Work from home options for new mums/moms
Updated: Mar 22
This chapter is an excerpt from my book, Teleworking Mum: The essential work from home guide for parents. I am currently working on revising this (as it was written over 10 years ago!) However, most of this is still highly relevant and applicable. Given the craziness of life right now, I thought I would share some insights and inspiration for new mums who may find themselves struggling to juggle work with motherhood. Enjoy!
Breaking down the Barriers
Motherhood changes your entire universe. It seems everything is suddenly transformed to accommodate your newfound family. This major shift in life often affects the way in which many women perceive their jobs or careers. What was once a keen focus might now be seen as a major obstacle, or even an interference.
The transition from motherhood to workforce re-entry is a very complex and often difficult one. It’s commonly fraught with physical, emotional, financial and logistical issues, just to name a few! Teleworking (meaning working from home using some form of telecommunications) offers a smarter, happier journey for mums wanting – or needing – to return to work. It helps break down some of the barriers that often stand in the way from making workforce re-entry viable or even possible.
Typical dilemmas faced by mums re-entering the workforce include:
Lack of time High childcare costs
Unavailability of suitable or preferred childcare
Emotional / separation issues
Physical and health issues
Conflicting work/family demands
High work-related costs (e.g., commute or parking fees, wardrobe expenses, etc)
Logistical issues (e.g., drop-off and pick-up times for school or childcare)
Not surprisingly, one in five mothers opts out of the workforce altogether, many of whom are unable to resolve these pressing issues. Telework is a powerful work style choice for mums because it can potentially reduce or eliminate these problems.
The ‘F’ word (i.e., ‘flexibility’) is a vital ingredient for making workforce participation viable for mums. Teleworking is a prominent flexible work style which enables an easier, faster and less stressful return to work avenue than the traditional work based job. Particularly when used in conjunction with other flexible working arrangements, such as part-time hours, flextime, job share, etc., teleworking can make a profound difference to the quality of life for mums and their families.
Australia has recently introduced legislation which supports workplace flexibility, providing eligible mothers (or primary carers) of young children the ‘right to request’ suitable flexible working arrangements from their employer. Chapter 5 explains these new laws, outlining your rights and your employer’s legal obligations in relation to your request.
All about the Money
Research indicates that most mums return to work for financial reasons. However, the problem is that when mums return to a traditional job at their employer’s location, they often find that any financial gains from earning an income are either markedly reduced or completely ruled out when childcare and other work costs come into the equation. (Think of what it would cost you to pay for childcare, commute/parking fees, wardrobe costs, lunches, grooming etc.)
Teleworking considerably reduces – or even removes - many work-related costs. This is usually achieved through the reduction or elimination of commuting, childcare, wardrobe and other expenses.
What many people don’t realise is that teleworking also provides many hidden financial benefits. For example, as a teleworker you may be able to:
Claim back many household-related expenses such as utility bills, telephone bills, internet subscriptions, and possibly even mortgage interest/rental fees.
Have some or all of your equipment (e.g., computer, fax machine, software, etc.,) fully or partially subsidised by your employer or claimed back through the tax system.
Make tax claims on household items such as furniture (e.g., desks, chairs, etc.) as well as fittings (e.g., curtains/blinds, light fittings, carpets/flooring, etc.).
This book will show you what you can legitimately claim back through the taxation system and what is feasible for you to negotiate with your employer for a full or part subsidy.
On the whole, mums who choose to telework stand to gain substantial financial benefits through the reduction of child care, commute and work-related costs. Additionally, there are many potential tax benefits available to those who telework.
Steps towards Teleworking
So how does one go about embarking on a teleworking journey? Teleworking can be achieved by negotiating a suitable working arrangement with a current, prospective or even former employer (if you intend to start working for them again). It can also be achieved if you work for yourself as a business owner, contractor or freelancer.
Successfully securing a telework arrangement with an employer requires a professional, confident and informed approach. After all, this is a business agreement which requires negotiation, acceptance and review. Some primary issues to consider include:
1) Are you able to perform your job to equal or better standards than you would at your employer’s workplace?
2) What benefits will your employer or your business receive from your proposed teleworking arrangement?
3) What issues or obstacles do you foresee and how do plan to overcome these?
4) Are you able to access the equipment, systems, tools and technology that you need to perform your job from home?
Whilst you may be aware of the benefits teleworking offers you, your proposal must focus on what your employer stands to gain from any future arrangement. A step-by-step guide to creating a winning telework proposal is provided in Chapter 8.
But, what if your employer says no? Curbing rejection is all about knowing and understanding the concerns of business leaders in relation to teleworking. Based on extensive research, I discuss the key concerns of business managers when it comes to telework. I also provide persuasive, informative responses which you can arm yourself with if you are faced with rejection.
Of course, not all employers are open to the idea of teleworking. This book will save you a lot of time and effort by naming the best and worst jobs and industries for telework opportunities. I also provide details of where to find employers who are recognised leaders in the ‘family friendly’ work space.
The Power of Knowledge
Mothers are a very special breed of people. We are resilient, conscientious, multi-tasking, compassionate, hard-working, unwavering and committed. So why do so many women feel a sense of career inferiority once they become mothers? And why do so many mothers feel as though they can’t marry up their family life with a career?
Whilst the culture of the workplace plays a major part in the acceptance and accessibility of flexible work options, your own mindset is the fundamental key to making telework a part of your life. Making the change you desire in your work/life routine is really limited by your own knowledge of what is possible and also by your understanding of how to successfully action your desires.
