OurMilkMoney.com is an online business directory that lists the self-employed parents in more than 80 cities across the country.
This Little Parent Stayed Home is a live weekly radio show that supports moms and dads who are looking to sacrifice their corporate salaries for a chance to have more time at home with their kids.
‘Ah ha’ moment that led to launching the business: I was a working parent, and struggling with one of the most difficult years of my life. As much as I dreamed of winning the lottery and being able to spend time with my beautiful new baby boy, only 5 months old when I returned to my day job, I did not believe that I had a choice. I searched online often for the perfect opportunity that would make me stand up and go, “this is it! This is what I’ve been looking for! This is the perfect way to make money from home. Now I can quit!” But I never found it. It felt almost paradoxical that I was getting a decent middle income salary but I really only worked 10% of the time I was actually at my office- the other 90% just did my best to make myself look busy so that I wouldn’t be “found out.”
I needed the stable paycheck to pay for daycare. I grew to rely on that income, and not because I needed extra indulgences. Once we became parents, we cut out a lot of extras – going out to eat, we commuted in one car to save on gas, we gave up morning starbucks when the office coffee was just fine and free, and we stayed above water, but barely. So, believe me, it’s not as if I didn’t want to give up a posh lifestyle. With the cost of daycare, we were paycheck to paycheck and our incomes were the only stability we knew.
It wasn’t until I was suddenly laid off and was forced into finding a new alternative that I saw things differently. With the severance I received, a bit of unemployment, and the daycare expense now non existent, I now had time to stay home with my son, at least for a little while – until I discovered what my next move would be. I had time to breath, even if only for a moment, and I wanted to take advantage of every second that I was able to stay with my son until the day I had to go back to a new job. I knew that day would come fast, but for the time being, I was just going to hug my son and breathe…just for a moment.
6 months later, I had a new viewpoint. After seeing my son flourish, my husband and I both feeling less stressed, time to actually spend weekends together rather than a frantic rush to finish laundry and grocery shop for the week, I called a family meeting and made a very important announcement.
“I am not going back to work.”
I didn’t care if I had to live in a cardboard box. I would never work for anyone else again, and leave my son. When I told my husband this, he stood there quietly staring at me, as if he was waiting for the punch line at the end of the joke.
Finally, he said, “Um, okay. That’s a nice thought, but…you can’t just DECIDE not to work again…”
Yes, I could. Every fiber in my being told me that I belonged at home with my son, and that if there was any way to make it work, I wanted to find it.
As a recent mother, I became intensely aware of the “maternal instinct” which fascinated me to no end. I had watched myself transform into everything a mother is supposed to be- even though a year later I was sure that there were things I wouldn’t be able to adapt to. I also learned in all my prenatal classes, how important our instincts really are when caring for a child, and how listening to them will almost always guarantee your best parental performance. It wasn’t until this moment that I realized that extreme pain and turmoil I was in when I first dropped my son off at daycare to return to work after my maternity leave. This pain was unlike anything I’d ever known- and yet, I did my best to ignore it just to get through my work day. NOW, I was seeing in clearly- my instinct was shouting and pleading with me – “NO! Don’t leave your son. You aren’t ready and neither is he!” As much as I tried to avoid it, it followed me every where for an entire year. Once I went back to work, I couldn’t stand any “down time”. Infact, it made me crazy…so crazy that I’d walk in and out of every office asking if anyone needed any help with anything. I was afraid that if I stopped for a spilt second to think, my mind would take me to the one roomed home daycare where my child was growing up without me. So I kept myself as busy as I could to avoid that reality.
Yes, being at home with my son and living off of an unemployment check may have seemed irresponsible, but I was certainly earning that paycheck. And the more I thought about the kind of work that was involved in being a stay-at-home parent, the more it angered me that I wasn’t going to be able to keep that income flowing in. Didn’t I deserve it as much as anyone? Especially when I’d spent the last 5 years at my day job doing approximately 75% personal stuff, anyway?
NO! I wasn’t leaving my son again. I didn’t care what it took, I’d find a way to stay home. I’d even be willing to sell our house, our 2nd car, shop at thrift stores and garage sales. Nothing else mattered. I would not leave my son again. I knew, beyond any doubt that I would find the answer I so desperately tried to find on all my internet searches 6 months before. Because this time I HAD TO. Literally keeping me up at night, I couldn’t shake the idea that there had to be others who were just like me, not knowing that it was possible to make a change and have a better life. It made me horribly sad to think that had I not been laid off, I’d still be working, surfing the internet and praying that the miracle answer would come save me. Ironically, my lay off was the answer to my prayers- even if only temporary. It brought me home to my son and showed me that I clearly didn’t belong anywhere but here. I began jotting down some ideas.
