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IS THERE SUCH A THING AS MATERNITY LEAVE WHEN RUNNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
A gentle reminder as I aimlessly drive the streets around our daycare centre after dropping off my number two baby for the first time – no matter how ‘experienced’ we are, those first steps towards returning to work are extremely difficult. I’m checking my phone every minute, expecting a call any second, desperately wanting it to ring so they can tell me she can’t cope without me!
Clearly it is me that can’t cope well without her along with the reality that it is time to get back to work. I’ve been quite comfortable playing mummy at home, working on my business when time allows and keeping up enough activity to keep things rolling along. I’m noticing clear differences between returning to my ‘regular’ job and running my own business. The fear is still there. The awesome thing about returning to your own business is you know exactly why you are doing this (even if the how and where is still a little vague).
To all the fabulous She Will Shine Members out there I want to share with you some of my tips for taking parental leave in your own business. I trust this will spark more conversation between our fabulous Mammas to provide even more insight and advice on this topic!
Stepping away from your business to give that new bundle of joy some mamma time:
Start preparing early
I know this sounds completely logical but those first three to four months of your pregnancy can be full of ups and downs, ins and outs and mixed emotions all whilst keeping your poker face to the general public. You then make all of your announcements and a couple of months fly by blissfully enjoying the wonderful conversations and changed interactions with your clients. Then reality hits – you will be officially ‘on leave’ soon!
Consistently communicate with your clients throughout your pregnancy about your pregnancy
Yes it is perfectly appropriate to share this news with your clients, especially if your clients don’t see you in person regularly. Time flies and your pregnancy is not top of their thoughts, being prepared and communicating regularly with your clients will ensure they are prepared for your leave.
Know that it is ok to change your mind
Again communication is critical, your clients will understand if you need to pull back on the reins. Make sure you have them covered with a solution for continued service (see my first and last points).
This was the biggest long-term benefit for me (whilst I did this later than I would suggest for others). Review how you actually spend your time in and on your business and prioritise your time and duties. Treat your business like any other company and ensure key resources are being used effectively. Get your outsourcing relationships in place well before you go on leave to ensure everything is running smoothly and you are happy with how the work is flowing.
Plan for your return
Who knows if your return will go according to plan, knowing you have a plan and utilising your time in the best possible way will give you peace of mind.
These are my top tips for a return:
• Be adaptable. Golden rule of parenting and returning to work!
• Don’t assume your baby can/can’t attend networking events. Simply ask the organiser and respect their answer.
• Don’t hide your baby. Respect your client and let them know your baby will be with you.
• If you plan to use childcare put these arrangements in place very early. Again be adaptable!
• Create good rituals that you maintain. Having a bath and washing your hair the night before you work or network is not only relaxing and refreshing it is critical to your time management the following morning!
• Go shopping. Yes you are likely to need new clothes that accommodate the changes in your body and circumstances (especially if you plan to breastfeed in public).
• Go easy on yourself. Don’t forget to take time out to relax.
Don’t underestimate the power of your network. My network community were extremely supportive, continually keeping in touch, offering practical support such as meals, driving, and a shoulder to laugh or cry on. As a Mum and a woman in business – thank you to my community for supporting my return to work!
Charma Voller is a return to work coaching expert (but not perfectionist). Find out more on her website charmavoller.com.au
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