Welcome to the October Carnival of Natural Parenting: Money Matters
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how finances affect their parenting choices. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
As we approached starting a family, we realized we wanted to continue to prioritize working together, but we knew it would take some sacrifices and shuffling to make working from home work with parenting small children.
Here are the pros and cons so far as we coparent a four-year-old and a newborn, and run a family business for our income. This is from our experience and might not reflect your own if you already run a business or choose to begin one, but I hope it gives you some perspective on what it can be like.
We started working from home by accident, but once we got going, we loved it. We had nine years together as a married couple before Mikko came along (well, he beat our anniversary by one day), and that was nine years of seeing each other nearly all day, every day. When we tell some people that, they groan or shudder, but we still really like the person we married! Now that we have kids and live in a(n increasingly) small(er) space, we’ve made the choice to move some of the work into an outside rented work loft, so Sam and I don’t see each other quite as much as before — but I’m guessing a whole lot more than most couples where one or both partners work outside the home. I totally understand why other couples would choose the work they do and know that not being together as much is a necessary evil in those cases, but I really do enjoy seeing Sam as much as possible and think it’s helped keep our partnership strong.
When we were thinking of having kids, Sam and I knew we each wanted two things: to continue pursuing income and our passions, and to raise our kids. Having a family business has allowed us to divide those goals so we each get a share of both of them. We purposely chose this business in particular (after trying and discarding several others over the years) because it gave us the most income for the least amount of stress, leaving us time to share the parenting.
Speaking of income, what we earn has been what a single-income family would make, even though both of us have been working. This is often my “fault,” if we can call it that — Sam lets me spend time doing things like writing blog posts, working on novels, and starting websites while he takes on more than his share of the DVD business. That we earn what a single-income family would make is in many ways not a big deal: Plenty of SAHM or SAHD families deal with the same reality. However, sometimes we make the mistake of comparing ourselves (our car, our apartment or house, our travel budget) with dual-income earners we know, and then we wonder why we’ve chosen to be (more or less) poor. But then we remind ourselves we’re trading money for time and doing what we have chosen to prioritize: raising a family together.
We recently unenrolled our son from preschool and have been brainstorming ways to begin our journey as homeschoolers who lean toward unschooling. Having a family business is granting us the flexibility to take part in our children’s learning, and we’re looking forward to what is to come.
Including the Kids
I know this idea might not come across as culturally popular given the let-children-be-children vibe of the modern era, but we’re even looking forward to including our kids in the running of our business. Even now, Mikko helps us put labels on DVDs (which gives inadvertent lessons in reading, counting, and dexterity); once our kids are old enough to perform small tasks faithfully, we can legally pay them wages, which they can put away into a savings account for future education or use as their spending money (hopefully, both!). We’re not going to force our children to work for us — we’re merely going to present it as a matter-of-fact part of our lives as a family and invite them to participate as they wish.
One of the cons of running a home business is finding space for the business in the home, particularly if your business requires a lot of stuff. As a retail business, we have 10 boxes or more a day coming through our door, and I was overwhelmed by the clutter in our two-bedroom home. If you’re choosing a business, think wisely about your space constraints. Moving most of the boxes and packing supplies into a work loft has been a great solution for us so far, though it has its downsides as well (increased cost and decreased convenience).
One of the biggest perks of working for yourself is that you can work whenever you want. It’s also one of the biggest downsides. When we tell people we work from home, we often hear, “I don’t have the discipline for that!” My standard response has been, “Were we supposed to have discipline? Oh, that‘s what we’re doing wrong.” Some people can be very regimented about having specific starting and stopping times for their business hours. Those people are not us. Sometimes we goof off and work too little, and sometimes we think we’ll do “just one more teensy thing,” and then it’s six hours later and everyone’s cranky because we all forgot to eat or play or look up from the screens in front of us. It’s also a common scenario for family members and friends to take advantage of your flexibility by assuming you can take vacations to visit or be visited whenever they want — and it’s a temptation to give in. So, either you have to be very disciplined to be your own boss, or you have to learn to live with and work around the fact that you are not that disciplined.
One piece of advice I hear from every work-at-home guru is “Don’t work in your pajamas! Have some self-respect and put on nice clothes every day! Even shoes!” I want to proudly be the lone voice saying, Wear pajamas if you want. That’s one of the perks of working from home, dang it. If you meet with clients or work out of the home in some other fashion, of course you’ll have to set your own standards. But I have some very comfy lounge pants, and that’s my work uniform. It doesn’t make me less productive, and only the UPS guy ever sees the slovenly me.
The downside of the work environment being at home can be all the calls to do something else even if it’s the time you’ve set aside for work: play with the kids, start a load of laundry, sort through the closet, turn on the TV… I sometimes have to leave the house for a bit to write somewhere else, and as I said, we’ve recently rented a small work space that’s mostly procrastination-free.
