mum and baby

Source: Unsplash

The first question for an expectant parent is how much time to take off

Five years ago, I solo founded Caleño. Since then, my business has been pretty much my entire focus, until around seven weeks ago, when I welcomed a brand-new human into the world. Ironically, I’d always considered my business to be my baby, but this was the real deal and brought me face to face with a completely new series of challenges.

As a business owner, the first question was how much time I took off – if any. I’d heard stories about businesswomen taking calls in the labour ward post-birth and getting straight back into it. I had friends that had taken a full 12-month maternity leave, completely disconnecting from work. But even contemplating taking more than a few weeks away seemed alien to me, so how the hell was this going to work? Would my business be able to run without me?

The reality was, with it being my first child (and following much sage advice), I really did want to give myself the breathing space to figure out motherhood properly. Having no idea how I’d cope with being a new mum, or looking after a newborn, I couldn’t afford to sell myself short. Everyone kept telling me to make the most of those early days, which would pass in a flash.

The key was preparation. I let my team know I’d be taking three months ‘flexi-mat’ leave, which meant I wouldn’t be in the weekly day-to-day running of the business or necessarily responding to messages and emails, but I would be able to dip in and out of important things and check in with my senior leadership team once a week. I didn’t fancy doing a disappearing act, and as the owner, I certainly didn’t want to feel completely disconnected or ‘out of the loop’.

The first few weeks, I didn’t think I’d do any work at all, but newborns sleep a lot, and I found myself wanting to check in. Having the flexibility to choose where and when that happened gave me the freedom I craved and meant, in the harder weeks, that I didn’t overcommit my time.

My message to all the career-focused mums out there? Whatever your situation, make sure you do what’s right for you. After three months with my baby, I’ll be transitioning back into work, and facing a whole new set of challenges, I’m sure. What I do know is that when you love what you do, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing – there’s always a little grey in between.