What is Maternity Leave for an Entrepreneur?

Last week my husband and I finished our final prenatal class. This one was the Part II in our Breastfeeding Class. I believe the eloquent title was Express Yourself. Cute. All about the amazing world of pumping (expressing your milk, for you non-preggers). I am definitely a breastfeeding mom but given some of my independence issues and my struggle with sharing my body while pregnant, I know I want the option to pass off baby to daddy with a bottle when mommy wants to go to the gym, have a glass of wine or just take a break. Plus, I know he really wants the bonding time to feed her and I want that for them too. But I found out I am not your typical pumping mom. I don’t have to  pump. Sitting in this room with all of these working moms really made me so grateful for my life. We had the mom returning to her law school program two weeks after delivery, the mom that was so ready to begin her breastfeeding supplement regimen of fenugreek before the baby arrived for fear that her supply would dwindle, the mom returning to work full-time 8 weeks later (with the dad convinced they would need to supplement with formula), and the yogi mom, probably most closely related to my situation, that would need to leave for a couple of hours for a class. We spent time talking about how to work with (maybe battle, in some cases) your daycare providers so that they will feed the baby at the right times and in the right ways to not give too much nipple confusion. We chatted about the regimented pumping schedule and the nooks and closets you could hide in during your lunch break to pump. My heart ached for these moms. The pressure. I know I would constantly feel a race against time if I had immediate demands to return to an office.

I remember even when I was a therapist thinking how the heck am I going to do this? As a therapist, if you don’t see clients, you don’t get paid. And if you take an extended period of time off, you run the risk of becoming irrelevant to your clients and having to rebuild your caseload. There were some perks because I could still see a full-time caseload and only be in the office part-time… but still… the money…

Since becoming pregnant, I have been grateful to skip through the chapters and the weekly checklists on informing your employer and shopping for daycare. However, as an entrepreneur, I have had to fight my own battles. Different battles. The battles between myself and my boss (myself). So much of how I define myself and my self-worth is tied into my work. Learning how to let some things go and delegate others has been a major obstacle. The only person I have needed permission for any maternity leave is myself. I think many times it would have been easier to just submit my necessary paperwork to a boss.

I worked my normal workload- 60+ hours, leading 2 Fit Camps, seeing clients, working at our nutrition club, etc, up until about 20 weeks. At that point, my first trimester symptoms hadn’t really seized, burpees were becoming awkward, and I was just tired. So I changed my work up, reduced my hours, and started to let go of some of my responsibilities. I think so many of my hormonal mood swings were tied into this. I resented having to do this. I felt bored, sad, and I missed my team!! I didn’t know who I was because at that point, I wasn’t yet someone’s mom. I was just the pregnant woman who needed to reduce her stress and prepare for becoming a mom. And although I knew I should’ve loved and embraced that opportunity, I didn’t. Hindsight it was good for me, my team, and completely necessary groundwork to prepare everyone for the baby’s arrival but it was an internal struggle with myself.

Now I am FOUR WEEKS AWAY (holy crap) from my due date and I am still uncertain about what this leave will look like. Sometimes I say I will be completely removed for the rest of 2013. Sometimes I think a bit longer. Other days I think, no way. I will do plenty of correspondence from home and be back in the game ready to go. But here is what I have learned. I don’t actually have to decide anything right now. I can have the baby and play it by ear. I can see how I feel and how she is adjusting. I can wait until I’m up for it. I can learn what it means to be a working mom at our pace. I have options because of the residual income we have built in only 2 years!

When I was a therapist, I used to talk with my clients about designing an integrated life- one where their work, their family, their interests, were all woven in as one. It sounded beautiful in philosophy. Little did I know that I was simply designing the philosophy for my life.

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On Being an Entrepreneur

My husband and I like to talk shop. Our business is still our baby. We live it, love it, breathe it, and cry about it almost daily. So even when we are out on date nights or going for an evening stroll, our business tends to be a major topic.

One thing we have been reflecting on a lot is business and entrepreneurship in general. You see, our business isn’t normal. There are many people in our company that are starting from scratch (where we all start) and shooting up to mega incomes in 4 years or less. And when I say mega, I mean MEGA. Take your definition of MEGA and triple it. YUP! Anyway, we 100% saw ourself on that path. Maybe not the tripled MEGA but definitely the doubled mega in 3 years. We are two years in and unsure if we will hit it (but aren’t slowing down anytime soon).

That income opportunity isn’t normal and we often have to remind ourselves of that when we talk shop. Prior to health coaching, we both owned our own business. I walked away after one year, he walked away after 4 years. And in that time, we weren’t even close to what we have developed to date. We reflect on our trials and our tribulations. We both started businesses with no structural support in place, no formal business education, and very little self education. We are both fight-to-the-death kind of people and probably would have eventually figured it out-ish. In our current business, we’re very fortunate of the support that we have in place and all of the skills that we have learned without knowing or intentionally learning them.

In our evening chats, we know others that are in business for themselves, going into business, or thinking about entrepreneurship. We admire those for the tenacity and passion. But I think we also send a lot of empathy and well-wishes out to them. Growing your own business is hard. You have to have thick-skin, passion, and the most crystal clear WHY before you even open your doors. You have to defy the naysayers, develop yourself everyday, LEARN, be ok with failure, and most importantly be patient with nothing but faith. Only then, do you have a chance at success. And again, our current business is simple!

Everyday I am grateful for being self-employed. It’s been a crazy journey and definitely not one that I envisioned for myself but we are getting through the humps and really starting to see the other side. The true American Dream. And the incredible part is that recently it’s been recognized more and more. Something that we definitely didn’t expect at this point. But the recognition really must go to those that have paved the way for us. We’ve had it very easy in our business. But for those going out on their own, here are the lessons that C and I take away – 1) Have a support structure in place. Find a mentor that has been successful in business to call on. 2) Read and self-educate like it’s your job. It is. Become a better human being and your business will become attractive. 3) Don’t quit. Give yourself 2 years to keep your head above water, 4 years to get by, and at 7 years enjoy your income and benefits of entrepreneurship.

It may not be easy, but it’s SO Worth It!