Moms make it work

Flagstaff, AZ – On a recent sunny morning a pack of moms push jogging strollers single file up a hill in Flagstaff's Buffalo Park. The toddlers belted into beefy strollers smile as the wind rushes past them. The moms - not all of them smiling -- are there to work.

SABOL: Tighten those gluts. Up the hill let's go.

Beth Sabol teaches the stroller fitness class.

SABOL: Push it! Push it!

Sabol's daughter Lily naps in her stroller while her mom shouts commands.

After she had her baby Sabol says the school where she taught science wasn't willing to let her teach part time. So Sabol bought into Stroller Strides, a national franchise that gave her the training and marketing materials to start her own fitness program for other new moms.

SABOL: It's a struggle for a lot of people especially if you were in a profession you enjoyed then you have a baby and you want to be with your baby you want to raise your kid but you want to still be a woman and a person and have your own thing. And they either feel like they have to go the career route and have someone else raise their kids or they feel like they have to give up their career and they're feeling incomplete because they're missing that other part of themselves.

Finding innovative ways to make money and still be with your kids isn't new. It started with Tupperware parties in the 1950s after women returned home from working during World War II. Then came the Avon Lady who has evolved into the Arbonne consultant.

A few years ago former teacher Carrie Johnson says she felt like she was part of the rat race. She loved her job but longed to spend more time with her family. So she decided to sell Arbonne products.

JOHNSON: And never dreamed of selling lipstick if you will as a way to be home. However I knew that my soul was aching I needed a way to be with my kids. It was definitely a leap of faith walking away from a tenured teaching position that I loved. But I also knew if you don't do things different nothing will change and I was not ok with my life the way it was.

She couldn't be happier now. Johnson has sold enough Arbonne to earn a Mercedes, one of the major incentives her company offers. She proudly parks it in her driveway with the vanity plate declaring TNXRBON (THANKS ARBONNE). She's also earned family vacations to Mexico -- all from selling lotion and lipstick.

But it's not easy. She still doesn't get to put her two kids to bed every night.

JOHNSON: When you're goal is to be with your family especially when you're working a full-time job, that's a sacrifice. That's the hardest part for me to pack up my bags at night and come home aft they're tucked in bed but if I have to work 15-20 hours a week to have all the bonuses being home with them when they need me, when they're sick, going on field trips, volunteering in their classes I find I definitely gain more than I sacrifice.

For Mary Denmead that sacrificed time has to be a worthwhile cause.

DENMEAD: It's gotta be something you really know (Nina) What sweetheart? You know is really worth it. I get a lot done in the day but it's not without guilt. The guilt I feel separating myself mentally, emotionally and physically from my kids for those hours that I am working I know it has to be something I believe in otherwise it's not worth it.

Denmead teaches childbirth classes out of her home. She's also a yoga instructor, actress, director, producer and activist.

Ellen Parlapiano has co-authored two books on moms like Denmead who work from home. And she actually coined the phrase mompreneur.

PARLAPIANO: There's always guilt it never seems to go away. If you continue working in the traditional workforce you feel guilty. But if you work at home you also feel guilty. I know the moms tell us all the time they worry about the hours they're spending on their computers you end up putting in way more hours when you work from home because it's harder to turn off the work.

Parlapiano says when she interviewed moms and asked them why they work from home the number one reason was to have more flexible time to be with their families.

She says so many moms, especially in today's depressed economic times, don't have the option of not working.

For Arizona Public Radio I'm Laurel Morales.