Taking Maternity Leave

As a small business owner, taking a break from your business is nothing to take lightly. For me, letting go of being the point person for my clients, letting go of projects I'm excited to work on and overall just letting go of control was hard. SHPR has been my baby and I take immense pride in making sure it's represented in the best capacity. So when I found out I was pregnant in May 2017, I quickly began brainstorming different ways to set-up my business so I could step away for maternity leave with confidence. 

Thankfully, I've had a smooth pregnancy. Besides the obvious aches and pains, this baby has been good to me. My biggest point of stress was my business and figuring out what it looked like post-baby.  My challenges were deciding between taking on a full-time employee, increasing the hours of my current part-time team or taking a 3-month pause altogether. Another challenge was trying to gauge how many clients would stay on during my leave.  My contracts are set-up with flexibility which is not ideal when you're trying to plan ahead. 

After basically talking to any and every industry friend who would listen (shout out to Kristen Chin & Maggie Gentry) I finally made a plan. Below is a general timeline of how I got things in order. 

6 months - At 6 months until my due date, I spoke with my current part-time team members about taking on more responsibility and increasing their workload. The team was on board! Yay!

Next up, I started telling my clients what my maternity leave plans are, ie: when I planned to pull away, how long I would be out for and that I was in the process of training team members so they're ready to take the reigns when the time comes. 

To train my team, they started taking ownership of media outreach projects, upcoming events, and interfacing with clients. I knew this would be a slow progression, not because they weren't ready but because I knew it would be hard for me to relinquish control. 

3 months - At 3 months until my due date, my team members and I were working side-by-side on projects, we were both interfacing with clients and managing campaigns. I was still heavily involved with each client but was delegating more and more responsibility. We began to use the organization platform, Trello for easy internal communication and brainstorming. 

There were definitely bumps along the way. As I've mentioned before letting go of control was a major challenge. There were times when I wanted to jump in and take over but I knew that would only lead to short-term success. Instead, I had to focus on training and how to best communicate with my team. 

Another challenge was saying no to new clients. The world works in ironic ways. In the same day, at five months pregnant, I was connected to two amazing clients. To any other PR consultant, this would have seemed like an awesome opportunity and so much of me wanted to jump in head first with both businesses but I had this feeling in my stomach that told me it wasn't a good idea. Timing was off and I wasn't sure if I could give each client the attention they deserved. I had to say no. After making the decision, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders and I immediately knew it was the right choice. 

I continued to share my maternity leave plans with my clients and was getting confirmations on who was planning to say on and who was planning to take a little break. 

1 month - As I begin counting down to baby girl's arrival, I'm relying on my team to do the majority of the client interfacing. I make sure any email I send includes the team member who will be managing that client. 

When our baby comes (our due date is Jan. 23) I plan to take 6 weeks to get used to my new normal. Within that time I'll have weekly meetings with the team to touch base and plan and assist with direction as needed. After 6 weeks I'll slowly start folding myself back into the business and will be ready to start taking on my clients! 

You can learn more about my journey to pregnancy here. 

Source: Photo Credit: http://www.paigenewton.com/