I’ve listened recently to a few podcasts from fellow mommas who work for themselves talking about maternity leave and setting yourself up to check out when a new baby enters your family. When I worked a traditional 40 hour/week job before Ainsley was born, I took a traditional maternity leave that entailed checking out completely from all work responsibilities for 12 weeks. It was lovely, and going back to work full-time after Ainsley was born was soul-crushing for me at best. Those first few weeks I felt so sad, isolated and sick to my stomach leaving my baby while I worked.
But! When I transitioned to work from home life and running my own businesses the concept of a maternity leave leading up to Collins’s birth looked a little different than when I had Ainsley. The first being, I didn’t really WANT to take a maternity leave, and in fact I didn’t actually take much more than a week off work (sort of) when she was born. Before you jump all over me telling me to let myself cherish the newborn stage, let’s chat through why I decided (very thoughtfully) to make that choice with Collins and why I’m planning to do the same this time around…
First things first, when you work for yourself maternity leave can look very different than when you have a traditional office job. Would I take a maternity leave if I worked a traditional 9 to 5? YES! A thousand times over and probably try to extend it to four months if I could. But the benefit of working for yourself and working on your terms is that baby gets to go with me when I work. So Ainsley spent a lot of time with our babysitter during the first two months after Collins was born, and Collins came with me to my office, where she mainly slept in a bassinet next to me and I did what I could in my sleep-induced haze to keep my business moving forward. Second, having childcare for Ainsley allowed me to spend more concentrated time with Collins. Sure, I was technically “working” but I allowed myself plenty of grace during those months to nap on my office couch with baby Collins if I needed to, and took plenty of time to respond to messages with a sleeping baby on my chest, so it wasn’t all terribly hard or grueling work I was doing.
Second, I tend to have a really hard time with the newborn stage. I wish it wasn’t the case, but it’s hard for me and I’m finally coming around to admitting that. Having the structure of at least some amount of work and focus to my days has been tremendously helpful for my mental state as I go through the transition to having a new baby in our family and increased demands on my time and energy. It may seem strange that adding one MORE thing to my plate (work) helps me feel less overwhelmed but it does! Add to that list things like running, working out, blogging, etc. and it all helps me feel like myself when I tend to feel anything but normal. Yes, welcoming a new baby into your family is a tremendously special experience and something I’m SO excited about, but it’s okay to not want to spend three straight months living in newborn-land without things like work, working out, and traditional structure. Do what works for you and what will make you feel the most like yourself.
Finally, I touched on this a bit above, but having childcare lined up and forgoing a traditional maternity leave actually allows me MORE time to enjoy a newborn, in my opinion. Although I may work and get things done while baby sleeps, there is also a lot of time to rest. Physical rest is hard to come by when you have other kiddos at home, so sitting at a computer and using my brain vs. feeling physically pushed while I’m recovering is wonderful for me, for baby, and for the girls who will get out and about more than they would with me and their new baby brother. Joe is going to be really busy in the late summer/fall with work projects, football coaching, etc. so it honestly makes me feel SO much better about our transition to three knowing I will have the additional support of our very beloved childcare provider.
So, I hope the novel encourages you to tune out the noise about what you should or shouldn’t do, and pave a maternity leave path that works for YOU and your family. There truly is no right way to do maternity leave!