Well, I’m a working Mum. I never thought I would be and in all honesty didn’t really want to be, at least not straight away and yet here I am and it’s sort of just happened. People keep on asking how I do it all with a teeny baby and how do I seem so productive so I thought I’d share my experience. Having said that, as always I’ll add in the disclaimer that I’m no expert and I’ve only had one newborn but within that I still have a story to share. I also want to add before we begin that although I’m very positive about the experience so far, there have been tough parts, particularly when work and Maggie are throwing me curveballs at the exact same time…double trouble! I really have come to grasp the talked about notion of the ‘juggle’ and I’m sure I will get to know it even more as she grows up. I’ve split this blog post into two halves as once I start writing these kinds of posts I never stop! Rather than bombard you with a short novel as I have in the past I’ve broken it down into ‘The Prep’ and The Reality’.
It always baffled me how it would be possible to both work and be a Mum, without one element suffering. I already knew how full my brain was without adding another human into the mix and yet I knew it was unlikely that as if by magic, I would stop wanting to create things. I talked about it in one of these posts before, but there was a point in pregnancy where it hit me that I would at least have to do some work / keep things ticking over for us to afford to live/pay rent and I had a period of grieving the maternity leave that many in conventional jobs experience and I wouldn’t. Self employed maternity pay ain’t great people, particularly if you’re attempting to live in London. I wasn’t going to be able to give Maggie my undivided attention and part of me thought the last thing I would feel like in the early days would be trying to have my ‘business hat’ on when surely my brain would be a hormonal mush. I got really down about it for a while and then had to pull myself together and make a plan instead.
When I became a bit more rational about the whole thing I had to think about the long view because whilst I wasn’t going to have the leisure of a proper maternity leave now I knew that in the long run it would all pay off. When others got to the stage of deliberating going back to work and how to work that around child care etc I would be able to be flexible with my work because I’m the boss. I’ll be able to be there for the things that I would really hate missing in Maggie’s life and if I could keep the business ticking over there would actually be something to go back to rather than falling off the face of the earth and pitching up to almost start anew…like, ‘hey guys, remember me, I make and sell things.’
So what did I do to prepare for this life altering transition whilst still planning to do the business ‘thang’?
Get ahead of the game
I felt really inspired in my final trimester which was handy as I really needed to bash out a few new additions to my online shop, as well as get ready for the Christmas rush. Maggie was due at the beginning of September and I was very aware that previously every October – December was the busiest time by far. Pre-empting that I worked on stocking up, designing some new prints and wedding stationery ranges, developing a completely new product and printing new Christmas cards so I was as set as I could have been. Everything was packed and organised and workshop materials ordered so I had as little to think about when she was born.
I had a pretty busy run-up to the birth with various blog /brand collaborations and whilst people kept on telling me to slow down or rest because soon I’d have a baby that wouldn’t let me sleep, I didn’t listen and I’m glad. Sure, I was tired from the bubba and working from the sofa with my feet up for a lot of the last month. I didn’t wake up before 8am on any given day of the week so I wasn’t exactly ‘burning the candle…’ but contrary to what people say, you can’t store up sleep pre-birth. Sadly there’s no sleep pot to draw from on a rainy day, it just doesn’t work like that and you’re likely to kick things off as a sleep-deprived zombie anyway with so many people labouring through the night. I didn’t sleep for two nights straight at the start, one from labour and two from little poppet not wanting to be anywhere else but in my arms whilst I sat bolt upright in bed. Anyway back to the point, working hard in the month before Maggie’s arrival meant I was able to earn the bulk of my earnings so far in the year, which was very handy for the ol’ cash flow come the month she was born and invoices were a little ‘sparse’ shall we say. I was also able to stock up on a whole lot of content for the blog before so I had things to roll out while I wasn’t up to DIYing myself into oblivion or balancing on chairs to get the perfect styled shot.
I also took the initiative to book in my first workshops back with the first one at the end of October. I gave myself 5 weeks post birth to work up to them and was praying (literally) that Maggie would be a super a baby and take to an expressed bottle like a duck to water. With dates through to December this gave me plenty of time to sell the tickets while I was adjusting to being a mama.
Gosh that title sounds a little dramatic but it’s something I’ve been notoriously bad at my whole life. I just try and muddle through on my own, piling more and more on my shoulders because I can’t actually admit I’m not superwomen. I’d already been getting used to having help by taking on an intern five months prior to giving birth. The idea was to test the waters and see if the business could benefit from me being freed up to focus on the parts that only I could do as there are so many areas that don’t require my eye, skills or training. It was good to do this even though I felt there was nothing less appealing than advertising for an intern in the throws of morning sickness but it was so valuable even just with pregnancy taking more of a toll than I’d expected. I then worked out that I could take her on two days a week going forward from August in the hope that having been trained up she could take on some of the tasks that would keep things trundling along as well as field any emails that needed immediate responses. Everything was prepped and ready for me to drop off the radar a bit.
My Mum along with my husband’s Mum had both agreed to come a day a week to help, whether that be with cleaning and tidying or to take care of Maggie so I could work or sleep. Obviously it was also an awesome opportunity for Magda to get to know her Granny & Grandma on a weekly basis but it was also so reassuring to know in advance that I would have some windows of time to get on with work and she would be taken care of by people I trust, in our own home. I realise so many people don’t have the luxury of that blessing but if you do then don’t turn it down!
Don’t expect too much
I’m a pro at setting low expectations as a silly, self protective mechanism but I don’t really mean that in this case. I just had to get used to the idea that I wouldn’t be able to work at the same capacity post birth and that was ‘ok’ because I would be recovering from the biggest thing my body had ever been through and would suddenly have a whole other life to take care of. I had to start to accept I was finite and if I was already often disappointed with my productivity then I needed to be prepared to be a lot more realistic when the baby was here. I went into it majoring on the workshops, knowing that if I sold them out I would have made most of the money I needed and then any products sold or wedding template sets designed would be a bonus. Knowing that was all that really needed to happen in order to pay the bills suddenly seemed less of a burden. I didn’t need to pile on the pressure and worry in advance.
I think it’s important to have a healthy understanding that Motherhood is hard before you decide to bring a little one into the world, let alone run a business alongside. I’ve never been idealistic so that’s not my struggle. My struggle is heading in the opposite direction. Nick constantly tells me off for just focusing on all the things that will be difficult and before I know it I’ve talked myself out of doing something or simply sucked the joy out before it’s even happened. Many people would just chat about all the hard things in Motherhood and I sometimes found that a little unhelpful because personally I needed a shove toward the positive but going to Motherhood without the idea that all would be easy breezy with my bouncy baby meant I didn’t get a shock and could plan more realistically. I’m very vocal about how much I love Motherhood now and wish that more people would chat about the positives just as much as the negatives to give a more balanced picture but it really is helpful to be prepared for life as you to know it to change forever and it will force you to let go of a lot of control and learn to be more selfless. It’s so rewarding and 100% worth it but I find it amazing how surprised some people are when reality hits. It ain’t all a walk in the park but then I’m not sure how having another human rely on you for every single thing 24-7 would be a walk in the park. A healthy dose of knowing there’s a real challenge ahead can help adjust your expectations soon the work front. You will effectively have two jobs and one of them is pretty much full time (pssst, I mean the bambino).
So there you have it. Those are all the things that helped me get and feel vaguely ready to continue with my business whilst welcoming a newborn into the world. Let’s not pretend I didn’t have flash moments of sheer panic and anxiety but these things helped, along with some serious prayer and constantly reminding myself of God’s sovereignty over the future of my business and how my plans would actually work in practise.