Before starting Poppy Barley at 28, I always assumed–like a lot of Canadian woman–that I would take a full year off following a baby, or at least the majority of one mixed in with some paternity leave. I knew I lost that when I became an entrepreneur (loving my work and a lifetime of flexibility makes this a worthwhile trade-off for me), but I didn’t know what the new plan would be.
I delayed having a baby for a while, so I could get my Poppy Barley baby through the first two years (like a baby, I think a new business completely takes over your life and for me, demanded 80 to 100 hour weeks). Now though, things are less crazy. Still, when I got pregnant this spring the pressure was on to come up with a maternity plan–how much time off I’ll take, when I can realistically (and will want to) return to work, and what type of childcare and schedule I’ll need to have. Add to this that I don’t know what it will be like to suddenly become a mother (everyone says everything changes and nothing prepares you!) and what type of infant I’ll have and it is all pretty overwhelming.
For help, I reached out to five awesome female entrepreneurs who have already gone through “balancing” their baby(ies) with their business. I asked them how they managed, what worked and what didn’t, how the reality was different than their expectations, and what advice they have for other female business owners.
Their incredibly helpful, frank and encouraging answers form our “Moms Who Run Businesses” series, and you can read each woman’s story here:
Thank you so much Renee, Jen, Jenna, Giselle and Rachel!
My takeaway from the advice of these amazing women:
- A schedule is imperative (including hours when your husband is responsible for the baby and you are sleeping, albeit interrupted to breastfeed).
- Do not try to be a one-woman show at work or at home. Outside help will make your life a lot easier.
- Getting enough sleep will make all the difference.
- Remain flexible and do not expect things to go smoothly or as planned. Don’t have a lot in terms of goals or expectations.
- Except – expect some people to not approve of what you are doing. (This seems true in every aspect of parenting!)
- It won’t be easy, but it can be done. And it will be worth it.
This has helped me form my “plan” for when the baby comes (as of October 2015, plan may change):
- Take the first month completely off and unplugged from the business.
- Work part-time for the next two months (while the baby is sleeping and bringing the baby to work sometimes), but don’t expect a lot in terms of productivity until I have uninterrupted periods of sleep and outside help.
- Schedule my husband to take the 8 pm to 12 am shift so I can sleep, and also to come home at 3 pm a couple days a week so I can get some hours at the office with my team.
- Buy a good breast pump and train my baby early to mix nipples and bottle so that other people can feed the baby (but not so early I’ll compromise my milk and cause nipple confusion. Argh!)
- Sleep train and practice “le pause” (from “Bringing up Bebe“) to hopefully get a baby that sleeps 6 to 10 hours per night by 8 or 12 weeks.
- At 3 months, get part-time childcare (probably the daycare across the street from us) and return back to work part-time with set hours (likely 25 hours per week). Make up some time in the evenings and weekends when the baby sleeps, or when my husband or the grandparents take over.
- Come back to work full time at 6 months but make my own schedule for something like 4 longer days and some weekend work, or working 7 to 3, and again a bit in the evening. (Flexibility and being able to set my own schedule is one of the advantages of owning my business.)
- No work travel for the first few months, or if it is absolutely necessary, bring my husband and baby with me.
The truth is, though, I really have no idea. Right now I am planning 2016 and mapping out our workplan for Jan to March (spring collection launch) and I’m excited about it and it is hard to imagine not being 100% involved. (Will I be like Sheryl Sandberg and check my email within hours of the delivery!?)
At the same time the baby is the priority and it is time I’ll never get back, and I know my business will be in capable hands. (It makes a tremendous difference having a co-founder who can completely take the reins for a while and Poppy Barley has a great core team, so things run pretty smoothly these days.) So I want to enjoy as much time with my baby as possible, and not lose my mind, or not enjoy that time by putting too much pressure on myself.
I am 99% sure, though, that I want to be a working mom with my own business, but know that it will be essential to my peace of mind to find a balance between being there for my baby, and for my business (and for my husband, and to keep some shell of a personal life). I don’t know exactly what this will look like, and it will shift, but that will always be the goal.
Speaking of my husband… he is not taking official paternity leave, but pretty much also makes his own schedule and will work less for the first few months to contribute, and some days come home early so I can make it into work. We’ve already co-opted the saying, “Remember your spouse is not the enemy. The baby is the enemy.” I don’t expect marital bliss (the focus will be survival), but he will be a great “baby daddy” and make my life infinitely easier.
With all that, how will it go and will my expectations be anywhere close to reality? I’ll have to wait to find out…