The Process

It's up and down and front then back
As we wrestle forward letting go 

What's comfortable is what we knew
We're going forward into unknown 

The territory's wide expanse
Seems vast, foreboding and unclear

What should we do, what should we not? 
We trust our intuitions here

We open up to all that's new
And gently let it all unfold

We know we're not now in control, 
But trust that we are being led

And as before the path awaits
We trust that we shall have the faith

To step out into the unknown 
And try things not before here done

And as we watch it all take place
That we shall have a deep, deep grace

To grow inside, stay grounded well 
And not be stuck in our own way. 

How to Prepare [Your Business] for Maternity Leave

When you run your own business, taking time off can seem nearly impossible. In fact, I’ve talked to women from my mastermind group who joke that between social media, emails and client calls, they feel like they are ALWAYS working. I fell into this category at one point. I had zero boundaries when it came to my work. A client could email me at 7pm on a Saturday and I’d feel like I needed to get back to them right away. It wasn’t until I got pregnant with our third child that I realized something had to give.

I started by setting “work hours” and allowing myself time to rest. If I got an email after 5 pm I waited until the next day to reply. These small changes were training my clients to recognize my schedule. And as I grew more pregnant (and my belly grew too!) I began preparing for some real time off.

Whether you’re pregnant and beginning to map out what your maternity leave will look like for your business, or you’re simply wondering how anyone takes an extended leave from their work when they’re the face of the business, keep reading. I learned a thing or two with each of my pregnancies and as I prepared for baby #3 I decided to get serious about creating systems and taking some real time off to rest, be with my family, and enjoy my newborn.

  1. Schedule Everything in Advance
    At the beginning of pregnancy, most doctors require a monthly appointment until about 28 weeks. From there it’s every two weeks, then one week, and before you know it your life is run by doctor’s appointments. One way to make things easier is to schedule as far in advance as you can. I made sure all of my OB appointments were on my calendar at least 6-8 weeks in advance so that I didn’t have to cancel client calls or appointments for my personal things as I prepared for our new baby. I wanted to let my clients know that just because I was having a baby, it didn’t mean I would become flaky or unreliable. By the end of my third trimester I made sure to schedule my 6 week follow up appointment ahead of time so that I didn’t need to call and schedule it during my time off. And after baby comes you’ll need to schedule lots of checkups for him or her too so the same rule applies. I find it so helpful to get things on my calendar as far in advance as possible so I can be prepared for whatever comes up.

    If you have a storefront or office hours, knowing what’s on your calendar ahead of time will let you plan for closings or time off. It also allows you time to find childcare or coverage for your business if necessary.

Scheduling everything in advance also applies to social media. Regardless of your industry, if you’re using social media for your business, be sure to create a plan for the first month after you have your baby. This will make your life post-partum a lot less stressful. If you want to have a week or two before your due date to stay home and prep for your new baby, take that into account and schedule content in advance from that point so it’s one less thing to worry about.

  1. Plan Ahead When it Comes to Your Workload
    Every business is different, and so is every pregnancy. If your job is physical or requires a lot of face to face time with clients or customers, be sure to take into account how you’re feeling and give yourself plenty of time to rest during your pregnancy and recuperate after labor. My job isn’t very physical but client communication takes a lot of my energy and website development can be mentally draining. I know how long a large website project usually takes me so I stopped taking on new clients about two months before my due date. I stayed in touch with potential clients to let them know I’ll be taking on new projects in a few months.

    Whatever your workload is like, plan ahead. If you do events, it’s probably not smart to book a wedding that’s days from your due date or too soon afterwards. Consider how long you’ll be on your feet for a job and decide when you think you’ll be up for that after pregnancy and when you think you’ll need to say no to things during your pregnancy. That window of time is your must-have maternity leave. If money is an issue, think about how you can “pay” yourself during your time off. For example, just because I stopped taking on new clients prior to my due date, doesn’t mean I wasn’t getting paid from existing clients during those last months of pregnancy. I was intentional about when I invoiced clients for the projects I was finishing and I scheduled recurring invoices in advance for my monthly clients.

  2. Delegate Tasks & Find Coverage for Must-Happen Tasks
    If you own a studio or a shop that can’t just close up during your time off, you’ll need to find coverage. Let clients and customers know ahead of time if they’ll be dealing with someone else and simply explain that you’re taking maternity leave. If you can limit your business’ hours or events during your time off, it will make your life easier and clients will understand. Are there tasks that have to happen or deadlines that must be met during your leave? Find a back-up you trust and ask if they can take responsibility for x, y, z. I work for myself so in my third trimester I spoke to a handful of freelancers and asked if I could hire them as a subcontractor should I run into any urgent client needs. If you’re a photographer, makeup artist, stylist, florist or another independent business owner, be sure to find a backup who is available to take on your clients if necessary. Communicating all of this to your clients or customers ahead of time is key to making sure things go smoothly.

