After the birth of my first daughter, I was a full-time employee and took a 12-week (6 of them paid) Maternity Leave (thank you, Family and Medical Leave Act). When my second daughter was born, I had been working as a Virtual Assistant and honestly didn’t give much thought to the idea of taking a maternity leave. My family was starting to experience the financial implications of me having quit my stable-income job to be home with our family and money was tight. I didn’t feel like I had the margin to take much time off and just two weeks after delivering my daughter, I was struggling to hit client deadlines with a newborn on my chest.
Let’s just say…that plan did not end well! We were all quickly stressed and frustrated. What’s worse, trying to keep that hustle pace with a new baby catapulted me into a season of burnout and depression.
With these experiences behind us, my husband and I knew we had to prepare better for our third baby on the way! Stay tuned for an update on how our plans shake out, but at the moment we’re feeling very confident and calm with having these three principles in place.
Work Ahead as Much as You Can Leading up to Maternity Leave
For my ongoing clients, around 34 weeks I prepared them for my upcoming leave. I asked if they would be okay with me working ahead on their projects, and billing for that work into the weeks I would take off. This way I still met my client’s deliverables, and kept somewhat of an income stream for myself.
Of course, working ahead meant I had to carve out some additional work time. My husband agreed that bulking up on work now would benefit our family later, and he was more than happy to coordinate making that happen.
Take One-Time Projects Instead of Ongoing Work
I also made a priority to take more one-time projects in the final months of my pregnancy. These projects varied in price from a few hundred dollars to a thousand.
One point to consider with one-time projects is that the money you earn, of course, is limited. You’ll want to be aware of the time you’re spending on the work since charging per project can be a bit trickier than charging per hour. Also, keep in mind that you’ll want to be extra vigilant with those incoming dollars. The goal here is to save up to take time off! You might get dollar signs for eyes when you see those bills rolling in your bank account, but don’t forget that the point of this bigger influx of cash is to save for the near future.
Inform your Clients and any New Contacts of Your Plan
I set up a draft of an automated email responder. Once I have my baby, I’ll turn it on! I also included an alternate way for people to keep up with me in the message. Once I’m ready to come back to work (we’re planning about 6 weeks off) I’ll turn the auto responder off. Here’s how I phrased mine:
I appreciate your email! Our family happily welcomed our third daughter, Harper, and we’ve been enjoying these early days as a family of five. Thank you for understanding that my response time will be delayed while I’m taking Maternity Leave. I’ll gladly get back with you once I’m back at my computer.
P.S. If you’re the kind of person who loves new baby pictures, feel free to follow me on Instagram!
Plan for Self-Care Postpartum
My abiding passion is birth work. (In addition to running this business and working online, I’m also a certified doula!) And the more I learn about pregnancy, birth, and postpartum I’m finding that the importance of planning for the postpartum period is often missed. Be realistic in your expectations for postpartum. I know when your income is directly related to the hours you work, it can be tempting to want to rush right back into it instead of truly taking a maternity leave. But give yourself some time! Remember, why you’re doing all this work ahead of your baby’s birthday is to give you that margin after. And you’ll be glad you did!
Two resources that have really helped me plan better to welcome a new baby is this Postpartum Plan from Adriana Lozada at The Birthful Podcast. And the information I’ve heard from Arianna Taboada who specializes in helping mom entrepreneurs plan for maternity leave.
And if you’re reading this because you’re going to add a new one to your family, Congratulations on your new bundle of joy!