds a good foundation for future shared housekeeping chores.

And finally, we can't emphasize enough that twins represent special parenting challenges. Please check out the following excellent organization for additional support:

The National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs, Inc.
NOMOTC
PO Box 438
Thompsons Station
TN 37179-0438
or call 1-877-540-2200
info@nomotc.org

Ellen: What kinds of adjustments might I expect when I quit my job to stay home in a couple months when my baby is due?

Darcie and Martha: Good question. I'm sure you've been told that new mothers are often sleep deprived, moody, overwhelmed, exhilarated, and depressed, in turn. As a professional woman turned at-home mother, you'll face even more adjustments. If you've been in the workforce for several years, you may experience a difficult transition in giving up your title, salary, and business accomplishments in favor of family life. We heard the phrase "culture shock" again and again when mothers told us how they felt about being home for the first few months.

In many ways, it's like going from a large, bureaucratic corporation to working for a freewheeling, entrepreneurial partnership. All the rules and structures you're used to at work have changed, and it will take time to get adjusted. You'll find that your new career at home involves chaotic, disorganized schedules, irregular work hours (with plenty of overtime), no clear job assignments, no performance evaluations, mundane chores, few coworkers, and obviously, no salary! For women who have been used to being in control of their time and of themselves, this can be extremely frustrating.

Life at home can also be a shock because so many career women never thought they'd end up there. For that reason, they may feel very unsure when it comes to running a house and raising a child. Remember that it can take a year or two of on-the-job training before you feel confident that you are doing a good job as a mother.

Don't lose heart during those difficult first few months. If you can adjust your expectations and accept that you'll have good days and bad days as a mother (just as you had your ups and downs at work), you'll stand a much better chance to making a smooth adjustment to home life.

Maggie: I guess I have a comment more than a question. When our son was born last October, I stopped teaching to stay home full time with Andrew. I hadn't planned on it until our plans for childcare fell through. I knew a couple months before he was born and was SO worried about the transition. I found it really helpful to hear all of the support from people like you. I now know it was the best decision we could have made. The big thing that I found helpful was in pacing myself and allowing myself to work into a schedule that fit the whole family.

I treat my job as a 40 hour a week one (keeping house, laundry, errands and chores) when at all possible. This allows us, as a family, to enjoy the fruits of me staying home -- the evenings and weekends reserved for family time! It doesn't always work out that way, but I make an effort for it to and have had great results. Do you have any helpful hints on this? Thanks for your support! Maggie

Darcie and Martha: We're delighted to hear that you're so happy with your decision to stay home, Maggie. It sounds like you're doing a great job organizing and running your household. Your instincts are good, so keep on doing what you're doing.

Do remember to leave room in your schedule for spontaneous outings and playdates. Having a structured routine can be helpful, but it's also a good idea to be open to unexpected opportunities to have fun with your children.

We would like to mention that running every aspect of the household should not be entirely your responsibility. Job-sharing is popular these days—we recommend that you apply that approach at home. Remind your husband that you need time off too, and see if he can take on some of the recurring domestic chores to give you some relief.

Amanda: The more I look around the more interesting this book is and I can't get it out of my mind. I keep getting drawn back to ask you questions. Do you have any good financial tips that can help me to 'Stay Home?' I am looking forward to reading your interview! Thanks, Amanda

Darcie and Martha: Thank you, Amanda. We're happy to hear that our book has been helpful to you. Here are four ideas for saving money at home without depriving yourself:

TRADE YOUR TIME. Find two or three other parents whose children seem reasonably polite and healthy and form an informal babysitting co-op. With the price of movie tickets and teenage sitters these days, a simple evening out with your husband can easily run $50 or more. By trading babysitting hours with another couple you can cut the cost of a date with your spouse by one third to one half. Even if you trade babysitting only once a month, this system will easily save you $300 a year.

STEER CLEAR OF DRY CLEANERS. Even if you buy wisely, the hidden cost of maintaining your clothing may wipe out all of your savings. When shopping, try to purchase garments you can machine or hand wash, because dry cleaning costs really add up. In fact, our local dry cleaners charge more to clean a silk blouse than the consignment shop around the corner charges to buy one! Just one less dry cleaning bill a week can save you $195 this year.

