A couple weeks after my second baby arrived, I posted this picture on Instagram and quickly received likes and comments from many mom business owners who could relate.
Like many mompreneurs, I didn't enjoy a traditional maternity leave with either of my girls. But for me, responding to a few e-mails from the hospital bed and throughout those first few weeks was a small price to pay to enjoy the flexibility that being a business owner has provided.
Now my daughter is 5 months old, and I've survived my second round of juggling a new baby while running a profitable business. I felt a bit more prepared this time around, thanks to lessons learned the first time—plus some extra prep.
Whether you're getting ready for your first baby or preparing for a second or third (any more than that, and I'm quite unqualified to offer advice), here are my tips to planning for a maternity leave as a business owner.
Develop the right mindset.
As mompreneurs, we need to accept that we'll probably never have a traditional maternity leave. I know you're probably thinking, "But ... I have all this flexibility as a business owner!" Flexibility is one of those amazing perks of running our own businesses, but it doesn't come without sacrifices.
Trust me, there will be lovely, superhero mornings when you're rocking your newborn in one arm while typing away with the other. And then there will be those days you have to find a babysitter, take a shower, throw on something other than yoga pants and have a pep in your step for a last minute client meeting ... with absolutely zero energy.
The reality is, no matter how much you prepare yourself for motherhood—reading all of the books and blogs, delegating and prepping—every day is different. That's why it's so important to embrace that you won't be able to completely unplug from work.
Seriously, just be OK with it! Some people will think you're crazy for doing a little work or checking in on your business so soon after having a baby. And that's OK. Not everyone is cut out for being a mompreneur. But you are. And you'll probably find yourself less stressed and enjoy more peace of mind if you do a little work and know everything is going well with your business.
I no longer feel guilty admitting that I actually enjoyed a little alone time, sipping coffee and answering e-mails in those early weeks.
Build a support system in advance.
Every mom—whether you run a business or not—needs to remember that we simply can't do it all, even though it feels like we can.
Having a baby makes you realize just how much you're capable of. Before you know it, you'll be running your business, managing multiple projects and caring for your newborn—all on just a couple hours of sleep!
And sure, you can get by like this for a while, but not forever. So before you run yourself down and suffer from burnout or worse—a major illness—plan to lean on your employees, family and friends during maternity leave.
If you're currently a one-woman show, consider hiring a virtual assistant or part-time contractor who can provide support while you're on maternity leave. It's worth the investment!
And be sure to set expectations with your husband about what your schedules will look like once a baby is in the mix. What happens if there's a work crisis, or if your nanny is sick? Having a game plan will make the entire transition so much smoother.
Also, don't forget about making some time for yourself! Being at home with a new baby is exhausting—even more so while worrying about work or juggling some side projects. Schedule a recurring girls night once every couple of weeks, or treat yourself to a recurring spa day and get it on your calendar!
Automate and delegate—at work and at home!
I'm a huge fan of automating and delegating as much as possible, even at home, so my free time can be spent enjoying my family—not cleaning the bathrooms or running endless errands.
Some of the personal things I delegate include house cleaning, lawn care and some grocery shopping.
My delegation goals include a chef to prepare meals for the week and a personal laundry service.
And if there's one thing you can count on, it's that your inbox is going to keep filling up. So take it a step further and really take control of your e-mail. Setting up automatic replies and drafting canned responses to your most frequent e-mails will save you so much time!
Set expectations for your clients.
A couple months before your due date, make sure to tell your clients that you plan to take some time for a maternity leave. In my experience, a client will know you are pregnant but won't really understand what that means for your workload and availability. Let them know what to expect and who they should reach out to should they need something when you're not available. I did this by copying a team member on all important e-mails in those last few weeks before my due date, so she and the client were looped in on all details of a project.
It's also important to set boundaries for your clients. Make it clear when you'll be available and try to get clients comfortable with Skype, phone calls and e-mail as much as possible before the baby arrives. Then it won't feel like such a big transition.
While it might not be possible to totally check out during your maternity leave, a little prep, setting up systems and getting your team—both at work and at home—on board in advance will help to make the transition to the fourth trimester as smooth as possible. And the next time you're wishing you could completely unplug from work, think of how great it'll feel to not have to leave your sweet babe for the 8 to 5 grind!
How are you preparing for motherhood? Help lift the mompreneur tide and share in the comments below your best tips to make the transition into maternity leave easier!
Emily Richett is a mom, publicist and the owner of Richett Media, a boutique public relations firm in Grand Rapids. You can connect with her at emilyrichett.com, where she offers publicity coaching and writes about business, motherhood and life.