What Is Life Like As A Stay At Home Parent In South Africa?

Statistics South Africa have recently reported that predictions for the growth in the country's economy are looking promising with a forecast rise of over 4% in the years 2014/2015. Coupled with the South African government's New Growth Path policy which has at its heart a vision for the creation of a fair, competitive and socially cohesive society with employment firmly at its core, and you would assume that the majority of the population were doing well and feeling positive about the future.

Family at home

Prospects are also looking good thanks to the opportunity for increasing trade and investments potential from being a member of the BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) elite. Forecasters predict that as the country emerges as a viable market with the potential as an innovative and creative hub, more and more global investors will begin to see South Africa as a sound investment destination.

Of course, this is great if you are fortunate enough to be a successful attorney in ENS Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs in Cape Town, a buyer for Shoprite or a manager at one of trendy new Vide e Caffe locations. Unfortunately, it is a sad fact that out of a potential labour force of 31 million, only 13 million South Africans have jobs and only 5 million of those earn enough to pay taxes.

Many of those who are missing out on the opportunity to take part in these new exciting times may be stay at home parents who either by choice, or circumstance, have chosen to forgo the daily commute to the office and spend more time with their families. So how can you turn this lifestyle decision into a positive, life affirming step forward for you and your family?

Taking Control of Your Future

Latest government statistics show that 40% of South Africa's GDP (gross domestic product) is contributed by SMMEs (small, medium and micro enterprises). That means people like you; beginning as an individual working from a kitchen table or a home office and potentially growing into a fully fledged business. Such home based entrepreneurs are thought to account for more than 50% of those working in the private sector with as many as 80% of the new jobs in the emerging economy coming from the SMME market.

With those in more traditional employment roles facing growing uncertainty over their pension packages and retirement annuities, together with the ongoing economic uncertainties, it can be no bad thing for those stay at home parents to start creating their own nest egg for the future.

Running a business from home can offer many advantages over starting an enterprise from an outside location. In addition to no overheads on renting space, utility bills and staff wages, a home business is tax deductible and will allow you to fulfill the daily household commitments of the school run, supermarket shop and childcare for the pre-school kids.

Working at home

So what are the things you need to consider before taking that first step towards becoming a home based micro-entrepreneur; what are the pitfalls and hazards and how do you even know if it will be the right decision for you?

What You Need to Know

Unless you will be generating an income in excess of R120,000 annually, there will be no requirement to complete a self-assessment tax form for SARS (South African Revenue Service). However, should your business really take off (lucky you!) there is a lot of assistance to be found on the SARS website where they will take you step by step through the self-assessment process.

One of the biggest problems facing those working from home surround feelings of isolation and attendant depression. Once the kids are at school and you have done the grocery shopping, you will only have your own company until the family arrive home in the evening.

If you are starting a new venture then a lot of your time will be occupied with networking and getting the word out about your services to your potential customers. Use opportunities such as trade shows or seminars, coffee morning or mom and baby groups to introduce your ideas to an outside audience. If you are doing a computer based job such as data entry and you have a laptop why not spend an hour or two once a week at your local internet cafe or coffee shop just to get a change of scene. Even if it is just a walk around the park or to the end of the road, it will get you out and make a break from the routine.

Another good tip is to set yourself boundaries and make sure you stick to them! It may be tempting to run the kids to school in your PJs and then spend the rest of the day working, but it sets the foundation for bad habits which should be resisted. You may be working from home, but you should still maintain your standards; get dressed every day, ladies put on a bit of lipstick and guys remember to shave, it will all help to get your brain into work mode.

Set aside an area of your home for your work whether it is a study, home office or a corner of the kitchen or lounge where all of the things you need are at arms reach. Try to give yourself a set schedule so that you are not tempted to work through lunch or forget to collect the kids after school. Remember to make your environment work for you and not the other way round; being a stay at home parent is supposed to give you a stress free working environment but it does need some organisation!

So What Are The Options?

We all have skills which can be used to generate an income whether as an employee or as the owner of our own business. If you have something you feel passionately about; baking, photography, writing or the environment, it could well provide a great starting point for a new career or second income.

For those who have excellent organisational skills (and as a parent you will already have mastered those!) you could offer your services as a virtual assistant to those small businesses who cannot afford a separate receptionist, admin clerk and PA but who need someone reliable and professional to answer their calls and deal with their correspondence. With the advances in technology available, this is now a job that can be done by homeworkers; those with good keyboard skills and a basic knowledge of computers could earn from R2,000-R4,000 per week as a data capture clerk or R2,100-R5,000 per week doing typing and admin for a local office.

Traditional jobs such as Avon and Tupperware representatives still provide good earning potential for stay at home parents and also offer the opportunity for excellent networking for those who have great social skills and enjoy meeting new people. Agents can expect to earn 50% of the total amount of their sales, so the harder you work, the more you get!

Some companies offer the opportunity to write content for online websites and blogs which can provide a steady income for people who enjoy writing creatively or sharing their opinions and interests. Completing online surveys is another outlet for getting your voice heard while enabling the individual to make a real difference to how a new product or service is developed.

The skills for being a successful home worker and stay at home parent are really the same skills you need for being a parent in general; patience, perseverance and the ability to face a fresh challenge and nurture it until you create the outcome you desire.