The email or Facebook message always starts the same way: “I’m a stay-at-home mom and I’ve found a great job that lets me work from home and make thousands of dollars a month! Contact me for details.”
The mystery job is always—always—some kind of home party sales, also known as direct sales. And my response is always the same: Not this again. These days, it seems like every stay-at-home mom I know is selling something. And the friends who aren’t selling something are hosting parties for their friends who are.
I get it, I really do—the cost of raising kids is crazy expensive and sometimes it's more affordable to stay at home than it is to work outside the home and pay for child care, not to mention the other added expenses of lunch, gas, convenience foods for dinner, work clothes, etc.
Working from home seems like a great option—even when you’re expected to pony up a few hundred (or thousand) dollars for “start-up” costs—and sometime it is.
If you’re outgoing, have a large and varied network of friends and acquaintances, and are willing to hustle like a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, sure, you can make money—even if you lose a few friends along the way. But for most of us who don’t have the personality, the network or the rah-rah hustle, these jobs end up being an embarrassing exercise in begging friends, family and barely-know-their-name acquaintances to buy stuff from you so you can continue to stay at home.
And that's what's wrong with the hoards of SAHMs involved with these direct sales companies. As a working mom, I resent being asked (guilted?) to help finance another mom’s ability to stay at home with her kids. I’m a freelance writer, so I get the desire to be home more and have a flexible schedule, but I’d never suggest that my friends who work full-time outside the house should buy my book or subscribe to a magazine I’ve write for so I can keep freelancing.
The idea that working moms have more disposable income to buy stuff from SAHMs is simply ridiculous.
So, why is it OK for SAHMs to ask their friends who work full-time to host a party, buy products and give them referrals? The idea that working moms have more disposable income to buy stuff from SAHMs is simply ridiculous.
And I’m willing to bet the number of women making thousands of dollars a month—every month—having home parties are about as rare as a lightning strike. Anything is possible but, really, the average shelf-life of these at-home jobs seems to be about a year.
A year of me dreading every text, email and Facebook message I get from my friends who are selling potions and gadgets and leggings and beauty products.
A year of listening to “If you host a party, you’ll get three free gifts and a 25 percent discount!” A year of wondering, “Does she really want to hang out with me, or am I just an easy mark because I bought something from her?"
It makes for a long year and damages friendships on both sides as resentment builds. “Why is she trying to sell me this crap?” I wonder and “Why won’t she be supportive?” my direct sales friend thinks.
Maybe we mamas just need to accept that staying at home with our kids comes with some financial sacrifices. If you can work from home without having to rely on your friends and family and mom acquaintances for your income, great! But if your income involves your friend writing a check for a product she doesn’t want or need just to maintain your friendship and support your new career, is it really worth it?