If you were to ask me what I was most nervous about going into motherhood…
It wasn’t the sleepless nights,
or the lifestyle change,
or even labor & delivery itself.
It was planning my maternity leave as an entrepreneur.
I realized that there wasn’t much information on navigating this uncharted territory. My hope is by sharing my experience, it would spark encouragement to other soon-to-be momprenuers.
As a preface, I know that every mama’s experience, situation, and baby is so unique. In this post, I’m sharing the perspective of my personal experience as a first time mom. You ultimately know what’s best for you and your family, and there is so much grace in the season you’re about to step into. So, feel free to take what resonates and ignore what doesn’t. 🙂
Before: Preparing During Pregnancy
After a rollercoaster 6 months of trying for our first baby, we finally got pregnant with our baby son! We were thrilled and felt a wave of breakthrough over countless prayers for this little one. After the initial celebration, I started planning for my maternity leave. It felt like a mountain that I had never climbed before. But it started with step one.
FINANCIALLY PLANNING FOR MY MATERNITY LEAVE
If you’re thinking about having a baby, the first thing that I would recommend is to start saving for your maternity leave. My goal was to take 2-3 months completely off of work. If you’re able, I would overestimate the time you think you need to have extra margin to work with.
I use an online business banking account called Novo. I love that I’m able to set aside reserves to build my savings towards a specific goal. Each month, I would add my business profit to my mat leave bucket. Over time, and by God’s grace, I was able to fund a 3 month maternity leave that covered all my personal, savings, business expenses, and taxes.
Not having to dip into our personal savings made taking three months off of work so much less stressful. I was able to be present with the precious moments of loving our new baby son.
In addition to your maternity leave, there’s other expenses like hospital bills and baby items. In our case, we had good health insurance from my husband’s employer. We also had a secondary insurance that literally PAID US to have a baby.🤯 Seriously, ya’ll. I was so worried around the financial aspect of having a baby. The Lord dismantled every fear, and showed up in miraculous ways to provide above and beyond our needs. So humbled and grateful. If you have a financial advisor, ask them about a secondary insurance that covers an extended hospital stay to see if something similar is available in your state.
MANAGING MY CURRENT PROJECT TIMELINES
Another factor you’ll want to plan is your current project timelines and when to stop taking on new projects. The last thing you want is trying to figure this out when you’re in labor.🙃
I had a custom brand, packaging, and website project that was going on at the time. So, I decided to split the project up completing phase 1 before mat leave and phase 2 & 3 after.
Custom projects take us around 3-4 months, and Micah’s due date was February 28th. So, I stopped taking on custom projects during December. I marketed more Brand & Web Intensives and did smaller projects from past clients.
It’s impossible to know when to stop working at the perfect time, because you never know when you’re actually going to go into labor. Make sure you have a maternity clause in your contract, and always lean more towards giving yourself margin if baby comes early. Micah came 2 weeks early, and I’m so grateful I didn’t have any active client projects at the time.
No matter what your plan is, childcare is a big factor to consider for the wellbeing of your family and business. Depending on your location, childcare can be in high demand. If you’re wanting to go that route, make sure to get on some waiting lists as soon as you’re able to.
In our situation, my husband and I both work from home, and we don’t have family that live nearby. Apart of me wanted to see if we could manage with the two of us full-time working and full-time parents. Here’s a snapshot of a day in the life! We tried that for a little while to quickly realize that it wasn’t going to be sustainable.
For example, I would start work at 9:30 am and end at 5:30 pm. An 8 hour work day and actually get on average around 3-4 semi-inturrupted work hours in.🤪 I felt like I worked all day and hardly got anything done. And I felt like I parented all day but I was wishing Micah would go to sleep the whole time. Both not ideal situations.
For us, enrolling in part-time childcare for 30 hours a week was definitely the right move. I’m so grateful to have the structure of guaranteed work time during the week that allows me to serve my clients and love my family best. Having a more routined day allows me to have the late afternoons, evenings, and weekends free, and makes balancing business and motherhood a lot more joyful and sustainable.
FINDING YOUR MOM FRIENDS
Getting connected with other momprenuers was one of the most helpful things for me. Being able to ask questions and process with others who are in the same boat is so valuable.
I’m so grateful to be apart of a group text with Motherhood by Designer. I had the privilege to walk through this journey with 2 other designers that had babies almost at the same time!
Being able to brainstorm questions around childcare, clients, and work/life balance was so helpful. Whether in person or online, find some mom friends and get the support you need.
During Maternity Leave
SOAKING IN THE NB SNUGGLES
I know that you might be thinking, “Surely I’ll have a lot of down time during mat leave to do some things for myself.”😅 I definitely had that thought going in. I was so surprised of how all consuming taking care of a newborn was! All day (and night) was full of taking care of Micah, taking care of ourselves, and managing household tasks.
For us, our parental leave was a really sweet time. We had no obligations or deadlines. We got to focus on becoming a family of three and soaking in all the newborn snuggles. For achievement driven entrepreneurs, that might be hard to imagine. But, getting to take that time off and treasure those first few months of our baby son’s life was priceless. We got to slow down and simply be. Almost like a honeymoon but as a new family.
