When I was pregnant, the hardest thing for me wasn't the nausea. It wasn't the hip pain, the bloody noses, the food cravings and aversions, the constant peeing, nor any other physical symptom, although I had many.
The hardest thing was wondering what would happen to my business after my baby was born.
I obsessed about it. Would I want to return to work postpartum? If so, when? And how much? And what would I do about childcare? Would I still want to work from home, or would I rather leave the house and get an office somewhere else? Would I have enough energy? Would I have enough time? Would my passion for my work still even be there? Or would I be consumed with motherhood and have nothing left to give to other areas?
I have several self-employed friends who are pregnant right now (including a client and an employee), and several more considering whether they'd like to be mothers at some point. I see these brilliant women wrestling with many of the same questions, and I know when I was there, I couldn't find anyone who was talking about this predicament. Everything about working moms was about "returning to the office," not about running your own biz, which is a much different animal.
So let me see if I can shed some light on the subject from my own, humble experience.
Welcome to the Unknown!
First of all, get comfortable with the idea that there is just some stuff you won't be able to figure out until after the baby arrives.
I HATED this part. I'm good at planning. You probably are too, which is why you have your own business. Like me, you probably wish you could plan out what your business will look like when you return to it (IF you return to it.) But having a baby will be unlike anything you have ever done before - I don't care how much you babysat, or how many little cousins you have, or even if you used to teach preschool or be a nanny.
This. Is. Different.
And it can't be planned for. Well, not all of it. You just can't know what it will feel like to be a new mom until you are one, and until you see what kind of baby you get. So go ahead and daydream, fantasize, and envision all you want. Then let all of it go and be ready to show up for whatever comes your way.
As most of you know, I got a hard-core lesson in letting go of expectations right from the start as my planned home birth turned into an emergency C-section. In retrospect, I am grateful because it helped prepare me for the long line of things that were nothing like I thought they would be.
I am seven months postpartum now. I am going to tell you what my work situation looks like, because when I was in your place, I was dying to know the intricate details of how the other self-employed moms were making it work. And I don't mean moms of ten year-olds. I wanted to hear about moms of little babies. And again, I couldn't find any who were talking about it. So here you go. You're welcome.
***Disclaimer: I am only one woman. This is only one way to do it. Please take it as an inspiration to find what works best for YOU and YOUR family.***
How Working Works
I started easing back into work at a little over three months postpartum, (although I started thinking about it and missing it even earlier.) I began by searching for a nanny on Care.com. I didn't waste any time at all trying to work without childcare. Yes, I was a little nervous about adding the extra expense, but I just worked it into my budget and moved on. It was a non-negotiable.
I made a list of exactly what I wanted in a nanny and found Darlene within a week. We established her schedule: 4 hours on Mondays, 7 hours on Wednesdays, and 4 hours on Fridays. I looked specifically for someone who would be willing to help out with cooking and cleaning while Rowan was taking a nap, because I knew that getting bogged down with that stuff would really cut into both my work time and my time to be with him. Now my house is pretty much always relatively clean, my laundry done, and my dinners prepped. Not to mention that Rowan gets to play with someone who is head over heels in love with him while his mama is working. It’s a pretty sweet situation.
I decided to keep my home office so I could pop out and nurse Rowan throughout the day as needed. Sometimes Darlene gives him a bottle, like if I am in a session with a client or out at a doctor’s appointment or something when it's time for him to eat. But mostly, I still get to breastfeed all day.
Which is awesome for a few reasons:
One, I get a burst of oxytocin every time.
Two, I can still feel close to my baby even though I am working.
Three, I don’t have to spend time hooking myself up to the breast pump and then cleaning pump parts all day. Mad props to women who do that!! (Do people still say “mad props?”)
And four, it makes it pretty impossible to overwork. Before, I often got lost in what I was working on at my computer and I'd forget to eat, stretch, or just go out and see the sun. By the end of a day like that, I was low blood sugar, cranky, and depleted.
But Rowan now ensures that I stop about every two hours. He is like my mindfulness bell.
Another super cool thing about being an entrepreneur and a mom is that I now have so little time to work. Which means I have no time to procrastinate!
Before, when I hit an obstacle or a challenging patch, I found a way to put off working for days or even weeks so I didn't have to face it. (Hello Netflix!)
Now, every moment that Darlene is here I am aware that I am paying her. And every moment that I have set aside for work is a moment I am not spending with my son. So I sit my ass down at my desk and I carry on, no matter how loud the fear voices are that day. Less time to work definitely doesn’t have to mean that less gets done!
