Careers for Young Mothers - without Leaving Home (Woman's Day, February 1969)

Careers for Young Mothers - without Leaving Home (Woman's Day, February 1969)

It's always interesting to take a look into women and their relationship with work. This is an article that discusses enterprising women who juggle family and managing their own business. Overall, it's a positive take - women keeping active with designing their own products or services while juggling that work-life balance. Of course some of the statements are a bit antiquated (ie: "Your first duty is to home and husband. If he feels threatened, don't do it," mentioned toward the end of the article), but it's still an interesting perspective at the dawn of the women's lib movement. 

Careers for Young Mothers - without Leaving Home (Woman's Day, February 1969)

A flock of small children underfoot (and there are times when even one youngster can seem like a crowd) is no excuse for postponing a career - if you can keep it housebound. In fact, the years when infants or preschoolers limit far-flung activities can be the best time to begin a part-time, family-oriented, home-based business, with benefits for both youngster and mother. 

Rather surprisingly, studies reveal that children whose mothers work part-time are often better adjusted than the children of either full-time career women or full-time mothers. Perhaps they are better off without unremitting supervision. As Kiki Swanson describes the reaction of her boys, who were five, three and one when she began her custom-dressmaking business at home in Phoenix, Arizona, "They were thrilled not to have me hounding them constantly. They were growing into independent little spirits, secure in knowing exactly where I was."

Many women also find that the quality of attention to children improves with additional interests. "I'm a much better mother when I don't have to be Mother every minute," explains Eileen Baynes, who adores babies and has five little ones under ten to prove it. But she also keeps a corner of her suburban New Jersey house as adult territory for her thriving interior-design business. 

Probably the most important reason for increased family well-being is simply that when Mother is happy, everyone smiles. Young mothers are discovering that a part-time career at home can cure a variety of ills, from housewife's fatigue to what author Betty Friedan calls simply The Problem. 

What kinds of careers are possible within the confines of home and family? Women across the country, in small cities and large, some without business experience or training, others without capital - all with children underfoot - have developed an extraordinary range of enterprises. In some cases, they add a substantial income, in others, the rewards are more intangible but just as satisfying. 

"I wanted to do something creative outside the routine of housework," says Dee Jalufka of Robstown, Texas. So she opened The Gingerbread House, a home-based nursery school when her children were five and three. "We found things out together," she recalls. "If you're inexperienced, as I was, your best teacher is your own child, who will be much quicker than the others to point out your mistakes and make suggestions."

The Gingerbread House accepts up to fifteen preschoolers at a monthly tuition of fifteen dollars each. "After having so many children all morning, just taking care of my own in the afternoon seems like a vacation," says Mrs. Jalufka, laughing. "Robert and Jennifer loved being part of my career, and I've learned a great deal as a mother from observing other children." 

When she first thought of a nursery school, her husband Earl, encouraged her but insisted she begin on a business-like basis Instead of lending her the money himself, as she had expected, he suggested she take out a bank loan of one thousand dollars and establish her own credit. While carpenters and electricians converted a room off the garage into a gay red, white and blue classroom, Mrs. Jalufka read books on child psychology and observed at other nursery schools. To cut down the high expenses of the first year, she made felt boards and other teaching tools. 

Laura Cadwallader, of Greenwich, Connecticut, is another young mother whose home-based career - stitchery - welcomes the presence of children. When she picks up a needle and yarns to create a wall hanging for sale to individuals or for her mail-order business, at least one of her four children usually joins her with a needlework project. "The three boys enjoy working on their own designs and Leah has been threading a needle since she was three," Mrs. Cadwallader says. 

Working with yarns is now the basis for a triple-threat business: weekly stitchery classes held in the sunny living room of the eighteenth-century barn where the Cadwalladers live; the sale to collectors of contemporary wall hangings; and a fledgling mail-order enterprise called Chicken Coop. 


Mrs. Cadwallader has worked with yarns and embroideries since childhood and lost her amateur standing in 1962 when, at the insistence of friends, she started her first class with eight pupils. New students have appeared on the recommendation of old, and after seven years she still has a waiting list. "There's a big interest at present in yarn work," she explains. "Churches and community groups are eager for people to teach classes in all crafts."

While Laura Cadwallader makes a product, sharing the creative pleasure with her own youngsters, and Dee Jalufka, surrounded by children, provides a service for her community, Joan Luxner runs a business at home in Larchmont, New York, that is decidedly adult-oriented: market research. Her clients include manufacturers, advertising agencies, publishers - all of whom want to know what consumers think of their products. 

"Though entrée into Madison Avenue may sound glamorous," Mrs. Luxner hastens to point out, "it's often plain hard work. The most rewarding aspect of my business is that I can manage it from home and earn money on my own. It's a great satisfaction to keep one foot in the business world without having to leave your children."

Using her previous experience and contacts as a market-research interviewer, she launched Joan M. Luxner Surveys in 1956 when her older daughter was little more than a year old. "Brenda ould say 'interviewer' at one and a half, though I'm sure she didn't know what it meant, and now that she's fourteen, she would like to help with surveys." 

Mrs. Luxner relies, however, on about a hundred housewives whom she trains as interviewers in briefing session at home when her two daughters are in school. They work on an individual contract basis at $1.75 to $2.50 an hour, or $15 per depth interview, and Mrs. Luxner is paid by the client 25 percent of what her interviewers earn. 

"The sky is really the limit; many a top research service bears a woman's name and started off like mine," she says enthusiastically. "I needed no capital and the amount of money I make depends on how much business I want to handle. One could devote full time to this at home - up to twelve hours a day, because evenings are needed - and net a very nice income." 


