With my maternity leave officially underway, I thought I’d share how I’ve prepared for my time away! I know some of you may be facing a similar season of life / business soon, so I hope the steps I took and the way I have decided to handle maternity leave will be helpful for you!
This post is extensive because I know how stressful it can be to think about prepping for time away with a newborn! I hope it’s helpful for those of you preparing for time away!
Here are 10 tips for preparing for maternity leave:
1. Do Your Research
When I was around 10 weeks pregnant, I began to research what maternity leave had looked like for others in the industry. It helped to read their experiences, understand how they prepared & determine what I would want to do. While I love the flexibility of being my own boss, the thought of “closing up shop” for 6-8 weeks felt daunting to me! Most creative entrepreneurs don’t receive a paid maternity leave or have someone there to keep the show running while their away. It helped me process it all by speaking with a few friends who had recently taken a maternity leave, and reading blog posts from mentors in the industry. The most helpful blogs for me were Rhiannon’s and Nancy’s (and just last month I read Lauren’s & enjoyed it, too!).
2. Set the Schedule
I knew that in terms of work, the biggest factor would be my wedding schedule. Thankfully, our spring was already light (something I was stressed over before finding out we were pregnant – God has crazy timing!). I did have one wedding scheduled at 37 weeks & one wedding schedule for just a few days after my due date; I’ll explain what I did in those situations in a bit!
In terms of the actual dates of my maternity leave, I took into consideration my wedding schedule and, of course, our due date and determined that having 2 months off would be ideal. I decided that I wanted my leave to begin 2 weeks prior to his due date (in case he arrived early).
To be honest, although my leave didn’t technically begin until May 16, I began winding down my workload for the past month. It’s been nice slowly step away vs. having one mad rush to “get it all done”!
3. Communicate with Your Clients
As I said before, I only had 2 weddings that were within a few weeks of my due date.
For the wedding at 37 weeks, I emailed the client and explain the situation & ensured that if I could not be there in person my lead planner, Hannah, would be able to take over. For the wedding just a few days after my due date, I talked with the bride & we decided that I would continue to work with her during the planning process knowing that Hannah would be there for her on the day-of. Both of those clients were incredibly understanding!
Let me clarify that before we publicly announced our pregnancy, I had not only emailed the 2 clients above but I also emailed all of our wedding clients. I wanted to be up front with them about what they could expect.
Download a copy of the email I sent to them below; feel free to edit it as needed for your business!
I also added my maternity leave dates to my email signature 2 months before going on leave. I actually have this section on the bottom of my email at all times, and have found it to be so helpful when setting expectations well in advance to those who communicate with me about my time out of the office.
4. Schedule Team Calls while on Leave
I actually added this in just before my leave began, and I’m so glad I did! My team consists of Matt, Emily (my assistant for KS and C@H) and Hannah (my lead planner for DSE). Hannah and I do not have regular team calls (we have meetings scheduled around weddings as needed), and therefore will not have regular calls scheduled while I’m on leave. Emily and I do have scheduled bi-weekly calls so when I’m on leave, we’ve decided to have monthly calls. We’ll use this time to talk about a few projects she’s going to be working on while I’m on leave, touch base on emails & other business to-dos. Of course, we’ll chat regularly via Trello & text as things come up between those meetings. Since Matt and I live together, we won’t have regular team calls. 😉 I’m sure we’ll talk about what’s going on in the business in between dirty diapers & baby snuggles!
5. Create a Plan for Email Management
This was a pain point for me going into maternity leave. Because I run three brands, we have … wait for it … 5 email addresses (not including Matt, Emily & Hannah’s individual email accounts). I knew I needed a plan for managing the accounts because the thought of coming back in July to 2 months worth of emails in FIVE accounts seemed unbelievably overwhelming!!
