I love reading female business owners posts about how they’re preparing for maternity leave!
But one thing I’ve always felt was missing was some sort of follow up post saying…
“This is how it actually went and what I’d change knowing what I know now!”
So I reached out to my friend and online business owner Mary McWilliams over at Wellness Site Shop, to see if she had any ‘been-there-done-that’ tips for new and expecting mothers when it comes to navigating business and baby!
Here’s what she had to share!
Hi friends! My name is Mary and today I’m sharing with you my top tips for navigating pregnancy and maternity leave while also running a business.
I founded my business, Wellness Site Shop, back in 2019 and I design websites for health and wellness coaches.
I actually used to be Paige’s VA before she inspired me to go out and start my own thing. She told me once that she didn’t realize she was hiring herself when she hired me (sorry Paige! )
But it’s all good because she’s grown an incredible team since I left her 2 years ago.
I’m so excited she invited me to share with you what I’ve learned since becoming a new mom a few months ago. It really has been a wild ride but I feel like I’ve already learned so much on what it takes to be a present mom and a bada*s CEO.
So let’s dive in!
Long story short, I hated being pregnant.
Yes, the baby kicks were amazing but other than that, I had a really rough pregnancy.
We found out super early on (like 4.5 weeks) and my nausea kicked in right at 5.5 weeks. And let me tell you, it wrecked me. IYKYK.
I had a pretty extreme case of “morning” sickness (side-note: morning sickness is a total lie…it can be all day every day) and I spent the next 3 months on the couch not doing a single thing in my business except answering only the most important emails.
And when I say I didn’t do anything, I mean not.a.single.thing. The nausea was completely debilitating and pair that with typical first trimester fatigue…well…let’s just say I’ve never been more grateful for Disney Plus.
I finally started feeling a little better by month 4 and was able to return to business as usual for the most part. I still had a little more fatigue than normal but it wasn’t anything that impacted my ability to get things done too much.
Then we get to third trimester…around 27 weeks, the baby was getting bigger and my body just couldn’t take it anymore.
I developed something called Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction which can cause excruciating pubic bone pain. It only occurs in like 20% of pregnant women and it can be mild to pretty severe.
All I can say is it was not pleasant. I had to go to the chiropractor and physical therapy twice a week for pretty much my whole third trimester.
Oh, and did I mention I was a high-risk pregnancy which means I had a specialist in addition to my regular midwife? I probably had 20+ sonograms before it was all said and done.
And I don’t share this to scare anyone!
Even if your pregnancy is hard like mine was, it really is so so worth it.
I’m simply trying to illustrate my point that things in your business might need to change even before the baby is born.
Had I known we were getting pregnant when we did (our little one was a bit of a surprise!) and looking back on how hard those 9 months were, I would have made adjustments throughout the pregnancy instead of planning business as usual until the baby was born.
So if your pregnancy is something that’s planned…
If you have a team, can you delegate more tasks to them?
If you’re strictly a solopreneur, what are some tasks that really aren’t priorities?
If you post a weekly blog or video, can you cut that down to every other week? (I promise your business won’t fall to the ground!)
Maybe put a cap on accepting new clients so you make sure you have the energy to take good care of the ones you have.
Trust me, you have absolutely no idea how your pregnancy will go. So better to be safe than sorry and expect you might be out of commission more than you’d like.
And if you’re one of those lucky gals who has an easy and blissful pregnancy, then we can’t be friends. Totally kidding!
This one might seem obvious but doing this sooner rather than later will help a ton. Think about what tasks and projects will still need to get done while you’re simultaneously soaked in baby spit-up and soaking up all those baby snuggles.
Do you have any retainer clients that will still need your services?
If so, can you delegate their work to a team member for those couple of months?
If you don’t have a team, can you put a pause in their contract so you don’t have the pressure of meeting their needs while learning how to keep a tiny human alive and well?
Or can you communicate with them way ahead of time to make sure any big projects they have coming up are completed before the baby gets here?
What about your marketing efforts?
If you primarily use content marketing, can you plan to create and schedule some content ahead of time to drip out while you’re away?
And it’s totally okay if you have to adjust the posting schedule…if you normally put out one blog post a week, it’s okay if you plan to put out a blog post every two weeks while you’re on leave.
(I didn’t get to any content planning due to the aforementioned pregnancy from hell so I didn’t post a single piece of new content in 4 months.)
And be aggressive with your planning and delegating. Those first few months after your baby comes will rock your world in the worst and best ways.
Trust me, all of your mental, physical, and emotional energy will be going into caring for yourself and your babe so you don’t want tons of business work to be a stressor.
Oh, and one last tip…if you have the luxury of doing so, plan for double the length of maternity leave that you think you want.
