AT THE OFFICE: With income drying up, it's moms to the rescue

In an unusual twist, many moms are finding themselves in a new scenario: seeking work-at-home arrangements driven not by flexibility -- think soccer practices and piano recitals -- but as the best option to supplement family income.

In an unusual twist, many moms are finding themselves in a new scenario: seeking work-at-home arrangements driven not by flexibility -- think soccer practices and piano recitals -- but as the best option to supplement family income.

With a surge in male breadwinners out of work, mothers are selling jewelry out of their kitchens, running businesses out of their living rooms and seeking Internet opportunities to make up for the shortfall in household budgets.

"There's been a huge surge in interest," says Lesley Spencer Pyle, founder of Home-Based Working Moms, an online community for moms working at home. "Even if their husband isn't out of work, there's a lot of fear that they will be."

Indeed, women are scrambling to find anything that they can get their hands on to pay a few bills. Some are even working from home to supplement their part-time income. For most men, the main priority still is finding a full-time job, devoting almost all their day to their search.

But with four unemployed workers for every job opening, moms like Kim Perez of Pembroke Pines, Fla., are moving into action. A few months ago, recession reality forced Perez, mother of a toddler, to look for new money-making possibilities when her hours as a retail sales associate were cut in half. Her husband, a builder, has been out of work for almost a year.


Perez considers herself in transition. She has set up a makeshift office in her bedroom and sells glass jewelry to high-end stores in South Florida and the Caribbean for a manufacturer. "I'm hoping I can turn this into a full-time arrangement and make good money."

The numbers are jarring: 800,000 women have lost full-time positions in the past 12 months, and those on payrolls part time grew by nearly 900,000. For the women who work part time, first-quarter median earnings were just $269 a week. But men are increasingly seeing their schedules reduced, too. As of March, the number of men working part-time positions increased 14 percent from a year earlier.

To make ends meet, about 14 percent of working moms have taken second jobs in the past year, according to CareerBuilder's annual Mother's Day survey.

"Women have been very resilient," says Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute. "Their identity is not as tied into what they do. They are ready to do whatever they need to do for the family."

Pyle who runs both Home-Based Working Moms, with 900 members, and, with 1,800 members, says interest is much greater from mothers who want to work for an employer rather than start their own businesses. She offers this advice: "Mothers looking for instant ways to make money will jump on anything. But if you hate sales, it won't work out in the long run. Even if it takes longer, make the effort to find a better fit."

Opportunities to work from home exist as bookkeepers, graphic designers, virtual assistants, customer service reps and writers. Some home-based businesses operated by mothers include advertising agencies, photography studios and child-care centers.

Miami mom Tobie Hollenbeck regards working from home as her best option. Hollenbeck and a partner had operated a corporate events planning business for seven years. Last year, she says, they had their best year ever. But this year, business almost completely disappeared. Anxious for income, she recently started a home business selling silver accessories and finds it "a lot easier than having to go find a job." In addition to the flexibility, she adds, "I make my own decisions, and the harder I work, the more money I can make." She, too, is hoping to make it her full-time job.

If there's a role model for moms in transition, consider it Laurie Conway, a Davie mother of two. Conway began working from home as a manufacturers representative in the floral industry about 22 years ago. Today, Conway represents five manufacturers, earns enough to comfortably support her family without a college degree and works completely on commission from a home office/livingroom. "What I do can be done in almost any industry," Conway says. She recommends checking out websites and


While Conway pays her own health insurance and expenses, she says the job has benefits -- she can take a morning walk, go out to see customers or make a sale over the phone. And she's home when her sons return from school. Even better, her pay has no limits. "I love knowing that in this economy, I'm still making money because I have built relationships. Even though the retailers are not buying as much, they are buying from me because they want to work with someone who takes care of them."

For a mom considering working from home, Conway says the three most important traits are self-motivation, persistence and organization. She also cautions mothers not to expect income overnight: "It takes time to build it up to where you can make a living, but you can do it."

Cindy Krischer Goodman:

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