7 Tips to Being a Successful Work-at-Home Mom

Generations ago, staying home with the kids meant a life of housework and homework. Today, it’s likely to include conference calls, invoicing and paychecks, as more women discover the perks of being a work-at-home mom. If you’ve been considering starting your own home-based business, here are seven important tips to keep in mind.

1. Find the right job. If you already have a career in mind, or your current boss has agreed to a telecommuting arrangement, then lucky you! But if you’re not sure what sort of at-home job to pursue, do some research to find a good match for your interests and skills. Websites such as WAHM.com, HBWM.com and RatRaceRebellion.com are excellent resources for “mompreneurs.”

Among the many home-based business options available today are virtual call center and office assistant jobs, social media management, catalog sales, blogging and data entry. Or consider turning a hobby you love, such as photography or jewelry making, into a career.

2. Beware of scams. Steer clear of any company that asks for an up-front fee (although virtual call centers do require a small payment for background checks). Work-at-home expert Christine Durst, co-founder of RatRaceRebellion.com, also warns against clicking links on Facebook threads from people promising business opportunities (“Earn $7,000 a month!”). These are usually recruiters from shady pyramid scheme companies.

3. Know the costs. Depending on your line of work, you’ll probably need to invest in supplies such as shipping materials or software upgrades. Do your homework before you begin to make sure your new job won’t break your budget. If your start-up costs are high, look into options such as small business loans or even a crowdfunding campaign.

And it may take a while before you see a profit, so set aside enough savings to see you through the lean times. “There’s a real misconception out there that you can slap up a blog or start doing direct sales and money will pour in,” says Kelly Land, founder of MoneyMakingMommy.com. “Ask yourself: Can I do this around my current job so I’ll still have an income, or is there another source of income to keep us going while I do this?”

4. Take your job seriously. Just because you’re not putting on high heels in the morning doesn’t mean you’re not working. Set regular hours and stick to them, even if it means letting the housework slide or putting a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your home office door.

5. Have a child care plan. While the point of being a WAHM is being there for your kids, it still pays to have a good support system just in case. A trusted sitter, loving grandparents or a reliable friend can be a lifesaver when you’re dealing with deadlines and a restless toddler all at once.

6. Be prepared to lose sleep. Between work responsibilities and kids’ activity schedules, many work-at-home moms find that their work day is a lot longer than the eight-hour norm. “Getting up before everyone and staying up later was the only way I could stay on track and get things accomplished,” says Land. “A lot of times, I’d just nap when the kids did.”

7. Find time to unwind. Running a business and a family can be stressful, so don’t forget to put some me time in your day. “For me, gaming is how I relieve stress,” says Land. “I have one friend who goes out and weeds when things get crazy, and another who can’t live without her weekly facial. The key is to find a healthy

Parenting Tips: Be a Better Parenting Team!

You don’t like the kids watching TV on school nights; your guy lets them turn on the Disney Channel after dinner. You think his punishments are too harsh; he thinks you’re too easy. If you two don’t see eye to eye when it comes to parenting style, you’re not alone! Here are some expert parenting tips to help bring your parenting team together.

“Most couples have different philosophies about childrearing based on how they were raised,” says Michele Borba, Ed.D., author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions. “Almost inevitably, one parent is more lenient than the other about everything from allowance and curfews to electronics, homework, behavior and chores.” These differences in parenting style can lead to arguing -- and worse. “Fighting creates tension in a marriage, which often leads to a persistent anger that erodes intimacy,” says Fran Walfish, Psy.D, author of The Self-Aware Parent.

Different parenting styles also affects the children. When kids know that Mom and Dad don’t agree on parenting issues, they may try to manipulate them in order to get their way -- which only makes things worse and leads to problems later on. As Dr. Walfish notes, “If kids are allowed to overpower their parents, they may develop an attitude of entitlement that will not serve them well in school, work or life.”

Here are four parenting tips to help you move from parenting adversaries to parenting partners: 

Get a reality check.

Have an honest talk with your husband or partner about how your disagreements affect your family. First, accept that you won’t agree on everything and try to understand where your partner is coming from. Then pledge to stop fighting about parenting in front of your kids. “Children respect parents who offer a mutually aligned message,” Dr. Walfish says. “Not only do they lose respect for parents who openly diminish and blame each other, but fighting opens the door for them to try to pit one parent against the other.”

Start small.

