When I graduated from college 15 years ago, torn between applying to programs in developmental psychology or art history I decided to wait to apply to graduate school. In fact, I wanted to go into art therapy, which at the time was still a relatively new field. I took time off to hone my focus. After a year-and-a-half in the investment world and nearly lured into becoming a broker, I realized that while it was a job I was capable of, it was not one that would also make me happy at my core.
With that in mind, as well as having been removed from academia, I took some continuing education courses to see if I still had that academic prowess. I did, and applied to graduate programs in art history, which held sway over me stronger than psychology did. When my dad balked at the decision to leave the financial world for the non-profit/academic world, I told him: "I need to do something that I love, and even on the worst days, go to work because I want to, not just because I have to pay the bills."
There was an intrinsic need to satisfy the soul as well as the wallet. Art history led to becoming an editor, starting my own company, writing full-time and eventually, becoming a digital magazine publisher. An unconventional path, but one where I do what I love, and now that I'm a parent, I do it from home.
It's with the same mindset that I had in 1995 that many share, craving a more optimal work/life balance especially after starting families, and embark upon working from home. For them, there is a drive for a different kind of work/life balance that calls WAHMs (and in increasing numbers, WAHDs) once kids enter the picture.
Some Work-from-Home Statistics
Since the 1970s, the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics has analyzed work-at-home trends. According to the report Characteristics of self-employed women in the United States, in 1974, 25 percent of work-at-home professionals were women, and increased to 33 percent by 1990. Overall, between 1974 and 1990, the total number of work-at-home professionals increased by nearly 74 percent.
Additionally, according to the Bureau's September 2005 report, Work at Home Summary, "by 2000 4.2 million people worked at home at least part time including telecommuters, workers with flex-time, freelancers and those owning home-based businesses. In 2005, 20.7 million people worked at home as part of their primary job and 3.3 million had a formal relationship with their employer. [Additionally,] nearly 4.7 million people had a home-based business, where they worked from their home solely... ."
Today, many of these jobs and companies are professional services, many owned by women, who translated their pre-family careers into something different. Yet even with these statistics, a societal question mark hovers over those who work from home — especially WAHMs — in the perceptions of others.
But whether called contractors, freelancers, telecommuters, WAHMs or WAHDs, clearly, work-at-home professionals together create a veritable industry in itself, signified by such things as Business and Learning's virtual conference, the WAH Expo, and one reason why I developed theWAHMmagazine.
As a guest blogger, I'll be writing about some of the personal, professional and larger economic issues of being a work-at-home professional. I'll also address how important options like telecommuting can be for other businesses and for Michigan's economy, especially in light of technology and environmental and individual economic concerns.
And of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't write about being what problogger.com calls the blogging niche that's "the next big 'It' when it comes to the Internet" — a mom blogger.