Being a working woman can be difficult, and this can be amplified when you own your own business. You are working all the time, your hours can be crazy, and you have a lot of responsibility. So, when a woman who owns a business wants to take a maternity leave, it can seem impossible, but based on the experience of other female business owners, it can be done! Below are a few tidbits for taking maternity leave when you own a business:
In most instances of pregnancy, you know have an idea of about when you will be taking time off, so think ahead in the annual work cycle to consider what work needs to be done when you are about to have the baby and once the baby is born. Once you have a good grasp of what will need to be accomplished, plan ahead by cross-training other employees on how to complete or continue the tasks while you will be away. This also helps in future years because it can lessen your own workload further down the road.
Make sure that you have as much as you can have squared away before you are away. With everything in place, you can really devote yourself to your baby for the first few precious days of her or him being home with you so that you can bond and recuperate.
If you have a staff, make sure that you delegate authority for while you are away. You do not need to have one person be put in charge of all of your tasks. Rather, you can separate the tasks into categories and have each person in charge of a separate or individual piece of the business. Putting other employees in charge and giving them the authority to make decisions while you are away can really help the business to run smoothly because any questions that arise can be given to and resolved by the “expert” in that field. (Although, if you have the resources to hire or promote one person to be in charge of everything in your absence, you can do that, too!)
Keep in mind that some employees may need to shift or to increase their hours based on these responsibilities, so be mindful of your decisions and flexible with your employees’ schedules.
A reality for most women who own a business is that they cannot take a full 12 weeks of maternity leave. However, if you do decide to take a shorter leave, you do not have to say “goodbye” to your baby too soon! As the boss, you have the opportunity of telecommuting via email or phone while working from home. You can also set up a nursery in your workplace either in your current office or in an additional room. Being flexible with your hours and your workspace is a big benefit of being the boss, and you can even open up this nursery to other employees who may want to use it so that your whole office can be “baby friendly”!
If you really want to focus more on your baby though, consider hiring temporary help. For instance, around tax season, you can hire a temp agency to come in to assist you, rather than doing your taxes yourself. College students also seek out internships, so you can reach out to students for low-cost help. This still might cost more, but it can be worth it if you want more time with your baby.
One Hat at a Time
As a mom and a business owner, you have two big hats to wear, but you can wear one hat a time during maternity leave and as you transition back to work. For example, you can telecommute from home, but only during specified hours when another person, like the father, the grandmother, or the sitter, is watching the baby. Then when your specified hours are over, you can take off the work hat and just be “new mom” again. This can really help to separate your home life and work life while still feeling in control of your job and family. In this world of immediate communication through phone calls, texts, and emails, it can be hard to take off the work hat when you own a business, but emphasizing to your employees that you are only available certain hours can help you to be able to focus on your new baby.
Also, scheduling yourself to have opposite hours from the father is beneficial if possible. Staggering may not allow for a lot of time for you and the father to spend together, but it does keep the cost of day care down, and it helps to limit the tug of someone else being with your baby all the time, which is hard for any new parent.
Remember, everyone’s business is different, and so is everyone’s maternity leave. This includes your own! What works one time may not work again if you have the added responsibility of toddlers at home. There is no preset plan, so while you have the benefit of creating one as you traverse pregnancy, you also have to realize that things may come up either for yourself or for your business that need to be adjusted. Owning your own business can be very fruitful for both you and your children, but do not let that stop you from being a mom or from taking off well-deserved time!