GROW YOUR OWN. Gardening does take some effort, especially the first year when you are making your beds. But it doesn't take special skills to have a productive vegetable garden, and even a limited amount of homegrown veggies can have a terrific impact on your food budget. By growing a variety of vegetables, herbs and fruit, Darcie has slashed about $675 from her family's food budget every year.

BREAST IS BEST. If allergies run in your family, try to breastfeed your infants for at least six months. Studies show that breastfeeding has a significant impact on reducing children's allergies and other health problems. Breastfeeding can also save you more than $700 on formula, bottles and liners if you nurse for six months.

Other ways families can save money is to take advantage of free programs such as library story times, visit a variety of local parks and playgrounds, take nature walks, and visit museums and zoos on their free or half-price days. One of the best things you can do for your children is to teach them how to have fun without spending money. Depending on your children's ages, you can play tag or card games; do a puzzle together; catch fireflies; sing songs; watch a family movie, or just sit down and talk to each other. Children thrive on this kind of sustained attention.

Hunter: My husband and I are both self-employed professionals and we both work from home. We have five children aged five and under, including 10 month old twin boys. We try very hard to split the workload of the home so we each have time for work and kids and self. My question/complaint is how to handle others who assume that *I* have tons of time because I'm a woman?

For example, we always book the first appointment available at the doctor's office, which is 9:00. I generally have to wait 20 or 30 minutes, and it's frustrating not only because I have the first appointment but also because they seem to take professionally dressed people before me. DH also told me he NEVER waits, they take him in as soon as he gets there. Why is it assumed that professionally-dressed people and men have less time to wait than those of us who dress casually?

Clients do the same thing, they just show up an hour late, or show up when they don't have an appointment, and say they figured it wasn't a big deal since I work at home. Yes, I happen to be home, but I also need to breastfeed the boys and start dinner, or take the girls to their playgroup, and your being an hour late or a day early really threw my schedule out of whack! My husband's clients NEVER do that to him, and I think it's because he's a man, so they think his time is more important than mine.

Short of being a bitch, do you have any ideas about how to deal with these kinds of things? I'm really frustrated that the whole world seems to think my time is free, when actually it's around $75/hour! The last time I had to wait 45 minutes at the dentist, I got really upset and gave his receptionist a bill for $50 for my time, which detailed my appointment time, arrival time, and the patients who were taken ahead of me. He called later, thinking it was a joke, but I told him this is a serious problem for me, and why. Should I just start carrying my laptop everywhere, ready to whip out invoices? There must be a better way!

Darcie and Martha: Your letter made us groan (and laugh) in sympathetic recognition, both as at-home parents and at-home writers! Is your field sociology or anthropology? If not, too bad, because you have the makings of a fantastic paper here!

All teasing aside, you make some very astute observations. The common denominator is not so much that you are a mother, but that you are dressed casually and work in an environment—the house—associated with less formal relations than an office setting. The casual dress and setting sends a subliminal signal that your attitude is casual—which clearly is not the actual case.

ALL home-based workers suffer to some extent from inconsiderate and clueless clients and service providers. Most business people in a business setting dress for respect. The exception being, of course, rock stars and dot-com millionaires, who have really messed up the whole corporate couture culture by showing up in ripped jeans and flannel shirts for everything. Short of going to appointments with a guitar strapped to your back or a printout of your stock portfolio pasted to your forehead, what can you do to be proactive and get the kind of service and consideration you want?

Right off the bat, if you can stand it, dress more formally for appointments. This send an immediate visual message that you should be treated more formally. In a pinch you can just throw a tailored jacket over your jeans, and carry a briefcase-style bag instead of a purse. We also like your idea of packing the laptop along (do you have three hands?) for the same reasons.

If your own casual comfort is too important to you to give up, then use the phone to prepare clients and service providers for the kind of treatment you expect. Don't get all passive-aggressive on them and wait for them to mess up—take control and make them treat you the way you want to be treated.

For example, your policy of always getting the first appointment at the doctor's office is an excellent start, but we suggest you go even further. Tell them you want the first 9 am appointment because YOU have an appointment at 10. When you get to the office and check in with the receptionist, remind them that you have the first appointment and another one to get to after them, and ask how soon you can expect to be seen. That puts them on notice of your expectations and will set you up for success.

