Five years ago when I was pregnant with Lili I knew very little of what to expect. This week, I want to share the things I learned as a new mom – a mom that also happens to be a business owner. For most of these things I wish someone had shaken me REAL HARD and knocked some sense into me. They may have had to slap me silly because no one fully understands what its like to take care of a tiny being until they’re there. But, the perspective would have been really helpful.
My experience is my experience – but maybe you’ll find something here that relates to yours. I’m hoping I can help some of you new moms-to-be out there, soon to be mompreneurs!
What I Wish I Could Do Over…
I’m not the kind of person to sit around regretting things. But, I have always said “Next time, I will know these things. I will do things differently.” So, here are the things I will do differently… the things that I would do over.
1 – Given myself an honest-to-goodness REAL maternity leave
I had a ‘pseudo’ maternity leave established. I say ‘pseudo’ because I’m not sure I was really ever committed to truly pulling away from my business. I was a workaholic and needed my drug. So my planned maternity leave would consist of one month completely off from working with a slow re-entry into my business. It was timed perfectly with the slow invitation season. And, I had a great assistant who was going to answer all of my email. I could officially unplug.
BUT – was my heart really in it? Did I really want to unplug?
There was a small storm of events that obliterated my maternity leave. Lili was born 2 weeks late, crunching into the time I had set aside for my leave. My assistant was facing a personal crisis, one which I fully supported her in having to take time off to manage. And, the ‘slow season’ turned into anything but that – with 5 new inquiries the week of my delivery. And, there I was… left to jump back into my business with not much more than a couple days of honest-to-goodness maternity leave.
It’d be easy for me to say “I tried to take maternity leave, but there were forces against me.” But that’s total BS. I could have shut down the office and the email and said, “ta ta! I’ll see you in the New Year!” Would I have missed that business? Probably not. (4.5 years later I have no memory or recollection of those customers or how much money they brought me.) Also, how well did I service them in my sleep-deprived baby-blues new role? They never complained but I’m sure I wasn’t giving them my A-game.
How much time would I have taken off? At least 2 months, instead of 2 days.
2 – Found ‘non-work’ things to keep my mind busy
One of the hardest things in those early weeks as a mom is transitioning your mind from going full throttle to completely slowing down. Let’s be real here: the mind kinda needs to shut off completely from most things intellectual at least for a few weeks and/or months. I think letting go of the ‘should-be-doing’s is an important part of those early days with a newborn. But, I have an extremely hard time with my mind moving at only 3 miles per hour. And, I was not prepared for this at all.
In the times when I wasn’t feeding Lili, changing a diaper, trying to decipher her crying, or attempting to sleep, I was flat out BORED. This was a time to connect and bond with my baby – and there was PLENTY of that. But, my mind was just not used to the slowing down. I wanted work. I hungered for it. And, I think there is a part of me that found comfort in work – something I KNEW and know how to do. (I sure wasn’t as knowledgeable in the baby arena.)
Initially, I didn’t return to working full-blown 40 hour weeks, mind you. But I was working a few hours a week soon after I delivered. Aside from working while exhausted, these 5-10 hours of work/week ruined my focus on the task at hand: becoming a new mother. I would check email for only 15 minutes, but then found myself consumed with the thoughts of things I could or should (or wanted) to be working on.
In hindsight, I should have given myself ‘non-work’ things to keep my hungry mind going. I would have read more books (non-business books). I would have watched more silly TV and movies. I would have let my mind go to those non-work activities so that I could remain focused on NOT working and on becoming a mother. And, I would have ‘planned’ these activities ahead of time. It may sound silly to plan idle time. But, for me, the idle mind is the workaholic devil’s plaything.
As a result of my working ‘just a little’ I was torn in too many directions, unfocused and distracted by unimportant work things, when I should have just been on maternity leave.
3 – Been confident in my new role as a mother
I was also scared to be away from my business. I thought people might forget about me and the work I do. I thought people would not refer me because “Oh she’s a mom now. I’m not going to send her this referral. You know how new moms can be.” Such a silly silly thing. I wasn’t confident in myself. I thought people would see my new role as a handicap. There are negative stereotypes of the working mom being unable to manage all of her responsibilities and I thought people would place those stereotypes on me. Such a silly thing!
What I now know from watching so many other brilliant business owners become moms is that the person they are before becoming a mom carries over into motherhood… they just do it with greater panache. I also am very impressed when I see a mom say, “No. I can’t do this. It’s time for my family.” I have so much more respect and admiration for the woman that knows her boundaries as opposed to someone who takes on too much.
Have you been in my shoes? What would you have done?
Come back tomorrow… I’ve got more “should’ves” and “would’ves” for the new mompreneur…