Skip to main content

How to Take Maternity Leave without Putting Life on Hold

Lesson 3 of 16

Developing Your Maternity Leave System


How to Take Maternity Leave without Putting Life on Hold

Lesson 3 of 16

Developing Your Maternity Leave System


Lesson Info

Developing Your Maternity Leave System

So first we're gonna learn the philosophy of what I call maintenance mode. Ellen Low calls it treading water, and feel confident with the factors that are involved making a life work working with a little one. So maintenance mode is all about making sure you have enough time, energy, and money for things that are your priorities. Okay? And that's super important, we're gonna identify our priories and your priorities are yours alone, okay? Usually, they're somewhere in the ballpark about something about your family, something about your friends, something about the baby, work income. These are generally priorities a lot of us share. The thing is, you're gonna have limited resources. We don't have 90 hours in a day. The amount of time you're gonna have in your day is gonna feel a lot smaller, so we have to be crystal clear about what's a priority, whether it's worth dedicating time, energy, and money to. Here's the process that I'm gonna be spinning to you. We want to eliminate non-essen...

tials. If it's not important, this is not the time that we need to do it. We're gonna streamline and develop systems, not only for our business and our work, but also in our home and our family life. We're gonna delegate. If it's something that you can't take care of or it's not worth it for you the take care of, you're either gonna delegate it to someone else or maybe you'll delegate it to yourself at a different time. So one thing we're gonna talk about is giving your pre-baby self some tasks to do so that your post-baby self can chill out a little bit. And we're gonna work on breeding flexibility in our schedule. Here's a graph, life before baby, you did all this stuff and now here's our blue baby wedge and it has to fit in somewhere. There's only 24 hours a day and pretty much the only option is for the other wedges to get smaller, so we have to decide what are the important things, what are the things we're gonna cut back on. How can we make those other wedges smaller? And it's not as clear cut as... For us, it's not gonna be like "Oh, that's great, "I ditched the eight hours of work "and now I'm just gonna only do this baby thing." We wanna keep all of our priorities rolling in a maintenance mode somewhat, so it's really gonna be some hard work figuring out what's gonna work in our lives. We are all balancing time, money, energy. This is what life's about. And we're balancing these things all the time, so maybe when you started your business, you had a ton of time and a ton of energy and not a lick of money, and so maybe you did lots of things yourself. All of these things just keep changing for our whole lives. Maybe as your business grows, you have a bit of money, and now you feel like you're completely out of time. And so you're gonna need different solutions that work for that level of business. One thing, the situation I found myself in a lot is having a baby, I had a bit of time. Like, she was sleeping. I had a little bit of money, but boy, my energy level, because I hadn't slept well 12 hours straight in two years was a little low. So we're gonna be talking about solutions for saving each of these things. Time, energy, and money. A lot of people feel like the distinction between energy and time is a little bit nebulous. There's different kinds of energy we're gonna be talking about, so one is physical energy. Did you sit on the sofa and play video games for a half hour or go to the gym and go for a run? Who's ever picked the first option, that's a physical energy. You may not have the actual muscle calories ready to go do that more cumbersome activity. Another kind of energy is mental energy, so do you want to sit at home and have a bowl of cereal or look up on Yelp and go to that trendy new hot cool place? Takes mental energy to think like "Oh, what's the best time "to go there, how long's it gonna take me to get there? "Is it worth going, I don't know what it says?" And so all these different tasks take the same amount of time on the clock, but they take different resources, either physically or mentally compared to what you have. So how you're gonna juggle time, money, energy, all of these are unique to you, and we all have different businesses and different personalities. Some people think sitting on the ground and playing with a toddler for 14 hours a day is like the most boring thing in the world. For other people, this may be the time of your life you've been waiting for, like "Hot dog, I get to play "with a toddler all day." Everyone has different financial situations, different standards of cleanliness, I let the laundry pile up but that's just me. And so I just what to emphasize, this is about doing what's right for you and your life and also your family dynamic. So we want to think of your life as a whole. Maybe before, you sort of looked at your business as an entity, okay? So I go, I do my