This one is for all you mamas who own small businesses
As I get back into blogging this year, I’ve been brainstorming about discussion topics for this platform. One of the things I keep coming back to is helping mamas who own small businesses. I realize this topic won’t be as relatable as some of my older content. However, I do think it’s important to share these experiences with others.
For years I was really scared of how having children would affect my business. That might sound selfish, but when you spend 7 years working to build up a thriving business that you love, it’s not something you want to give up. One year into this journey, I realize that I didn’t have to give up my business, things just look a little differently. I’ve definitely learned my time is more precious than ever. If you are in a place where you feel torn between your business and your family, then I hope you will continue reading because this message is for you!
I hope that by sharing my experiences about becoming and growing as a mom while also running a business, I can help others as they navigate through the same “growing pains.” If I can help at least one other business mom feel prepared when they begin a similar journey into parenthood, then I will consider this a huge success!
So today, I’m talking about 6 important tips that I have for mamas who own small businesses. These are things I learned the hard way, so I hope you will take them to heart!
Take the full 12 weeks off for maternity leave
As a first time mom, I had no clue how much time to take off for maternity leave. Fortunately, I’m a part of a few really great photography communities and asked what everyone recommended. Several people strongly encouraged me to take the full 12 weeks off. Because of the time of year, I felt comfortable taking 10. However, I admit there were times I wished I had taken the full 12 weeks off. Unfortunately, my husband, Zach, didn’t get his full paternity leave right away. This really made it difficult as I didn’t feel like I got my full time off to recuperate from everything. As a small business owner, I recommend taking at least 10 weeks off if you can. Although, I would definitely recommend taking the full 12 if you’re able to make that happen. You really won’t regret it.
Establish a Routine With Your Partner Early On
Zach ended up doing a strange paternity leave schedule (long story). He was off for the first week, then went back to work Monday-Wednesday and had off Thursday-Sunday. We did this schedule for two months until he went back to work full time in August. Additionally, Zach is earning his doctoral degree and would often spend a couple hours throughout the week in class.
Because of this, we began to fall into a negative routine throughout the summer. I started to feel like too many responsibilities were falling on me. It wasn’t anyone’s fault – it just happened because that’s what we had to do to get through the season we were in. I clearly remember cracking under the pressure after a few months and it put me in such a bad spot mentally. We were finally able to realize this routine wasn’t healthy and we were able to correct it quickly. Our new routine had us splitting more of the baby-related responsibilities a little more evenly and that felt like a huge weight was taken off my shoulders.
Communicate to your partner when you need help
This is probably one of the biggest things I can encourage you to do when you are adjusting to motherhood. There were so many times in this process where I was struggling in ways that others just didn’t understand. The simplest tasks just seemed incredibly hard and daunting for me. I got to a point where doing a single load of laundry felt like it would crush me. I finally decided to confide in Zach that I was struggling with things. It took me a while because I felt embarrassed to admit that I was struggling with simple tasks. Little did I know I was suffering from serious postpartum depression, which played a huge role in why I couldn’t get simple things done.
By being open and honest, it helped him to understand that I wasn’t ignoring tasks on purpose. Because I told him that I needed help, he was able to step up and help me with tasks.
If your partner is not a part of your life, I hope there’s a friend or a parent who you can reach out to for help if you need it. My mom and mother-in-law helped me a lot when Zach went back to work and I was adjusting to this new normal. It was such a blessing!
If you’re able to afford it, get childcare
If you’re able to make it work, I suggest getting someone to watch the kids at least a couple days a week. Whether it’s full time or part time, it’s absolutely worth the investment. I always thought I’d be able to work from home and watch my kids. But in reality when Caroline was home, I would get very little done. Especially before she could feed herself (we exclusively pumped/bottle fed), it took a LOT of time out of the day to feed her, pump, do tummy time, etc. By the time I got her down for a nap you answered a couple emails, she’d wake up ready to start the cycle over. Seriously, I don’t know how full-time moms who run businesses do it, but they are truly superheroes!
In the fall we had Caroline start part-time daycare, and it was still a challenge getting everything done during that time. For me personally, full time daycare was worth it because of when I need to work in my business. If you are a wedding photographer and mainly work on weekends, then part-time daycare may work really well for you! It all depends on your business and what you need to accomplish throughout the week, but I still recommend at least 1-2 days of childcare so you can have some time to get things done.
If something feels off, reach out to your doctor
I briefly mentioned above that I was suffering from serious postpartum depression back in the fall. While I’m not at a point where I really want to elaborate on that experience right now, I do want to touch on it a little bit because I don’t think it’s talked about enough.
The truth is, a lot of women experience this and it’s shocking how debilitating it can be. I didn’t know I was suffering from it for WAY too long and I wish I had reached out to my doctor months before I did. I knew something was off, but I kept telling myself that things were this way because “I’m a new mom…the house is supposed to be messy!” and while that’s true, there were also a lot of other things going on that pointed to signs of PPD.
One of the signs that I was suffering from PPD was how paralyzing doing a single load of laundry felt. It was so overwhelming for me that the thought of having to do it was crippling. This was among other things that I’m not ready to talk about on this platform. When I told my doctor this, he explained that we needed to treat PPD.
All of this is to say that I felt that something was really off and I ignored it for far too long. I wasn’t sleeping (and not because of the baby), I had migraines everyday, and overall I just felt miserable. If you feel like you might be experiencing PPD please make an appointment to talk with your doctor so they can help you. If you’re not sure, check out this article to see if you might be experiencing some of the symptoms 2+ weeks after having your baby.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Your house will constantly look like a tornado blew through it…trust me. It feels SO much harder to get the house picked up after having a baby than it ever did before. If you’re like me, you’ll feel like a total failure and wonder why you can’t get it together. But hear me when I say this: you’re doing great. As long as your baby is taken care of, then you are killing it, mama! Let the dishes be dirty (use paper plates!), and feel no shame when pulling clean baby clothes from the laundry basket for weeks. Your baby doesn’t see the mess, they literally have no care in the world other than being loved. So do whatever you need to do to take care of your baby and yourself and let the things that don’t really matter go.
I’m not going to lie, the transition into motherhood is way harder than I could have ever imagined. I’ve learned that eventually everything gets a little easier until you fall into a steady routine. Take it one day at a time, and you’ll get through it! And remember, if things feel way too heavy or daunting, reach out to your doctor to see if there might be something they can do to help you.
Mamas who own small businesses are true MVPs, I’m rooting for you! Lastly, if you’d like to read more about my pregnancy loss, rainbow baby, and other thoughts on motherhood, click here.