This book will be an eye opener for many working parents struggling with their traditional nine to five jobs, trapped in uncompromising systems and beliefs. It might just trigger a turning point in your career, opting for a more flexible profession. It may even help you break free from your own chains once you realise freedom lies simply in negotiating a flexible work arrangement with your employer, to the benefit of both parties. Or, it may lead to a complete break from your existing employer in favour of a more family-friendly one who supports true work/life balance. Who knows, you might just find the inspiration you need to go solo by either starting your own business or becoming a freelancer. Running your own show can provide you with the flexibility to make decisions about where, when and with whom you work.
Many mums often compare their experience of re-entering the workforce as being similar to hitting a brick wall: so many obstacles with no means around them. Some of these obstacles symbolise the inflexibilities that employers present.
Workplaces that foster a vibrant, contemporary place to work, embracing work/life balance, diversity and equal opportunity, thrive as businesses as too do their employees. Workplaces that are stuck in outdated modes of employee engagement struggle with higher staff turnover rates, lower levels of employee satisfaction and generally poorer business performance. Not surprisingly, the morale of employees in these organisations suffers tremendously.
You may be astounded to discover what some employers now offer their employees to attract, engage and retain good talent. In the past, many mums felt a harsh disconnection between work life and their social wellbeing, with no room for family or personal interests. But finally, businesses are slowly, but surely, coming to the fore and obviously listening to what the workforce needs to live and work in harmony. Those businesses that fail to acknowledge these needs and implement strategies to address them will struggle to keep afloat in today’s competitive market.
Teleworking is something that can be introduced by businesses quickly and easily and usually at a low cost and low risk. Many businesses who have implemented teleworking across their workforce show amazing return on investment (ROI) with improvements across major business indicators.
Mums in the Workforce
Mums today are doing more paid work than women in 1960’s, yet we are actually spending more time focused on our children now than our foremothers did. This is being achieved through less housework, less sleep, less socialising and more multi-tasking. 
Fast Facts – Women in the Workforce
Women comprise about 45% of Australia’s workforce
45% of women in Australia work part-time
Labour Force Participation Rates in Australia: All women 58%, All men 72%, National average 65%, Women with children aged 0-4 years 51%.
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2009
In Australia about half of women with young children aged 0 to 4 years are engaged in some form of employment, whether this is for an employer or via self-employment. Many mums want or need to re-enter the workforce but are inhibited by lack of flexible workplace models. This lack of suitable work options available for mums re-entering the workforce after having a baby drives approximately twenty percent  to seek exit to the workforce altogether.
Work provides individuals with an improved sense of wellbeing through increased self-esteem, social interaction and financial security. Work also contributes significantly to our sense of personal identity.
Today, women are having babies much later in life than we used to. We are more educated and more career-oriented than in the past. More of us are in managerial and executive roles. Then, at the height of our careers – somewhere between the ages of 25 and 35 – we have a baby, or two. We usually leave the workforce temporarily for an average of nine months, most of which is unpaid maternity leave.
Our decision to return to work from maternity leave is usually due to financial strain. The stresses of today’s economic climate make it no longer possible for a family to survive on a single income. For some families, mum’s income draws the fine line between survival and financial ruin. Some mums are the family breadwinner, whilst some mums are single parents.
An Australian government-sponsored study revealed that higher family income, absence of financial stress and higher parental occupational status were factors contributing to improved wellbeing for children.
Statistics indicate that there are significantly more women than men with a primary care responsibility for children. There is also a much greater proportion of working mothers than fathers adopting flexible work arrangements to meet their caring responsibilities. Recent reports indicate that fathers’ employment is largely unchanged by having children.
There is a live source of untapped talent wasting away in our suburbs. Some mothers exit the workforce due to the lack of flexible employment models. Other mums abandon their profession in favour of less skilled jobs as a means of coping with the demands of their caring responsibilities. With the pressing skills shortage our nation is facing, it is time to look at better ways at re-engaging this forgotten treasure and improve our nation’s capacity to remain competitive in the global market. Mothers can no longer be ignored as valued members of the workforce contributing to the strength of our nation’s social and economic wellbeing.
Your Journey Begins
This book was written to encourage and empower mums to embrace a better lifestyle by equipping them with the knowledge and confidence to explore better work choices. Mum or career woman? It doesn’t have to be strictly one or the other. There really can be a happy medium between work and family life and you have the right to choose what is best for you.
Teleworking offers mums a better way to manage the busy, and often conflicting, demands of family and work. This book can help you learn to nurture, sustain and harmonise the vital aspects of your life, as a parent, income earner and individual - without having to sacrifice more than you need or want to.
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 Pocock, Skinner and Ichii, Work, Life and Workplace Flexibility, The Australian Work and Life Index 2009, University of South Australia, Centre for Work and Life.
 Ways to Work website (a Victorian government initiative) www.waystowork.business.gov.au
 2007, Australian Social Trends, Australian Bureau of Statistics.
 Growing Up in Australia Study, Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2008
 ABS 2009. Approximately three quarters working mothers use flexible work arrangements to care for their children. In comparison around 40% of male working parents use work arrangement to accommodate their caring needs.
 AIFS, 2009, ‘Parents Who Don’t Use Childcare: Who provides the care in working families with infants?’