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When Must-Have Parents Must Get a Job

Must-Have Parent

Nearly every day, my two older kids tell me what they want to be when they grow up. At ages 9 and 5, they change their aspirations much faster -- and more frequently -- than they change their clothes.   

Wildlife photographer. Professional soccer player. Teacher. Scientist. Paleontologist. Artist. Engineer. Marine Biologist. Koala doctor. Pokemon collector. These are jobs they've considered just this week.

Currently, my 5-year-old daughter is set on taking over her dad's job in the Army. That is, ever since I crushed her zoologist dreams by telling her that animals don't really talk to humans.

As for me, I've always wanted to be a writer, for about as long as I've known how to read. Growing up, I ignored all the warnings from more experienced writers who insisted that writing is not at all lucrative.

(They were right, but I reasoned that if they stuck with it, then so could I.)

It also turns out that writing, despite the lack of cha-ching, is a pretty good career for a Must-Have Parent. It's perfectly acceptable in the writing world to work from home, make your own schedule and take on as little or as much work as you want -- all things that make it much easier to be meet the demands of primary parenting.

Also, I can wear whatever I want to work and I can work from anywhere. And by anywhere, I mean the lobby of the dance studio, my car during football practice and certainly at home during nap times.

The drawback, however, is that because I'm never really "at work," I also never really get to leave work.

The other drawback? My kids don't think I do anything. They see me typing on my laptop and assume that I'm just playing Minecraft, like they do on the computer.

At a parent's day at my son's school a couple of years ago, I overhead him talking to a boy whose mother hadn't been able to attend because she had to work. "She's a nurse," the boy said. "She works at the hospital."

"That's cool," my son said. "My mom works on Facebook." Sure enough, I saw other parents looking at me and snickering, and I knew there was nothing I could say. Trying to explain or defend myself would only make it worse.

And, honestly, I really do use Facebook for work.


But, as the primary parent, I often have a hard time imagining how I could do much else, particularly a job that required going somewhere and staying there. All. Day. Long. Not because I'm unwilling, but because rarely does a week pass without some kind of kid-related emergency in the middle of the day and there's no one but me to handle it.

So what jobs can MHPs do that provide maximum flexibility?

According to this Forbes Magazine story, people in these 11 fields not only enjoy flexible schedules, they earn upward of $80,000 per year. But it's a list that's heavy on tech skills and light on all the things I'm good at.

For non-math and science MHPs, Working Mother has this list of 10 flexible jobs. But, having "writer" at number 4 tips me off that these jobs probably aren't as lucrative as the ones on the Forbes list. Data entry and customer service -- careers that are within reach of many of us -- are not make it rain-type jobs.

This list is also helpful and includes a range of careers, but again, most of them cap out at salaries that would barely keep one in the middle class.

I'd also add Realtor to a list of potential MHP careers, mainly because last week I had a swimming pool play date in the middle of the day with a mother of four who also happens to be a full-time Realtor.

For now, I think I'll just stick with Writer.

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Spouse Jobs Military Parenting Rebekah Sanderlin

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Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. Her work has been published numerous places, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.

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