“If you do what you love, be prepared to work 5 times as hard for the privilege,” a wise soul once said. But having a baby presents practical constraints that even an inspirational quote cannot overcome. I should know. I’m writing this with a 9-day-old baby asleep next to me!
So we spoke to some successful entrepreneurs to hear how they managed the transition into maternity leave.
Rachel, founder of Koru Kids, nanny share specialist. Ex-CEO of DrTom.com.
Rachel took her maternity leave from DrTom.com while she was CEO of the business. Her method was to plan very carefully, just as soon as she got pregnant. She hired a strong management team to support the business and ensured she was open and transparent with them so they understood everything that was going on in the business. She told the team to call any time while she was off. No-one needed to call however.
Rachel worked up until the day before the birth. Then, for childcare, she used a childminder early on and was back to work in week 7. Once she went back to work, she continued breastfeeding, pumping wherever she could to ensure her baby continued to breastfeed. She was pumping at work, at home, even in toilets at industry conferences.
In terms of maternity leave, Rachel’s advice is that planning is key, as is getting the support of a team.
Lizzie Philips. Runs coaching company Cavara training, and Women in Business Network London branch.
Lizzie finished her maternity leave last December. At week 28 of her pregnancy, she felt pains that she thought were contractions. Although they stopped, they were a signal to her that she needed to think about what to do about her maternity leave. So she found a virtual assistant, and someone to chair her Women in Business meetings on her behalf for 3 months. She found building up support around her was the most important thing.
Once on maternity leave, she did not work for 3 months, and found that business suffered as no-one was driving the marketing forward. At times Lizzie worried that everything would fall apart, but it didn’t, and once she was back working on her business, things picked up again.
And now she looks to fit her work around her son. For Lizzie, the most important obstacle to overcome was to not feel guilty about working. She was worried she’d miss things with her little one. Sometimes she turned to her partner for, particularly emotional, support – both for the business and for the child.
And now she really enjoys having her business as “her thing”.
Lizzie’s top tips:
- Accept that your business may change during maternity leave, e.g. her business was 80% training and 20% networking management, whereas now it’s the other way round.
- Have work emails on a separate device so that you don’t get distracted during the day.
- Allocate money to admin. Outsource the things that you don’t have time for.
The flexible approach
Katie Isherwood, Director of Hid-In, which designs and develops a range of accessories for insulin pumps and technology.
Katie is due to go on maternity leave shortly.
The majority of her freelance work is as a designer and trend director for a company based in Hong Kong and China, so she is taking the standard 12-week maternity leave but remaining “in contact”.
She also runs her own business (www.hid-in.com) and plans to take a similar amount of time off from that and see how things go. Katie has found it difficult to predict how being a mother will impact on her ability to run her businesses and how much time she will have available for working.
For the freelance work, she has already ceased travel to Asia to present trends for the last 2 trips. Instead she prepared boards here and briefed the team there to present. She says it has actually been a great chance for them to take the lead.
For Hid-In, she’s arranged for a freelancer friend to “babysit” the day-to-day running of the business, such as receiving and sending orders. She is also her web designer so is a perfect fit, as she understands the business.
She has prepared a lot of Facebook post drafts and is in the process of scheduling them to cover the next couple of months. She has also ordered extra stock to cover the period.
Katie has also arranged for a family member to travel to London a couple of days a week once the baby has arrived to help with childcare so she can ease back into work.
As the main breadwinner and a freelancer, Katie’s main challenge is working out how much maternity leave she can afford to take. She also feels it is impossible to plan for the unknown! She is thrilled about her new arrival, but has no idea how she will balance these different lives, so she’s really pleased that there is some flexibility in her working life to see how things go…