Find one thing you agree about -- whether it’s a 9:00 bedtime or a homework-before-electronics policy -- and enforce that rule over a set period of time. By being consistent, you’re likely to get the behavior you want from your child, which will make it easier to come together on stickier issues now and in the future, according to Dr. Borba. 

Give notice.  

Tell your kids that you’re presenting a united front -- and then put it into practice. “It’s helpful to post a list of house rules on the refrigerator. When your child tries to wear you down, point to the list and say, ‘Mom and Dad agree that you cannot watch movies on a school night’ or ‘We agree that you must write thank-you notes for gifts,’” Dr. Borba advises. Or come up with sayings that are easy to remember -- “We eat our dinner before dessert” -- and cheerfully repeat them to reinforce the message. At first, expect some big-time resistance from your kids -- and lots of “but whys?” Keep your explanation simple and speak in one voice: “This is what Mom and Dad think is best.” Period. 

Reach out for assistance.

If the two of you can’t come to terms, consider a parenting skills class or consult an objective third party, such as a counselor, pediatrician or clergyman. Parenting challenges don’t get any easier as the years go on, so the sooner you make parenting a team sport, the better it will

5 Parenting Tips to Help Raise an Independent Child

Next time you’re about take over your child’s science project or even make their bed, put down the poster board and leave the sheets where they lie. While we may want to do everything we can to make our kid’s lives easier. we shouldn’t.

There’s a fine line between being supportive and doing too much for our children. Here, two child-development experts offer five ways to gently sway you away from becoming a helicopter parent. Bonus: these methods will help your child become more independent and confident. 

1. Create Little Helpers

If your kids are young, it’s easier to get the idea of doing chores ingrained in their heads. For a preschooler it’s as easy as saying something like “When you finish playing with those blocks, the next part of play is putting them away,” suggests Margaret Owen, PhD, director of the Center for Children and Families at the University of Texas in Dallas.

2. Direct over Do

If your school-age child hasn’t gotten in the habit of doing chores, don’t despair. Just be patient. It’s tempting to get frustrated when your child doesn’t clean up his room or put his clothes back in the closet -- but maybe he doesn’t know how. “Did you talk about where his backpack should go after school?” Dr. Owen says. “Or does he know where the knives and forks go when setting the table? You have to patiently demonstrate those tasks.”

3. Give Her a Say

The best way you can prompt independence in your child is to make sure he or she is participating in the running of the household. “Say things like ‘How about you help me plan the menu for dinner’ or ‘how about you help me fold these clothes,’” says Vicki Hoefle, a parenting expert in Seattle and author of Duct Tape Parenting (Workman, 2012). “Life is about helping out. Kids don’t need coaxing, elaborate systems or rewards so long as the chore is a job they can handle.” 

4. Have Faith

By doing things for your children instead of letting them try, you’ll ultimately make your kids question their ability to do anything for themselves. “Our children determine their self-identity based on how we as parents see them,” says Hoefle. “Think about the message you’re sending to your child by saying ‘Let me help you,’ ‘This looks too hard’ or ‘It’ll be easier if you do it this way,’” she says. “After all, these benign statements affect a child’s sense of herself.”  When your kids do make the effort, avoid hovering over them or criticizing the quality of their work. “Think about how you would feel if someone did this to you,” Hoefle says. “The answer is always that you’d feel lousy.” The laundry may not be folded perfectly and there may be a missed math problem or two, but with practice and encouragement, your children will improve.

5.  Be the Support

If you think of your child as a building and that your job is to be the scaffold, you’ll be parenting in a way that sets up your child for life. “As her scaffold, your job is to prop her up when she needs you,” Dr. Owen says. “Ultimately, your job is to then take away some of the layers of the scaffold as she gets stronger.”

Make Time for Romance!

So he doesn’t bring you flowers, and you don’t surprise him with funny cards. It’s been months since you went out on a date, and you can’t remember the last time you talked about anything except the kids, house or work schedules.

“One of the dilemmas of a long-term relationship is that, over time, the newness wears off, routine sets in and romance goes out the door,” explains Marc D. Rabinowitz, a psychotherapist in Norfolk, Va. “Add in familiarity, resentments and unmet expectations, and couples end up getting emotionally distant. The more emotionally distant you become, the less likely you are to do romantic things or spend time together.”

But with effort and commitment, you can keep romance alive. The payoff: “Having a romantic relationship will help you feel better about yourself and your partner,” says Jennifer Jones, a couples therapist with the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. “It also will increase your emotional and physical connection, which can help you weather difficult times.”