Working from home is very eco-friendly. Every year the city tax form I have to fill out asks me to list every worker’s commuting miles. Every year I’ve gleefully been able to state that we have none. With our office, four miles away, we now will have a bit to report. But it’s still a greener option than many job situations, and we don’t have to consume as much in office clothing (see above), staff donuts, or endless paperwork.
If you’re the boss, there’s no one taking care of you. Many entrepreneurs have fluctuating incomes (we certainly do), which can be stressful when a family’s livelihood is at stake. We went through very lean times before we had kids. We were willing as adults to live on Ramen for months, but I’d feel conflicted about bringing my children into so much uncertainty. However, we continue to have problems at times meeting our bills and, as with many retail businesses, often count on the holiday buying season to save our bacon for the year as a whole. There’s a definite element of risk involved in living without a salary. Sam and I have to buy private health insurance for our family, and it’s pretty terrible coverage for a high price. We also have to fund our own retirement accounts, and we get no paid maternity or paternity leave, no paid vacations, no paid sick days, and no worker’s comp should anything go amiss. We try to save to afford our own safety nets, but things are always a little iffy in this lifestyle. I do our very complicated taxes, and I represented us (successfully) in a state audit of our excise return. We’d love to be able to afford expert help in areas like that, but for now we’re making do.
This isn’t a huge one, but we have felt some prejudice from friends and family members over our choice to start our own business(es), generally when we weren’t doing well. You have to be strong in your own motives to pursue a business, and willing to stick with it through the months or potentially years it takes to become solvent, let alone successful, or — conversely – willing to know when it’s time to try a different path.
Quality of Time
Just because we can choose when and how much to work doesn’t mean we always make the best choices. I sometimes (always) find it very hard to balance being a parent and homemaker with being a businesswoman. It’s the same balance that any working parent faces, but with an added sense that as a WAHM, I should be able to pull it off if anyone can, since I’m home all the time.
That leads into the next point, that just because we work from home doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t like or need help with childcare. One of the main reasons we sent Mikko to preschool was to give us two half-days a week to concentrate on our work. With him out of school (due to separation anxiety issues, among other things), we now have to reevaluate how we divide childcare duties among the two of us. I need Alrik, the baby, to stay close at this point since I’m breastfeeding, although occasionally I can pump a bottle for Sam to give him. For most families with an entrepreneur, it’s a much more common scenario for only one parent to work from home, in which case childcare (whether that’s occasional babysitting, in-home care from a nanny or mother’s helper, swaps with other parents, daycare or preschool, mainstream schooling for older kids, or other options) might be a necessity, not a luxury. Some parent-proprietors can squeeze work into naptimes and evenings, but a lot of businesses need extra commitments of time that call out for help managing the two sides of a work-at-home parent’s life. There are some tasks Sam and I can do with kids underfoot, but there are others that demand quiet and uninterrupted concentration, and that can be difficult to come by.
In general, Sam and I love living life on our own terms. Having worked from home for 13 years, and for ourselves for eight, we can’t imagine going back to working for someone else (though, if it became a necessity for our family, of course we would). The very uncertainty that keeps many people from starting their own family businesses is what keeps us in this life. It feels as if we’ve deschooled our own job and career expectations and now know that working can be what you make it, and that you can find a way to work that enhances your family life. It’s a challenge to make and continually refine a work and childrearing balance that honors the needs of every member of our family, but we’re happy with what we’ve come up with so far.
In the end, we’re glad we were semi-forced into working from home and then finding our own sources of income. I know the financial risks and the difficulties of juggling parenting with working don’t appeal to everyone. If you’re thinking of starting a home-based business, research it thoroughly and go into it with your eyes open … and then, enjoy the adventure. It will change you in ways you never imagined.
Have you ever considered starting your own business, or do you work for yourself already? What appeals to you most and what most unnerves you about the thought of being your own boss?
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- Money Matter$ — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy shares her experiences on several ways to save money as a parent.
- A different kind of life… — Mrs Green from Little Green Blog shares her utopian life and how it differs from her current one!
- Show Me The Money! — Arpita of Up, Down & Natural shares her experience of planning for parenting costs while also balancing the financial aspect of infertility treatments.
- Material v Spiritual Wealth – Living a Very Frugal Life with Kids — Amy at Peace 4 Parents shares her family’s realizations about the differences between material and spiritual wealth.
- If I Had a Money Tree — Sheila at A Gift Universe lists the things she would buy for her children if money were no object.
- Financial Sacrifices, Budgets, and the Single Income Family — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at the importance of living within your means, the basics of crafting a budget, and the “real cost” of working outside of the home.
- Overcoming My Fear of All Things Financial — Christine at African Babies Don’t Cry shares how she is currently overcoming her fear of money and trying to rectify her ignorance of all things financial.
