For many entrepreneurs, their business is their baby. They eat, sleep, and breathe the day-to-day upkeep of their business, giving all their time and energy to its growth and health. But when a real baby comes along, female business owners face a distressing situation: how can they care for both babies without neglecting one or the other?
As an entrepreneur, you don’t get the convenient 12-weeks paid maternity leave that most of the corporate world enjoys. And not only do you rely on the month-to-month business revenue for your own salary, but your business’ survival depends on it, too. Having a child requires taking significant time off, and that can be nearly impossible for a small business owner to wrap her head around.
So how in the world do female entrepreneurs balance the demands of motherhood and running their small business? By doing what entrepreneurs do best: strategically hustling.
Make an Action Plan
Fortunately, in most cases, mothers have months to plan for their upcoming maternity leave. This is an opportunity to plan out the to-dos, begin the delegation, and map out the future business plan. This isn’t a time to look for new business ventures or identify future opportunities—it’s a time to focus on how best to maintain the business with as little input as possible. Plan for how long you’ll be taking maternity leave, how you’ll transition back into full-time work, and what the future will look like once you have two babies (or more) to care for.
Build a Cushion
Begin saving aggressively as early as possible. Instead of investing profits into expansion, growth, or new clients, put it aside for maintaining the business in your absence. Aggressively saving could also mean cutting back on day-to-day expenses or luxuries: eating out, TV subscriptions, etc. The more you save, the more comfortable you’ll feel taking time off.
Enlist Some Help
Having a baby is a celebration of life! This is a special time, and you’re likely not the only one to notice or care. It’s probably outside your comfort zone (as it is for most entrepreneurs), but you can ask for help. Reach out to a colleague, spouse, family member, or qualified friend that you trust to assist you for a short time. You can even use some of the cushion money you saved to hire temporary help. The help you enlist doesn’t need to understand all the ins and outs of your business or industry—just the bare minimum to hold things over until you get back.
Most small business owners embrace the entrepreneurial grind, taking pride in sleepless nights, break-less summers, and never-ending to-dos. But as a new mother, you’ll be thrown headfirst into unknown territory, and it’s important to approach it with realistic expectations.
Just because Marissa Mayer, Yahoo CEO and mother of three, took only two weeks off before returning to work doesn’t mean you should. Don’t make promises to employees or clients that you’ll feel pressured to keep. You may need to stay home with your newborn longer than you predict, but you can find practical workarounds to help you ease back into the work. If possible (although sometimes impossible), try to get a little done during nap times. Maybe stay up late or get up early to accomplish a few tasks while the baby sleeps.
It’s easy to forget when taking care of a business and a child, but remember the importance of your own health. This is a new kind of entrepreneurial grind, and although you’re going to crush it, be patient with yourself. With the right approach and strategic hustle, you can fulfill your motherly duties while keeping your small business intact. That being said, I admire every woman who accepts the challenge to raise both a business and a child. I can’t think of anything harder or more impactful to society!