We live in a democracy, and what that means to me is that no one is allowed to tell me what career to have, or what role to have in my life. Although they may not be easy to find, there is always an opportunity to work, to make money, to seek a better education. We all know we can do anything we want if we put our mind to it, so then why aren’t we doing it? Why are so many of us struggling? What are we missing? These are the questions that kept me up at night.
I also couldn’t shake the feeling that others out there, just like me, even less fortunate than I- who weren’t lucky enough to be laid off, and might never have the chance to experience what I had- and be given the answer that I had. I wanted others to know that they did have a choice and despite their fears in leaving their stable corporate jobs, they had no idea that it was seriously necessary. Thinking that I might never have been given the gift of knowing what it was like to stay at home would bring me to tears. I had to do something. Now that I was seeing things so much more clear than the year before, I knew I had to find a legitimate way to bring in a supplemental income, at least as much as unemployment would pay. I had to use my passion to help others.
I want to not only help other parents have the opportunity to stay home with their children, but to help them realize that they are not wrong in wanting to do so. I want for other parents to be able to stop denying themselves the truth in what they deserved. I want them to know that they do belong at home with their children and their families deserve to flourish.
In my frantic search for some answers, I found that there were many people who felt the way that I did, and I couldn’t shake the idea that these numbers were the only value we needed to make a difference. All I had to do was convince them all to work together and to draw upon the love we have for our children as a commonality! So that is where it began. Our Milk Money’s goal was never to earn me an income, but it was to inspire a movement that would allow all of us to make choices that better suited our needs. Our Milk Money was originally going to be a tool for me to launch my jewelry business. Well, I became so invested in OMM’s mission, my jewelry business was quickly forgotten about.
Ideal Customer/Target Market: Self-employed parents, or parents looking to become self-employed.
Landing your very first customer/client: I sent out an email to my immediate friends and family telling them about my idea to build a directory of self-employed parents and why I thought it would make things so much easier for families across the country. I asked for their help and support in reaching out to other parents they knew by forwarding my email on. At this point I just wanted to see if there would be enough interest or if I was kidding myself that there were other aching for this support as I was. Well, it didn’t take more than a few hours before the emails started pouring in by the hundreds from people across the country I had never met before excited to be involved. By the time the website was built, we had more than 1500 business listings to add to it.
First Success: Amazing that when I first entered into this venture I saw dollar signs, as I am sure most people do when they get a great idea and choose to run with it. I no longer see dollar signs when I think of success and that became apparent last year when I decided that I would no longer charge a membership fee for a business listing. I needed OMM to succeed and the money was such an empty reward. Ever since we made OMM a free service, the organization has exploded. Its operating at the level that I’d always hoped it would. 10-20 new applications come in each day, people are using the directory to make their purchases, and parents are connecting and supporting one another in barter and trade. Every day I feel a little more successful than I did the day before, which is a terrific place to be in- but I still have so many things I am striving for, and I am finally at the place where I am able to appreciate the journey I am on. I am strangely okay with never quite hitting the prize- because then the journey would be over. I don’t think I will ever be ready for this to end. But to answer your question more directly- I feel successful because for the first time in my life, I’ve discovered my life’s purpose.
Biggest Struggle: When I first started OurMilkMoney.com I was still under the impression that I had to operate at the same pace that I did in corporate America, which is just not possible as a full-time stay-at-home mom. My husband also had not yet adapted to the new dynamic of our family and I was allowing myself to be run by too many expectations. The solution I found was to work in the middle of the night while the rest of my house was asleep. I kept it up for nearly 6 months before my body finally broke down and I ended up in the hospital- but not just any hospital- the MENTAL hospital. I was released after just 72 hours with a diagnoses of extreme exhaustion. This was a huge wake up call to me and a sort of blessing because it helped me to see how important it was for me to take command of my life and my business. Now that I was “boss” I didn’t have to allow this to happen again. It became part of my new business plan to reach out to other parents suffering from the “supermom syndrome” and help them put things in order to avoid their own break downs. That is how “This Little Parent Stayed Home” was born.