Embrace the season for what it is, have low expectations of yourself, and understand that productivity looks like being, not doing.
ESTABLISHING YOUR BOUNDARIES
Something else to consider with your mat leave is establishing your boundaries. Are you checking email, Instagram? Taking sales calls? You’ll need to decide and communicate to your current and potential clients what they should expect as you’re taking time off.
Over my maternity leave I chose to unplug from Instagram for 6 weeks. After the initial 2 weeks, I would check my email once a day, but only responded to potential clients. I kept my Discovery Calls open to book potential clients after maternity leave and bring in some income with payment plans. I also chose to extend my Aligned Designers Mentoring Program with 2 members during my mat leave. Daily Voxer and bi-weekly Q&A calls ended up not being too much to manage and I enjoyed continuing to mentor.
On the social aspect, we had friends coming over almost daily to give us dinners that was SO helpful. We also had my mom stay with us for a week and that was a game changer. At first for me, it was great to see our friends, but only for an hour or two at a time before I felt super tired or overwhelmed. Thankfully, Micah was born in the Spring, so we tried to go on daily walks too. Again, everyone is so different, hormones are different, postpartum is different. But overall, this felt like a nice balance for us and broke up our day to do something different.
OPTIONAL INTERNAL TASKS
Prepping some optional internal tasks beforehand is also a good idea. I do want to emphasize the word optional, because the last thing you want is pressure to get things done when you’re in survival mode.
For the first 6 weeks, I was fully focused on taking care of Micah and recovering. At the 8 week mark, I was starting to feel more like myself, and Micah had started sleeping through the night!🙌 We were superrr blessed with his sleep and not all babies get to that milestone so soon.
At 2.5 months, we were in a good rhythm, and I chose to take on a small project from a past client. My mom helped take care of Micah, and it worked out pretty well as a good test drive. I felt good enough to go back to work, so Zach and I tag-teamed taking care of Micah and working during the day before he started childcare in June.
During this time, I didn’t have any active client projects. I was doing some internal tasks like marketing, updating my portfolio, onboarding new clients, refining a sustainable work/life schedule, and finishing an online course. I wanted to ease back into work rather than having the pressure to meet client deadlines with an unpredictable schedule.
After: Entering Into My New World
SCALING BACK WORKING HOURS
As I’m writing this post, Micah has been in childcare for a month. I’m still experimenting with a sustainable work schedule. At first, I was trying to fit back into my old life and quickly realized that wasn’t working. If I wanted to be healthy physically, spiritually, and mentally, working 7-8 hour days wasn’t feasible anymore.
One of my goals this year is to adjust to working 40 hours / week to 30 hours a week. It’s easier said than done, but there’s something so empowering when you simply decide to make a boundary your new normal. I’ve also learned to be more focused and efficient on the work time that I do have which makes such a difference.
Then when Micah gets home at 2:30, I have the freedom to be totally done with work and present with him. He usually takes an afternoon nap and this is when I have some quiet time and do a 20-30 minute workout.
ONBOARDING NEW CLIENTS
After coming off of 3+ months of not actively working with clients, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t overbook myself. Although it’s tempting to take on as much work as possible, I would encourage you to experiment and ease into it. You’re not entering back into your old life. You’ve now added taking care of a little one to your 24 hours, and it does change your capacity.
Being an achiever, I set big goals for myself. At times can be a good thing and at other times, I’m my own worse enemy. With becoming a new mom, I had to dial back the expectations I had on myself wayyyy down.
I’m not going to get up at 5am everyday when my baby has inconsistent sleep.
I’m not going to work 7-8 hour days and also have time with Micah, workout, quiet time, and socialize.
I’m probably not going to make as much last year as I will this year.
Everyday, I’m learning something new, and there’s so much grace for this first year. Instead of living in anxiety and disappointment, I’m choosing to lean into grace and appreciate the season for what it is.
What I Would Do Differently Next Time
“NEST” MY BUSINESS: AUTOMATE & ORGANIZE
When you’re pregnant, nesting is definitely a thing. You’re cleaning out your closets, decorating the nursery, and getting the house ready for your new little arrival.
Your business should be similar! I had this on my list of internal tasks, but I wish I would have got started on this a little sooner. I had wanted to cut out a lot of manual tasks and automate them. Since I was cutting back my hours, I needed my systems work for me, not against me. So for next time, I would make sure that I had the following tasks completed and functioning.
- Create proposals & automations in Dubsado
- Create more marketing templates
- Create nurture email workflows
- Write out & cut back SOP’s
- Refine & streamline current services
- Generate more qualified leads for sales calls by creating a welcome video
- Batch create social posts / hire a junior designer to help
- Look into paid ads.
TRUST & FAITH OVER FEAR & WORRY
Entering into maternity leave as an entrepreneur feels like an uncharted territory. Especially if this is your first baby! But, I can say with confidence that through every uncertainty, God is with you and He’ll bring you through the other side.
By trusting God through the process and releasing control, the mountain becomes a mole hill, and His hands are in every detail.
Through the past six months, we’ve seen the Lord provide in miraculous and unexpected ways. From a safe and healthy birth to providing above and beyond our needs. To providing wisdom and direction through countless decisions we made.
God’s proven Himself faithful time and time again.