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Should I Get a Job, or Continue to Work from Home with My Kids?

© 1999, by Azriela Jaffe

Experts say that the most vulnerable time in a marriage is years 5-7, when the romance has generally faded and the couple is immersed in the power struggles that emerge in every marriage. With hard work and commitment, that couple can work through the disenchantment and anger of these times and create a more lasting, and ultimately satisfying, love. It is no coincidence that your marriage is more vulnerable to an affair during this period of time. Just when you have come to loathe the idiosyncracies of your spouse, you meet up with someone who seems to have none of these annoying habits -- the grass starts looking greener somewhere else.

Business owners go through cycles in their business, too. After several years of working hard at the business, if you haven't achieved your financial goals, if the work has become boring and routine, if you are tired of customer complaints, long hours, working from home, or whatever dissatisfactions your business holds, you may start feeling the itch to look elsewhere. That's normal, and may even be good for your business. As you'll see from the following story, leaving your business for a period of time may rejuvenate you, much as a separation in a marriage can reignite the love that was forgotten.

Karen is a Lancaster, PA business owner who spoke candidly with me about this issue, but asked for anonymity. She has been running her own business from home for seven years while raising her daughters, now pre-teens. I met Karen because my family is a consumer of the product she sells. During our most recent conversation, she acknowledged a major shift in her business in the last year that arose, ironically, out of her decision to stop working the business. Karen shares:

"When I first started using the products (that she sells), I never intended to do it as a business. Two years after taking the products, I decided to do it as a business part-time, as a way for me to pay for my own product. As the business started to grow, I realized it was a way for me to stay home with the kids as they grew up, instead of looking elsewhere for a job. I loved the business for several years, but then I lost my passion for it. I thought people in my organization weren't listening to me the way they used to and I became very frustrated. After thirteen years of being home with my kids, I was tired of working from home. I felt a need to dress up, interview, talk to people and see what is going on in the workplace.

I put together a resume, which honestly looked pretty chatty and funny, and I went on several job interviews with personnel agencies and companies. I told my organization of 100 people that I would be leaving the business for awhile, though I'd still be using the products as a consumer. I got rid of all my business materials. It was a complete break for me.

I quickly found out that I wasn't qualified for a lot of jobs. What I love most is sales and marketing but every sales job I interviewed for involved a lot of travel. I was used to being available every day for my kids when they returned home from school, and getting them ready for school in the morning. I wasn't sure that they, or I, was ready for me to be gone for full days.

The more I went on job interviews, the better my business started to look. In my own business, I can work without any time constraints on where I have to be at any set time. I choose when I meet with people and when I call them on the phone based on the kids' schedules. I didn't want to miss waiting at the corner when school gets out for my youngest daughter. I wanted to be home for my eighth grader when she comes home from school, even if she's only home for ten minutes. The six dollar an hour jobs I could find weren't worth the sacrifice of not being with my kids. The sales commission positions I could take involved travel, which not only would take me away from home too much, but would necessitate us buying me a car. (Right now we manage fine with one car because my husband is self-employed and can walk to his office).

After being away from the business for about six months, I started looking at my business with new eyes. Suddenly it looked great to me. I realized that I could create what I wanted, and that all along the only thing stopping me was me. It may not have health insurance or a weekly salary, but what it does have are the choices I need to be able to work and take care of my family. At the same time, my husband's business started generating more income, which took away some of the pressure I was feeling to get a job. I went back to my business and started growing it again with renewed passion."

Nothing changed about Karen's business while she was gone. The love for her business was reignited by stepping away and realizing the benefits she had come to take for granted. She needed to look elsewhere in order to fall in love with her business once again.

If you find yourself in a rut, or if your business is making you feel grouchy on a daily basis, it may behoove you to put some distance between you and your business for a period of time. Take a part-time job or work on a temporary assignment. Taking a break will either confirm for you that it's time to move on to something new, or it might, like Karen, remind you that the grass is actually greenest in your own backyard.

Azriela Jaffe is the founder of "Anchored Dreams", and author of "Honey, I Want to Start my Own Business, A Planning Guide for Couples" ( Harper Business 1996), and "Let's Go Into Business Together, Eight Secrets for Successful Business Partnering" (Avon Books 1998) and Starting from No: Ten Strategies to Overcome Your Fear of Rejection and Suceed in Business. (Dearborn 1999). For a free online newsletter for entrepreneurial couples, or for information about her syndicated column, "Advice from A-Z", email . Questions and reader response can be emailed, or write to: PO Box 209, Bausman, PA 17504.

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