This letter is about 16 months late. My son was a few weeks old and I was drowning in the trenches. But who am I kidding? I wouldn’t have had time to write because back then I was running on 2-hour sleep shifts, breastfeeding, pumping, changing diapers, and let’s not leave out RUNNING A BUSINESS two weeks postpartum.
Now, everyone’s experience with a baby is different. There are many factors that play into our individual experiences. Like whether you have a support system: family to help, or a husband that is able to take time off work. The logistics that come with having a baby can be terrifying for entrepreneurs and business owners.
Being my own boss would allow flexibility for my family
You most likely started your business to have a flexible lifestyle and spend more time with your family, right? That’s what I did. When I decided to take the leap and grow LP Creative Co., I did it partially for the flexibility of being my own boss and setting my own schedule. Getting to do what I love was just a given. But most importantly, this was a venture that would set me up to enjoy the early years of the family my husband Dave and I would begin. I really had no idea back then that as rewarding as it is to run a business, it’s equally demanding and taxing.
Actually, It’s exhausting.
Let’s not forget to mention the stress. After all, we don’t have the luxury of a big company paying our maternity leave, or the option of using PTO. Nope. My husband and I had to save for several months in order to supplement my normal income.
The stress took over more than I’d like to admit, but I should have appreciated the fact that I had a business that enabled me to spend time with my baby.
Give yourself a break, Wonder Woman
As an entrepreneur, business is always on the brain—it’s how we’re programmed. That’s at least what I tell myself. You have responsibility twofold now—running a business and adjusting to your new role as mommy. It’s like taking care of two babies who are both crying at the same time. No big deal!
So as you are planning to start your family, or are in the thick of this crazy and beautiful experience, here are some of my thoughts and tips on balancing running a business while preparing for a baby:
1. What are you waiting for? Tell your clients
Are you struggling with the perfect time in your pregnancy to tell your clients the news that you’re expecting? Well, don’t put it off any longer!
It’s often expected to keep personal issues out of your work, and work issues out of your personal life. For the most part, this makes a lot of sense. But what about times like these when your work and personal lives intersect? In this case, I’ve learned to be honest and upfront as soon as I can. I talk about how to inform clients of maternity leave on our blog.
Don’t worry: your clients will not drop you when you tell them the news. You might be surprised at how most clients are excited by the news (even if they don’t know you that well personally). During your pregnancy, keep your lines of communication open. In addition, present a detailed plan for how you’ll be handling your leave of absence. It’s really that simple.
Your clients will appreciate your proactivity and feel secure knowing they won’t be abandoned.
2. Invest in extra support
I’m not going to pretend I had it rough. I know that I had luxuries that many don’t have. My hubby got six weeks of PAID PATERNITY! I know. Right? That’s almost unheard of. My parents live ten minutes away which allowed them to jump in and help us…a lot. I admit I had it easier than most.
But I’m not just talking about support in terms of getting help with the baby or tackling the never-ending household tasks. I’m talking about investing in support for your business while you are on leave. If you can afford to hire an assistant, even for just a few months after the baby is born, it’s a great option. I can not stress this enough: I wish I had. We’ve all heard it before—those early weeks are precious and you want to spend as much time in the moments as possible. But somehow, despite hearing it over and over, it means something different once your baby is here.
Assess what you need yourself personally for your business. Each business is different but we all have administrative tasks. You know what I’m talking about: the tasks that never end.
Hire someone locally to help you X amount of hours each week. Using a virtual assistant can shave hours from your load. You can use virtual assistants for everything from handling emails, and scheduling, to accounting and sending thank you cards to your clients. I wish I had outsourced my work, even some of it so I could worry less and enjoy my precious time with Rory more. Your undevoted time at home with your newborn is much more valuable than any project.
Find the extra help. You won’t regret it.
3. Lose the guilt; you are an amazing parent
When the day arrived for us to finally meet our little Rory Matthew, our lives changed in an instant. We were parents to the most beautiful and perfect baby boy we could have been blessed with.
The euphoria was expected, the stress of attempting to excel at both was not. Mom guilt starting to set in as I balanced both on my shoulders.
How can you possibly be the best mommy while devoting so much time to your business? Shouldn’t all of your focus be devoted to your baby? Why does everyone need me at the same?
It’s easy for us to question our abilities to parent. I still struggle with how to be good at both—succeeding in business and parenting.
Whether you work too many hours, or spend too much time away from your children is relative. But think about it: Everything we do is ultimately for them. You are doing a phenomenal job: you are balancing a baby and a business. Give yourself some credit.
4. Admit you can’t do it all
As entrepreneurs, we are excited about growing our ventures. Sometimes we focus too heavily on too many things. You are only one person and there are only so many hours in a day.
Putting in eight-hour days quickly became a thing of the past. I was now working long days and late nights in my home office. Too often I was missing out on movie night with my husband; too infrequently was I putting my feet up to enjoy a glass a wine (pre-pregnancy of course!).
I suppose I’m another statistic adding to the notion that Americans work more than anyone else in the industrialized world.
I can’t believe I actually thought that having Rory would somehow change my addiction to working. That wasn’t the case. After our son came roaring into our lives, we were both on a high. We were the happiest we’d ever been. I took the first few weeks after his birth to settle in at home with him. But shortly after that it was right back to work. Working while on my leave. Did I want to work? No. Did I have to? Yes.
But I was the owner of my business, and not being 100% involved in the work carries a degree of guilt.. I was worried the business would suffer if I wasn’t constantly dialed in. I felt obligated to make sure my clients knew I was completely focused on their business. So I always took on more than I should have. Looking back, I should have drawn a line.
Keep in mind we are always saying “no” to something when we say yes to something else, it just might not be apparent at the time. It’s important to remember to prioritize the important things.
If you expect to work on your maternity leave, set priorities. Set them for each day, each month, or the quarter. For example: only accept 1-2 new projects a month, or prioritize 1-2 tasks a day. Anything that falls outside of that, you don’t take on. Set limits and stick to them, as hard as that may seem.
If a prospect truly wants to work with you, they will wait a few more weeks until your schedule is open.
5. Finally: You work for yourself, remember?
As your own boss, having a more flexible lifestyle is what was so appealing to you in the beginning. Appreciate the fact that you are your own boss. Revel in having a job that enables you the time and flexibility to spend with your new baby. The precious time we are given is a one shot deal. We will certainly never have this time back.
Spend time staring at, playing with, and snuggling your baby. And, if possible, sleeping. This time is not meant to be spent worrying about unanswered emails, meeting requests and the what-ifs. As hard as it may seem, everything will work itself out.
If you have any of your own tips about running your business in those few weeks after having a baby comment below.