Back in March I gave birth to a sweet little boy – if you met me at any of last year’s holiday markets, you surely saw him in bump form! – and life has been different ever since. Of course it is! Adding a new human to the world and your family is a life-changing experience. Babies have a knack for taking up every single moment of your time. Even when they’re sleeping, you’re either saving your energy for later by sleeping too or cleaning up to prep for when they wake. So how do you find the time or stamina to continue your small business when new motherhood takes over? I’m still figuring that out myself, and I imagine it will be an ever-changing learning process. If you’re thinking about getting pregnant (or adopting), already sporting a bump, or in the thick of those first few weeks of new baby sleep deprivation (it gets better, I promise!), hopefully this list of things I’ve figured out so far will help! (And yes, I’m writing this while he’s napping when I really should be getting things ready for when he’s up again!)
Sign up for health insurance (if you don’t have it already). You took the leap and became a small business owner in part because you wanted to be your own boss and avoid the cubicle life. But one of the perks of a corporate job is the ability to join a group health insurance plan. I know plenty of small business owners who feel they can’t afford individual health insurance now that they’re working for themselves and so they forgo it. This is not something to skip, especially if you’re going to have a baby. Pregnancy and birth, even if you want minimal medical involvement, costs money.
Personal Experience: I have no medical issues, take the natural approach first for any ailments, and had a homebirth with two midwives and a doula. But there are always medical costs along the way, planned and otherwise. Our son was taken to the NICU at a local hospital shortly after his birth and spent five days there before coming home. The bill, before the health insurance deductions, was over $50,000. I don’t know any small business owners who have enough cash lying around to foot such a large bill!
Business Tip: Do your research now and sign up for health insurance – you might even be able to include it as part of your business costs. Keep in mind that you will want an insurance that you can add your new baby to once he or she is born.
Take as much time off for maternity leave as possible. The first weeks and months of your baby’s life are intense, for all of you. In the beginning babies feed constantly, which means they only sleep in short 1-2 hour bursts, and therefore so do you. On top of that, if you gave birth your body is still healing and all of you are getting used to each other and this new life together. It’s not easy! As time moves forward things change and parenthood becomes more rewarding, with wonderful interactions like their first smile and first giggle, but in the beginning it’s a lot of feeding, sleeping, and dirty diapers.
Personal Experience: I’m eight months into motherhood and deeply understand why other countries like the UK allow for a year of partially paid maternity leave. You do all this grueling work to keep your baby alive those first few months, and just when it gets enjoyable you’re forced to go back to work? My kiddo arrived two weeks early (babies rarely arrive on their due date!), and I was working until the wee hours the night before my labor started. I wish I had set firmer boundaries and planned for more weeks of rest before he arrived. Once the baby is here there’s not much sleep for many months!
Business Tip: Try to plan for as much time off as possible. That includes a few weeks before the baby arrives as well – if making it work to take time off means saving up extra money before the baby arrives or delegating responsibilities to someone else or simply closing up shop for a while, if you can afford it then do it. This time is precious!
Have a place to write down business ideas even if you can’t act on them yet. I mentioned all those tiny bits of sleep you’ll get during the first few months, but there’s a second layer of sleep deprivation you might not be expecting – the mental chatter that will keep you from sleeping even when the baby is (and you should be).
Personal Experience: Sometime during the second month of parenthood, when my natural sleep rhythms had officially been broken and now baby was sleeping a little bit longer, I began to suffer from “Momsomnia”. You’re used to being up all the time to feed and change and soothe this little being, and now they’re snoozing longer and you’re wide awake thinking about everything. This can actually be a really creative time if you’re able to harness it. I would lie there awake and have bursts of amazing ideas about my business – new products, blog posts, ways to connect with customers, etc. – and feel discouraged they I couldn’t act on them. So I just started writing them down, knowing (ok, hoping!) that someday I would have a little more free time to act on them.
Business Tip: Whether you keep a note pad by your bed or download an app on your phone, have somewhere that you can write down these ideas as soon as they pop up. Your future self will thank you! And hopefully you’ll be able to go back to sleep knowing these ideas don’t need to swirl around in your head anymore.
Ask for (and accept) help. When you envision your first weeks home with baby, do you imagine it being all sweet and cozy, just you and your partner and your baby, cuddled up with no one else around? I love that! Except who’s cleaning the house and making the food and running the errands and taking care of the parents?
Personal Experience: We thought we could do it all, but you quickly learn that you can’t. Both our mothers are deceased, and during my pregnancy my Aunt generously offered to come stay at an Airbnb near us for a few days once baby was here so she could help with anything we needed. We thanked her and told her we’d think about it, but really, we thought we would be just fine on our own. We had to eat a very large serving of humble pie when we called her a couple days after his return home from the NICU begging her to come, asking how soon she could get here, and how long was the maximum she could stay!
Business Tip: If you have anyone you trust who offers to help, whether it’s childcare, running errands, making food, cleaning your home, or more, take them up on it! The same goes for your business. If you plan on keeping your business open, hire people to do the things you can’t (and get them started on this in your last few months of pregnancy when you’re tired and less mobile). If you can’t afford to hire people, see if they’re willing to do a trade. Maybe you help a fellow business owner with some of their business tasks before the baby arrives, and then they help you with your to-do’s while you’re on leave. You can’t do it all!
Come back to your business with fresh eyes. Taking time off to care for your new baby is a life altering type of sabbatical. It changes you in ways you might never expect. The lack of time to get things done when you have a baby can be really frustrating. You used to be so productive! But think of it this way – if you’re a new person now, then you’re primed to take a new, fresh look at your business when you return.
Personal Experience: I have been my own boss for many years, and with that has come a level of freedom that many don’t get to experience, and which I am so grateful for. Going from that to (if I’m lucky) an hour each day during nap time to focus on my business has been a hard change. Since time has become such a precious commodity it has forced me to be very intentional with my spare time. If I only have an hour a day, what are the most important and enjoyable tasks to spent that on? One of the business notes I took during my creative burst in that second month read in all caps: ONLY DO THINGS THAT RESULT IN REAL MONEY OR ABSOLUTE CREATIVE BLISS. And that has become both the benchmark against which each task is measured every time I have a moment to myself. Having this to come back to has been great way to avoid distraction and wasted time! (By the way, writing this blog post didn’t exactly fit into either of those categories, but it is in line with a sentiment I feel strongly about since becoming a Mom: being honest with and helping out fellow Moms in any way I can!)
Business Tip: When you return to your business, you are going to find there are things you always hated doing that now you find incredibly pointless to spend your limited time on. Don’t be afraid to make deep cuts! Get rid of old methods, find new ways to do them, outsource the work (this blog post is all stock images because the most important part to spend my time on was the words), or reinvent the execution. This is the time to recreate your business to suit your new life and your new perspective. Which parts of the business matter most? Put your energy into those and see how it, and you, flourish.
I hope these bits of wisdom from my months of motherhood are helpful for you! Do you have any questions I didn’t cover? Ask me in the comments below, I’m happy to help out! Or are you an experienced small biz Mom? Feel free to leave some of your own tips so we all can learn!