Like many stay-at-home moms, Christie Thomas spends much of the day doting on her daughter, reading her stories, making her lunch and putting her down for afternoon naps.
But Thomas is among a new generation of moms who have chosen to stay at home but earn an income, too. She’s a loan officer and independent contractor for Pacific West Financial, doing loan work and research while Carlyjo, age 2, sleeps or watches TV. She also gets some work done after her husband, a teacher, gets home from work.
“It’s very lucrative,” says Thomas, 33, of Morgan Hill, Calif., who also manages other loan officers. “You do have to manage your time very well. I can work in my pajamas.”
Many moms are redefining the stay-at-home experience by using today’s technology – and employers’ growing reliance on free agents – to earn an income without ever setting foot in an office.
These home-based working moms – known as mompreneurs or WAHMs, which stands for work-at-home-moms – also represent an increasingly attractive labor pool for employers, allowing companies to outsource domestically instead of hiring workers overseas.
They’re moms such as Alyson Struwe, 41, of Beaver, Pa. The at-home mother of three fields calls from her office for LiveOps, a call-center company whose independent agents work from home.
“I can still feel I’m a productive member of society and bring in an income, but my children have never gotten off the bus and not had a parent there,” Struwe says. “How many parents can say that?”
Agents for the Palo Alto, Calif.-based LiveOps handle incoming calls, such as inquiries from shoppers buying products. They have more than 3,000 agents in 48 states.
Many are work-at-home moms. In a poll of its agents, LiveOps found nearly 55% are mothers with children who are school age or younger and at home at least part time. Fifty-four percent say they’re working to supplement household income.
“It’s tough today to have a mom stay at home and not earn any income,” says Bill Trenchard, CEO. “We make it flexible around their lifestyle. They schedule when and how they work. We have a lot of moms who decide to do this as a home-based business.
“The Internet has opened these new opportunities.”
Setting their hours
Other companies are also capitalizing on stay-at-home moms. Working Solutions, based in Plano, Texas, provides Fortune 1000 companies with sales and customer service support using remote, home-based agents. They help consumers with travel, health care and consumer products.
The company has more than 28,000 agents. About 80% have some college education. Agents generally earn $10 to $14 an hour. Agents set their hours.
Says Scott Anderson of Working Solutions: “We have moms and single moms who want to be at home for their kids. We expect no pets, no kids, when you’re on the phone. With broadband at home, companies can save money. That drives the movement to working at home.”
There are no statistics on the number of work-at-home moms, but there are more than 10 million female-owned businesses in the USA, according to the National Association of Women Business Owners. Work at Home Moms (www.wahm.com), an online magazine for mothers who work at home, notes that the phenomenon is growing as more businesses tap this growing labor pool.
The labor-force participation rate of women ages 25 to 54 with at least four years of college declined from 84.7% in 1994-95 to 81.8% in 2003-04, and the decline was most pronounced for married women with children under age 3, according to Regional Review, a publication of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
“There are more mothers working for companies, doing call-center work,” says Cheryl Demas, in Folsom, Calif., at Work at Home Moms (WAHM). She now gets 15,000 to 20,000 hits on her Web site a day, double the number from a year ago.
“Economically, it makes a lot of sense,” she says. “(Businesses) don’t have to set up large call centers.”
She also warns that some moms can be preyed on by scam operations that try to get victims to send in money in order to do work from home. The job never materializes.
The ability of at-home moms to earn an income is also being driven by technology such as high-speed Internet access, the increase in home computers and a greater willingness by cost-conscious companies to rely on free agents rather than hiring full-time staff.
Brenda Gruss, 51, of Chevy Chase, Md., works as a lawyer – handling criminal law, immigration and related work from her home office so she can spend more time with her three children, ages 19, 14 and 10. She says there can be some challenges.
“With the new technology, it’s harder to separate work life from home life,” Gruss says. “The kids are doing homework, and I’ll work on my computer.”
The work-at-home moms might work irregular hours, after their husbands come home from work or when their children are in school. They often work as independent contractors; most don’t get health benefits.
Networking services for this labor pool are also growing. Home-based working moms are organizing their own business conferences, and many glean business tips from others through Web sites devoted to making money while staying at home with children.
Article by Stephanie Armour