Soon after we found out we were expecting baby #2, I started thinking about what my maternity leave would look like.
With my first maternity leave, it was easy. I only had project-based clients, so my only priority was making sure each of those projects were wrapped up before Baby Genther #1 decided to arrive (which thankfully, I decided to start my maternity leave 2 weeks early, because he arrived 3 days after my last day of work). During my maternity leave, I was able to jump back into work a little sooner than I thought because I was only planning my day around one baby’s nap schedule.
This time around, I knew things were going to look a little different…
- I had monthly retainer clients that needed ongoing work even while I was gone.
- I had a few client projects that had to launch while I was gone.
- I had two baby’s schedules I had to plan things around.
- I wasn’t sure how much energy I’d have left after chasing around a toddler and taking care of a newborn to jump back into work even a little bit.
So, I had to make sure things were setup to run smoothly while I was gone, without me touching a thing.
Spoiler alert: my business survived, my clients were happy and I got to enjoy an entire three months of hanging out with my boys :)
Want to experience the same thing?
Here are the 5 most important things I recommend doing to to set yourself up for a stress-free maternity leave without your business falling apart:
START PLANNING EARLY
Like I said above, it didn’t take me long to start thinking about what my maternity leave would look and feel like.
If you’ve even been pregnant before, you know how quick those 9 months fly by. And if this is your first time pregnant (or you’re just planning on having kids soon), let me tell you — they go fast!
In my opinion, you can’t start planning soon enough.
Once you’ve given yourself some time to revel in the excitement of adding to your family, it’s time to start planning on how you’re going to welcome the little babe into the world while still keeping your business afloat.
HIRE THE RIGHT PEOPLE
If you plan to have clients during your maternity leave, you’ll need to make sure you hire two different kinds of people:
- Someone to manage your team members (if you have more than one)
- Someone to replace you while you’re gone
Pre-maternity leave, I was both a task doer and a task manager for my business. If I wasn’t the one actually doing the task, I would be the one assigning it out to the appropriate team member and making sure it got done.
I knew that while I was gone, I was going to need to replace myself in order to keep my client’s projects running smoothly — both the doing of the task and the managing of the task.
At this point, I already had a junior designer and a developer on my team that had been helping out with client projects on a pretty regular basis.
I knew I was set there.
What I didn’t have was someone to manage the team and act as the link between the client and the team member. Someone to follow up on tasks, assign due dates, send invoices, keep an eye on timesheets, etc.
I needed a project manager, and that’s who I hired.
She handled everything and it’s been one of the best hires for my business.
To this day, she still handles almost all project management and it allows me to fit in more work for my clients and my own business.
SET EXPECTATIONS FOR YOUR CLIENTS
This is one of the scariest parts of taking a traditional maternity leave as a business owner.
Scary thoughts like all of your clients firing you will most likely cross your mind when you start thinking of taking three months to enjoy time with your new baby.
This may vary depending on the type of clients you work with, but since I work with mostly women entrepreneurs, all of my clients were very understanding about me wanting to take a full three-month maternity leave.
Even though they were super understanding, I wouldn’t doubt that they were secretly concerned that things wouldn’t be the same while I was gone.
If you’re heavily involved with your clients, like I was, then it won’t be a surprise when I say that it’s not going to be the same when you’re gone.
That doesn’t mean, however, that your business has to fall apart while you’re gone.
The most important thing to do here is work with each of your clients and set realistic expectations with them about how everything will look/work while you’re gone.
Talk to them about any specific projects they’ll want to work on while you’re gone and make sure you have someone on your team who can handle it.
If they see you taking the time to plan out their projects and set up the systems in your business to take care of them while you’re gone, they’ll feel more confident that everything will get done.
EMPOWER YOUR TEAM TO TAKE CONTROL
As a control freak, this was the hardest part of prepping for my maternity leave — relinquishing control before I was actually gone.
About a month before my scheduled maternity leave, I had my team start operating as if I was already gone.
I had my project manager start assigning tasks to the rest of the team, following up with clients on any needed information, answering client questions, etc.
This test run was such a great decision, and it helped do two things…
- Get my clients used to what it would be like when I was gone, without me actually being gone (so it didn’t feel like I dropped off the face of the earth)
- Let me see what else I needed to teach my team members before I left
Even if you’re not quite ready to hand over complete control, I highly recommend doing a test run before your actual maternity leave.
It will help not only your clients, but you, feel way more confident about leaving.
When it comes to business and babies, there’s one thing I know for sure — things don’t tend to go as perfectly as planned.
No matter how much prep you do to get your business ready for maternity leave, you have to eventually accept the fact that life is going to happen and not everything will go according to plan.
A great example – both of my boys came earlier than I expected.
Logan (my first) came 2 weeks early when we were at the hospital for our final childbirth class. I had just officially started my maternity leave the Friday before he was born (he was born that Monday) and had planned to get everything ready for him the next two weeks.
Mason (my second) came 3 weeks early after a trip to the zoo. He came 1 week before I was officially on maternity leave, which meant I still had unfinished tasks on my list.
At that point, you just have to roll with the punches and let go of any control, guilt, or unfinished tasks.
For me, snuggling with my newborn was the most important task on my list. :)
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