When my first child was born, I had a full time job at a university and was building my photography business on the side. I photographed, maybe, five to seven weddings a season in those first few years, which given the fact that I was holding down a full time career was still a lot to manage. My “day” job, however, was still my focus and there was really only so much I could do to prepare for going out on maternity leave. I was lucky enough to work for an organization that even afforded me the ability to take the full twelve weeks away from my job as allowed by the Federal Family Medical Leave Act. Some women are not so lucky. But I had to assure myself that everything with my job would be ok and that my very capable staff and team of co-workers would pick up the pieces while I was gone. My little department wasn’t going to fall apart, things would get done, and it would be just fine.
And it was.
Fast forward to now. I have been completely self-employed for almost three years and I am expecting baby number two in the next four weeks. Who knows, maybe by the time you read this I’ll be curled up on the couch engaged in round-the-clock nursing sessions while my four year old runs amok around the house. Did I mention that I am going to work from home with both my children?
If you’re self-employed then you know how hard it is preparing your business for baby. And if you’re not, then let me tell you. It’s really friggin’ hard. There is no one to tell you what to do other than you, and that can get very lonely at times. Now try being a self-employed woman working from home with her kids. This is partially a choice for me and it is partially not. I could send my kids to daycare or pre-school five days a week, but then my family would literally have to live on beans and rice. Do you know how much child care costs? For two kids in daycare child care costs more than my mortgage. So…my kids will both be at home with me for a while. Anyway…that’s a whole other topic. The point is there are a lot of (adorable) challenges when you are a self-employed mother.
Which brings me to the point of all of this. It is natural to feel like things are going to fall apart a bit when a baby comes into the mix. However, you are not alone and there are certainly things you can do to mitigate that feeling so that you can focus your energy on the things that matter. I have a pretty open book relationship with my clients and they know that I am having another child in a few short weeks. They know that emails might not be returned within 24 hours like I normally do, but I have set these expectations with them ahead of time.
Setting expectations prior, while you’re away and when you return is key to staying organized and ahead of the game.
If you are comfortable with it, it might not hurt to even set the auto responder on your email to tell people that you are on maternity leave and what your schedule will be for returning emails. If you have employees at your business and it’s not just you (lucky you!) then now might be a good time to start delegating some work to them. It’s just as important to keep them in the loop as it is your clients as to mitigate their stress levels as well. To get ahead, are their any tasks that you can accomplish now so that you don’t have to do them when baby arrives? I’ve been on a fairly consistent blogging schedule for my photography business, but I don’t want there to be a period of utter black-out for a couple months. I am taking what time I have now to prep some posts ahead of time so that they will automatically publish in the weeks and months ahead. That way I’m not feeling guilty when I look at my blog and go, “Shit. You haven’t written anything in months!” Automate, automate, automate as much as you can.
Additionally, turn off the notifications on your phone. If you’re an iPhone user that Do Not Disturb function is going to come in really handy right about now. You do not need to be at the mercy of your phone like Pavlov’s dog when that bell dings. I’m talking to you, Facebook junkies! You have enough demands on your time; don’t let your phone be one of them. Instead, make a very strict rule for yourself about when you are going to check in with social media and email. This is a good productivity habit to institute anyway, so why not do it now? Pick a time of the day to check your email and only do it then…not all day long! If that’s at 9am, then fine. If it’s at 2am because you’re up nursing your baby, then fine. But don’t feel like you need to respond to things every time you get a message. Same thing goes for other social media messages, comments, pins, tweets, snaps… whatever. It can wait. Don’t feel guilty if your mother’s friend’s cousin twice removed just wrote a comment on your Facebook feed about that cute photo you just posted earlier or is asking how you are sleeping and you haven’t responded yet. That “like” button can wait. And what is this sleep she speaks of? She’s an idiot for even asking you.
And while we’re on the subject of guilt, let us just get something straight when it comes to “mommy guilt.” STOP. IT. Society puts enough pressure on women and mothers to begin with. Do not add more fuel to the fire by putting undue pressure on yourself. If you are self-employed and this is your first child, let me make something very clear to you. You just birthed a human being! You’ve already won. There are no other heroic feats of amazingness that you need to achieve right now. You are not superwoman. Stop listening to those voices, internal and external, telling you how perfect you need to be only one week postpartum while you patiently wait for your vagina to heal! I get it. Trust me. I’ve been there. But I couldn’t be more serious about this. Your business, and your life, is not going to fall apart just because you decided to be a mom. Will it be hard? Sure it will! If you thought it was going to be easy then I might have chosen something other than children to bring into your life. But you CAN do this. I promise. Keeping your expectations in check and doing just a little bit of work ahead of time will keep things on on an even keel. I’m right there with you, mommas! Let’s do this!
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