Every once and awhile we do questionnaires on our Instagram stories, opening up the conversation and creating space for any of our followers to ask whatever question comes to mind. The question of how we approached maternity leave and how we manage to operate our business with littles under foot is something we’re constantly hearing. It’s a common challenge for any female entrepreneur out there thinking about starting a family and yet there are so few resources on how to navigate it, especially if you’re a one-woman show. Now, keep in mind that I’m no expert and am VERY far from having it figured out, but giving birth to our son during the busiest season PP had ever seen (not to mention during a global pandemic!) taught me some things. I only hope that by sharing what I did, what I wish I did and what I learned can help another mama in the same boat feel a little more confident approaching this new season of life.
- Get some help: Leading up to the birth of our son, Polished Prints was essentially a one-woman show. I had help here and there packing orders but when it came to all the other things that go into running a business, I was pretty much it. About three weeks before having Hudson I came to terms with the fact that if I wasn’t willing to shut down the shop for a month, I really needed some help. Hiring my industry friend as a VA was probably the best decision I made. What I didn’t realize was that the pieces of my business that were more task oriented – like tracking inventory – were actually what ended up taking the greatest mental toll. While I definitely didn’t step away completely, having someone else taking on that portion allowed me to focus more during the day and not feel like I needed to be available. In addition, having Hailey come in a few weeks down the line to pack orders was incredible. These two women helped me be available to my kids during the day, while still ensuring that PP was functioning.
- Prioritize Your Headspace: When you’re in early parenthood it takes a little while to find a groove. Every morning I woke up feeling really overwhelmed, like there was SO much to do and I didn’t even know where to start. What helped me to feel in more control of my day was to start with a morning manifestation. I would spend five minutes laying in bed playing out what my ideal day would look like – everything from how I would respond to my toddler’s meltdowns to the conversations we would have on our morning walk. It helped me feel more organized and in control of not just our routine but also my internal emotions and reactions during them.
- Batch Work: This is something I didn’t do as much but in hindsight would’ve really helped me. Because of the COVID stay-at-home orders we unexpectedly had both kids home (newborn + a very busy 3-year-old) fulltime, which left very little time to sit down and work. Rather than trying to manage everything all at the same time (i.e. playing with your kids while on your phone while pumping for your baby), try and carve out time to focus on specific tasks. One thing that helped me was to make a small to-do list the night before of work-oriented tasks and I would spread them out throughout the day. I would schedule pumping sessions during lunch, zoom calls during her TV time and would handle emails and projects during afternoon nap (because it was when both kids would be sleeping).
- Create Routines: Creating a system of when we shipped out product and how we ordered new product was extremely helpful in creating a vision of what I needed to tackle each week. By establishing routines and putting systems in place it turns some of these tasks into more mindless activities that can totally be accomplished on little sleep. One thing I did was create email templates for common messages I received so I at least had a base to go off of.
- Learn to say no: Adding a new baby to the mix means that your free time gets less and less. Best advice: Stop over committing yourself! Seriously though, if it doesn’t light you up don’t do it. Your time is valuable. You may feel guilty at first but you’ll thank yourself in the long run.
- Know you’re not alone: Before I had my own business I actually thought it was normal to run a small business while having both kids at home completely solo. Boy, was I wrong. The saying “it takes a village” exists for a reason – this is HARD! Talk to your friends who are on a similar boat because they will understand. Ask for advice when you need it.
- Give Yourself Grace: This is the most important thing I learned. I spent a lot of time after Hudson trying to do it all and kept feeling like I was failing because I wasn’t living up to my own expectations. The truth is, my business made it and my kids thrived but I was the one who was suffering. Take it easy on yourself – it’s OK if you’re not responding to emails right away or finishing a project immediately or if you let your older kids watch too much TV. We are all surviving - take care of yourself! This is HARD and you’re doing an amazing job, Mama!
See below for REAL photos of the first two months of Hudson's life, including my epic coffee/breastmilk spill and the daily walks that really kept our daily routine in check.
Have specific questions? Advice to share? Let us know in the comments below or reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org