Before my daughter was born, I thought I could go back to work after a few weeks. I hadn’t prepared for being a stay-at-home mom. Of course my husband and I spoke about the pros and cons of going back to work versus staying at home. I’d been working since I was 18-years old. What was I going to do now? Certainly a little baby wasn’t going to take up all my time, right? What a fool I was. I hate to use this cliche, but when our daughter was born, our lives changed forever.

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I slept only a few hours during finals week in college while I jammed my brain with information I would forget in less than 48 hours. But no amount of sleep deprivation I experienced in college would compare to the deprivation I experienced after we brought our daughter home from the hospital. Every time I closed my eyes, the baby seemed to sense it and would cry.

Being inexperienced and too impatient, I ran to the crib to carry and lull her back to sleep. I tried my best to just let her cry and ignore her, but her shrill voice was like how I’d imagine a pterodactyl would sound as it swooped in to gather its prey.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my daughter and adored her the second she was delivered, but when you’re running on no sleep, your senses are warbled and the slightest noise sends your brain into overload.

There was no way I could go back to work. We decided to have another baby and our son was born almost two years later. I was busy those first few years. My entire life revolved around diapers, wipes, breast-feeding, bottles, formula, bibs, naps and spit-up. I was happy, but felt like something was missing. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at first. I started feeling restless and didn’t know why.

I finally realized that I was losing touch with the world and felt like I was losing a bit of my identity. When I wasn’t stuffing extra formula and diapers into the diaper bag and worrying whether or not my son had put that penny on the floor in his mouth, I was trying to catch up on some sleep or fit in a shower.

Since my husband was at work during the daytime, the only adult interaction I had was with my mother-in-law. Thank goodness for that. I constantly hummed the theme songs to shows from Nickelodeon. I snagged pieces of chicken nuggets from my children’s plates when they were full.

When my son turned two, I decided to look for a job. Part of it was out of necessity and part of it was to keep me sane. I wanted to go back to work, to focus on something other than SpongeBob Squarepants. And yet, I knew I couldn’t work outside the home. I still had two kids at home. The cost of putting them in daycare, school, gas, work wardrobe and lunch would be expensive and probably negate anything I would earn. So off to the Internet I went.

I researched companies for about a month. It’s amazing how many scams are out there: Work at home and earn $8,000 a month just for typing? “Pay $49.95 and we’ll give you your dream job.” Why am I paying $49.95 for a job? I don’t think so. After weeks of research, I tested and interviewed for a work-at-home job and became a virtual executive assistant. I was going to be able to be around the kids at home and make a living.

With my desktop computer, Internet access, virtual fax machine and cell phone, I was up and running — planning and scheduling meetings, writing copy for brochures, answering customer service calls with product questions. I was back at work and truly enjoying the experience.

If you’re thinking of going back to work or wanting to stay at home and work from your home office, here are a few places to look for legitimate job opportunities.

Craigslist: Yes, there are some scams listed here, but there are plenty of good job listings with real companies. There are always a handful of virtual jobs available, depending on the city you look into.

LiveOps: If you don’t mind taking customer service calls with your home phone and talking with people throughout the day, check out LiveOps. This organization offers companies a virtual call center and customer service representatives. As an independent contractor you work for LiveOps’ clients. You are paid by the amount of calls you take during your scheduled time instead of by the hour. The application pool is competitive and many times LiveOps may not have openings. Companies that use or have used LiveOps include eBay, LifeLock, Murad and Pizza Hut.

Elance & SoloGig: Both Elance and SoloGig work as job boards for freelancers where you choose the job you’re interested in and put in a bid for that job.

Problogger: If you’re a writer and looking for quality blogging gigs, take a look at Darren Rowse’s job board. Although there are only a few listings a week, the leads are legitimate and most of the websites looking for bloggers have a steady stream of traffic.

There are many virtual assistant employment agencies worth taking a look at. Here are just a few:

Virtual Assistant Jobs: A virtual staffing agency that offers work-at-home opportunities like data entry and clerical work, bookkeeping, office administration, website management and more. You never have to pay a fee to apply for a position. VAJ requires that you have specific equipment and software such as a newer computer with Internet access, virtual fax and voicemail, phone and a Microsoft Live account.

VAH’s application process consists of reviewing the duties and job requirements, requesting a list of projects via email, adding your name to their free project list and registering to be considered for a virtual position.

Carefully research any company you decide to apply with and join. Ask as many questions as you can: expected pay rate, when you can expect a raise, what to do regarding absent days and emergencies, how and when you will get paid. As a contractor, you are doing the agency a favor by taking on one of their clients.

Always be professional and give 100% effort — just because you can roll out of bed and walk over to your home computer in your pajamas doesn’t mean you can slack off and not finish your work. Manage your time well and be confident with the work you do daily.

Good luck with your job search!

Pic of the Day: This kitchen island is a tiny ocean

This kitchen island is a tiny ocean