How I'm Preparing for Maternity Leave
If I am being honest, the biggest stressor I have faced this entire pregnancy has been about my maternity leave. Truly, I've had more anxiety (and nightmares) about this unknown part of having a baby as a business owner than stressing about the actual childbirth process itself!
When you start a business or are self-employed, there is no maternity leave. You just have to create your own plan.
It's entirely up to you on what that will look like. Will you shut down the business in order to truly have time off? Or do you hire and train a team that can assist? Or maybe you don't take time off and just keep on working and balancing life as a new mama? Those were the questions I kept asking myself.
And there is not a lot of information out there on how to create a maternity leave when you are a small business owner. Trust me, I've checked. I watched friends that work their 9-to-5's enjoy months and months of time off to watch their baby grow and be involved in the process. It almost had me ready to get back into a more traditional job, almost.
The reality is...I love what I do.
I enjoy working and running a profitable business. My business has been my 'baby' (well, that and my dog - but let's save that for another day) for the past 5 years. I've committed myself fully to the creative lifestyle and have overcome many hurdles to accomplish things I didn't believe to be possible..like making 6+ figures annually, being able to speak at reputable events about my work, having a client roster of brands that I am excited to work with, and so much more. So, letting go is just not an option for me. Even if my family would be fine without my income. I don't know if I would be.
So, a big fat question mark has loomed over my head for the past 7 months of this pregnancy. I knew I wanted to keep my business running, but I also knew I needed time. Time to recover from childbirth. Time to connect and bond with this new baby and sort of figure out what our new 'normal' would be. And more importantly, time to enjoy motherhood. Because there are so many women that don't have that option. I am lucky. And I should remind myself that it's okay to just be a mom - even if it's just for a few weeks. But I still had to devise a plan to make all of this possible.
I honestly have no idea what I am doing or if this will work for me. I guess we'll just have to wing it now and hope for the best, but I thought it might be helpful to someone else to at least share what I am going to try...at least for now.
My Maternity Plan
Saying 'No': The first step in getting ready for a maternity leave was learning to say 'no.' Especially to those extra opportunities - speaking engagements, events, etc. that I have done in the past, but do not need to do for my business. I've also had to turn away projects and work that didn't align with the timing. I didn't feel confident in bringing on new business when I would be on maternity leave. That was a hard decision, but the right one for me to make. I think having a baby is a great opportunity to get really clear on your goals and only saying 'yes' to the things that you really want. Even if that does mean cutting back a little and turning away opportunities in the beginning. If it's not a 'heck-yes', it's not happening.
Outsource: I don't think it would be possible to do-it-all without some help. We need to just get over that idea. So, I have enlisted a few contractors and people on my team that will make sure the work gets done while I have some time to completely disconnect from email and social media. In order to outsource, you must be financially prepared to set aside some money for your maternity leave. This means, saving each month during pregnancy or putting aside a fund, so that paying someone else to do the work you normally do doesn't feel scary. It also means planning ahead. Training cannot happen over night. I've learned that people cannot always read your mind or know exactly what to do the first time. So, I decided to bring on help a few months before the baby's due date so that the new team could be fully trained and educated when that time comes.
Systems: Not only does training need to take place, but you have to have systems for your business so that if/when someone takes over your work, everything is clearly defined and systems are ready to go. I spent a lot of time mapping out how I do my work (from the little things to big projects) in Google Docs so that anyone with access would be aware. From the login info for social media accounts to how to find photos for clients. I know some that use video screen recording programs, like Zoom, to also do this. I prefer to write, so that's what worked best for me. Bonus: it feels good to have all of those day-to-day systems mapped out!
Scheduling: In addition to handing over some of my work, I've been working on scheduling out some of my tasks, so that they are set on autopilot. Monthly emails, social media posts and email campaigns can all be easily scheduled...as long as you have the information needed ahead of time. Programs like Planoly (Instagram), Boomerang (Gmail) and Mailchimp (email) all make this possible. Even little things like bills can be set on autopilot. The more that is scheduled the better. Because pregnancy brain is real, but I've heard that new-mom-haven't-slept-brain is 10x worse! Scheduling has been a big motivator to work ahead and ask my clients about what the upcoming months would look like in more detail than our usual planning sessions.
Expectations: I've been really upfront with my clients and team that I need at least 3-4 weeks of silence once baby is here. Meaning, please don't contact me unless it's an emergency! I might have time and hop on social media or check emails, but I won't plan to work during this timeframe. And I want to be clear that everyone is on board with that. So far, so good. In addition to clear expectations for myself, I also have made clear expectations for anyone else helping me during this time. Again, the more info the better so that there is no confusion on what needs to be done. For example: how long will I be outsourcing work to them and what requirements do I expect to be met during that timeframe.
Reality: I'm not sure what the reality will look like for my maternity leave. While I expect 3-4 weeks of absolutely no work and silence from clients, I am not sure what will happen. From there, my plan is to ease back into work based on how I feel and what baby needs. The good thing is that with this plan and working ahead, I feel somewhat confident that I can be productive in a shorter amount of time if needed. Starting with a few hours and gradually getting back to a normal pace. I am really going to rely on my gut and motherly instincts to guide this part of the process! We shall see...
Future: I will be enlisting in childcare (nanny) 2x pre week once the baby is ready (hopefully by 4 months) and we already have daycare lined up at my husband's work once baby is around 12-months. So, the first year will be a bit of a juggle. But I am ready for this to be my new reality.