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Quick trigger warning: this episode starts with the story of how I found out I was pregnant. To read about how I planned for my maternity leave when self employed, please skip to the second section of this post.
I found out I was pregnant on Memorial Day 2019. On that day my life completely changed.
I’ll start by saying that even though I was trying to have a baby, there’s still nothing more surprising and shocking than seeing that positive line show up on a pregnancy test. I was beyond thrilled.
I also know that I was (and AM) incredibly lucky. I was told by doctors early on that I’d likely have a very hard time getting pregnant. They said it could take a year or longer if I’m lucky – and that there was a chance that I’d need fertility treatments.
Well jokes on them because I got pregnant in my second month of trying – so you can see my surprise!
Nine months later, my beautiful, healthy, amazing baby boy showed up and our whole world has changed. But what happened in between finding out I was pregnant and then?
After the buzz and excitement of finding out I was pregnant, I knew I needed to get to work to figure out how I’d plan time off.
We had a vacation planned to Banff National Park in Canada the week right after I found out (by the way, 10/10 do NOT recommend going on a massive hiking trip right after you find out you're pregnant, because that’s right when my symptoms started kicking in).
But pretty much right when we got home, I started planning for what I hoped would be a 3 month maternity leave.
My main goal for my maternity leave were to make sure that my business continued to operate as usual, with little to no support from me. This meant making sure that:
First of all, it's important to start by saying that my business is a digital product business. It makes money even when I am not working.
When I was planning my maternity leave, I didn’t have to stress about losing clients or losing income. I knew that all of that would stay the same and it even had the potential to grow if I played my cards correctly.
Planning my maternity leave when self employed more so meant that I’d have all the systems in place to continue engagement, maintain customer support, and maintain a presence online, if even an automated presence.
The first thing I did was pull out a calendar and map everything out. Mind you – I’m not a planner. So this was pretty tough for me.
But I learned that you really need to know what you’re planning for before you can start knocking things off your to-do list and outsourcing.
Here’s what that looked like for me. These are all of the different events, dates and times that I mapped out to make sure I knew what I had to expect:
The next thing I did was a pretty big challenge – I mapped out the projects and tasks that I knew I couldn’t or wouldn’t be able to focus on during maternity leave.
I’m a doer. If I have an idea, I like to act on it immediately.
I set super high goals for myself and then put a lot of pressure on myself to reach those goals. Just like many others, I also struggle with comparing myself to other people.
If I’m not growing, I’m shrinking – at least that’s my mindset a lot of times, so I knew this would be a struggle. I also really value my work time.
I’ve wanted a baby ever since I could remember. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t struggle with the idea that my time would no longer be my own and lots of things would need to be put to the side.
So here’s what got put to the side:
After I thought through what needed to be put to the side, the next thing I did was figure out what the workload would look like leading up to maternity leave.
When you have a traditional job, parental leave typically means that your work is going to be hired out to someone else while you're gone, or they're going to move your tasks to someone else in the interim, or they're just not going to do those tasks.
But when you’re running your own business that's not how it works.
It is your job to figure out the entire process. You have to figure out what work you're going to be responsible for completing in advance, what work you're simply not going to be able to get done and what work you're going to need to hire out to other people to do in advance or while you're out.
With the limited time that I had, here’s what I ultimately decided to do:
I spent my time recording as many podcast episodes as possible, solo episodes and interview episodes.
I edited and scheduled when those episodes would go live.
My VA created the social media posts, transcribed them and turned them into blog posts. I then drafted and scheduled emails that would be sent to my email list each week corresponding to the dates of publication, so my email, social media and blog/podcast content was covered.
Product Promotion and Launch:
Next, I focused on the weeks that were dedicated to specific products promotion. I decided to plan an automated launch for my Instant Customers Course in the middle of my maternity leave. It’s a relatively low cost, high value product.
Essentially my launch consisted purely of emails and some automation on the website side of things. So I spent some time setting that up, including scheduling pre-launch nurturing emails and launch emails.
I also deliberately created and scheduled tripwire-related podcast content to publish in the weeks leading up to the automated launch.
I also had some virtual summits I was participating in during maternity leave that needed promotion scheduled. I set that up as well, including some emails and social media content.
I also needed to do a lot of the initial work for the May Rebel Boss Summit. By May I planned to no longer be on maternity leave, but summit work usually starts 90 days in advance. This would have been the beginning of my maternity leave, so obviously I needed to do this all before baby!