  3. Arrange Help For When Your New Baby Arrives
    The best way to get rest and enjoy time with your new babe is with good help. Whether it’s family, friends, a post-partum doula or mother’s helper, make sure you have help for the first few weeks after your baby’s expected arrival. As a business owner there are always stressors – the last thing you want to stress about when you’ve just had a baby is your house, pets or your older children. One of the things I invested in with baby #3 was a cleaning service. It made for one less thing to worry about when we got home from the hospital and the weeks after. I also took my neighbor up on her offer to drive my daughter to preschool every Tues/Thurs morning beginning a few weeks before my due date. This freed up my mornings to prepare for our new baby and gave me time to adjust to life as a family of five after his arrival.

    Whether you’re having your first baby or your fifth, one of the best things is when friends and family offer to bring you food. I mean, who has time to cook when there’s a newborn in the house? I had friends set up meals for my family using the Meal Train app and it was a huge blessing to us. Whoever organizes the meal train can create a schedule so that you know who’s bringing you a meal and when. It’s a great way for friends to sign up for a time to come visit and bring you dinner. (And this way you’re not overwhelmed by visitors all at once!)

Regardless of your business type or size, you deserve time to enjoy your pregnancy and your new baby. As you plan for your maternity leave, don’t feel guilty for saying “no” to things or being honest about your availability in the upcoming months. The sooner you start preparing, the more smoothly things will go and the less stressful your time off will be. Trust me, it’s taken me three times to do things “right!”

In case you’re wondering…

-How long was my “maternity leave?”
I gave myself four full weeks of time off – no client calls, projects, meetings or social media.

-Did I go back to work full time at the end of my leave?
No. I typically have a three day work week and I slowly eased into that while working from home some days. And when I did go back to my office, my babe got to join me! Benefits of a female owned coworking space ya’ll! And not only is Inspire Business Community baby friendly… There’s a nursing mother’s room. I could not have a better office space for a new mom.

-How can I join the coworking space at Inspire?
Simply stop by one day and try it out. You can purchase a day pass and see if you like it. There are also semi-private offices available for rent if you want your own space.

The Open Door

I trust when I see an open door
that I can go through it 
no fear cannot close it

I trust when I see an open door 
that faith's gone before to get ready for me 
and is waiting just inside 

I trust when I see an open door
I've got what it takes if I just show up
with courage and simply dig in

The internal work's most important you know for everything else flows from that 
So I trust when I see and open door that if I can grow inside the outside will follow

No one can know all the work
that goes into growing one's inside
in quiet wee hours
save she alone 

For hidden away, quiet and steady, she grows herself well 
midst the tears and the sorrow of letting things go
and letting things come and not shutting off the good work

For moment by moment as she grows herself 
the business is growing as well 
The clients come in, the paychecks go out
all because she grew herself 

It's tempting to think when the schedule fills up
I'll skip the wee hours of internal work 
I'm too busy I can't take the time 

But it's weird how the things that we spend our time on
go better if we take that pause 
and if we do not, then things fall apart
all in the craziest way 

Take time, my dear daughters to love on yourself
and time to get grounded and still 
for everything else that you do grows from that
you cannot afford just to skip 

I trust when you see an open door 
that your heart will remind you 
to care for it first so always you'll have what it takes 

Dear daughter, you have what it takes.  Go through the open door.  

10 Ways To Make More Time For Your Business

Whether you are juggling kids, carpools, moody teenagers, or all full time job on top of your business, it can be hard to make time for YOU. Not only do I look forward to my uninterrupted “work time” because it’s essential for my business, I also map out my weekly errands and “me time” based on when I have childcare. Squeezing everything into my planned work days can be difficult, but I’ve learned a few things over the past four years that make it easier to get things done. Keep reading for my 10 tips to make more time for your business, or for individual coaching and advice contact Inspire Business Community today!

1. Find a Sitter You Trust Whether you need a few hours here or there or you want to arrange a regular sitter so you have a “work day” each week, it’s so important to plan your childcare ahead of time. Knowing that’s been taken care of is like a mental weight off your shoulders. Before you plan your childcare, think about what’s easier for you – do you want to take your kids somewhere, or have someone come to you? I highly recommend the come to you option as it can save you a ton of time. Start by asking around, or if money is an issue see if you can “swap” with a friend where you watch her kids one day, in exchange for her watching yours. If money is in the budget for extra help, I recommend Three Strands LLC.