What This Mama is Creating Now
Another thing I wondered when pregnant was, how do self-employed moms' business models change after a baby? Are there certain services or programs that now no longer make sense, or could be done in a more baby-friendly way?
In Mothering From Your Center, Tammy Lynn Kent talks about her decision to return to her practice as a pelvic care practitioner after her first son was born (ok, so there was at least ONE self-employed woman talking about the topic.) She decided that for the first year after her son's birth, she would only maintain her private practice. No touring, lecturing, or other more time-consuming engagements.
This seemed like a good idea to me.
So in January of this year, I opened back up my private practice even though I hadn’t been focusing on one-on-one work for a couple of years. Before Rowan, I had been leading my year-long group program called “The Year of the Wild Woman.” This involved delivering lots of workshops and weekend retreats, as well as going deep deep deep with a small, committed group of women. But I was nervous about my ability to sustain such an intense schedule now with a new baby, especially the weekend retreats part.
So, one-on-one work it would be.
However, it only took a couple of months for me to start yearning for the group work again. I’m grateful to have landed a handful of inspiring private clients this year - truly, I look forward to every session, they’re awesome women - but now that I’ve seen the kind of HUGE results that can be achieved in a group program, it’s hard to be satisfied with anything else.
I often end those private sessions thinking, argh! I wish that conversation could have taken place on a video conference call with all of my other clients on the line! They would have all benefitted so much, and then this woman would have a whole tribe of support to follow through with her goal rather than just me.
The sisterhood aspect can’t be underestimated.
So I started asking myself the question, what would it be like to lead a group program in a way that still got my clients earth-shattering results, but also works for my life as a new mom?
Enter, the world of online programs!
Long story short, I bit the bullet and overcame lots of tech fears to begin compiling my mountains of content into an online program. Then I talked with lots of colleagues who lead successful online programs in order to find out what the secret sauce was that kept them feeling super-personal, even through a computer screen. (Hint: It’s video conferencing! And also things like keeping a bell that represents each woman and ringing her into the meeting each time. And lots of other good ideas I’m stealing.)
One of the core principles of my work is that we women really can have it all. But until I became a mom, I couldn’t get rid of the niggling doubt about whether everything I’d been teaching would still work with a kid (or several) in the picture. So now it’s time to prove it to myself. Here goes!
I hope this blog post has been informative and helpful to those of you who are in the position I was at about this time last year. FYI, I wrote most of it by dictating into my phone while Rowan played with his toys on his blanket in front of me. Then I made the final edits at a coffeeshop down the street from my house while Darlene stayed with him at our house (and did all my dishes while he napped.) Finally, I sent the completed draft to my fabulous assistant, Danita, and she plugged it all into the blog and set it up to send out to the various channels where it gets distributed.
I can’t emphasize good support enough. Every awesome thing you see me produce happened because I am exquisitely supported by my husband, nanny, assistant, bookkeeper, parents, and a whole host of wonderful friends. I can sum up this whole post by simply saying, yes, it’s possible to be a wonderful mom and a wonderful entrepreneur, but only to the extent that you’re willing to be supported.
P.S. If you are also an entrepreneur and a mom, I would absolutely LOVE to hear how you’re making it work. And if you are pregnant or considering motherhood and have more questions that I didn’t cover in this post, let me know! Just leave a comment below!
P.P.S. If you’re interested in my upcoming virtual group program called, “Ignite Your Passion!” let me know that, too, and I’ll be sure you hear about it first when it’s ready to be filled in a couple of weeks, because there are limited spots. Just sign up for my email list below!
P.P.P.S. (I know, the post-scripts are getting ridiculous now. . . I can’t believe you’re still reading.) I just went to the bathroom at the cafe where I’m finishing up this post, which requires walking through the back area where the baking gets done, and there was a mom back there packing up cookies while her 18 month-old boy sat in a high chair next to her! I chatted with her and she said how grateful she is to her parents (who own the bakery) for allowing her to bring her son to work with her. So cool how many ways there are to make working motherhood work.
What type of wild woman are you?
Hello! I'm Melanie Munir, founder of Professional Wild Woman - a women's empowerment business dedicated to helping women who are tired of feeling either "too much" or "not enough" to connect to their inner wildness so they can create work that allows them the fullest expression of their unique voice. Welcome!