You’ve worked hard to birth your business and now you are thinking about birthing a baby. What’s a gal to do. There's lots to think about, no one way to do it, and - as I experienced - a fair amount of fear. I’m not quite through maternity leave yet - baby is eight months - but I’m creating my back to work plan and thought it was time to share some things I’ve learned so far.
Tip #1 - There is such a thing as Special EI for the Self-Employed - Sign Up for It NOW!!
When I was in the stages of asking myself how this whole maternity thing would work I was panicked because I thought I would be on my own. This meant somehow squirrelling away an extra 30K BEFORE having baby. HA!. Thankfully I ran into a friend who learned the hard way that there IS such a thing. The catch is that you must sign up for and pay into special EI for 12 months BEFORE the baby arrives.
So if having a baby is on the table. Get your ass covered. Also, special EI covers things like needing to take time off work to caregive for loved ones and other special circumstances. So it’s worth it.
Tip #2 - Figure out what you plan to do with the ranch (a.k.a your biz)
Turns out it’s not super easy to shut-down and restart a business - depending on what you do and how far into it you are. For me, I have a host of subscriptions that run my business every month and while I would barely use them over the course of my mat leave - shutting down my Quickbooks account and my CRM just didn’t make sense. That meant when we did the money planning for maternity for our family we had to calculate what my ongoing business expenses would be even though I was not making any revenue. I paired down everything I could, and we budgeted for it.
Make sure to ask yourself...
- Which services or expenses can I cancel during my maternity leave?
- Which services or expenses will I need access to?
- What is the cost of shutting everything down and starting back up on the other side
- Will I be continuing to process income while on leave or am I not planning on making any money at all?
The rules shift regularly so make sure you talk to Canada Revenue Agency and the EI office but it is possible to make some income to cover your expenses. If you make a profit they will deduct your EI earnings dollar for dollar.
I personally shut down. I wrapped up all my contracts about a month before baby came. And I’m now at about 8 months trying to lay the groundwork for getting back to work. This means doing some grant writing now and other things to make sure there is revenue waiting for me when the EI tap turns off. In an ideal world, I would also have some savings to tide me over.
Tip #3 - Plan for the worst - make the best of the good days
You never know what the world post-baby will look like. In my mind, I pictured mostly blissful days with a brood of kids playing house and not really going back to work until they were all at school. Turns out though you don’t do a lot of crafting and playing house with babies under 1. So while I so enjoy my cuddle and floor time I actually spend more time out of the house working on my business than anticipated - with many thanks to regular visits from grandma and grandpa.
That being said my wee struggled with reflux for a long time and we weren’t “out of the woods” till about 5 months or so. Some of us have babies who sleep all day, others don’t. If you plan to be on your butt with a baby sleeping or nursing on you 24 hours a day and it’s less than that YAY you can celebrate and relax or if you are neurotic like me - get shit done.
Some weeks you will have so much spaciousness to get things done, and some days you will be holding a crying baby all day. When you are prepared for the worst a good day is a blessing that you can roll with. I didn't think I would work on my biz this much but doing so allows me social time, a baby break, a connection to me and things I love doing and a sense of personal worth - because some days you are in tears at the thought that your only use in this world is changing diapers and doing laundry.
Tip# 4 - Let Yourself and your Business be Flexible
You already know it - this is such a moment of transition and change. You can’t make decisions for future you - so don’t try to. This is a moment to rest, to digest and to let yourself and your business evolve. On the other side of delivery, I find I am really struggling with work that has hardcore deadlines - because inevitably the week I have to get that grant application in its the week we are teething, going through a developmental leap or just clingy.
My inner elastic band - you know the one I could stretch and stretch and stretch when I did things last minute is now no longer so elastic. I am WAY more attuned to how that low level worry in the back of my mind about if I am going to get something done is not so low level. It actually works as a tensor that shortens my elastic even more. The result is that I am quicker to anger, more prone to frustration and way less empathic of my child’s tears. I become the mommy I don’t like being. I think things I don’t want to think - my mental health goes out the window in a heartbeat.
The beautiful thing about owning a business is you get to make it what it is. Take this time to readjust to what is truly important to you. Rethink your business goals, maybe even rethink your passion, and allow yourself the space to change it all, or keep the course. It's yours to mould and create.
Tip #5 - Run your business from your phone
You will spend countless hours in the dark in the rocking chair scrolling through Facebook. If you can run your business from your phone you will be one kick-ass mama. Moments of inspiration will channel through google docs on your phone as you lie in the dark with a baby on the breast. Or you can look at cat videos to relieve your stress and fatigue. You do you girl.
The bottom line is you can’t predict any of it. Motherhood is a hardcore lesson in humility and going with the flow. So allow yourself to be surprised where it takes you - trying to control everything, as I have learned, only results in tears.
Sofia and Baby Mira