I'm pleased to let you know that my baby boy, Rowan, was born on December 2nd 2017. I found out I was pregnant back in April 2017, and I started planning my maternity leave soon afterwards. Now that I'm 5 months into having a baby, I'm so grateful I took that time. I can now also look back and see what worked, and can share with you how I got through pregnancy (which I personally didn't find easy). It's a bit of a long one, but I hope it helps. Let's dive in!
Note before we dive in – I want to acknowledge the fact that everyone experiences pregnancy differently. I didn't find pregnancy easy, but it was smooth in terms of mine and my baby's health. Some may find it easier, some may find it harder – physically or mentally. And please don't judge yourself too harshly if you don't get as much done as I did – we all have our own experience and you really need to be kind to yourself during this time x
1) Plan As Early As Possible
If you can, start planning before you ever even start trying for a baby (if you haven’t – don’t panic! Just skip ahead to the other points) I always had in the back of my head that I’d like the business to work with me for a baby, but I didn’t make any specific plans around it. I also never really had any idea what it would be like to be pregnant, so there’s only so much I could’ve planned for anyway!
If I were to go back to before I fell pregnant, I would’ve done a bit more reading around things. I’d already listened to a few podcast episodes and read a few blogs about how people managed their business and baby at the same time (I have some useful links for you later in this post), but I didn’t really think through the pregnancy phase and how all the symptoms would affect the way I worked.
2) Take Action As Soon as You Find Out You’re Pregnant
When I found out I was pregnant I gave myself a week for it to really sink in – it definitely didn’t feel real and it was hard to focus much on my work. After that, though, I busted out the spreadsheets. Part of me wondered if it was too early to already be planning for my maternity leave (I was only about 5 weeks pregnant at the time so there’s always the worry that anything could go wrong), but looking back I’m so thankful I did this. Why? Because it wouldn’t be long before I was feeling very sick, tired and unable to think straight (see below).
I basically planned in extra work to allow myself to get ahead of myself/ finish up on certain projects by my due date (ideally a few weeks before that date). Planning so early meant I didn’t have to pile on too much extra work, and also meant I could re-jig non-essential work to give myself more flexibility. It also meant I had something concrete to follow when my brain wasn’t quite functioning straight during that very nauseous first trimester!
3) Be Mindful of How You Feel (and Could Feel Throughout)
If you’re not yet pregnant, or you’ve only just found out, don’t worry but be aware that you could feel very sick or mentally foggy. Since about 5 weeks of pregnancy, I started to get food aversions, nausea and fatigue that got worse very quickly and lasted for a long time. I found the relentless, all day nausea hard to deal with mentally, and am not ashamed to admit I took lots of days off on my laptop lying in bed. Of course, you won’t have that luxury if it’s your second baby, but give yourself that time if you can. Get some work done, get lots of rest and do whatever it takes to take your mind off the nausea.
Those symptoms didn’t completely go away for me in the second trimester (as they do for many women), but they did get much more manageable and easier to work through. Every woman experiences pregnancy differently, though. I found it very hard and not too enjoyable for most of the time (though I was very grateful to be pregnant!) but lots of women I spoke to said they breezed through. So, unfortunately, you just have to wait and see. Usually, though, the first trimester really is the hardest, so you may need to make allowances for getting less done than usual.
The third trimester is the most taxing, physically, so know that you may also find it difficult sitting at a desk. Personally, I also found that my mind really just wanted to focus on my baby towards the end of my pregnancy, and I felt frustrated that I still had so much work to catch up on. Planning ahead means you can set up systems and funnels (see below), or possibly reduce your workload to get you through. The good news is that being an entrepreneur means you can be flexible and plan your schedule around how you end up feeling!
4) Decide How Long You Want to Take off for Maternity Leave (+ Understand Legal Entitlements to Pay)
I think it’s a good idea to start considering your period of maternity leave as soon as you find out you’re pregnant – that way you can plan in advance as mentioned above. You can always change your mind, but it’s a good idea to have a basic timeframe in mind. My plan was to take at least 3 months off (later I was able to stretch to 4) and then see how I felt after that.
Of course, the amount of maternity leave you take will depend on your finances. Here in the UK, sole traders and limited company directors can get maternity pay from the government, but it is of course usually a smaller amount than what you would have been earning. You also need to consider the fact that you won’t be able to work on your business while on leave (apart from a few “keeping in touch” days), so this was definitely a concern for me. Since my husband and I are both directors of my limited company we decided to split the leave between both of us (thanks to new shared parental leave laws) so that one of us can be free to check in on the business while the other is officially on leave. My accountant was very helpful so I recommend you speak to yours too if you have one.
The good news is it’s still possible to keep your business ticking over even while you’re on leave. You can achieve this by setting up passive income streams and products, and perhaps by hiring people to take over your emails and customer service programs.
