Many of my wedding industry friends are expecting their first child in the coming months – making the topic of conversation pretty consistent. Everyone is asking the same question. “HOW will I be able to simultaneously balance becoming a parent and being a business owner?”.
There is so much excitement involved in waiting for baby – but let’s be honest, there is a lot of real fear and anxiety involved, too. And when you’re a business owner, the ideas around making work and life happen in unison those first few months is like ((GULP)).
I had all these same feelings when I got pregnant with Jones, and over the last 2 years, I’ve had a lot of ups and downs as I’ve navigated life as a business owner who is also a mom. Truthfully, I’m still learning.
I can recall when I first found out I was pregnant searching for any insight, information or tips I could find on how to balance work and motherhood. Shockingly, there was a lack of good information out there – hence this blog post. I felt it high time to write something parents-to-be, particularly women could garner advice from. Below, you’ll find my top five recommended strategies for preparing your business for baby.
Strategy #1: Save, Save, Save
Here are two things I know. 1) Babies are expensive. 2) Most small business owners do not get paid maternity leave.
This is true for me. When I don’t work, I don’t make money. So prior to my son being born, it was essential for me to save as much additional money as I could so I could take time off without worrying about cash flow. In truth, I didn’t save enough money and wish someone stressed the importance of saving to me when I was pregnant.
Strategy #2: Automate, Outsource, and Streamline
The best thing you can do for your sanity (when you’re expecting a baby or not) is to organize your business in a way that allows you to thrive. This means not wasting your time tracking down clients for payments, manually sending emails to confirm meetings or spending hours on accounting. Once your baby comes, you won’t be able to dedicate the same amount of time to these tasks as you may have in the past. Go over your systems (or create them), so you can focus on the parts of your business that make you money and that only you can do. As a photographer, this means weddings, shoots, and meetings. A lot of the other pieces of my business can be automated or outsources. I did a whole blog post about streamlining your business so check that out (here) for ideas on where to get started.
One of the best pieces of advice in regards to my business was given to me by Meghan from OFD Consulting. She told me that in her experience you have two choices: Scale down and take on less work OR hire more help to maintain or even grow. Very smart and very true!
Strategy #3: Actually Take A Maternity Leave
There is no guaranteed maternity leave for any working moms in the US, but some employers may give up to 6-12 weeks off. That’s not nearly long enough (and grounds for an entirely different blog post, am I right?) but maternity leave can feel a bit tricky when you’re a business owner. In my own personal experience, I was not able to financially afford to take 6-12 weeks off (which is why I wish I would’ve utilized strategy #1 more and saved as much as I could have!).
It’s important to identify how much time you can afford to take off and then actually TAKE the time off. Every woman’s situation is different, but give your body and mind the space it needs to heal from welcoming your child. This is true even for adoptive parents!
Try to resist the urge to hop in your email, schedule meetings or squeeze in last minute sessions if you’re a photographer (I did that and wish I hadn’t!). Trust me, you won’t get the time back with your baby – so recognize that most business matters can wait.
Now, before you roll your eyes at me – I’ll let you in on a secret. I didn’t abandon my business, but instead, I invested in a kick-ass virtual assistant who handled the matters that couldn’t wait for me while I was on maternity leave (read more about her here). That gave me such peace of mind and ensured I had a thriving client list to come back to when my maternity leave was over.
Strategy #4: Map Out Your Dedicated Work Time
Before having a child, I had the luxury of working whenever I wanted. I assumed after my son was born I would just figure it out. But here’s what happened – I was working frantically whenever I could (this is much different than whenever I wanted). I crammed in tasks during his naps, during feedings or really, really late at night. This was brutal! I was so sleep-deprived and not able to focus like I wanted to.
Within a few months, I set “office hours” for myself, and blocked off time on my calendar that would be dedicated to working at my office and taking meetings away from the distractions at home. This allows me to be more present as a mother and a business owner.
Strategy #5: Build Your Village (you’ll need the help!)
For our family, we didn’t have any outside childcare help for the first 18 months of my son’s life… and it was really hard. My husband works 7am-4pm, so as soon as he gets home from work I leave to the office to work nights. I have a regular sitter that comes once a week now, but we still maintain this “trade-off” schedule most weeknights. We don’t have grandparents or family nearby who could watch our son on a regular basis, and I want to stay at home with him as much as possible – so this is what we do.
Is it ideal? Nope. Does it work for us? Yep.
Figure out what your village looks like to you and then build it. In order for you to get any work done during those “office hours” you’ve set, you’re going to need someone to watch your child so you can focus. It might be family, a nanny, daycare, or a regular sitter. I promise you, they are out there. Use them!
So, after reading all that are you still feeling enthusiastic about making it all work? Honestly – I hope you are feeling MORE enthusiastic! Being a business owner is so incredibly challenging at times – but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Being a parent — well, it’s so incredibly challenging at times — but guess what? I wouldn’t trade it for the world either!
It’s possible to do both well, I promise. Be kind to yourself. Allow for mistakes and a lot of grace. Be open to learning and please, use these strategies!