It takes two incomes to meet most families’ needs. When one parent deploys, the other has a long work commute and family lives too far away to help care for the children, some couples decide to find alternative work situations to manage the children and funds. Figuring out how to go from full-time employment outside the home to working from home while raising children is enough to twist your mind into knots. Determined milspouses can do anything they set their minds to, so if you want to find a way to work from home while raising your kids, it starts with some honest self-assessing, researching, planning and networking.
Assess your skills
I sat down and thought about what types of tasks I enjoyed doing and which I really hated. Then, I assessed my skills and qualifications to narrow down the types of work-from-home jobs that would suit me.
This step will be a bit easier for you if you use the online tools and information tailored to military spouse employment from Spouse Education and Career Opportunities, or SECO. This website has tools and information to help you explore your skills and passions while identifying careers that might work well for you. The SECO website also has information to help you with researching, planning and networking — all steps covered from beginning to end.
Research your work options
I started researching a few career possibilities like telemarketing, sales, child care provider, and medical billing, coding and transcription (but there are plenty more fields to consider). After learning more about each of those fields and their required certifications, equipment, education and experience, combined with my limited time and funding for making this transition work, I narrowed down my list to medical transcription.
Make sure you are thorough in your research. Find out if you need a business license, child care provider license or if there are other regulations you need to adhere to. Learn how your new venture will affect your taxes. (If you are self-employed, do you need to pay your income tax quarterly to avoid penalties? What qualifies as a tax deduction for a home business: mileage, utilities, home office space, education, and equipment?) Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone currently in the profession you are interested in pursuing. They may be able to help you save some money and time since they’ve already been where you’re headed. I asked a medical transcriptionist if she had any recommendations for places to purchase the equipment. Her recommendation led me to find my equipment at half price.
Research your expenses and child care
There are three other important factors to research:
- Your household expenses —Are you able to cut expenses to save money? This may allow you to look for part-time work instead of full time or to take a slightly lower salary to get you started.
- Your work/parent schedule — You’ll need to have a planned schedule of the pockets of time you can work and when you can actively be mom — and the kids well supervised during both times. Try working before the kids get up, during naps and after they are in bed. If you need more work time than that, set them up to color or do a craft near your workstation so you can supervise them while being productive.
- Your plan for day care — Even if your reason for working from home is to be able to raise your children, you are still working and kids don’t always stick to their schedules. Create a backup plan for the days the kids won’t allow you to work. Consider registering your littles for preschool for a few hours in the morning, hiring a local teen to babysit them after school, or finding another parent in the same situation and swapping babysitting duties so you both have uninterrupted work time.
Plan your next steps
After researching my options for medical transcription programs, certifications needed, course pricing and financial aid possibilities I started to make a plan. I attended medical transcription course classes at the local adult learning center a couple of nights a week for about a year while still working full time.
Remember to include the job search process in your plan, as it can sometimes take a while before you can go full time with the at-home position. Look for companies that cater to mobile careers and military spouses. The Military Spouse Employment Partnership, or MSEP, is a great resource for finding companies committed to hiring military spouses, and some of them offer remote work.
Making an effort to get to know your classmates, instructors, professors and professionals in your chosen field can be the difference between a long job search and a short one. I was able to find a subcontracting position as soon as I completed the medical transcription program through networking. A fellow student connected me with a contractor, and my instructor provided a reference letter.
Network with friends, at PTA functions, on the sidelines at your kids sporting event, with other military spouses and everywhere you go. Let people know what you are working toward, because you never know who might have the connection you are seeking.
Seize the moments and make it happen
I was due to deliver my second child in three months when I completed the medical transcription program and landed my subcontracting job. I continued to work full time at my day job and worked part time from home, doing transcription work at night up until my son was born. I took a couple of weeks off to recover and started working transcription from home, full time at that point.
Working from home while raising children can be challenging, but I found the rewards to be worth the work. It taught me to seize the small moments in life and work them for all they’re worth, whether that means being productive on the job while your little one naps nearby or being completely zoned in to playing with your children when they are awake. There’s a lot of shifting gears and swapping hats in this combined role, but you’re a milspouse and you’ve already been doing that. If working from home is the life you want, seize it and make it happen.