For many of us, our businesses are our first children. But, adding a living, breathing human to that mix? Let’s just say the toughest job in the world just got even more difficult.
“[People] want to be the perfect mother to their children,” explains Christine Walker, a career coach who works with moms and overworked individuals. “And, then you combine the perfection focus with the achievement focus. I think there’s this pressure to live up to our own expectations.”
In honor of Mother’s Day weekend, I spoke with two incredible moms-slash-bosses about mastering the unique balance of parenthood and entrepreneurship. Whether you’re hoping to implement these tips into your life today or want to pocket them for a few years from now, I hope the advice here empowers you to be in the driver’s seat of every facet of your life.
That said, I understand Mother’s Day can be an especially difficult time for many women. For those who struggle with this holiday: I see you. I’m sending you love, support, and a big virtual hug.
Make Your Own Maternity Leave
Unlike your friends who work at large corporations — a.k.a. the ones who have a set number of sick days and PTO — self-starters are able to make their own schedules. But, while that might be nice when you’re booking a vacation or need a mental health day, it can be a little complicated when it comes to maternity leave. No matter how you start your family, it’s important to take some time off to bond with your child and get acclimated to this huge milestone.
The catch? If you’re not working, you’re probably not getting paid. On the flip-side, if you go back to work too soon, you might’ve booked yourself a one-way ticket to burnout. (In fact, Christine says that’s the biggest mistake parents-slash-self-staters can make.) For blogger Boss Mom Gabby of Boss Mom Magic, it’s important to prepare yourself, logistically and financially.
“Money needs to be saved [and] arrangements should be made,” Gabby says. “A plan should be in place for the unforeseen. [These] steps will all help with expenses and maternity needs. While you will not have benefits such as FMLA, you should save for ‘pre-paid’ leave.”
There’s no rule of thumb for how much you should save and how much time you should take off. But, you should set aside a few months of living expenses so you have a good cushion.
And, as for your clients? Make sure they are aware of your maternity leave ahead of time. “Reach out to them when convenient to ensure [connections] are maintained,” Gabby adds. “You’ll be back to regular operations in due time.”
Once upon a time — you know, before you were a parent — you had all the time in the world to focus on your business. (Sleepless nights? Work on weekends? Check and check.) But, once you have a family, you have a whole different set of priorities. I firmly believe that self-starters are modern-day superheroes and can get a lot done. But, you can’t do everything.
“It’s important we stick [with] our boundaries when it comes to the priorities in our life,” Gabby says. “My family comes first, and opportunities that place them in a negative position aren’t the opportunities I want. Budgeting in all aspects of life is so important. You want to be able to thrive, not just survive. Budget adequately throughout the year so that you aren’t tempted to make sacrifices in areas that you’ll regret later.”
Sure, it might seem easy to live by the saying, “If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a hell no.” But, after spending so many years of saying yes to opportunities and building your business, it can be hard to pass up a big paycheck. In order to stick with those boundaries, Gabby recommends prioritizing your business’ “why.” (Go ahead, ask yourself why you became your own boss in the first place.) But, for some, struggling to set boundaries can stem from a warped perception of your work and self-worth.
“Some of my highest achievers are chasing something inside,” Christine explains. “There’s [often] something deep down that’s really fueling that fast pace. A lot of the times, I’m helping my clients figure that out so they can value themselves for who they are as much as what they do. If you can value yourself for your character and those qualities, it’s much easier to build the space for those boundaries.”
Make Time For Yourself
Between juggling multiple clients, making your customers happy, and taking care of your family, being a working parent leaves little time and space for you to just be. (And, unlike being at a larger corporation, you don’t have set hours and can easily work around the clock.) But, neglecting your own needs will not do yourself, your business, or your family any favors.
“When we’re chronically stressed for too long, our brain actually changes,” Christine says. “Our hippocampus shrinks, our amygdala grows, and we just start flooding our bodies with stress hormones. We can really get stuck there. I work with my clients to figure out what their strengths are so we can find a unique way for them to refuel.”
For example, Christine’s strengths are her curiosity and creativity. So, when she feels stressed or overwhelmed, she carves time out of her busy schedule to learn something new. That said, refueling doesn’t always have to be as productive as, say, running five miles or reading a book. (Whenever I feel super-stressed, I sit in a reclining chair, put on a podcast, and nap.)
“There’s this weird push in society right now,” Gabby adds. “It makes you feel as if you must work 24/7 [in] order to get ahead. Do not believe the hype! You need sleep! You need a break! It’s ok! When you run out of time, it means you’ve placed too much on your plate that day. Set realistic expectations and enjoy the results!”
A huge thank you to Christine and Gabby for such an important conversation! Give Christine some love by following her on Instagram and checking out her website. Give Gabby some love by following her on Instagram and checking out her website,too!
Hustler of the Week: Annie Loynd Burton
What inspired you to become your own boss?
For about a decade, I worked high-stress jobs editing independent magazines in fast-paced industries with big personalities. I always wanted to become a freelance writer so I could enjoy the creative aspects without the politics. When my husband and I moved to the suburbs in 2018, my glossy editing job also came with a 90-minute commute. After six months of saving and stocking up work, it was time to finally take the leap.
What is your favorite part about being your own boss?
My favorite part of being my own boss is being able to wear many hats. I do a lot of different things between writing, social media management, and editing so nothing becomes tiresome. I also love being able to work and stay home with my daughter. My least favorite aspect is not having coworkers. As a social butterfly, entrepreneurship can get lonely.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned since becoming your own boss?
My biggest lesson has been charging my worth. When I first started out, I would work for whatever someone was willing to pay and couldn’t afford to be choosey. Now, I have the confidence to negotiate or just say no if the offer undervalues my time.
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