I was thinking I would be ready to go back to work after 8 weeks (I mean, 8 weeks should be plenty of time to figure this whole parenthood thing out, right?!) but I really wasn’t even able to think about my business again until 3 months and I didn’t even consider myself back from maternity leave until my daughter was 4 months old.
And even then, I only worked on Wellness Site Shop 2 days a week.
And feel free to do research on how other business owners prepped for maternity leave, but know none of their methods are gospel.
3. Accept that things will look different after the baby gets here
Oh lordy, this was a big one for me.
I’m going to be honest here…I really struggled (and still am) with grieving the loss of my unlimited independence and freedom since having a baby.
Don’t get me wrong, being her mom is the greatest ever, but it’s not without sacrifice.
I so terribly miss those days when Wellness Site Shop was my baby and I could spend days working on it without any interruptions.
Now, I have to embrace that my motherhood identity takes priority over my entrepreneur identity. I’m not saying you can’t be successful at both because you totally can and thousands of women do it every day.
All I’m saying is for me, my daughter comes first and while I love Wellness Site Shop, the day it repeatedly interferes with my ability to be the mom that my child needs and deserves is the day I’ll shut it down.
I learned this lesson real fast on a day soon after I started working again. I was on full baby duty all day by myself and I was also working with a client to troubleshoot some issues with their website.
It was a total disaster and I was in tears by 10am. Highly not recommended.
Now I’m very blessed to live very close to both sets of grandparents who will happily take my daughter for one day a week. So those two days are my WSS days.
So I only plan my to-do list for what I can accomplish in two days a week as opposed to five days a week.
Anything else that I get done is simply a bonus!
I also have one day a week where I’m on baby duty but I tell myself that any free time I get that day whether it’s during nap time or the baby is content playing by herself is dedicated to personal tasks like housework or paying bills.
On my WSS days, I had absolutely no responsibility to get a single thing done around my house.
And on my housework days, I didn’t get a single thing done with WSS.
With only one kid, I really only need one dedicated housework day per week but I know that will change as we (hopefully) have more children.
And on those days that I had baby duty but it wasn’t a labeled housework day, I had a little more freedom to decide what I wanted to do during free time.
And you will be shocked at how hard it is to do even the most basic of personal tasks like eating, taking a shower, and working out with a newborn. But knowing I had a few focused days throughout the week took a lot of the pressure of the stress in my mind of everything I wanted to get done.
One last thing…my system of my focused days didn’t come into play until my daughter was a few months old. Those first 8-12 weeks or so are complete chaos and all about survival.
This one will be short and sweet because there isn’t much to say.
Motherhood is an incredibly massive life change and it’s important to realize which of the bazillion balls you have in the air are made of glass and which ones are made of plastic.
In other words…
So scale back your business a bit if you need to and accept that your hair, clothes, and house are going to be a little messier than you might like.
It’s only a season.
Real talk…my mind went to some pretty dark places after having my daughter.
PPD/PPA/PPR are real things y’all and even if you don’t have a diagnosed medical condition that requires medication (if this is you, PLEASE get help. There’s no shame in doing what you have to do to be the best mom you can be), your hormones are going batsh*t crazy which for me led to intense mood swings and lots of thoughts like “WTF have I done,” “I’ve totally ruined my life,” and “I’m not cut out to be a mom.”
About 8 weeks in, I started seriously considering closing down WSS because I couldn’t see how there was any way I could make it as successful as I knew it could be while also being a mom.
There just wasn’t enough time in the day and I would never not be completely demolished by intense sleep deprivation.
Obviously, I’m so glad I made the decision to extend my maternity leave a bit until going back to work felt less daunting.
So moral of the story…don’t make any big decisions during the first 3-4 months after your sweet bundle of joy makes their debut.
I also applied this principle to personal stuff too and I really think it’s just a good rule for your life.
Don’t make any big decisions on bad days.
I promised myself that I wouldn’t make the decision to quit breastfeeding my daughter on a day when I thought it was going to kill me. That way I protected myself from the potential regret of dealing with a drastic decision when I may have not been thinking as clearly and more overrun by emotion.
My rule helped me make the decision to stop breastfeeding her on a day where it wasn’t that mentally or emotionally draining for me so I’m confident the decision was the best one for us.
So if you’re having serious thoughts about wanting to make big changes to your business, make sure you’re giving yourself adequate time to adjust to your new role as a parent.
It’s the same with motherhood.
If you decide you want to be both a good mom and a successful business owner, I promise you it’s possible. Just not in those first few weeks.
Okay, that’s all I have for you!
I won’t pretend that I have this whole motherhood + entrepreneurship thing figured out cause I absolutely don’t.
But I hope my insights into the past few months of early motherhood are helpful for you if you’re approaching this beautiful season of life!