2. Leave a List for Your Sitter Whether your babysitter is grandma, a friend, or a highly recommended sitter, knowing that your kids in good hands is one thing – but knowing your home is in good hands is another! When my childcare time is limited, I don’t want to waste hours grocery shopping or stress about preparing dinner later. Instead, I leave a short list for my sitter. It typically includes simple dinner prep, or I might ask our helper to do some laundry while my kids nap. She also takes care of ordering our groceries with the Instacart app. Time saved on these tasks means less stress, more time for work, and more time for my kids when I get home.

3. Plan Where You’ll Work If your goal is to maximize your work time, think ahead about where you can do your best work. Maybe that’s a coffee shop, or if you’re local, I invite you to checkout the Inspire Business Community Co-Working Space. I love that I can bring my own food and the coffee is free so it saves me $$.

4. Make a List of What You Have to Work On Whether it’s a day full of bills, blogs or client calls, make a list so you can get started right away. The last thing you want is to waste your precious childcare time. What you have to work on might also change where you work. If you have calls to make and need quiet time, the coworking space is ideal, v a noisy coffee shop.

5. Hire a Cleaning Service Do you feel like in your only “downtime” you have to tidy up your house or you should be catching up on laundry and vacuuming? I used to feel like this and it took me forever to get used to the idea of simply leaving to work on my business. I remember feeling downright guilty when I first created my work schedule and left the house each Mon/Weds. If it was a mess it was hard for me to leave and work on anything, knowing I “should” be using my time to get things cleaned up. I Well, after getting some help around the house, I no longer feel this way. In fact, the words that come to mind are relieved, free, less stressed out, and empowered.

6. Create a Realistic Schedule If you have help around the house and you’re happy with your childcare situation, sometimes it’s just a matter of figuring out what schedule works best for you! If you have childcare in the mornings, but your clients typically want to meet in the afternoon, you might need to make some adjustments. My clients are usually flexible, but I find that I am not an early morning person. I prefer to use my first hour or so for errands and then settle into my office by 10 or 11.

7. Plan Weekly Dinners Ahead of Time On “work days” it can be stressful to figure out dinner. Not only do I ask my sitter to preheat my oven and get things started, I plan in advance what we’re going to eat each week so I know that on my busy days, dinner is easy. And sometimes that means we plan in advance to eat out if it’s in the budget.

8. Get Help with Yard Work During the spring and summer months, yard work can feel just as daunting as housework. I can feel really guilty leaving to get some “me time” or work on my business when my yard is a mess and there are “a million” things to do! This is another area it might be good to delegate. Maybe that’s hiring a neighbor to mow your grass, or offering to pay a teenager to pull your weeds. If it’s in your budget and your lawn requires it, hire a professional to keep things looking tidy! You’ll be amazed at how much better you can focus on your work when these little things are taken care of.

9. Put Your Kids to Work Whether it’s a nightly struggling to pick up toys that leaves you exhausted, or it’s the morning hassle to get everyone out the door on time, if your kids are old enough to do some basic chores – start asking them to pitch in. My oldest child is 4 and my youngest is 2 ½. They can’t do much, but they can help and it’s made a big difference in our daily routine. My 4 year old is in charge of our pets and it’s her job to feed them in the morning and again at dinner time. My youngest is responsible for making sure her shoes and coat get to the coat rack and the mudroom at the end of the day. They are also expected to help pick up toys and collect their random sippy cups and water bottles from around the house before bed time. By 4, my oldest is also great at putting her shoes and coat on in the mornings to help us leave the house a bit quicker. Being able to count on my kiddos for help makes my life easier and allows me to focus on my work during naptimes, instead of using that time for cleanup.

10. Get Your Spouse On Board When I first asked for childcare as a stay at home mom, my husband didn’t understand. But now that he’s seen my business grow, he is 100% supportive and it was his idea to get a cleaning person. If your spouse isn’t on board yet, talk to them about how important your business or your passion project truly is. Let him know that less household stress will also mean more time for him! And I should have included spouses in #9… If your hubby isn’t helping with toy pickup, pets and other household responsibilities, he should be.

Running a business and a family is hard work. They say “it takes a village” to raise children and the same is true for growing your business. It requires everyone to pitch in and over time, you’ll find that small changes can have big rewards. Your kids will respect your “work time” and your hubby will admire your hard work. Not to mention the stress you can avoid when you simply plan ahead and make your business a top priority!