I’m thrilled to introduce you to my first guest blogger this week, Arianna Taboada! Arianna is a maternal health consultant who works with experienced entrepreneurs who are becoming first-time mothers, helping them customize their maternity leave plan and return to work. I was introduced to Arianna through a mutual friend of ours, Kathryn Hofer of Modern Planner, last year when Kathryn was planning her own maternity leave for her first baby. I’ve never planned a maternity leave for myself, so I’m not the most equipped person to handle questions in this area. That’s why I invited Arianna to share some simple steps you can take today to help you prepare your business for maternity leave. I hope you find this information helpful as you get ready to welcome your little one into the world!
#1 Think about how many weeks sounds like a reasonable maternity leave.
Take that number and double it… yes, really! Trust me – it’s my job to help entrepreneurs design a maternity leave plan that works for them and their business. If there is one thing I know for sure, it’s that we underestimate our ability to keep things moving in our absence.
You will have just given birth to a human. It’s hard work and you deserve to have the time to bond, recover, and adapt to the new normal.
Remember, if you feel ready to start working before your maternity leave is “over,” you totally can! It’s your business, and you are making the rules.
And my favorite strategy? Ask other business owners who have been there what worked for them or what they would have done differently.
#2 Identify what can be automated, batched, outsourced, delegated, or paused altogether.
Lest you be totally freaked out by the number you came up with above, I do want to acknowledge that unlike 9-5 settings where you may have paid leave, coverage, or others pinch-hitting for you, there are going to be some things in your business that you can’t step away from 100% after your baby is born.
That’s where some thoughtful evaluation and planning comes in. Map out what those “must-happen” things are (I recommend time tracking) and plunk it into one of the following categories: automated, batched, outsourced, or delegated.
There’s a fifth option as well: pause. There are certain things that, while not ideal, can not happen and your business will not shut down as a result. Identify what those are and embrace that “not doing” is indeed an option.
#3 Write your client communication plan.
Client communication may not be the first thing that comes to mind as you prepare your business for maternity leave, but it is a key part of the equation.
Particularly for a service-based business, a thoughtful and considerate communication plan will allow you to take care of your current clients, keep nurturing prospective clients, and return to your business without feeling like you have to shout from the rooftops that you are back.
- Leave notification for current clients
- Email management (or customer service more broadly)
- Prospective client communication
- Return to work notification
#4 Test out any new systems or hires before taking leave.
Oh, yes. This cannot be overstated! It’s not just about mapping out systems or workflows, but actually setting them up and testing them.
Doing a trial run can help you identify bugs, improve the process, and figure out ways to communicate when issues do arise.
Trials runs work best when you truly take a hands-off approach. Step away from your inbox, head out to a no wi-fi zone for a few hours, and see how your systems run!
#5 Prep for being cared for.
Tending to a newborn requires making sure you are in good hands too! Thinking about how your basic needs (food, hot showers, connection) and daily tasks (cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping) will be taken care entails having family and friends rally around you.
Some of my favorite ways to make sure your needs are met are:
- Having some “mama things” on your baby shower wish list
- Having a friend or loved one organize a meal train
- Talking with your partner about expectations for family and friends visiting
- Making a list of helpful tasks for local friends who want to lend a hand
- Hiring some extra cleaning help!
I also want to emphasize that if you are feeling a little lost about how to get started in your planning, that’s normal for us self-employed folks!
We do not have a good model, structure, or roadmap to pull from. We are making this up as we go, for the most part.
It may not be easy, but it’s oh-so-important!
Arianna is a maternal health consultant who works with experienced entrepreneurs who are becoming first-time mothers, helping them customize their maternity leave plan and return to work. She is deeply committed to providing on-going, multi-faceted support that meets the professional, physical, mental, social, and emotional needs of entrepreneurs as they babyproof their business and navigate new motherhood. Arianna lives, works, and plays with her family in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. You can find more of her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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