Many local mothers are opting for home-business alternatives so they can have a career and be there for their children.
Janice Jacobson already had a demanding and rewarding career raising her four children and running a household.
But five months ago, the Lawrence woman found a way to combine that job with another that would earn money. Like a growing number of mothers, Jacobson decided to start a home-based business so she could earn an income while staying home to raise her family.
Today, Jacobson can keep a watchful eye over her children, Emily, 8, Benjamin, 7, Elliot, 4, and Luke, 1, and operate her business, Creative Memories. As part of her company, she teaches classes and sells products to help people create and maintain family photographs in albums and scrapbooks.
"I think the reason women who stay at home feel what they do isn't valuable is because there's no monetary reward and everything you do is undone," Jacobson said. "When you mop the floor, the little one spills some apple juice. By the time you finish the laundry, there's another four loads to do.
"This is good for the esteem and confidence. It's a pat on the back."
Across the country, the number of home-based businesses is on the rise, and Lawrence is no exception, local officials say. In 1993, there were an estimated 30 million Americans working out of their homes, an increase of almost 10 percent from the previous year, according to Link Resources, a New York City-based firm.
More and more Lawrence residents are choosing to work from home, because unlike many other cities, there are no local fees or licensing required for most home-based businesses, said Mike O'Donnell, director of the Kansas University Small Business Development Center.
"The number of people that are self-employed is growing faster than the overall work force, and on the basis of that, I can say that home-based business will continue to grow," O'Donnell said. "A lot of communities make it hard for people to operate home-based businesses. In Lawrence, it's legal and inexpensive, which makes it a lot more encouraging."
O'Donnell said the Lawrence community also has the benefit of resources, like his organization and the local Chamber of Commerce, that can help them tap into resources or give technical advice about starting their home-business venture.
Cheri Parsons, owner of Victorian Sampler, 701 Mass., has decided to turn her successful operation into a business she can run out of her Lawrence home.
Parsons is closing her store Monday and starting up a mail order catalog for the vintage clothing, christening, wedding and furniture items customers came to love in her store. Due out in the fall, the catalog will include a wider variety of merchandise and will be mailed to a list of her 2,000 customers as well as a list of people she purchased from another company.
In addition to allowing her to keep a closer eye on her three teen-agers, Parsons now will be caring for her 20-year-old daughter's newborn while her daughter goes back to college. Though genuinely excited about her new business venture, Parsons is even more enthusiastic about caring for her grandson so her daughter can continue her premed studies.
"I just feel like grandparents need to be involved in their grandchildren's lives with society the way it is -- both parents working two jobs," Parsons said, cradling her 3-month-old grandson, Christian. "I think family is being pushed off to the side, and kids are the ones who suffer when there's no one there. If mom can't be there, grandma is the next best thing.
"I'm sure there are a lot of good day-care centers, but there's none good enough for him."
Best of both worlds
Jacobson decided to make her job as a mother a priority when she quit her job as a schoolteacher eight years ago. She said home-based businesses give her and other parents the flexibility they need to combine career and family.
"I just feel like this is where I need to be," Jacobson said. "I'm giving my children the foundation they need. People with kids need to have flexibility. I didn't have to call anybody to say that my baby was in the hospital and that I need off."
The desire to work from home has been aided considerably by technology, especially by the personal computer, Internet, facsimile and answering machine. According to the Arlington, Va.-based Electronic Industries Assn., 38 percent of Americans have at least one personal computer, 32 percent of those with fax modems and 18 percent connected with at least one on-line service.
Both Parsons and Jacobson have home computers to help them manage their operations.
But more than just technology, the attractiveness of no commutes, boss or day-care woes has made the idea of a home-based business attractive to many Lawrence residents and parents, O'Donnell said.
Parsons is looking forward to being able to manage her household and work duties in less time by bringing her business home.
"I do dishes, laundry, take my daughter to zero hour, open my mail and pay my bills all before I come to work," Parsons said. "Then when I get home, there's grocery shopping, dinner and running my kids around. I love that T-shirt that says, 'I am woman, I am invincible, I am tired.' You want to have your cake and eat it, too, but you just want to take it in smaller bites."