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AZRIELA JAFFE

10.6.99  
Which Comes First: New Baby or New Company?
Starting a business won't relieve you of work/family challenges

Here's a question from a reader that sums up the quandaries women face these days:

"I'm 27, and have five years of experience in marketing in the information technology industry. I'm recently married and am planning a family. I'm also thinking of starting my own marketing consultancy firm. Should I start the business now or get a corporate job with a steady income job first? Should I wait till my child is born before I start my business?"

There are no rules for juggling jobs, business startups, pregnancy, and raising children. You can plan all you want. It might take you two years or two months to get pregnant. And each option has its pros and cons. What works will depend on your stamina, health, and finances.

Let's say you get a corporate job and then get pregnant. If you have the stamina and your pregnancy is easy, that can be a good time to prepare for starting a business. You'll have paid maternity leave, health insurance, sick days, and long-term disability if your pregnancy is not a smooth one. You may also be able to save some seed money for your business.

When I was pregnant with my first baby, Sarah, I worked nights and weekends to get a book contract so that I could quit my full-time job as a human-resources director and become an author and columnist. During my maternity leave, I worked feverishly on my first book. I returned to work for three months and then resigned to devote myself full-time to my new business.

There are also advantages to launching your business before you have the distractions of an infant in the house. A new business is all-consuming -- so is a new baby. When the baby comes along, your company will be up and running. As your own boss, you'll have more control over your schedule than if you worked for a company.

With babies No. 2 and 3, I was self-employed -- and did I appreciate being able to take a nap in the middle of the afternoon! The flexibility was especially helpful as I neared the end of my pregnancies. Three days after giving birth, I was back at the computer working.

A key question is: Do you want to start a business only because you think it will be more convenient than working for someone else once you're a parent? If you're not cut out for self-employment -- or not ready for it now -- it will be a struggle. It takes capital, courage, and contacts to make a business fly.

Whatever path you choose, you will always be searching for better ways to balance work and family. Self-employment is no holiday from stress. You can make any of the options you're considering work. Follow your gut.


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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