- Confessions of a Cheapskate — Adrienne at Mommying My Way admits that her cheapskate tendencies that were present pre-motherhood only compounded post-baby.
- Money Matters — Witch Mom hates money; here’s why.
- Money? What Money?! — Alicia C. at McCrenshaw’s Newest Thoughts describes how decisions she’s made have resulted in little income, yet a green lifestyle for her and her family.
- What matters. — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life might worry about spending too much money on the grocery budget, but she will not sacrifice quality to save a dollar.
- Making Ends Meet — Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter shares about being a working mom and natural parent.
- Poor People, Wealthy Ways — Sylvia at MaMammalia discusses how existing on very little money allows her to set an example of how to live conscientiously and with love.
- The Green Stuff — Amyables at Toddler In Tow shares how natural parenting has bettered her budget – and her perspective on creating and mothering.
- Jemma’s Money — Take a sneak peek at That Mama Gretchen’s monthly budget and how Jemma fits into it.
- 5 Tips for How to Save Time and Money by Eating Healthier — Family meal prep can be expensive and time-consuming without a plan! Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares five easy tips for how to make your cooking life (and budget) easier.
- Belonging in the Countryside — Lack of money led Phoebe at Little Tinker Tales towards natural parenting, but it also hinders her from realizing her dream.
- Total Disclosure and Total Reform — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl gets down to the nitty gritty of her money problems with hopes that you all can help her get her budget under control.
- Save Money by Using What You Have — Gaby at Tmuffin is only good with money because she’s lazy, has trouble throwing things away, and is indecisive. Here are some money-saving tips that helped her manage to quit her job and save enough money to become a WAHM.
- Two Hippos & Ten Euros: A Lesson in Budgeting — MudpieMama shares all about how her boys managed a tight budget at a recent zoo outing.
- ABBA said it — Laura from A Pug in the Kitchen ponders where her family has come from, where they are now and her hopes for her children’s financial future.
- Money vs. Time — Momma Jorje writes about cutting back on junk, bills, and then ultimately on income as well ~ to gain something of greater value: Time.
- An Unexpected Cost of Parenting — Moorea at MamaLady shares how medical crises changed how she feels about planning for parenthood.
- 5 Ways This Stay at Home Mom Saves Money — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares 5 self-imposed guidelines that help her spend as little money as possible.
- Frugal Parenting — Lisa at My World Edenwild shares 8 ways she saves money and enriches her family’s lives at the same time.
- Conscious Cash Conscious — Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares her 5 money-conscious considerations that balance her family’s joy with their eco-friendly ideals.
- Money, Sex and Having it All — Patti at Jazzy Mama explains how she’s willing to give up one thing to get another. (And just for fun, she pretends to give advice on how to build capital in the bedroom.)
- Money could buy me … a clone? — With no local family to help out, Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wants childcare so she can take care of her health.
- Spending Intentionally — CatholicMommy loves to budget! Join her to learn what to buy, what not to buy, and, most importantly, where to buy.
- New lessons from an allowance — Lauren at Hobo Mama welcomes a follow-up guest post from Sam about the latest lessons their four-year-old’s learned from having his own spending money.
- How to Homeschool without Spending a Fortune — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares tips and links to many resources for saving money while homeschooling from preschool through high school.
- It’s Not a Baby Crisis. It’s Not Even a Professional Crisis. — Why paid maternity leave, you may ask? Rachael at The Variegated Life has some answers.
- “Making” Money — Do you like to do-it-yourself? Amy at Anktangle uses her crafty skills to save her family money and live a little greener.
- Money On My Mind — Luschka at Diary of a First Child has been thinking about money and her relationship with it, specifically how it impacts on her parenting, her parenting choices, and ultimately her lifestyle.
- Spending, Saving, and Finding a Balance — Melissa at The New Mommy Files discusses the various choices she and her family have made that affect their finances, and finds it all to be worth it in the end.
- Accounting for Taste — Cassie at There’s a Pickle in My Life shares their budget and talks about how they decided food is the most important item to budget for.
- Money Matters… But Not Too Much — Mamapoekie at Authentic Parenting shares how her family approaches money without putting too much of a focus onto it.
- Parenting While Owning a Home Business — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, Lauren at Hobo Mama lays out the pros and cons of balancing parenting with working from home.
- Crunchy Living is SO Expensive…Or Is It? — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about her biggest objection to natural living – and her surprise at what she learned.
- Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems — Sarah at Parenting God’s Children shares how a financial accountability partner changed her family’s finances.
- The Importance of Food Planning — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro discusses how food budgeting and planning has helped her, even if she doesn’t always do it.
- Kids & Money: Starting an Allowance for Preschoolers — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings discusses her family’s approach and experiences with starting an allowance for preschoolers.