Growing up, I never pictured myself as a working mom. I knew I would work before having kids but figured I’d be a stay home mom, just like my mom was for us. I know my husband may feel somewhat responsible for me not being a stay home mom but frankly he’s not the reason I am still working.
What is a sequencing mom?
A “sequencing” mom typically earns a college degree, starts a career, and decides to take a planned break
from the workforce in order to raise young children and then returns to their careers years later.
My sequencing story
I’ve always sequenced my career in some way and felt I made the best decisions at the time that matched my personality and drive and seemed to be a fit for the priorities in my life.
While I’ve never been a 100% stay at home mom, I was a 100% work from home mom for a length of time.
My first child, Natalie, was born in the fall of 1999. The only reason I wasn’t at work when I went into labor was that I was home for my 9/80 Friday (every other week because I worked 80 hours in 9 days, I got my 10th traditional workday ‘off’). I had arranged with my boss at the time to come back to my role after my leave, which I think was 11 weeks (some without pay), in a part time capacity. I job shared with another person who shared my position. I worked the front part of the week and she the back part of the work week and we overlapped a bit on Wednesdays. We were both very organized and sold this trial option to our boss. Before kids, I loved my international software projects, especially the culture influence and travel opportunities. I was able to see parts of the world I hadn’t seen before including England and Latin America. Once we started a family though, the sometimes week long international trips with jet lag as a souvenir became tough. The allure of international travel needed to take a backseat so I put in a request to move to domestic projects with no out of town travel involved.
Working part-time and enjoying full-time corporate benefits worked well for me, until we had two children. While working part-time I was introduced to a direct sales scrapbooking business called Creative Memories at a neighbor’s home party. I fell in love with the products and stayed up way too late that night just dreaming of photo layouts. I loved the productive creativity outlet. So, I originally signed up as Creative Memories (CM) consultant to get my albums and supplies at cost but then met many women who were able to have flexibility and income and work from home. Why not me? I saw CM as my ticket to be more of a present mom for my kids so I worked at it while I worked my IT day job.
A leap of faith
The turning point for me was when I had become a CM leader and went to my first leadership conference. At this event, I earned my spot among the top 1% of the consultants and I really saw the vision. I came home and confidently proposed to my husband that I could make this business work for us if I left my corporate job. He was initially panicked! Then we talked specifics. How much would I need to bring in to make him comfortable? What would this look like for us? I can be very persuasive. After all, I grew up making business cases to my dad about how the dorms were actually more expensive then living off campus. My husband thought about my proposal a few days and came back with the $1,000 / month figure and a target ‘retire’ date of June for me – giving us about 6 months to stockpile some cash. I saw the light and I started setting myself up for success.
I was successful in Creative Memories. Some may have considered my CM direct sales business not a ‘real job’ and it could have appeared to them that I was a stay at home mom because I was able work around the kid’s activities and take full advantage of nap time (well, Jacob didn’t really nap but he still had to ‘rest’ for an hour in his room). For about six years, I truly treated my direct sales scrapbooking business like a job. I dove in to recruiting a team and filling up my calendar to gain new customers and team members. Some of my favorite memories are my monthly crops where I would usually have a theme, cook dinner and dessert for the ladies, and my kids would draw the prizes for my guests that truly became my friends over the years. I remember the first big thing my business paid for was at $600 Costco playset in the backyard. It was important for me that my family know I was contributing financially in some way. I earned three great incentive trips (Scottsdale, Cabo, and Maui!) and was able to always make my $1,000 commitment every month. Some days it was easier than others to pick up the phone and schedule home parties or approach someone about hosting at the park but I really loved the flexibility and was laser focused on my minimum family financial commitment. I struggled to find other consultants like me who were committed to do the work and build a business. With primarily ‘hobbyists’ who wanted products at cost joining my team and dropping out after they had all the products they wanted, I was experiencing much turnover and my bigger vision started to dissipate.
Another unexpected twist
When both my children were in elementary school, my days freed up a bit. I decided that substitute teaching would be a great supplement to our income and would keep me on the school schedule. I primarily substituted at only their school and was thrilled to be one of the frequently requested subs. After just a few months, I was finding that I was able to secure a substitute job 3-5 days a week. I made $73 a day. Much less than my average CM party and much less than my IT job would have paid. I liked being in the schools and learning about the kids in our area and even researched how to go back to school to get my teaching certification. Ultimately, I decided this was silly – it would mean more time away from my family while I was earning another degree and no guarantee of a job afterward during a tough economy. Not to mention going into debt to pay for school and not having a chance of making more than I made when I worked in IT. This plan was not Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University approved!
The power of networking
One day, after seeing a LinkedIn update come through my email from a former coworker that I admired, I reached out to him to see if he had any part-time openings. Within one week, I was hired at 20 hours a week as a Business Analyst at a retail software company. I remember stressing about my resume (since my previous resume copy was on an outdated floppy disk!) but having a personal recommendation and a great face-to-face interview, I was hired. My six year hiatus from IT meant that I had to catch up on the corporate culture including instant messaging, smartphones with data plans, web conferencing, productivity apps on iPads, and bringing laptops to meetings. Not to mention that I had to step up my mom wardrobe! Soon, my 20 hours turned into 30 hours, initially at the request of my company. Then, we decided to up my hours to 40 when Jason was out of a job temporarily. Thank goodness I had insurance opportunities so that he could take the time he needed to find the right job and not just any job. My new job had some travel involved and the demands of traveling sometimes with little notice was increasing. I was missing school and sporting events and just wanted to be home more as the kids were approaching their teenage years. Time for another sequencing career change.
Finding the right corporate fit
I had a specific method to my job search this time. I wasn’t desperate so I had time to find the right fit. I wrote down companies on my commute home that looked like possibilities, researched their websites, and applied online. I wanted a job that challenged me, paid well, had a short commute, an understanding for family commitments and required no travel. I found the perfect fit at my current company.
Enter the blog
In the spring of 2015, I started my blog (originally I called it ‘Savvy Sandwicher’) as a future business opportunity. I know it’s going to take time to build and grow. While I’m not exactly sure where this blog will take me years from now, I’m enjoying the journey of owning the process and seeing the fruits of my labor even if the fruits are sometimes just tiny drops of fruit juice. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished in less than six months and I’m excited about my mission to encourage sandwiched moms to prioritize their own health. Having my fellow savvy sandwichers follow my journey keeps me accountable, too. Eventually, I have a big dream of being semi-retired with my hubby and working remotely from Europe a month out of the year (in a different locations) where our kids can come and visit for a week of our stay. I’d also like to utilize our family lake home in Michigan more. The beauty of an online business is that you can take your work with you….or even decide not to if it’s a 100% rest & relaxation vacation.
Options are good
As you can see, my idea of being a stay at home mom has never materialized. Frankly, that’s ok. I didn’t know I would have options that weren’t all or nothing. Just like I didn’t know growing up that I had choices beyond being a teacher or a nurse. Working with my husband to adapt to our environment and choose to sequence my career to respond to the needs of our family has been an ideal fit for us.
I truly think working in some way makes me a better mom. Not a better mom than a stay at home mom but a better mom than I think I would be if I were a 100% stay at home mom. I think it’s good that I know this about myself and I respect the decisions that all moms make about these tough decisions. There is no one right answer except the answer that is right for you and your family.
What career choices have you made in order to find harmony with your family responsibilities? Are you following the career path that you thought you would? What advice would you give your son or daughter who may likely be a future caregiver?