Oh, maternity leave. Something that has been rolling around in my head + stressing me out for months. How much time to do I take off? What is wise for my business + wise for this transition to motherhood? What do other people do? How is this all going to work? My two biggest questions/areas to think about have been:
- When do I want this time off to start and end? My due date is September 18th, but we all know babies come when they want. What makes sense? Furthermore, the holiday/Christmas season is a huge one for me. How do I navigate that well?
- What do I actually want a break from?
As a small business owner, I don't have an HR department or a boss or supervisor telling me how to go about maternity leave. It comes down to a whole lotta winging it, listening to my gut, talking to my husband and seeking wisdom from other business owner mamas who've gone before me. There's a thousand ways to do motherhood, and motherhood + business, and no two people do it the same. I heard everything from someone taking four full months off, absolutely no work whatsoever, to someone else who was back to running their shop during their little one's nap times when they were two weeks old. And both options worked great for those two mamas. But the past few months have made my brain spin as I figure out what is best for me, my shop and our family. I am (well, was) involved in a LOT of things. So many, in fact, that I sat down one day and wrote them all out in a notebook. I wanted a really clear picture of ALL the things occupying my time. Here's a little snapshot of the list:
- Vallarina Creative (every single part of running this business - roughly 15-20 hours per week)
- Rotary (president)
- The Archibald Project (20 hours per week)
- Book Club (once a month)
- Boss Ladies networking group (once a month)
- Church (every Sunday)
- family commitments
- Managing the parish Facebook page for Financial Peace University graduates
- Love By Design (the print shop I co-run with my BFF, roughly 3-5 hours a week)
- Running our household (I'm home all day, so a lot of this falls to me, which I don't mind - it's just something to take into consideration)
- Mastermind Group
Etc, etc. The list was LONG, my friends. And it was SUPER eye-opening. I realized why I felt so frantic and frazzled - I was doing WAY too much. So I started to go down through the list and eliminate things. Some things were easier than others - giving up managing my parish's Facebook page for FPU grads was a no-brainer, for example, while discerning that I needed a break from Love By Design was harder. After going back to the list and taking it to prayer for a few weeks, it got easier and easier. I could more clearly see the things the Lord was/is calling me to in this season, and more easily let go of or say no to the things He isn't calling me to. Little by little, I've whittled down my list of commitments and responsibilities over the last few months in preparation for my life to drastically change when our baby arrives. Three of the biggest changes:
- Love By Design: I am taking an extended break from our little print shop, at least until after the baby is born and we settle well into a routine. Chelsea, the co-founder and my best friend, was so gracious and wonderful and understanding. I was scared of letting her down, but of course she totally understood and fully supports me taking this time for our family! So if you buy anything from our shop (we have the CUTEST new prints!), send an Etsy message or an email, you are most likely going to get Chelsea for the next couple months.
- The Archibald Project: if you follow TAP on social media, you probably saw their announcement that they were hiring a couple weeks ago! Yep, it's officially official - I will no longer be the Creative Director after August. This was such a bittersweet decision, because I deeply love what we do at The Archibald Project and LOVE working for and with Nick and Whitney to further the cause of orphan care, but it became very clear to me that the Lord was really calling me to loosen my grip on this job and open wide my hands for what He has for me in this upcoming season.
- Custom design work: I am no longer taking on any custom design work. I AM still doing custom requests THROUGH my Etsy shop ONLY, for pieces that match products ALREADY in my shop. But I've put totally custom projects on hiatus until at least January of 2016, and am not sure that I'll be going back to it at all, in fact. I absolutely LOVE designing new templates for my shop and adore when people want me to create something for their event to match something I've already created, so that's where my heart feels most pulled in this season.
Originally, I had planned on taking off from September 1st through the holidays, so essentially a full four months (September-December.) Back in the spring, I had no idea what my shop volume would be come September, and if I'd be able to manage it with a baby. But the way things shook out, with my Rotary presidency ending in July, my TAP job ending in August and no longer taking on custom design as of right now, and the level that my shop is currently at and I predict it continuing to maintain, it sort of hit me that I wasn't sure what exactly I was taking a four-month leave from. Solely running my shop? Suddenly that didn't seem like something I wanted. I LOVE running my shop, and when my shop is the ONLY thing I have to do, it really takes no time at all. it's at a really manageable level right now, which I'm grateful for. I truly feel like I can efficiently run my shop, serve my clients well and manage a baby. So as far as maternity leave for my business goes, I'm going to keep my shop open and continue to return email and everything as normal until it's baby time. Whether that's early September, mid September, late September, who knows. If the baby isn't here by the due date, I'll probably still close my shop around then to make sure I don't have any open orders when he does arrive. I'm going to put up an email auto response at the same time and sink deep into a slower season of family life. I'm planning on keeping my shop closed for 2-3 weeks, but it could be longer depending on how things go. I'm not married to any particular length of time, and am confident that I'll know what feels right and doable when that time comes. But I don't think I'll be taking a full four months off from Vallarina Creative like I originally thought, and that also feels totally fine to me.
Overall, I'm feeling SO much more peaceful about everything and the way things are playing out. I'm just so grateful for the Lord's faithfulness as I've sought Him throughout this pregnancy and tried to figure out how to juggle allthethings. He is so patient with me and has kept gently reminding me that I don't have to always DO or ACHIEVE, and for the first time in my life I'm pretty excited to slow wayyyyy down and just BE. Of course, I still have a super long list of things I'd love to get done/organized/checked off in the next month, just to have them done before our world is rocked by a tiny human, but if it happens, great. If not, the world will not end.
So that's where I'm at with maternity leave! Entrepreneur mamas - how did you do it? Especially those of you with Etsy shops or design-based businesses that required your personal time/talent to run. I'd love to hear!! xoxo!