If 2017 means a new baby, as well as a business, it could feel overwhelming. Working out how to balance your existing family and your client’s commitments may give you sleepless nights, even before your bundle of joy appears.
Many clients come to me to work through the questions “Can I take a break?” “Will the business survive? “How am I going to balance it all?”
I’m so lucky to be surrounded by inspiring women who have built and ran a business and combined it with a new baby and a growing family, I have had the pleasure of interviewing three more business owners who also happen to be mothers.
Laura created Body Beat School of Dance in 1997 and had been running it for seven years before her son (now 13 years old) arrived
I worked right up to the last minute, in fact I went into labour whilst teaching a 1-1 session, quickly finished the session, drove home and went to the hospital. Three hours later, I was a Mum. My Son was born on a Friday, I had the weekend off and went back Monday morning with my Son under my arm. For a two week period I was popping in and out, but still managing phone calls and enquiries and planning a Dance competition which would take place the following month.
It was a juggle, but I can honestly say the first 5 months was the easy stage. My son would accompany me to work, be really chilled out surrounded by children and adults. I managed to feed and change him during session breaks. It did become more of a challenge when he started to move around. The benefit was, he was brought up to be respectful of everyone and be patient.
Being in the environment from such an early stage, I felt he benefitted from knowing exactly where I was when he started Nursery. He could visualise the location and that made him feel more at ease. Years later, he assists me with general running and customer service. No, he doesn’t dance… however he did pursue the Tricking and Gymnastic side! The greatest fear for me was that I may loose everything including my confidence if I didn’t return back to work fast.
My advice? You are more than likely to have months to plan, so do just that. Think about the day to day running, ask for help if you need it and try to be as organised as possible. If you are in charge of your own business you are probably great at surviving on less sleep than most, so what’s a little less, hey?!
Sandra is a photographer who specialises in newborn photography. Her business SR Portraits was four years old when her second child arrived.
I was determined to enjoy time off with my new baby after suffering major health complications with my first. Luckily I had been paying my Class 2 NI contributions without fail even during the years when I could have opted for a small business exemption instead. This meant I qualified for the full rate of Maternity Allowance which is the same rate as Statutory Maternity Pay and kept us afloat during this period. I also had 10 keeping in touch days which I used for newborn photo shoots once my baby was over 12 weeks old and could go longer between breastfeeds.
I didn’t quite manage to keep the time as business free as I’d hoped – there was always the inevitable tasks still to be done. My greatest challenge was getting things back on track after letting it go quiet for 9 months. I solved it by launching a fresh new website, working hard on getting lots of new reviews from my latest clients and putting a referral scheme into place to generate word of mouth enquiries.
My greatest challenge since then has been balancing everything! My now 1 year old demands my constant attention during the day, I am working all weekend at photoshoots which means my editing and general business admin has to take place in the evenings. It’s really, really hard work but worth it as it means I get to spend the week with my boys rather than have them in childcare and I still get to do a job that I love.
My advice to other business owners would be to
a) Pay the full class 2 NI even if you don’t have to (the security of knowing this will qualify you for state benefit if needed is well worth the £11 a month it costs) and
b) Allow yourself time to enjoy your baby. Life is so short (as I very nearly found out first-hand!) that the really important things like family should always take priority.
You are what makes the business special, you will still be there in 9 months or a years’ time and if you made your business great once then you can do it again. Even if things go slack in the meantime. Enjoy your baby whilst they are so little for such a short time.
Bhavini Lakhani set up her graphic design business, B81 Designs, after having her first child, and had her second daughter 18 months into her entrepreneurial journey.
When Amaya was born I took maternity leave but not a lot. I took about 6-7 months. Luckily, I had some fantastic clients that were very understanding and there wasn’t really a need for me to do any work for 6 months after Amaya was born. I had a friend in London who I had introduced to my clients beforehand and told them all that if there was ever anything urgent they needed they could contact him for design work.
The greatest challenge is balancing it all; the guilt of paying attention to work rather than my girls. I overcame it by telling myself every day I’m doing it for them. I’m showing them how hard people work, what you can achieve if you work hard and that a woman is not just someone who stays at home with the kids.
My advice to anyone who is due to have a baby, or has a newborn, is to take as much time off as you need to once the baby is born and enjoy every single minute, but if possible work as close to the due date as you can and ensure that there are processes and procedures in place for the business to run without you at the helm every day.
Who do you know that needs to read this? Share this advice on how to manage maternity leave and a new baby!
Want to speak to other likeminded working parents and take part in my regular Question and Answer sessions, then join The Balance Collective with Clara Wilcox on Facebook.