Try these five tips to find time for romance:

1. Unplug! Technology can ooze into your relationship if you’re not careful. “Agree to turn off your cell phone, TV and computer during the first hour you’re home together after work and spend that time catching up with each other,” advises Jones. “Setting boundaries will help you create a space for conversation.”

2. Speak up. What passed for romance when you were first dating may not cut it after years of married life. “It’s a misconception that it’s not romantic if you ask him to bring you flowers or he asks you to send him a cute card,” explains Jones. “Don’t be afraid to ask for what would make you happy -- and ask your partner to tell you what would please him.”

Be sure to use “I” statements when you make requests (e.g., “I’d love it if you’d surprise me with a new book”) instead of “you” statements that sound defensive (e.g., “You never surprise me anymore”.)

3. Have fun. “Fun” means different things for different people. For you, it might be going to the movies, visiting a museum or playing tennis. Take turns date-planning, and pick activities you want to try, even if they’re not tops on your sweetie’s radar. (Rock climbing, anyone?)

“This way, you add variety to your time together -- and you won’t settle for the least common denominator, which usually means going out to dinner,” says Rabinowitz. “Doing the same activities week-in and week-out gets boring.”

4. Stick to a schedule. It doesn’t matter how often you have a “date night,” as long as you’ve always got one on the calendar. “Scheduling dates gives you something to look forward to,” says Rabinowitz. “This is crucial when you’re stressed and busy. It’s much easier to tolerate a lack of connection if you know that three weeks from Saturday, you and your spouse have a date.”

Agree that date night is just for the two of you. As Jones notes, “Don’t talk about anything you didn’t talk about before you were married or living together.” (The discussion about report cards and cable bills can wait.)

5. Show affection. Couples should connect before they leave for work in the morning (with a kiss, a hug, a kind word); connect again when they come home; and then one last time before they drift off to sleep, according to Rabinowitz. After all, isn’t it romantic to reflect on your “Good morning” hug and kiss throughout the day -- and to look forward to another at night?

Healthy Relationships: Should Your Husband Be Your Best Friend?

It’s the height of wedding season, and couples across America are kicking off their new lives with heartfelt toasts that begin, “Today I married my best friend.” Misty-eyed guests smile at the sentiment -- and why not? Over the years, our culture has romanticized the idea that healthy relationships mean husbands and wives are BFFs as well as loving partners.

But is that such a good thing? A growing number of experts say no.

“Friendship is a huge part of marriage, but expecting your spouse to be your everything is unrealistic and can strain the relationship,” says psychotherapist Joyce Marter, CEO of Urban Balance LLC, a counseling group practice in Chicago. “Women need and deserve multiple people in our lives who love us and offer us support, whether it’s for a crisis like a serious illness or a daily drama with a nasty coworker. It’s not fair or wise to rely on your husband for all your friendship needs.”

Here are the top three reasons your healthy relationships and marriages can benefit from maintaining close female friendships:

 

It’s Good for Your Marriage.

Couples who are BFFs tend to be enmeshed, meaning they have few outside friendships and spend virtually all of their spare time together. In other words, they live in a bubble. How boring is that? 

“It’s a setup for too much dependency and isolation from other sources of support,” Marter explains. Far better is to enjoy what she calls a “healthy separation,” where spouses have different friends, work and hobbies that make them interesting and whole. You’ll bring more to the marriage party if you have a life and experiences outside of your relationship.

 

It’s Good for You.

Be honest -- does your husband really want to hear about your hair problems, the mom-cliques at your kids’ school, or who got the final rose on The Bachelorette? Probably not. But your BFF does! She’ll serve as a relief valve for your marriage -- think Meredith and Cristina in Grey’s Anatomy, who call each other “my person.”

As Marter points out, “Men and women process life, emotions and relationships differently. Men like to problem-solve and make decisions, but women like to listen to details, talk things through and offer empathy. We have different menus of the kind of support we can provide, and it’s good for women to have the support of a husband and a BFF.”

 

It’s Good for Your Kids

By keeping tight bonds with girlfriends, you’ll give your children the gift of positive role models and adults who care about them outside the family -- the “it takes a village” concept. They’ll grow up knowing the value of developing a strong social network of healthy relationships to rely on in good times and bad. What’s more, a mom who enjoys the support and perspective of gal-pals will be a happier, less-stressed parent. Call it a win-win all around!