Mothers earn money from home

September 06, 1994|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Sun Staff Writer

Liz Longo goes to work every day without leaving her Ellicott City home.

With a computer, modem and printer, Ms. Longo does bookkeeping for a Columbia travel agency while rearing her 14-month-old son.

"I can still be a mommy to Peter and still bring in the second income we need," said Ms. Longo, whose home office includes a playpen and toy chest.

The 28-year-old former travel agent is part of an army of Americans who work out of their homes. According to the New York-based Link Resources Corp., 7.6 million Americans worked at least part time from home offices last year.

In Ms. Longo's neighborhood near Hunting Horn Drive and Route 103 in Ellicott City, at least seven other women run small, home-based businesses that let them combine family needs with financial realities.

They include Chris Czumak, mother of a 14-month-old daughter; Barbara Libby, who has three daughters ages 4 to 17; and Valerie McGuire, who has a 7-year-old son.

Ms. Czumak runs a desktop publishing service and designs baby shoes in her home.

Ms. Libby and Ms. McGuire both operate day care centers in their homes.

They and others who work out of their homes say they benefit from a second income while spending more time with their children.

"You have a better awareness of your child's lifestyle and school activities, homework and his friends," Ms. McGuire said. "It's nice to be home when they're babies and toddlers."

Ms. Libby started a day care center at home seven years ago so she could greet her daughters, who are now 13 and 17, when they came home from school.

She said teen-agers need a responsible adult to supervise them after school.

"Too many older children are left alone," said Ms. Libby, who also has a 4-year-old daughter. "They just can't cope with it. That's the age group that tends to get in trouble."

The women said staying at home also increased their productivity.

"Working at home makes you a better worker," said Ms. Longo, who works 20 hours a week balancing budgets, writing checks and filing important documents.

"I've got this time, and that's the only time I have. It makes you a much more diligent employee."

Home-based workers also said they enjoy setting their own hours.

"I don't have a clock to punch in," said Ms. McGuire, the day care provider. "I'm my own boss. It's a thrilling position to be in. I don't have someone telling me what to do or how to do it.

Those who work at home say it can be difficult to get away from their jobs.

"When you leave from the office, you leave everything there," said Ms. Longo, who often works during evenings and weekends.

Home-based workers also feel pressure to prove that they are productive.

"I do have a guilt feeling because I'm a mom at home," Ms. Czumak said. "I find you overdo things because you feel like you're not contributing."

"You don't have the business sign out front, and your hours are different, but that doesn't mean they're not working," Ms. McGuire said.

"It's a hidden work force."

Working at home affects the entire family, especially in those homes where day care centers are operated.

"It's a real invasion of your privacy," said Ms. Libby, who cares for children ages 2 to 10. "Somebody's in and out of your house."

Ms. McGuire said her husband's sleep patterns were initially disturbed by clients dropping off their children early in the morning. "It's an adjustment for my whole family, not just me," she said.

Working at home can be difficult without emotional support, the women said.

"You need such a good relationship with your spouse," said Ms. Longo, who calls her husband, Bob, each afternoon to let him know if she needs him to watch the baby so that she can catch up on work. That way, "I can hand him Peter when he gets home," Ms. Longo said.

"When you don't have someone real supportive, it's not going to work."

The women are confident that more parents will work at home to care for their children.

"The age of telecommunication is here," Ms. McGuire said. "I envision by the year 2010, where everybody will have a computer, you'll be able to order groceries by computer. That'll be something to see."

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