When I started my business two years ago, I also had plans to start a family.
I didn’t think too much into “how” I would execute those two things, because I first had to focus on gathering up the courage to leave a steady 9-5 and pursue a type of work-life balance that I found fulfilling. [For every small business owner out there, I hear you chuckling over the word “balance.” We all know we’ve never worked so hard in our life.]
So, when we joyfully learned I was pregnant this spring, one of the first questions I started getting from family and friends was “what are you going to do about work?”
To which I responded, “ummmm – I haven’t figured that out yet.”
While the current state of maternity leave in our country is dismal – when you’re self-employed, its nonexistent.
Moreover, if you live in a major metropolitan area like I do, the cost of childcare alone is unspeakable, driving countless editorials over the past few years asking what the incentive is to keep women in the workforce.
I, like many women, did want to continue working – but knew that “work” would now take on many different forms – and not all in front of the computer screen.
I also didn’t have a company-approved plan to follow (or modify) as I saw fit. I had to make one up from scratch.
Now, let’s be clear – I am not the first, nor I will be the last small business owner to have a child. But, I’ve got to tell you, I had a hard time finding information online to help guide my decision making process.
So, over the past few months – with plenty of advice from family, friends and other consultants – I’ve developed my own set of rules for maternity leave for the self-employed.
Here’s what I’m doing:
I’m approaching the upcoming arrival of my child as exactly what it should be: the biggest gift I’ve yet to receive; and NOT a source of stress for my business. In my opinion, you don’t want to be working with any clients who make you feel differently. Of course, having a child would be an easy way to sever those ties, if needed. [Note: this, luckily, did not happen to me]
Taking eight weeks off, no exceptions.
I’ve heard you don’t even feel human for the first few weeks after delivery – and I can’t imagine prolonged sleep deprivation alongside the enormous responsibility of upgrading from raising a puppy to raising a human does you any favors. If anything, eight weeks seemed like a compromise to me – just enough time to get my bearings.
Lining up subcontractors.
This is hardly a new idea, but it doesn’t hurt to find and catalogue a list of people you could turn your work over to well in advance. I’ll be utilizing this resource on a client-by-client basis because I believe that offering short-term replacements helps both of us. You should consider also keeping the contract as-is for even easier processing, and also maintaining a small percentage of the revenue stream coming to you – (you are, of course, handing someone else your hard-earned work).
This is a no-brainer. If you think of maternity as unemployment, which it technically is, how much do you need to save to live comfortably? If I’m taking off two months, I’m going to actually budget for three. Who knows if the baby will come early, or I’ll need more time. The only constant is change.
Pre-Planning My Branding Efforts
When you work for yourself – leaving a two-month gap of no communication with your community doesn’t really seem like the right way to maintain a strong business. That’s why I’m working hard to pre-plan and schedule things like blogs and Twitter posts now while I have the energy. That means that I’ll need to log-onto my computer only once a week to do a quick re-read and press “send.”
For as much as I’ve planned, I expect things to go a bit sideways. Regardless, I’m keeping myself busy and my sanity in check by following these principles as I anticipate my newest promotion: mom.