There are many perks to starting a family as an entrepreneur. There’s the flexibility, no one to answer to except yourself and the passion you have for your work. You can create your life as you wish! But along with these fabulous perks come significant challenges. The responsibility to keep everything running (no matter what’s going on in your life), answering only to yourself (it’s a perk and a challenge!) and yes, no paid parental leave.
From the get go, I knew that it would take some planning and honestly, courage to create my maternity leave the way that worked best for me. And if I’ve learned anything along the way it’s that every single mother and father has a different journey and their leave will look completely unique to them.
Coming out the other end, I’ve learned so much. A lot of what I did worked great and a lot of other things I did needed some tweaking or a complete overhaul.
I created the Entrepreneur’s Guide to Parental Leave to share a framework that really works for crafting a parental leave that has your business continue to flourish while you spend time with your new addition. Here are a few of the mistakes I made along the way:
1) I didn’t drop enough balls. Having a baby is an opportunity to prioritize like crazy. The few weeks after Eli was born, it became really clear how I wanted to spend my time and believe me, there was very little uninterrupted time to do much of anything.
I read an incredible book by a mentor of mine, Tiffany Dufu before Eli was born called Drop the Ball and her advice echoed in my head constantly. The premise is that if we hang on to doing everything ourselves, we are going to run ourselves into the ground, miss out on a lot of joy and make less of an impact in the areas that are important to us.
When you are sleep deprived caring for a baby, there are very few balls that can stay up in the air. Deciding what to let go of (the more the better!) makes all the difference. I let go of keeping things neat, cooking, multi-tasting when Eli was awake, a lot of the deadlines I gave myself for the business that were self-induced torture and I let and enrolled others to pick up the balls where possible.
2) I didn’t stop and reflect enough along the way. I made a grand plan for my maternity leave but didn’t stop to reflect enough along the way to see how it was going and make adjustments. It took a near nervous breakdown before I noticed that something wasn’t working – usually that I needed more help or I needed to drop a ball! If I made reflecting part of my weekly (or even daily) routine, I wouldn’t have had to feel miserable before I made a change or asked for help.
3) I planned to come back at 110%. I made a huge miscalculation in my maternity leave plan. I thought and planned that at exactly three months after childbirth, I would return to my business bright eyed and bushy tailed at full force, earning even more than I was before. When I write this down I realize how ridiculous it sounds but at the time it made complete sense to me. I didn’t take into account that I’d be exhausted, spending two hours a day pumping and most of Friday with Eli at doctor’s appointments. No wonder I wasn’t getting as much done! I am happy to report back that it gets better over time and that I actually feel more productive and focused than I did before, but it would have prevented a lot of stress and frustration if I built this ramp-up period into my expectations and financial plans!
If you are a new parent or about to embark on the journey of parenthood, you can get my free step-by-step guide to crafting your parental leave, here. I’d love to hear your tips and stories in the comments or feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.