Mums are being forced to work from home as a “last resort” and paying a high price for it, according to new research.
Setting up a business working from home is now a must for an increasing number of Australian mums because of inflexible employers who refuse to recognise the contribution that part time workers and flexible hours can make to their businesses.
These mums are also doing it to save on childcare costs or because they can’t get a place in childcare for their child, the study by the University of Sydney Business School found.
“The stereotypical view of the self-employed mother, the so-called ‘mumpreneur’, is a woman working from home, running some sort of cottage industry,” said the Business School’s Dr Meraiah Foley.
“Self-employment is presented as a ‘lifestyle choice’ for women who want to be at home with their children, but still make some money.”
However, the study found there are financial problems with the phenomenon, including a lack of secure income and future superannuation savings.
“The truth is, for many working mothers, self-employment is an option of last resort, which carries significant economic consequences,” she said.
I work from home as a freelancer and I have two children under two years of age. The eldest is in daycare three days a week, so I can work. The youngest is always home with me.
'This is what working from home looks like with a baby - coffee and a teething toy essential!' Image supplied.
Through my work, I’ve certainly seen an explosion of mummy-run businesses, particularly on social media where there is an abundance of 'mumpreneurs'.
I personally know a handful of mums who run their own businesses because they had a talent and wanted to use it. Being at home with the kids gave them the opportunity to explore that talent more. They also craved the 'ideal' work from home scenario where they could be with their children while they are young but also still have an outlet.
I don't know any who have been forced to do it. But then, I guess they wouldn't admit to that – would they?
In the modern world, there is a ‘we can have it all’ mindset amongst women. And why not. We should be able to.
But something has to give.
Setting up shop from home is seen as the better option financially, in the short term at least. But I’d say there’s not just an economic impact on these mums, but also an emotional and psychological one.
'A break from work for cuddles and selfies' Image supplied.
It requires a great deal of multitasking, and the cost to women can be high stress. We're expected to be cleaner, cook, nurturer, educator, worker, manager, admin assistant and more. It’s not the lifestyle choice it’s made out to be. I know myself that trying to do it all, and doing too much, was a huge factor in my recent diagnosis with anxiety and post natal depression.
It’s damn hard juggling the needs of a child, or multiple children, with the demands of clients and the day-to-day operation of a business. Not to mention the social disadvantages of not being around people in the workforce. I know that I definitely miss daily interaction with like-minded colleagues and the ability to learn so many new things by being exposed to the world outside of 'mum life'.
Our youngest will go to childcare a few days a week in September, as we always said that when she was nearly one year old I would ‘go back to work’ a few days a week.
Now, I don’t have a job to go back to. I would have to find a part-time position, which isn’t easy at the level I finished at before having our first baby. Also, I worked in media, which is renowned for it’s early starts and late finishes. Not exactly conducive to leaving early enough to collect the kids.
'Currently I can work in my pjs if I want...bonus!' Image supplied.
In addition, if the job were lower paying than my previous roles because it was part time and not 'at level' (which is more than likely), the money that would be leftover from that income after we’ve paid for childcare would be minimal – so, would it be worth it?
With my husband working long hours, and that not likely to change, I need a flexible job. So I’m tossing up whether I just continue to freelance from home, therefore reducing our childcare costs and meaning I get the ‘best of both worlds’ – time with my babies, but also some semblance of a career.
The University of Sydney study says women with young children choose self-employment at more than double the rate of female workers generally. On average, 23 per cent of working women with a child under age 12 engage in self-employment, compared to 9 per cent of working women generally.
“For working mothers with ambitious career goals, or who want work that is challenging and interesting but can still accommodate the schedule requirements of raising young children, self-employment becomes the only viable option.”
Author of the study Dr Foley said nearly two-thirds of the women in their study were not contributing to superannuation, or building businesses that could be sold to fund a retirement, and many reported high levels of personal and professional isolation as a result of working alone.
There is no doubt that, while working for yourself offers flexibility, autonomy and the ability to ‘be there’ for your children, it also comes at a price. And which way I’ll go I really don’t know.