My journey of how I became a stay at home/work at home mom is not a short journey.
I've always wanted to be a mom. In fact, my own mother recorded in my baby book: "Joy told daddy at age 4 she wanted to be a mommy when she grows up."
And this desire to be a mom never went away.
The first year after Jeff and I got married we both were still in college and we both worked. Then after college, we moved to Alaska where Jeff taught band and I taught private piano lessons five days a week in the Christian school. Since we had no children at that point, I didn't mind working full time.
But when we finally got pregnant after two years of marriage, I really wanted to stay home with the baby. By that point, Jeff and I had gotten used to living on two salaries (can also be read as spending two salaries), and we'd already managed to make some poor financial decisions which had gotten us into enough debt that it made it pretty much impossible for us to live on just Jeff's income. The problem was we had always planned to have kids, but we'd never really made plans for having kids — for me to be able to stay at home with them.
And so I continued working as a piano teacher after Jaden was born. Thankfully, our Christian school had a staff nursery, so I was able to see Jaden quite often throughout each day. But it was not my idea of what I wanted to be doing as a mother. I wanted to be home with him.
When we moved from Alaska to South Carolina when Jaden was 9 months old, Jeff and I determined that I would not work outside of the home. One way or another we'd figure out a way to make it work. At this point, it was still not possible for me not to work at all; I was just going to have to find a way to work from home.
But there was a problem. Because shipping all of our belongings from Alaska to South Carolina was financially impossible, we sold practically everything we owned when we moved. Unfortunately, that also included my piano, and I couldn't teach piano lessons without a piano.
So here we were in South Carolina with a 9-month-old baby, very little furniture, no piano, and pretty much broke. During the months following our arrival in South Carolina, I explored some different options for making money from home. Brief stints as an Avon representative, day-care substitute and home daycare provider all ended nearly as soon as they began.
And so I was stuck again. I was home with Jaden, but I still had no income.
I finally came to the realization that I just needed to find a piano and start teaching lessons from home. We went shopping for a piano and ended up purchasing one on credit (probably the only time that a credit purchase was actually a good idea). We brought the piano home and I started teaching lessons shortly after that. And I've been teaching piano from home ever since.
Although teaching lessons every weekday afternoon makes it difficult for me to make dinner, it has otherwise worked out very well. And as my children have gotten older, it's become easier and easier for them to entertain themselves during my lessons. Even when they were newborns, I was still able to teach lessons while holding them in my arms. Piano lessons really worked out to be a nearly-ideal situation for us.
Unfortunately, my income from piano lessons has not always been sufficient to help pay all our bills (especially over the summer when I have fewer students). So over the last couple of years I've had to explore additional means of working from home.
Every time I've explored a new work-at-home idea, I've been hesitant to do anything that requires any kind of long term commitment. Piano lessons, although they are technically a long-term commitment, are still such that if I can't teach lessons one particular day, I can just call the parents and cancel. It's not like day care where I'm putting the parent in a difficult spot by canceling. Piano lessons still allow me a lot of freedom.
Then I started blogging. During my first year of blogging, I learned a little about how to customize blog templates by customizing my own. I have always been interested in graphic design, so customizing blogs was a natural extension of that. I learned even more about blog design, mostly out of curiosity's sake, by customizing friends' blogs for free.
Blog design wasn't on my list of possible income opportunities at first, but it eventually turned into that. Those free blog designs I had done for friends started being noticed by others, and my friends started recommending me as a designer on Twitter. Blog design hasn't become a steady stream of income, but I've been able to earn at least a little through something I really enjoy, and that's what I had been looking for all along.
What is so curious is that when I was intentionally searching for other ways to make more income from home, I couldn't find any. It was only when I concentrated on doing something I really enjoyed did that happen. My interests became my source of income.
The hardest part about working from home is balancing those income-producing responsibilities with being a wife and mother, making sure my family is still my priority and not my job. And I will have to admit that I have not always done a very good job of balancing those two things, especially lately with additional volunteer responsibilities on my plate. But I am eternally grateful that I've been able to stay home with my children, to homeschool them, and to be here for them every day.
There should be a career category for a stay at home/work at home mom.