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How technology has changed our parenting lives

In my pre-kid life, I never imagined that someday I’d be a stay-at-home mom—hey, I didn’t go to grad school to spend my days changing diapers. But when I held my first baby, Mathilda, I had a complete change of heart. As soon as we locked eyes, all those career and financial worries faded. They didn’t disappear, but they certainly became secondary.

I have tons of friends with similar experiences. They’re not clones—today’s stay-at-home mom (SAHM) may be a tattooed rock singer, the CEO of her own company or a green-living activist—but they all have something in common: a deep desire to be there for every moment of their babies’ lives—the good, the bad and the unbelievably messy. If you’re considering life as a SAHM, both sweet rewards and tough challenges await. Read on for insight and advice from experts and moms who’ve been in the trenches.

Bye-bye pearls and casseroles— today’s at-home mom is…

launching an at-home business

There are 10.1 million women-owned businesses in the United States, says the Center for Women’s Business Research. No firm statistics exist on how many are run by stay-at-home moms, but it stands to reason that the percentage is increasing in the Wi-Fi age. “Over 90 percent of the moms we’ve interviewed said the desire for family flexibility is the number-one reason they work from home,” says Ellen Parlapiano, co-founder of mompreneursonline.com. “Another big change we’ve seen in the past 15 years is acceptance. In the past, moms have been reluctant to tell clients they work from home. Now it’s commonplace, even respectable.” Mom-owned businesses, which used to be heavy on arts and crafts, now run the professional gamut, says Parlapiano: Web design, attorney, marketing guru, social media coaching, you name it.

blogging about her life—and reaching others

Plug “mom bloggers” into a search engine and you’ll come up with thousands of SAHMs who chronicle their daily lives online. Moms share stories and tips about single parenting, adoption, home schooling and more. The most popular blogs, like the Pioneer Woman and Dooce, turned their authors into celebrities who rack up book and movie deals. Jen Singer, the New Jersey mom of two who created mommasaid.net, says her blog averages 90,000 views per month; it’s not a huge moneymaker per se, but it has led to book deals, speaking engagements and endorsement offers—none of which would have happened in the pre-Internet era. “Mom bloggers are hugely influential because they represent the authentic voices of other moms,” says Jennifer James, founder of mombloggersclub.com, a community that’s 10,000 strong. Making a living from a blog is tough, she adds, but there are other perks. “Moms who pen really great blogs are heavily courted by brands to review their product,” she says. “Some receive thousands of dollars in products each month.”

unapologetic about her choices

A 2007 Pew Research Center survey shows that more at-home moms today (48 percent) consider being home full time the ideal situation than they did 10 years ago (39 percent). Inversely, just 21 percent of working moms say working full time is ideal, down from 32 percent in 1997. “In my research, there seems to be a backlash among the millennial generation; in a sense, they’re modeling themselves after their grandmothers, not their mothers,” says Susan Shapiro Barash, a women’s issues expert and author of You’re Grounded Forever…But First, Let’s Go Shopping: The Challenges Mothers Face With Their Daughters and Ten Timely Solutions. Many of these young women look at their baby boomer moms and question why they’d want to be them. Some of those moms struggled in their marriages and had a tough time balancing work and family, she says. That doesn’t mean today’s SAHM has abandoned her career aspirations or traded her BlackBerry for an ironing board, just that she’s more concerned about living a balanced life than proving she’s Superwoman.

wahm: the best of both worlds

When I first started working from home 15 years ago, I had never heard the acronym WAHM (work-at-home mom). The landscape has certainly changed; now, instead of “Work versus staying home?” the question for moms-to-be is often “What work can I do from home?” Brooke Hall, who runs a Web design business (brookehalldesign.com) and stays home with her 10-month-old son, Owen, is happy doing both. “I get to be here for the first giggle and step, and yet working from home gives me an identity other than ‘mom,'” says the 27-year-old from Dublin, California. “I’m still the same person I was before the baby—partly due to my continuing professional life.”

It can be a crazy juggling act on some days, but most WAHMs say the multitasking is worth it. “The best part of the work/kid combination is that I’m not lost and drowning in diapers and plastic building blocks,” says Amy McAllister, 23, of Elk Grove, California, who teaches others how to bake and decorate cakes at littleladycakes.com and is studying to be a licensed acupuncturist. “I feel strong as an individual, which makes me a better mother and an even better role model to my 2-year-old son.”

To Be a Successful WAHM, You Need:

the right attitude

Working at home is still work, there’s just not someone else telling you what to do and when to do it. The key to success is being self-motivated to haul youself out of bed at dawn and get cracking before the baby wakes up—or stay up past baby’s bedtime, when you’re likely tired too.

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