Whether your aim is profit or pleasure, you will find an almost infinite variety of careers that can flourish at home. Young mothers teach dancing, write children's books, breed Great Danes, design tennis dresses. They market marmalade, decorate sweaters, clip newspapers. A Massachusetts woman breeds worms for sale in her basement; a San Francisco housewife weaves in her attic. Secretarial services thrive on dining room tables and public relations firms turn out press releases from upstairs bedrooms.

But how to get started in your own business? It's not quite so easy as answering help-wanted ads, but there are approaches already proved valid by a hose of housewives, that are almost as simple and sure. 

First, of course, you must find your idea. It may be something you already do well: a special salad dressing, plants that bloom best for you, a craft project or something for which your background or training gives you unique qualifications. But if self-analysis reveals nothing that you can imagine as the basis for a profitable business, look around for an unfilled need. Two enterprising housewives in a medium size city, for instance, started Service Finders, Inc., which provides clients with a multitude of household services/ Another young mother, recalling her own bewilderment on arriving in New York City, established Mamselle in Manhattan to help big city arrivals over the hurdles they may encounter. 

Once you have an idea in mind, however, proceed with caution. Check your market. Obviously, a catering service will have hard going in a town where half a dozen are already struggling for survival. Whatever you plan to do, be sure you are offering something different - preferably less expensive and better quality - from what is already available. 

Also be sure to choose an enterprise that will best suit your temperament. Most businesses fall into the broad categories of selling a service or making a product. If a major incentive is the mental stimulation of adult companionship, consider a service or retail business; if you prefer comparative solitude, you're apt to be happier creating a product. 

From interviews with hundreds of young mothers who have found their own formula for careers at home, a surprisingly small list of advice emerges:


1 - Have your family's approval. "Your first duty is to home and husband. If he feels threatened, don't do it," cautions Jeanne Damon, a Massachusetts housewife who designs fashion kits for her patented jumbo needles. These are typical first words of advice from almost all working mothers. And certainly, to manage a career at home, you must have the enthusiastic support of your family. 

At first, men may understandably be wary of sharing wife and home with the working world. "I make sure that  my husband's needs are taken care of regularly and on time so he has no reason to complain" points out Betty Farlow, a Houston, Texas mother who designs papier-maché decorations for boutiques. "At first he was neutral about my work, but he became more interested when he saw how much it meant to me." The final reaction of many husbands summed up by dress designer Marti Huber, who says, "Bruce believes my business keeps me interested and interesting."

2 - Know what you're doing - before you begin. In no business enterprise is it more important to follow the maxim "Well begun is half done" than when your office is at home. Gather all available information in your field. Check trade and business associations, trade journals, friends in similar enterprises, business and commercial schools and government sources, particularly the Small Business Administration. 

Once you are ready to go into business, a banker can help estimate your capital needs. A lawyer can help select a form of business suited to your own circumstances (usually a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation). He can also explain the complexities of wage and tax legislation, liability and product insurance, trademark and patents, food and drug laws, and other regulations that may affect you, and the income tax advantages of a home business. Contact state, county and municipal authorities for complete information on license requirements, if any, and for such regulations as building codes, zoning restrictions and health and safety rules. 

3 - Stick with it. The complementary virtue to a solid start in business is persistence, perhaps the single quality that distinguishes women who succeed from those who fail in a home business. "Many women have wonderful ideas," observes a Georgia housewife who runs a profitable mail-order business, "but they give up when success is just around the next corner."

Ellen Streisand, creator of oddments for boutiques, calls it patience - "to work out problems, to bear frustrations." For Jean McIntosh, a Tulsa, Oklahoma, housewife, it was advertising month after month until she had enough work to sustain her home typing service. For a designer of children's dresses, it was constantly calling hard-to-reach store buyers. "Chinese water torture," she admits. "They finally had to see me - and when they did, they bought."

4 - Be professional. Because your office is at home, you must be meticulously businesslike in everything - your stationery, work habits, dress and demeanor. As Joan Luxner says, "You have to answer a business call as if you were alone in a pine-paneled office when you're really in the kitchen holding the ankle of a four-year-old who wants ice cream money now."

It also means doing a thoroughly professional job every time. Says Cissie Sill, who designs imaginative Christmas decorations under the label of Boutiques Enterprises in her Southport, Connecticut home, "As important as the original idea is the ability to deliver - on time, in good condition, at the agreed price."

Professionalism also covers sound business practices. Set a fair price - fair to you - that includes your own time and labor; if orders increase and you have to hire extra help, you'll lose your profit margin if you haven't included labor as a cost. Don't cut prices, even when tempted by friends. Finally, it's essential to keep accurate accounts. "You'll never know how you are doing if you don't keep good records," advises Louise Green, a Colorado woman who makes ceramic Christmas decorations.

5 - Start now. Procrastinating seems to be a besetting feminine sin, whether it's cleaning the hall closet or putting an idea into practice. To prove that there's no excuse for the waiting, one young woman launched her home career as a literary agent the day after she brought her baby home from the hospital. "I saw my first client with a safety pin holding my skirt together," she remembers, "and all through our meeting I sat on a cushion."

Although the original effort to establish a home business may be considerable, the rewards are immense. In her enthusiasm, Dee Jalufka is typical of all the women who add an extra dimension to their lives without excluding the children who encircle them. "The most fun of all is living a sort of double life - in the morning all teacher, in the afternoon all housewife thinking about kitchen curtains. Being able to switch your mind's environment makes for much more zestful living!"


Raise Your Child To Be A Rebel (McCall's, February 1956)

Raise Your Child To Be A Rebel (McCall's, February 1956)

Robert Indiana's Loft (House Beautiful, February 1970)

Robert Indiana's Loft (House Beautiful, February 1970)