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I’ve always been a meticulous note-taker and shamelessly reliant on checklists, to-do lists — literally any kind of list. But no more so than when I was preparing to go on maternity leave and self-employed. Sans the support of a human resources department or the guidance of a seasoned boss, it was up to me to create a maternity leave checklist I could rely on once my baby arrived and my business, understandably, had to sit on the backburner.
If I’m being honest, and at the risk of sounding like “one of those moms,” I made by far the most detailed and concise maternity leave plans known to (wo)man. And if I’m also being honest, I have to admit that I didn’t use it at all. The looming fear of finances and a need (and want) to work left me feeling obligated to work as soon as I got home from the hospital, which is exactly what I did. So while I had what I would consider to be a flawless maternity leave plan, it ended up being pointless. Welcome to parenthood, my friends.
A plan is just that: a plan. It is not the end all, be all, and drawing up and executing even the most intelligent, forward-thinking of plans does not mean it will come to fruition. But in my experience, even making a maternity leave checklist that I didn’t end up relying on was beneficial. Not only did it force me to step back and consider my needs, wants, and the needs of my business, but it taught me invaluable lessons, like learning how to delegate, learning how to set boundaries, and learning how to say no.
If you’re growing your business and a baby simultaneously, and preparing to take maternity leave as an entrepreneur, here’s what you should consider before it’s “go time” and your baby(ies) enters the world.
1. Share the news with any co-founders and business partners
You’re under no obligation, legal or otherwise, to share the news of your pregnancy before you’re ready and willing. But eventually, if you plan on taking maternity leave, it’s important that you let your co-founder(s) and/or business partners know of this significant change in your life, so that they can prepare to step in when needed while you take the necessary and vital time to dedicate your time, attention, and energy to you and your baby.
2. Complete any major acquisitions, transitions, or other areas of brand/company growth
When you’re running your own business and/or are self-employed, it’s easy to fall into the trap of equating consistency to failure. But when you’re welcoming another life into the world and adjusting to something as monumental as motherhood, consistency is a good thing. So when it comes to your business, try to wrap up any major deals, looming deadlines that cannot be met without you, and other milestones prior to your maternity leave. Status quo is the name of the game while you’re tending to yourself and your newborn.
3. Make a detailed plan
As previously stated, I’m a fan of plans. And even if you don’t end up following it to the letter (hint: you won’t), a maternity leave plan that can serve as a compass for everyone to follow during your much-needed and deserved time off will be extremely beneficial. Consider the day-to-day tasks that need to be accomplished in your absence, then assign them to those who will be best equipped to execute them during your maternity leave.
4. Share that detailed plan with others & delegate
Having a plan is one thing (and a good thing! Seriously, do it!). But it’s an entirely different beast to put that plan into action. So to help facilitate your maternity leave, make sure you share your plans with your team and begin the process of delegating who does what and when. The sooner you can accomplish this goal, the better. Those who work with and for you will be served best when you give them the most time possible to adjust to this “new normal” and learn to shoulder the additional and/or altered responsibilities that will come with your maternity leave.
(#ProTip: This is usually when the guilt comes in. Ignore it. This is time you absolutely should be taking for yourself and your new family. Your business will be OK.)
5. Schedule and complete training on any responsibilities you’ll be handing over to someone else
Once you’ve discussed, pinpointed, and delegated workloads in your absence, it’s extremely beneficial to set up a number of trainings (if necessary) and one-on-one meetings to discuss the intricacies and details of the goals and job-related necessities that will exist in your absence. A great way to facilitate this is via Zoom meetings and dedicated trainings. This will give everyone a chance to learn from you while you’re still available, and will give you the dedicated opportunity to answer any questions anyone who is taking on your workload while you’re on maternity leave.
6. Transfer responsibility a little at a bit over time
For your own peace of mind and the workload of your employees and/or co-founders, it’s best if you transfer your work responsibilities to others a little at a time. Those nine months, more or less, of pregnancy sounds like a significant amount of time, but any working mom will tell you that that time can and will fly by. So set some dates in which certain priorities will be switched over and then make sure those dates are met.
7. Complete a few “trial runs”
Once you’ve established and shared your maternity plan with the necessary parties, set up some dedicated “trial runs” so that you can see how things will run without you (and you can get some peace of mind). There will be plenty of opportunities in which you can facilitate this “trial run,” be it days that you have to see your OB-GYN or midwife, or a much-needed babymoon before your life changes drastically. So lean into those moments when you can get used to taking time off and your team can get used to picking up the slack.
8. Delay what can be delayed until you return
Again, when you’re self-employed and an entrepreneur it’s easy to feel like a lack of constantly, almost-daily growth is a sign of failure. But when you’re growing in other areas of your life — in other words, parenthood — it’s alright and, in many cases, beneficial for your business to exist in neutral. Don’t worry about big changes or acquisitions during this time. In fact, the days and months following your birth will exist as the perfect time for your business to exist in a state of neutrality.
9. Ensure you have support during maternity leave and the postpartum periods
Once you’ve planned, facilitated, and implemented support to sustain your business during your maternity leave, make sure you’ve found a way to ensure you, on a personal level, will be supported as well. The timeless saying of “no (wo)man is an aisle entire unto himself” is some real sh*t, and you should not feel obligated to deal with postpartum life on our own. Whether you have a parenting partner or not, make sure you have a support system in place prior to your baby’s birth, so that you can actually make the most of your maternity leave.
10. Set boundaries & stick to them
Not only will setting and holding maternity leave boundaries benefit you, as a new mom, but it will help those you work with and/or employ when and if the time comes time for them to take maternity and/or paternity leave, too. You set the standard as an entrepreneur and business owner, and what you do for yourself will simultaneously let your business partners, co-founders, and employees know what to expect when and if they become pregnant and take maternity leave, too.
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