I ended up finding all of my speakers, pitched them, and trained my VA on everything she needed to know: how to onboard speakers, support affiliates, and set up the website.
Ultimately, it ended up being not too much work. And I’m so grateful I did so much on the front end because it let me soak up all the baby time during those first few months.
To summarize, the things that I ended up hiring out included:
Some of these I normally hire out, like my podcast creation work, and some of these I don’t, like my email. After spending a few months not managing my inbox, though, I NEVER want to go back.
Email is a big drain for me. I am not somebody who regularly achieves inbox zero. My email inbox is the place you go where you want to feel insane and crazy because there's absolutely no sense of organization there.
I knew that I did not want to be in email during my maternity leave. So my teammate, Alana, ended up completely managing that.
We created a system for what emails she would handle versus what emails needed immediate attention from me and what emails needed to be handled by me but could wait a bit for a reply. What worked really well for us was:
For the most part, everything worked out well and as planned. It wasn’t always that clean of a process and sometimes things slipped through the cracks.
But overall that worked really, really well and I recommend that process.
My teammate would also keep the inbox clean, so if ever I felt tempted to look at my emails the inbox was always clean and nothing stressed me out in there! Which is great because as I’m sure you know, work can be stressful sometimes. And I did not want to have that.
I was really proud of myself throughout my maternity leave that I didn’t feel the pressure to work and that I wasn’t feeling badly about not working either. I truly was just soaking up time with the baby.
And then of course, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and we had to go into quarantine.
At the beginning, it was fine. My husband was actually home for 6 weeks with no work, so he was there to help with the baby and we got to spend a lot of amazing quality time together. He definitely wouldn’t have had that time if things were “normal.”
But then he went back to work right when my maternity leave was wrapping up and I had no childcare. We were quarantining away from my mom, who usually helps with childcare, and so I was like, what am I going to do?
My plan to go back to work after maternity leave was gone. There was no way I could go back to work as usual because I was one hundred percent of the time alone with my child.
Honestly? That was really, really tough because I had planned for ninety days and I did not plan for anything longer than that.
It was especially tough because that landed us in about April, and right when the Rebel Boss Summit prep really needed to pick up. Most of the work was done but there were some things I needed to do – like record introduction sessions with every speaker, get the promotions all set up, and video editing.
All throughout my maternity leave, I was confident that I would be going back to work at the end of ninety days. And then when that didn't happen, I was just lost and confused.
I ended up needing to work a few nights and a few hours during the weekend here and there to make sure everything went off for the summit without a hitch. And it did, of course, and I’m very proud of that.
Things are definitely better now. My mom is now taking care of the baby for a few days a week, which gives me a few hours to do my own thing, to record podcasts, and to get some new projects rolling.
And I’m going to be honest, if there's something that I learned throughout this whole experience is that I really don't want to be a caretaker 100% of the time.
I really want to work. It's important for my mental health and it's important for my well-being. I love to work and I love to accomplish things. And that's really important to how I value myself and my time.
It's important to me that I continue what I'm doing and continue working towards the big goals that I have for myself. And it’s still something that I'm trying to figure out, even as my child is just about six months old.
It’s still very, very much a work in progress.
Something I would love to share with you is one of my takeaways: if you are planning for the maternity leave of your first child in particular, just know that the process continues even after your maternity leave is done.
It will continue to be a struggle and a learning process. And that's okay.
I went from working full time, 30 to 40 hours a week, to maybe 10 hours a week. I’ve been working with the time I have, and honestly, I've had my best year financially so far! I couldn't be more grateful or privileged, to be completely honest.
Another key takeaway that I learned: whatever amount of time you think that you want to take for maternity leave, add another month to it. So let's say you’re aiming for three months – you should actually plan for a four month leave.
Not to say that you should take that fourth month and not work, but you should plan to use that fourth month as a transition period, a time to ease back into things.
I planned for three months, but I wish I had planned for four because then it would have been easier. I would have had four months of content rather than three. That would have made it easier, because I wasn’t able to stay on top of the things I wanted to accomplish.
I was struggling with the postpartum hormones, learning how to be a mom, getting back in shape and adjusting to a new dynamic as a first time mom with a spouse amidst a global pandemic and all the emotions that come with that. It was absolutely a lot to handle and it still is a lot to handle.
To finish up, there are definitely a few things that I’m really grateful I did before I went on leave.
What was your experience going on parental leave? What worked and what didn’t? Reply in the comments or talk with me on instagram @edenfried. I’d love to hear from you!