Regarding your own clients, we suggest you place reminder calls to them the day before their appointments. Even a message left on their home answering machine will do wonders. Remind them of the day and time of their appointment, and sweetly suggest that they arrive on time because you have another appointment AFTER them. Don't go into detail—they don't need to know whether that appointment is soccer practice or brain surgery—the important thing here is to get them to respect YOUR schedule. It's a shame that you have to be proactive to get the treatment you want, but it CAN be done.

Stay-at-home Dads
Since they touch on such similar issues, we're handling the questions from Laura and Norma together.

Laura: We are in a better position for my husband to stay home than for me to stay home, since I have two degrees and he has more desire to not work. What special considerations, in the event we can afford it, are there for the father to stay home?

Norma: Hi Darcie & Martha, writing from South America. Both my husband and I work full time, but he's always the most likely to lose his job (and never recover, due to our shaky economy). He stated that in such a case, he wants to stay at home with our son, who now is 18 months. Here in Argentina SAHDs are (forcibly) earning some respect. Any ideas? My husband is a very indoor-and introspective-person. He manages quite well with cooking and the house, and studies music. Our son is vivacious, very mobile and well adjusted to daycare center. Thanks a lot.

Darcie and Martha: We sought expert advice on the pleasures and pitfalls of stay-at-home-dads from children's author ("I Know a Rhino") Kevin Harrison, who has been a SAHD to his two sons for 11 years.

No one personality type (for example, introvert vs. extrovert) is better suited to the job of parenting. Harrison believes that under most circumstances father and child "will do very well." However, he cautions that a SAHD "better have a strong ego and be very sure of himself, and his place in the world." There will be looks and comments and pressure from some friends, family, acquaintances to "get a real job". (A favorite response to the latter is "This IS the best job I've ever had!")

The SAHD is, after all, bucking thousands of years of tradition, and while he is certainly not going to be the first dad to stay home, there's a good chance he will be the first one anybody close to him knows. Some of the reminders that he's in a small minority will be subtle; for example: the Park District offerings of an "Exercise for Mom and Tot" class, the preschool program or class trip where the teachers thank all the "Moms" for coming, the dilemma of which washroom or locker room to go into with a daughter. On the bright side, things ARE changing and it's better now than it was 10 years ago, but it still seems slow. Demographics also matter—you will find more SAHDs and SAHD-awareness in moderately-to-densely populated urban areas, and fewer in sparsely populated rural areas. Suburbs fall somewhere in-between.

No matter where you live, one pitfall to avoid is lack of SAHD "guy time." Harrison points out that no matter how isolated they initially may feel, it is easier for stay at home mothers to find time with their "sisters" than it is for stay at home fathers to find time with their "brothers." Mothers can go out to the park or playground or the beach or library and inevitably find other women there. Complete strangers can bond instantly in such circumstances over their common job as a SAHM. The SAHD will rarely find another guy in his position, and he'll start to miss this "guy time."

Therefore, a special effort should be made to find some time for male bonding. The SAHD will need time off from his parenting job, the same as a SAHM does. He may have to work a little harder at putting together his male bonding group, and should consider signing up for a regular sports program, class, or special-interest club to facilitate his social life. Here's Harrison's strategy: "One of the things my wife and I did was for her to give me some of her vacation days to use for my needs. Since she could use her days in 1/2 day increments, she'd come home to the kids at noon once in a while, and I'd go golf with the guys."

An additional benefit Harrison points out is the lessening or removal of the guilt some professional women feel for choosing a career over full-time mothering. His wife doesn't feel it, because when the kid is sick, she doesn't have to miss that important meeting or deadline. She doesn't have to plan all her vacation days around school holidays and institute days. She doesn't have to say "No, we can't" to after-school programs or sports because she can't get off in time to get her children there.

In conclusion, choosing the SAHD option instead of the SAHM has its unique concerns, but provides all the benefits of full-time parenting to both the children and the adults in the family.

Working From Home

The following questions will all be answered together, below.

Ishani: Can you recommend jobs that mothers can work from home and still pull in some income to help with family finances?

Beverly: I am going to be on a leave for a few months without pay and I was thinking about getting a job I can do at home. All the ones I see on the Internet seem cool enough until they mention some type of money you have to give them. We don't have a lot of money as it is and I would prefer not to just give away what I have worked hard to make. Can you give me some ideas for legitimate work at home jobs.

