"How long are you taking maternity leave?" is the question I am asked most often now. Friends and family see me hustling my bustle before the birth of my second child comes, and this is their question, and their concern.
The question of "work" has always been a sensitive topic for me. When I give friends and family the honest answer of "I don't know...maybe two weeks," I get exasperated when they gasp in horror, and I can see their wheels spinning of how they are going to talk me off the ledge and into "enjoying this time" and relaxing.
That is a fair statement and wish, and let me tell you - I do. I enjoy most of my life because of the way I have structured it. That may be hard for people who have full-time W2 jobs to understand. The life and drive of an entrepreneur, be that a service-preneur or product-preneur (I happen to be both), are vastly different from those who do not live this path. A Tin Shingle lives with uncertainty from risks taken to make a living. But within that uncertainty, other life goals can be fulfilled, including paying bills and saving for the future.
I am now finding logic in fibbing about my maternity leave, or just dodging the question by moving to another issue. It's easier than explaining where my approach to work is coming from.
Professionally, my business partners know that I am available for anything (and that's the benefit of having business partners who you trust completely). My clients know that their needs will be met, as it's my job to set up a system before my "maternity leave" that takes care of them even if I'm not able to check email for several hours.
But my friends and family...sigh. Hence the title of this post: "Ignore them and carry on." Kind of like "keep calm and carry on". The foundation of my "work" is that it gives me great happiness, as it's a limitless creative outlet that can earn income. I know my limitations. If I completely collapse, they can say "I told you so", but to avoid burnout on either end, I'm making adjustments based on the first time I went through "maternity leave", which actually lasted for 6 months because I was not emotionally ready for childcare, and tried to do everything during naps and sleep (I still work during naps and sleep, but with a huge burden lifted).
Here's my strategic plan for this second "maternity leave", and remember folks, not all Tin Shingles have paid maternity leaves, certainly not in the ways that W2 employees do with paid leaves and forced returns back into an office at a certain time each day. My day starts when I need it to (pending any member or client needs that happened overnight), but I've got to build the stockpile of bill payments. Full disclosure: I am married to a husband who works, but my aim throughout my life has been to be able to provide for myself and family independently.
Back to my strategic maternity leave plan:
Do It With Others. Keep a close eye on my preneuring friends who have also just had 2nd babies, and see what their lives are like.
Estimate 2 weeks for maternity leave. It used to be 6 weeks in my mind, but really, the way I feel about not working is like I'm playing on a basketball team, and we're on a roll, I'm in shape, breathing well, and the coach takes me out of the game, all of a sudden. Argh! This is not to undermine the joy of a new little person that gets replaced with this void. Just being honest here. For a Tin Shingle, maternity leave can feel like a "void" because you're not able to do what you love, and earn what you're capable of to contribute to the household. Bottom line: the end of the "maternity leave" is TBD based on the little baby, myself, and how my family and I are all doing with the new life. But really - are mothers ever not on maternity leave from their former life?
Nap time is prime time. I remember nap time being very gracious in the first few weeks. I was almost like - where's the fuss? I did not "sleep when the baby sleeps", and don't plan on it now. I can barely take naps on sunny days as it is, work or no work. Just can't do it.
Go to bed at 9pm. Mistake during my first maternity leave was I did push myself too much with stress and trying to work at night. If the baby went to sleep between 8-9pm, and I worked, and then was ready for bed myself at 11pm (like my normal self, although 10pm is best). At 11pm, the baby usually woke up hungry, and then I was hugely tired. That hour meant a night feed and sooth down. I'll be shutting down at 9pm so that I can handle the 11pm or midnight feed.
Open to different forms of childcare. In my pre-entrepreneur days, I thought the benefit of running your own business was that you could be there for your family. Little did I know how tricky this was. My mom left her W2 job in advertising to have and raise us. She did direct sales on the side (Discovery Toys, clothing, etc). She was also always "working", or carrying around binders of paperwork. Upon entering the reality of baby + business without childcare, I realized how...impossible this was. For me, at least. I was torn between reading emails and smiling and interacting with my growing baby. At six months, I gave into childcare by way of an amazing babysitter. She was my Mary Poppins. Saved me on so many levels. At one year, I enrolled my daughter in day care, aka "babyschool" because she seemed to burst with socialness when baby-friends came over. Great decision. For me, one year was great because I finished nursing, and she was ready. This little baby might start sooner, and I'm ok with that. Playing that by ear.
- Respect my patience. Motherhood has injected an enormous amount of patience into my life. I had it before (though not when husband asks me for computer help at 11pm when I'm going to bed). My to-do list is very long. Remember, the to-do list is of things that are really fun for me. It's analyzing websites, seeing what's working, making new designs that may work better, tweaking content that can convert a sale, writing a new blog post that will do well in Google and reach a new audience, stitching a baby blanket, putting my inventory finally online and then promoting it. All really fun stuff! But my actual to-do list for that day or hour must be realistic, and I've grown to understand how to make that happen without being disappointed in my performance or production level.
So that's it. My strategic "maternity leave" plan. Also note: I'm able to make this decision, and that's gotta count for something.