Owning and running your own small business means that your attention is on your work 24 hours a day: what needs to get done, what’s most urgent, what you’ll respond to first tomorrow morning. It’s almost like taking care of in infant! If you’re a woman who owns her own business and is also expecting a child, you may feel as if you’re about to have two babies to care for. Since there are only 24 hours in a day, like women in most work settings you are probably planning to take a few months off, if not more. You may have a lot of fears about taking leave because it will mean handing the reigns of your business to someone else. On top of that, you might be wondering how your physical absence from networking events will affect your professional image, marketability, and confidence. Daunting as it may seem, there are ways to make sure your small business and professional image remain intact while you attend to new motherhood. Here are 6 ways to nurture your small business during your maternity leave.
1. Hire a Team of Helpers
I know, I know—your business WAS your baby before your real baby came along! It can feel just as difficult—if not more so—to hand important tasks over to someone else as it is trust your infant’s care to another person. But the truth is that during the time that your priority is to be a mom to your newborn, you can’t also play mom to your small business. Hiring a team before your baby arrives is the best approach, because you won’t have the distractions and exhaustion of new motherhood to interfere with training, but it’s never too late to delegate. Seek out virtual assistants who specialize in the areas that need to be taken care of during your leave, like website maintenance, social media management, client relations, and bookkeeping. Because you only pay virtual assistants for the time they actually spend working and because everything is done remotely, this option is affordable, super easy, and VERY helpful. Who knows—maybe you’ll even find a long-term pair of helping hands to support you as your business grows!
2. Keep Up on Industry Trends
Reading about new industry trends is one of the easiest ways to keep your professional mindset current during maternity leave. Check out trade publications or current business news on your iPad while the baby sleeps, or sneak in 5 minutes to catch up on Twitter. By doing so, you’ll stay current with your industry and might even gain a leg up on your competition during your leave. Encourage your hired team to read up on current trends and news, too.
3. Stay Social
It is so easy to become isolated as a new mother. You barely have time to shower let alone make a date for coffee with another adult. In the beginning, it may be tough to stay social with colleagues and friends in person, but you can stay active on online social platforms like LinkedIn, professional boards, and local business forums. The goal is to maintain a connection with your network so that you stay in front of your customers, fellow business owners, and peers even if you can’t be present at every event. It’s also important for your own emotional well-being to maintain a support system!
4. Get Mental Exercise
Most women find their work lives mentally stimulating and challenging, and appreciate that their careers push them to constantly learn and develop. Becoming a mother doesn’t mean that you stop using your brain, but you’re using it in completely new ways—some of which will apply to managing your business later. Keep your brain sharp by engaging it through reading, learning new skills or information, and talking with other “grown-ups” as much as you can. That way you’ll be able to transition from full time mom to working mom with a clear, sharp mind.
5. Work Part-Time
For some, the idea of working at all during a maternity leave, even once your children have grown out of babyhood, feels impossible. If you can, working even an hour or two a week will help you keep your hand in the pot while and give you the assurance that things are being taken care of. Just be careful not to let a few hours here and there become staying up all night answering emails—you need your rest, mama!
6. Keep Your Confidence Up
Maintaining a positive self-image and healthy self-esteem while your business is on the back-burner is essential to your success as a leader upon re-entry. Confidence is one of the biggest sellers when presenting your business to a potential client and is the best tool at your disposal for handling tough decisions, obstacles, and big projects–but it’s easy to lose it when you spend your days changing diapers and playing with blocks instead of manning the oars in your business. Do things that boost your confidence, whether it’s going for a run, doing Sudoku puzzles, taking a class in your field, or writing blog posts for an outside organization in your industry. (This last suggestion will help you maintain confidence by increasing your professional credibility and visibility, too!)
Your Turn: What tools will you utilize to ensure that your business survives—and thrives—while you take time off for your family? What steps do you need to take to allow yourself to fully let go of your business during your leave so that you can focus on being a parent?