business, maybe it took eight hours, maybe it took 12 hours, 18 hours. And then you go home and you fall asleep and you do your thing and you're like "That was my business life and that was my home life." I want you to think of everything now, your business, your family, your home, we're all fighting over that same 24 hour pie. You know? So they're not completely separate entities. Time that you dedicate to your business is by definition, time that you're taking away from your family, and that's not a bad thing, we're just realizing it's one 24 hour clock and we can trade how we spend our time around. Okay? Before we start talking about any changes we're gonna make to our life or our business, you need to know where we stand right now. So let's just get started. These sheets are available for you to download. So go ahead and do that. And these, I'm gonna go through them quickly just because I'm here, but these are things I want you to think about hardcore, intensively. Because this is what's guiding your life and guiding your business decisions, right? So it's worth spending more than a couple minutes. We're just kind of breezing through right now. So you can't really even do anything without your priorities. So first of all, decide what are the top priorities for your business. What is the heart of your business? Where do you want the business to be? What do you think is the most important thing that you accomplish? These are really important to nail down because these are probably the things that you are gonna keep afloat, keep doing no matter what, even if it means you have to hire someone, even if it means you have to whatever. Do what it takes, stay up a couple extra hours, these are the things that you feel are essential to be doing. Okay? Then I want you to think about what are the top priorities for your little one? Like I said, everyone has different personalities. Do you wanna make sure you have playtime? Do you wanna make sure that you're there in the morning? Are dinners really important for you? It's important to think about these, and you may not have met your little one yet, so it might be hard for you to decide what's key. But you know yourself and so if you think about it a little bit, you'll probably start to figure them out. So for me, I was super into breast feeding, that was really important to me, I cared tremendously that our daughter was healthy, really important to me. And I cared that I was able to spend time with her. It didn't have to be every moment, but I wanted to spend a certain amount of time with her, so those were my top priorities. But yours are gonna be your own. Only you can decide what's right for you. So now I want you to think about what are your top priorities for your personal life. So this is like things about your house, things about your family. Maybe your top priority is making sure your weekends are totally off, you and your spouse like to hang out and do fun things on the weekend, you're planning on going to the beach and whatnot. Maybe that's a top priority for you. Maybe a date night is a top priority for you. Maybe a clean house is a top priority for you. Those are only things that you can decide. So for example, I actually missed my daughter's first steps. Like, it happened, I traveled. There are certain work things I was doing and I was okay with that, because I had my priorities. I spent tons of time with her, I travel Thursday through Sundays once a month and her first steps just happened to be during that time. It didn't really affect me that much. If that would have broken your soul, then you probably would decide that traveling isn't a real priority for you because then you would have been away for that. So all these things are so different. I know one mom who went away for a week with her husband to Mexico when her baby was six weeks old and I was like "Holy cow, whoa!" That would have blown my mind, but her time with her husband was a serious priority for them and so handing the baby over to her mom was something that seemed completely normal to her and those are the sorts of things you're gonna have to decide because it's about getting through this pretty trying time in life with all of your priorities still rolling and you still really feeling happy about your life. So here's just a little example about how time and energy and money all play with each other, right? So let's say you have healthy eating as a priority. No burgers and fries, yes fish and carrots. So you could cook at home. Doesn't cost very much money. It does take time, my bar is missing, that went away. There's a big bar on time cooking every night and it takes a lot of energy to figure out "What are we gonna eat? "Lemme make sure I've planned it out. "Let me make sure I've bought the ingredients." If you want to take not a lot of time and not a lot of energy, you can just dial up your favorite restaurant and have them deliver it every night, super expensive to go down that path, right? But it's this interplay between time, energy, money. Another option for people is to buy some sort of preassembled food plan, so maybe on Sunday you get a huge delivery of your meals for the