Surprise!: I never thought I’d say this, but I am a darn good boss! For years I worked for employers who made me feel inadequate and incapable. I’d always tried my best, but some how never felt that anyone was all that impressed with me. I walked through most of my life assuming that because I wasn’t a satisfactory employee that I’d be a fool to ever considering running my own business. What I discovered, was that I was probably never meant to work for anyone else and the reason it didn’t work out in all my past positions was because my creative energy was stifled. My brilliant ideas for streamlining procedures made my employers nervous and they would often look for excuses to get rid of me. All of this was realized after I became my own boss and felt my own spirit start to flourish. For years I craved positive reinforcements and acceptance. It wasn’t until I began my own company- now with a full staff- that I realized I could run the organization in the most productive way I knew how- with those positive reinforcements that had been missing from my life for so long.
Promoting Sales: I took an entire year and educated myself on how to do my own publicity- but more than that- how to create a game plan with focus and purpose. Within a few months I had landed a news story about my organization in Los Angeles- which is a great location for a “local story” to be done about you. The day that the story aired, my server crashed because of all the hits it received. By the end of that month, we’d brought in more than 500 new members to the organization.
What you wish you would have known: I wish that I had trusted my instincts more. Looking back at the challenges that I had, I probably could have avoided most of them by realizing I already knew the answer, and not second guessing myself. Often it was because I didn’t want to say no to someone and risk hurting their feelings. If I could go back and talk to myself, I’d tell me that I am someone to trust and to have faith in the light at the end of the tunnel.
What keeps you up at night (business wise!)?: Millions of ideas racing through my head. They are never ending. I think of great ideas for blogs, how to reach out to my audience on my show, new topics of discussions, guests I’d like to bring on for a great interview, emails I need to return, people I need to connect with, businesses I want to collaborate with, press release headlines that are sure to get noticed…. shall I go on? We’ll be up all night, literally.
Ever tempted to throw in the towel and just get a job?: Never again. I will never again work for someone else. My freedom has become too important to me and my family. I have a terrific mind for ideas and a vision for seeing the future and all that we are capable of achieving. I never would have been able to say that about myself 5 years ago. I’ve been given a gift and with it, I want to give back to the world in the best way that I know how.
Biggest Goal: I just signed with a literary agent and I am still working with a television producer on a proposed reality series. The series was pitched to OWN last spring and was under consideration for several months before it was finally passed on. We are inn the process of lining up several other pitches with new networks. By this time next year I would like to be pitching my second book to the publisher and have started production for pilot season.
Pricing: This is a big challenge for me as well. I can honestly say that I am not one to give advice in this area as I still have a lot to learn. Asking for money has always been hard for me. I love giving everything away for free. Its a problem.
Funding: I am big on barter. I never really had the money to start my business, I just looked for creative ways of achieving the things I needed through trade. I took on small virtual assistant jobs in the beginning to help pay for my launch, but beyond that my company is now solely funded by affiliate programming.
Industry Tips: If you are a self-employed parents, do your best to do business with other self-employed parents. Not only does it support the overall community and mission, there is a universal understanding that we all play by the same rules. First rule : Family comes first and business comes second. Second Rule: Never apologize for your kids and learn to have patience for little interruptions. Third Rule: Instead of judging others for making mistakes, look for achievements to give praise for. if you give people a reason to exceed your expectations they will often rise to the occasion.
Must-read Online Resource: I am a big fan of MomsRising.org because they are a terrific resource for what is current in our society that most effects me as a mom working at home for her kids- whether it be political, or bureaucratic, or even just educational. I also love that there are ways to become involved in the issues that are important to us. Its more than just reading a blog and submitting a comment. there are letter writing campaigns to companies and senators. My mission isn’t political in nature as theirs is, but our goal is the same: to give parents better opportunities to care for their children.
The absolute best part of owning my business is: the freedom. It took awhile to adapt to being my own boss, but once I got it down and allowed myself to create my own rules, I realized I could just allow myself to blow off work to take my kids to Disneyland. I may not bring in a fraction of what I was when I was working in corporate America, but the sacrifice was worth it.
If I had to start over again, I would: I would have enjoyed the journey a bit more- but I wouldn’t change a thing. I love where I am today and I fully recognize that I am here because of every experience I’ve had a long the way.
I never imagined: turning off my brain would be so difficult! Ideas pour out of me faster than I can jot them down, and often I have to do a slew of “wind down” exercises to put myself to sleep. I vaguely remember being bored with my life pre-kids and pre home business venture. I almost can’t imagine that I ever knew what it was like to know the concept of boredom.
If standing on a rooftop facing crowds of aspiring or struggling small business owners, I would shout: “You have got to see the view from up here! Learn all you can from the artists of the world. They live to make art. Its what drives them and keeps them wanting to live their lives to the fullest. They don’t live to make money, and they only make enough money that allows them to keep nurturing their creativity. Live for your passion, not to make money. The money will always be there just enough.”