This time 8 years ago I was enjoying my maternity leave, I was staying at home with baby Declan. We would very often have lots of new baby snuggles, nap together, go out visiting family and have lots of fun time in local mother and toddler groups. I didn’t once think about my day job until it was almost time to return to work.
This time 3 years ago I was dreading my maternity leave. Isla was due on the 10th April and I had 5 VAT returns to do for that month… I worked right up until my due date and managed to get them all done in record breaking time. I took 2 weeks off from work after giving birth (which also happened to be Easter holidays for Declan). As soon as it was back to school, it was back to work, service resumed as normal. I missed out on a lot and I sometimes wonder if I made the right choices.
Long ago, when you imagined maternity leave, you probably thought of long walks with the pram and days filled with endless baby cuddles. Although there can still be these moments, if you plan on keeping your business running while you are on maternity leave then the reality might be quite different.
In 2016 a study revealed that 2,319 pregnant mothers in the UK (1 in 6), planned on starting a business on maternity leave that’s not to mention the millions already in business that need to keep them running. So with so many of us juggling babies and entrepreneurism how do we avoid burn out?
1. Ask for help
Sometimes you just have to swallow some pride and accept that you can’t do everything; it’s not physically possible.
As women it is common to try to do everything ourselves, we don’t want to look like failures; we want people to think we have everything together and we want to convince ourselves the same thing. The reluctance to ask for help is also guided by the misguided concept that we are the only ones who can do a job properly (OK, in some cases this is true)!
Learning to ask for help isn’t a weakness though; it’s a sign of strength. There are simple things that others can do that can make a real difference to your day to day life. A little support with housework, childcare or the school run can go a long way.
The time you save can be put into your business or used as quality time with your new-born (or to sleep).
It’s not just the duties in the house that you can get help with. There might be some elements of your business that can be run just as effectively by hiring a freelancer.
Before you decide what to outsource, look carefully at your business and what processes are essential to keep it going. For example, this could be social media management, accounts or blogging. You may only chose to do this in the early days before you feel ready to take them on yourself again, alternatively you may choose to continue to outsource the jobs you don’t enjoy doing so you can focus on other things like business growth and family.
3. Be visible
Being visible is a key element to any marketing plan. If you disappear for 6 months then people will forget you are there.
There are lots of ways to keep your business out of the shadows. Networking is a great way to show you are still in business and to nurture relationships, if you can’t get child care there are even child friendly groups that are run across the UK. There are also lots of opportunities to network online where you can show up in your PJ’s and no-one knows.
A consistent but realistic blogging and social media plan will also keep you visible to your ideal client.
4. Go with the flow
Sometimes babies won’t nap when we expect them to. They get ill, they cry, they throw laptops on the floor (true story), if you put pressure on yourself to make everything perfect you are only setting yourself up to fail. It is also worth remembering that there will be times when your baby sleeps longer than you expect and other times when they are happy and playing independently.
Giving yourself permission to go with the flow, means that you can take advantage of these miracle moments and not feel regretful when things don’t go to plan.
5. Pace yourself
You might be super woman, but you are still only human. Juggling a new-born and a business is not an easy task and you must remember to give yourself credit for what you are achieving on a daily basis. Even if you just do one job a day, you are still running your business. If you push yourself too hard, you will struggle to maintain the pace. If you feel you need a rest take it, if you want to go to the park instead of doing invoices, do it.
The first year of your baby’s life will soon be gone and so take care to manage the balance so that you don’t miss out (and you give yourself time to sleep).
6. Manage your money
It is likely that whether you receive some form of maternity pay or not, your income will take a hit as your business takes a back seat.
It is for this reason that self-employed mothers don’t really stop working at all or at least not for very long. This cut in monthly income at the same time as a new baby comes into your life can quickly lead to money worries.
In preparation look at money saving strategies such as changing utility providers or cancelling direct debits you no longer need. You will have enough on your plate with a new baby keeping you up at night; you don’t need money issues as well.
Are you expecting your first baby and wondering how to juggle your business and baby life? Or are you experiencing maternity in a different way like myself when I had Isla? Perhaps you’ve nailed running a business whilst on maternity…
Either way we’d love to hear from you. Please leave your stories in the comments below!!