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Finding a Balance

You want to start a business, but you're not sure how to do it while raising a family. We'll help you juggle both responsibilities.

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Q: I'm a mother of two young children. I don't want to work for others for the rest of my life and miss out on my family's life experiences because a boss needs me every single minute of the day. I want to be my own boss, work hard in the beginning and get things under control and then, after a few years, set aside more time for my own children. How do I balance the initial hard work and my family in the beginning? I would hate to miss out on the good things.

A: This question can be tough to answer because it requires some hard thinking on your part. It's also going to require some commitment from your family, whether that means a significant other or another family member, because you're probably going to need their support both logistically and for morale.

I can empathize with your desire to spend the most time you can with your children while they're young--major developmental steps occur at such a fast rate, and strong parenting skills lay a good foundation for the older years ahead.

For your strategy to work, you're going to need effective planning skills. For example, income can take quite a tumble when you jump from being a corporate employee to new business owner unless you've planned ahead. By thinking carefully about what kind of business you want to start, evaluating your own skills and looking at different ways to approach the whole thing, it might seem a little less overwhelming.

One option is to start freelancing your business skills while you're working at your current position until you feel you have enough clients, business acumen or money to make that jump into the entrepreneurial world. I'm not suggesting abusing your time or resources at your day job, but perhaps thinking about what needs to be done during a lunch hour would help you feel as though you're doing something to pave the way to independence. Even five minutes a day can help you move toward your goal.

You mentioned that you recognize the early days of being your own boss involve long hours. Setting some boundaries for yourself in terms of when and how long you'll work will help you meet your original goal of spending more time with your kids. One way to manage time is to stay fairly firm as to when you will have meetings or conferences (for example, scheduling phone calls around nap times or pre-arranging daycare).

Another way could be to meet with other entrepreneurs who are also parents and ask them how they handle the dual responsibilities. Perhaps they have some ideas you and I haven't thought of, which may be just the ones you're searching for. Start networking with local entrepreneurs in your industry for online entrepreneur groups or industry groups.

One important step is to convince your support network (your spouse, significant other or whoever) that there will be times when you'll need their help and cooperation, whether for babysitting or a shoulder to cry on. Isolation can be a big burden for new entrepreneurs, and it helps to keep loved ones around for support.

Elizabeth Inskip-Paulk has worked in the field of stress management and other health-related fields for more than seven years in both the public and the private sectors. She has a master's degree in English and has been freelance writing in her spare time for a number of years, which involves a significant amount of personal balancing.