Matt and I debated on boldy telling people that we would be deleting all emails received unless it was from current clients (something Nancy talked about in her blog); we ultimately decided to take a different approach. Below is what the autoresponder says for all email accounts:
Thank you so much for your email! I’m currently on maternity leave until July 16, 2018. Matt and I are so excited for this sweet time with #babyschmoinmay !! We’d love for you to follow along with this new season on instagram … but only if you’re okay with an overwhelming amount of baby boy cuteness! 😉
If you’re a current or potential client, vendor or C@H attendee, you’re very important to us! You can expect to hear from someone from our team within 72 hours.
If this is an urgent matter, please email Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “URGENT”. She’ll be your go-to girl!
If you are not a current or potential client, vendor or C@H attendee, we strongly suggest you email us back after July 16. As much as we value your email, our current & potential clients have priority while we’re away and we cannot guarantee a response to anyone else.
Thank you so much for understanding!! While we may be sleep-deprived new parents, we’re loving every second of this newborn season with our son!!
Our goal is to check emails twice per week and respond as needed; knowing that Emily will be there to handle any urgent emails is incredibly refreshing and has me feeling so much better about 2 months away!
6. Getting Ahead
Like I said before, I’m a “planner” and I work very well under deadlines. I created one long list of business to-do’s I’d like to get done prior to maternity leave beginning (marketing content, Creative at Heart planning, bride to-do’s, etc.) and then scheduled them out on my to-do list well in advance.
I use Trello for my daily tasks; I created a Trello board specifically for Maternity Leave To-Dos. I then delegated to-dos to various days (depending on what else was going on that day) so that I could chip away at my large list. I began prepping in February which gave me 3 months time and while I didn’t get everything done, I’m very, very happy with what I did get done!
(I shared a bit about my workflow behind scheduling out all of my marketing content on Instagram under my Biz Chat highlights! Feel free to look there for more info, too!)
7. Grace to Work on “Work” and Space to Be with Baby
I remember reading this on Rhiannon’s blog and feeling like a huge weight had been lifted. While I wholeheartedly see the importance of “time away”, I also see the value in finally having space to work “just because” … without the stress of deadlines or the mundane tasks we all have in our business (you know the ones!). While I don’t expect Baby Schmo to sleep all the time, I do expect there to be times where he’ll be sleeping and I’ll be itching to do what I love.
For the past 4 years, I’ve worked nonstop. Literally nonstop. So for these sweet 2 months, I’m excited to have the space to take time away – to not have to work – while also having the freedom to work on a project or two here & there for no other reason then because I want to.
8. Be Flexible & Soak it In
As much as I love planning, there are so many unpredictable things about birth & life with a newborn.
What will labor be like? How will the healing process be? Will Baby Schmo take to breastfeeding well? What if he’s a terrible sleeper? What date will he actually arrive?!
The what-if’s go on & on, and it’s easy to become stressed if you dwell on them too much!! While I like to think we’re as prepared as we can be for our first son, I know newborns have a way of throwing well-laid plans out the window! As my due date has approached, my plan is to … well … not stress about the plan! I want to enjoy every sleepless moment and not worry about dirty dishes in the sink, laundry piling up or whatever emails may be sitting in my inbox. My prayer is that 3am night feedings will be for baby snuggles, not instagram or inbox scrolling. (Another reason why I have a few books on my reading list (link to May 15 blog) I hope to get to, too!)
9. Two Weeks Prior to Leave, Email All Clients & Vendors
Two weeks before leave started, I emailed all current clients & vendors to remind them of my time away; I wanted to email them two weeks prior to leaving to allow time for follow-up questions, well-wishes, etc..
10. Set Goals for After Leave
Because I’m very goal-oriented, I knew I wanted to have a game-plan for what Q3 and Q4 would look like when I returned. I have a BIG project coming for Creative at Heart in September. It’s been on my mind for a while now and I can’t wait to dive in further & bring this to our audience! (Hint: we’ve never done it before!) Plus Megan and I have our Business Intensive in August, Creative at Heart Round 8 is coming in November and I’ve got a fun & full wedding lineup with DSE! There might also be a brand new looking coming to the KS brand this fall – ah! Needless to say, things will definitely be very busy for our family of three when maternity leave ends!!
Have you planned for maternity leave or extended time away? I’d love to hear what worked (or didn’t work!) for you!