"Buttercup": I was a full-time professional until I was about 2 months pregnant. At that time I began just working part-time as a nanny. As the pregnancy nears the end I had to quit that as well. Now it is so important to both my husband and myself that I stay home with the baby. However, I don't want to be strapped for money for the next five years, and deprive my child of doing certain things because "mommy and daddy can't afford it." As a result, I have been scouring the Internet and picking everyone's brain to think of something I could do from home, that would not interfere with time with my child, that would bring in some extra money and take the strain off of my husband. Please, I know you probably get this question a lot, but what can a new mother do that will not take away from time with her new baby to bring in some extra money for the family? Thank you so much.

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Kynda: Do you know of any reputable work-from-home opportunities? I've found numerous companies and websites offering positions from home, but as they say ... "when it seems to good to be true, it usually is." Without a recommendation from a trustworthy source, I'm too wary to even make contact.

Darcie and Martha: We're frequently asked about how to earn money while at home. Yes, it certainly is possible to combine work at home with raising your children. In fact, ten percent of all Americans are self-employed, according to the Census Bureau. You might want to take a look at our other book, Turn Your Talents into Profits, which was written for women who want to run a small, flexible, home-based business.

If you want to start your own business, you'll need a good idea for earning money, a useful talent or skill, and the desire to work for yourself. Start by considering your talents, your professional experience and your hobbies or interests, and see if any of these inspire a home business idea. Some examples of popular home-based jobs are: selling your own crafts, computer consulting or web page design, bookkeeping services, medical transcriptionist, technical writer, market researcher, party planner, tutor, pet sitter, home party sales, and gift baskets seller. Also, look into whether your previous employer might give you freelance projects you could do at home.

You're quite right to shy away from Internet companies that want you to send them some money before they'll tell you about work-at-home jobs. These are scams—stay away from them! There are plenty of reputable websites, associations and books that can provide guidance to you. Here are some of the best resources we've found for women who want to work from home:

Resources

Websites:
www.bizymoms.com
www.entrepreneur.com
www.momsnetwork.com
www.wahm.com
www.work-at-home-dot.com

Books:
Lynie Arden, The Work-at-Home Sourcebook, 7th ed. (Live Oak Publications, 1999)
Barbara Brabec, Homemade Money, 5th ed. (Betterway Publications, 1997)
Cheryl Demas, The Work-at-Home Mom’s Guide to Home Business (Hazen Publishing Co., 2000)
Paul and Sarah Edwards, The Best Home Businesses for the 21st Century and Working from Home, 5th ed. (Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1999)
Liz Folger, The Stay-at-Home Mom’s Guide to Making Money from Home (Prima Publishing, 2000)
Priscilla Y. Huff, 101 Best Home-Based Businesses for Women, 2nd ed. (Prima Publishing, 1998)
Loriann Hoff Oberlin, Working at Home While the Kids Are There, Too (Career Press, 1997)
Ellen H. Parlapiano and Patricia Cobe, Mompreneurs: A Mother’s Practical Step-by-Step Guide to Work-at-Home Success (Perigee, 1996)
Lisa M. Roberts, How to Raise a Family and a Career Under One Roof (Book Haven Press, 1997)

Professional Associations
Entrepreneurial Parent, P.O. Box 320722, Fairfield, CT 06432; (203) 371-6212. E-mail: office@en-parent.com; www.en-parent.com.

Home-Based Working Moms, P.O Box 500164, Austin, TX 78750; (512) 266-0900. E-mail: hbwm@hbwm.com; www.hbwm.com.
Home Office Association of America, 133 East 58th Street, Ste. 711, New York, NY 10022; (212) 588-9097 or 800-809-4622. E-mail: hoaa@aol.com; www.hoaa.com.
Mothers’ Home Business Network, P.O. Box 423, East Meadow, NY 11554; (516) 997-7394. E-mail: communicate@mhbn.com; homeworkingmom.com.


DISCLAIMER: The information and advice provided by Darcie Sanders and Martha M. Bullen are not intended as a substitute for medical, psychological, financial, legal, or other professional advice. We expect our readers to exercise normal, good judgment, to take reasonable precautions and to solicit professional advice as necessary. Darcie Sanders and Martha M. Bullen shall not be liable for any damages resulting from the use or misuse of information contained herein.

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