Now that my baby is 4 months old, looking back I can say that I absolutely needed this time off, especially the first 6 weeks. It takes a while to simply recover physically from birth, let alone getting used to being a parent. I felt like I was thrown in the deep end (as I'm sure all new parents do), and the sleep deprivation was seriously hard to handle, so I was so glad I didn’t need to work during that time. Now that he’s 4 months I’m definitely ready to work again, but on a reduced schedule so that my husband and I can alternate between working and childcare.
5) Get Your Partner On Board & Talk About Childcare
This step goes hand in hand with planning your maternity leave. It’s important to think about childcare from the start, even if you don’t quite know how it’ll pan out once the baby is actually here (which is my situation!) My husband and I have known from the beginning that the childcare wouldn't fall solely at my feet just because I am the mother. I'm thankful to have a partner who is on board with “equally shared parenting” – he is also self-employed so I realise we are privileged to be in this flexible position.
Some women decide to work on their business while the baby naps and in the evenings. It helps to read online about people’s real-life experiences to see if this would be doable for you or not. This is kind of possible for me now after a few months, but in the early days I simply had to sleep during those times otherwise I felt I’d crack up. And even now I need to use nap times for household stuff/ showering etc. For me, having dedicated time while my husband or mum watches Rowan works best for me mentally.
6) Break Down the Remaining Duration of Your Pregnancy + Schedule Work Accordingly
I found it helped to break down my work into the three trimesters. I didn’t plan anything major in the first trimester due to the way I was feeling, but I did start thinking more about more passive income streams, then anything extra I did get done was a bonus. I decided that the time for massive productivity would be my second trimester, as this is the time when most women start to feel a lot better. I then scheduled time into my third trimester for planning anything that’d need to continue during my maternity leave and wrapping things up. I tried not to schedule too much in for the few weeks before the due date, but I ended up going over my own self-imposed deadlines. Luckily Rowan didn’t come early, and I managed to have a couple of days off before I went into labour on my due date (I was convinced he’d be late since he was my first – don’t rely on that!)
7) Structure Your Product Offering in Your Favour
I’ve already mentioned it a few times throughout this blog post, but now is the time to start thinking about making money with less direct input from you, is possible (think passive income and funnels). If you can, make the most of what you’ve already got. For example, when I found out I was pregnant I already had ongoing memberships where people would sign up to get new content every month. I already had a fair amount of members, which gave me some security in terms of income, but I knew I could improve this by setting up freebies for each one that led to email funnels, leading to new signups on autopilot.
I also took stock of what I already had that could be packaged up and sold at a special discount, for times when I wanted to bring in extra money but without having to put in too many hours of new work. I went through my calendar and made plans for when to launch these special offers throughout the year.
8) Decide When to Tell Customers/ Your Team
There’s always the big question of when to start telling friends and family you’re pregnant, but as an entrepreneur you’ll also need to figure out when to tell business associates. As an introvert and massively private person, I didn’t feel the need to share the information too quickly. But it can be useful to tell customers, contractors etc. so that they understand if you aren’t quite top of your game! I also made sure to tell everyone when Rowan was born so that people will hopefully be understanding if I don’t get back in touch with them very quickly, or disappear altogether for a while!
9) Read Blogs By Other Women Like You Who Have Gone Through the Same Thing
As I embark on this crazy journey of having a baby at the same time as running a business (and having big plans for that business!) I sometimes feel as though I don’t know anyone else in real life doing the same thing, so it all feels very new and uncertain – which is a big reason why I want to talk about it a lot myself! The good news is that there are plenty of people doing it online, you just need to know where to find them. Here are some of my favourite resources:
- Naptime Empires Podcast
- Finding the Balance Facebook Group from Ray Dodd
- Arianna Taboada’s Blog on babyproofing your business
- How I’m Baby-Proofing My Business by Denise Duffield-Thomas
- What Did I Do to Prepare My Business for Having a Baby? by Kerry Rowett
10) Above All Else, Be Kind to Yourself
There’s a lot to take in when you find out you’re having a baby, and everything you read in this blog post is just a drop in the ocean of things you’ll be thinking about! Not to mention the fact that you’re likely not feeling great physically, and that your hormones may be all over the place! So don’t be afraid to just be kind to yourself. To allow yourself a totally unproductive day if all you want to do is lie down (or vomit!)
In those early days of nausea, I spent way too many hours watching TV shows (Big Little Lies, 13 Reasons Why) and playing computer games (I got hooked on Stardew Valley) and – or so I thought – not enough time working. But, when I look back at that time, I don’t feel guilty at all. I feel like the TV shows and game got me through those difficult days, and I am grateful to myself for doing whatever I did do when I felt up to it. The good news is that I did get better and I did get more productive in my second trimester. And when the nesting instinct kicked in by the third trimester, you couldn’t stop me! I was a business AND domestic machine, despite my physical limitations!
So be kind to yourself and remember you’re doing a great job!