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Working from home not always the answer for mumpreneurs: Study

Friday, 8 July 2011 | By Michelle Hammond
A new report claims women who have three children are less likely to return to paid work, but successful mumpreneurs say starting a home-based business is not necessarily the answer.


Using data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics a new research paper reveals 55% of mothers with three children are in paid employment compared to 68% of mothers with two.


The report shows the biggest difference is among women under 30. Just 21% of mothers with three are working, compared to 41% of mothers with two children.


Ana Zhu, co-author of the paper and a research associate at the University of NSW Policy Research Centre, says the results aren’t overly surprising.


“Mothers who have more children have greater responsibility for care. But the interesting thing that we also find is that even when the children have grown there’s still an effect,” Zhu says.


“When the children get older you’d think those mothers with three children would be looking to get back into the workforce to be helping with things like school fees or university fees ... yet it’s still the case they are less likely to be in the workforce.”

Zhu suggests a lack of confidence about ability – after being out of the workforce for a longer period of time – may play a part in mothers of three not wanting to return to work.


While mothers may not return to work in paid employee positions that’s not to say they’re not starting their own businesses.


According to a recent report commissioned by nappy brand Huggies 66% per cent of Australian mothers consider starting their own business and 63% want to pursue a business idea so they can work in a manner that suits small children.


Nikki Parkinson, mother-of-three and founder of home-based business Styling You, says she decided to start her own business rather than return to the workforce as a paid employee.


“I have three children and at that time when I decided to make the leap it was crucial that I have a position that would allow me to drop everything,” Parkinson told StartupSmart.


But Jen McKinney, who launched her business Hearsay Language Learning Downunder after having her fourth son, says operating from home worked initially but she eventually had to resort to day care.


“It becomes harder as the kids get older. Once they hit the one to four-year-old age bracket, you can’t leave them on their own,” McKinney says.


“You can’t run a business from home with small children running all over the house.”


Alexandra Wardle – the mumpreneur who invented baby food storage solution Qubies – says working from home is less than ideal when you’re dealing with clients and screaming children at the same time.


“I was on the phone to a customer and my son Tyler was yelling... I was trying to cover the phone so she couldn’t hear him, but I had to say ‘I’m so sorry, I’ve got the kids at the office today’,” she says.


For start-ups who employ mothers of young children Zhu says there are simple things companies can do including offering flexible work hours.


“Australian mothers, after having children, often go back on a part-time basis so (consider) providing leave when an emergency pops up,” Zhu says.