As a business owner, the idea of maternity leave is a tricky situation. Finding the balance between work and family, that unending internal battle that we all struggle with, becomes even more of a puzzle now that your family is growing. Taking a true break from work when your company depends on you is likely not an option; read on to see choices I have made and decisions I have struggled with in this new chapter of life.
First of all, having the option and ability to work from home is such a blessing and not one that I take for granted. The idea has always been that I will continue to work from home, running this web design business, and also staying at home with our children as they grow up. With the birth of our first son in April, I have implemented a few changes in my routine to accommodate both work and family.
Plan Ahead In the middle of my pregnancy, I took advantage of my high energy levels and worked overtime. Having the opportunity to get more work done than usual made me feel a lot better about taking some time off later. Financially the company had our best few months ever during this time, which means I had a nice cushion going into April and May when the baby was taking up the majority of my time. Knowing that I could continue to draw a paycheck for many months without any additional income was a relief, and worth the extra effort that I put in ahead of time.
Be Flexible Newborns run on their own schedule, and no amount of effort on your part is going to successfully change that. While we have gotten into a decent routine, there is no telling what time the baby will be feeding or napping each day. I take advantage of every free moment to get even little tasks done. Replying to emails on my phone while holding the baby, making quick updates for clients during nap time, etc. have all been crucial to my continued productivity. I made the mistake early on of thinking that I knew when he would be awake or asleep, but banking on that only left me frazzled when I was wrong.
Rely on Others My husband works nearby and is an equal partner in raising our kids. I try to squeeze in a bit of work during “normal” business hours, but when he gets home it is his time with our son while I catch up in the office. During these first weeks of Isaac’s life, Adam has been able to work part time at home. This has been a HUGE help in the transition to a family of three. His job allows him to be flexible, and he has used saved up vacation time to spend more time at home. Whether he is taking care of Isaac so that I can catch up on sleep/work/everything or getting things done around the house while I have the baby, he is a huge help. We had other family, my mom and sister, visit and help out for a few days as well. But even once you’re past those first few big adjustment days, it is not easy to find time for everything in the day. Use others to free up some of your time for work priorities.
Be Realistic During the last weeks of my pregnancy, I was very aware of my schedule and work-load. I was careful to coordinate projects so that they would either be done by the time the baby arrived, or could be put on hold for a few weeks at that time. In these first few weeks I have not been taking on new projects, making current clients the priority instead. This ensures that existing sites continue to run smoothly and are up-to-date, without overwhelming my limited time in the office. Now that I have my energy back and am able to get more done, I am talking with potential clients about new projects. I am aware, however, that my availability will not be what it was. Timelines for projects are longer than before, giving me more time to get my work done and avoiding a decrease in quality due to time constraints.
Those are my tips for life (and work!) after baby. Any other working parents out there with some advice to share?