Parenting while self-employed comes with its own set of challenges


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For April and Darrin Morey, every day is "take your kid to work day."

In 2011, their Raleigh, N.C.-area homemade cookie business, The Cookie People -- their 4-year-old baby -- had never been busier. More customers meant more hours in the kitchen, more trips to the store and more time spent managing operations.

Then the Moreys learned they had another baby on the way.

On Aug. 31, 2012, the challenge of raising both a small child and a small business began. Two days after their new son, Mason, was born, the Moreys were back in the kitchen with the infant by their side.

"Those first few months were definitely the hardest," Ms. Morey said. "Sometimes I look back, and I don't know how we did it."

The Moreys joined the ranks of entrepreneurs trying to meet the demands of both their businesses and their children.

Many entrepreneurial parents find it easier to manage their family life outside of the corporate realm. The hours of a small-business owner are generally more flexible than those of a nine-to-five employee. But most have found that parenting while self-employed comes with its own set of challenges.

Jennifer Martin, executive director of the Greater Raleigh Merchants Association, a nonprofit that helps connect business with the community, estimated more than 70 percent of the organization's 318 members have children younger than 13.

"A lot of people have left the corporate world out of necessity or because of the economy," Ms. Martin said. "Many had children and needed a schedule that worked more with them."

Nine-month-old Mason Morey watches his parents bake thousands of cookies each week and is familiar with the three farmers' markets they frequent.

But the Moreys' work schedule falls second to their son's napping and eating schedule. His needs dictate how much time they can spend at the markets, so they use a small team to help manage sales, baking and other tasks. Ben, Ms. Morey's 17-year-old son from her first marriage, often helps transport inventory and break down the tent when the markets close.

The help makes it easier, but it's still not easy. Their baby needs constant love and attention, and so does the business, which -- like Mason -- gets bigger every year.

"This takes multitasking to a whole new level," Ms. Morey said. "It used to be Wednesday that we would start getting ready for the weekend markets, but now it's seven days a week. It's constant shopping, baking and cleaning, and only now and then do we get half a Monday to not think about the business."

It's a mindset J.P. and Amy Phinney, the owners of Unleashed, a Raleigh dog and cat product store, know all too well. They were forced to become expert multitaskers 18 months ago when Walter, their first child, was born. At the time, they were in the process of opening their third store.

"Walter is with us all the time," Mr. Phinney said. "He goes where we go. If we have to go to work, he comes with us there. We got a lot of use out of that chest carrier when he was born. We got some fun pictures of him strapped to my chest as we were preparing the new store."

It's easy for the Phinneys to keep Walter in tow -- when he's awake. When he's asleep, he becomes an anchor.

"The lack of mobility is a big challenge," Mr. Phinney said. "Before we had Walter, we could be anywhere in an instant. If there was a problem at one of the stores, one of us could just jump in the car and go. With a newborn, it takes seven times as long, or it's just not possible. Nap time rules all."

Now, the Phinneys are gearing up to do it all over again. They recently opened their fourth store, and Amy Phinney is just over three months pregnant.

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