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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