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AZRIELA JAFFE

9.22.99  
Puncturing the Myths about Parenthood and Being Your Own Boss
One ambitious entrepreneur simply put off her dreams till her son was grown

Gillian Rothchild is president of Rothchild Research, an executive-recruiting firm in Los Angeles and the author of a successful book, Dear Mom and Dad: What Kids of Divorce Really Want to Say to Their Parents. She's also a mother of a grown son. Balancing one's ambitions and family is often seen as a matter of babysitters and carpools, but her story shows it's a long-term emotional struggle.

Gillian had always wanted to write children's stories and books on being a parent. She stayed home till her son was 5, "working harder than I have ever worked. Between playgroups, playdates, gym classes, music classes, karate classes etc., our schedule was full, and I enjoyed watching my son grow and become a social being. I loved the opportunity to be a full-time Mom."

By the time, her son went off to school, she had become a single parent. She worked counseling children and families during the school day. As her financial needs grew, she started an executive-search firm. That required less energy and time, and she wanted to be with her son during his turbulent teen years. It was a difficult decision, she says: "I truly missed counseling and helping families. I wrote five books on divorce, one after-school special and a video." She finished them nine years ago but never had the time to get them published or produced. "My family obligations came first, and I knew that the rest of the world would wait," she explains.

"Once my son was off to college, it became my turn to do what I always knew I wanted to accomplish in my life -- help children and families on a more massive scale. This was the second part of my life. I am still running my executive-search company. But I am hoping that soon I will be able to devote 100% of my time to my passion of promoting my books and other projects to follow. There is always that balance in life, and good things do come to those who wait with devotion, patience, and integrity."

Gillian saw through one myth about entrepreneurship early on: That it gives you more time to spend with your kids than a corporate job. More flexibility to schedule your time, yes. But hours? No. "So many people these days are getting into their own businesses without realizing the impact it's going to have on their children," says Katy Danco, author of From the Other Side of the Bed: A Woman Looks at Life in the Family Business (University Press) and co-founder of the Center for Family Business in Cleveland. "They're finding out the hard way that it's tough being a parent while trying to run a business."

Some of us start businesses to take better care of our children, and we struggle to achieve that balance. Fewer do what Gillian did -- postponing their dreams until the children are grown because they recognize how all-consuming a business can be.

Which way is right? Ah, the $64,000 question. I'm the mother of three children. I believe that my children benefit from my entrepreneurial career, despite the stress it can generate. For Gillian and her son, though, postponing her writing ambitions was right.

There is no shortage of advice designed to make working parents feel guilty about their choices. Too many passionate work-at-home experts advocate self-employment as nirvana for working parents. There is no nirvana. Running a business is hard. Not running one when you really want to is hard, too. Working at a company is...you guessed it hard. Taking care of children full-time or part-time is hard. So is being the hands-off, all-work parent. Make the best decision for you and your family, and let others' opinions roll off your back.


Have a question on how to handle the pressures of running a business and the impact on your personal life, marriage, and family? Contact Azriela Jaffe at AZ@azriela.com. Please put "BW Online question" in the subject field. Your real name will be kept confidential if you request, but please give an E-mail address, phone number, and your hometown so she can contact you for more information. Because of heavy volume, Azriela cannot guarantee that she will answer every query.

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