week. Pricier than cooking at home, but it takes less time to do that on a nightly basis, and these are just factors you're gonna have to play with. We're gonna talk about budgets, making sure that you have all the systems that are right for you. Yeah, so now this is a really important issue I want to tell you about is business momentum. So in general terms, it's like career advancement, so whenever you put less effort into your business it's going to slow down. No one that I've ever met has the kind of business where they can just hit a button, walk away and have a nap for like a year and a half and they are just selling as much as they were before. So if our business is a priority, we do have to kind of keep boosting it, keep putting a little bit of time and energy into it to keep it rolling, and so this is a term I want you to be familiar with and what we're gonna be talking about is the little ways to keep your business rolling, to keep dedicating the energy to it, so when you come out on the other end of this phase of life, everything's a phase, that your business is still at a level that you're really satisfied with. Okay, so here's some worksheets. How do you spend your time? And there's no way you can fill this out in 10 minutes. These are just templates I'm giving to you that you can fill out over the next weeks or even a month. So the first worksheet is a week long calender. I'd like you to just tic off a box if that's an hour you spend working. It's really hard to know how to adjust the time you're spending until you know how you're spending the time right now, so how many hours a week are you working? When are you doing it? Just super broad strokes here. If you have a business that's incredibly variable, so for example let's say you're a wedding photographer and some weeks you have a wedding and you are like full out busy, other weeks you have kind of a week off, then you would want to do this over multiple weeks and then average those at the end. And the second worksheet is about how do you spend your work time? This is where we wanna get a little more detailed. I'd recommend using color, but that's just me, to color in the different amounts of time that you're spending on a crucial task, like "Man, I had to get this done." A task that's keeping up the business momentum. So this would be something like "It's not earning me money "this second, but I think it's really important "to keep my business rolling." What's an upkeep task? These are things like checking email. Things that are just like the little, the nuts and bolts of keeping your business running. This is a big one for a lot of people, do you spend any non-task related time? So that's time just standing by the water cooler, hanging out, organizing your pencils. A lot of us spend more time in that category than we really need to, but it's important to know it. So we're not even judging or making plans, we're just coloring it in, how many hours a day? Commuting. This is a large chunk of time for a lot of us that may be up for grabs when we're developing a new system. So how many hours are you spending in a car or train commuting and we'll just start to think later on about how we could change that. And then go ahead and fill in some blanks for other kinds of task that you might feel are important to analyze for how you're spending your day. And again, this is just one day, please do it for maybe a week or so so you really feel like you're getting a great average that's really informing you significantly about how you're spending your day. And a third sheet, I want you to go ahead and document how you're spending your home time for the time that you are home and not working. So the work stuff, we've gone into detail on a previous slide, but it's helpful for filling out a sheet to go ahead and color it in. For other tasks, how much are you spending doing the laundry, the cooking. Go ahead and sort these out, fill them in, cooking. So you can really look and you're like "Wow, I spend "two hours a day in the kitchen, really, okay? "That's something that I can kind of slim back on." so remember I told you, eliminate, streamline, and delegate. These are like our mantras, okay? So if something is a main priority for us, we're gonna make time for it and be fully present. That's what having different balls in the air is about. If something is about procuring future opportunities, so maybe following a lead. Doing something to keep this, the future of our business alive, maybe when we're right in the heat of things, we're gonna think about maybe putting it on hold or limiting how much we're doing it. Because the brief time period, like the triage situation, we're gonna focus on getting the task done that you need to get done. If something's an upkeep responsibility, answering emails, tiny little things, we're gonna talk about ways to streamline it, modify the expectations of it, or perhaps delegating it. We're gonna talk about how to hire people who can do certain tasks for you and so that's something we want to have in our back mind too. And if something is not important, gone. That is gonna be your number one time saver throughout the whole lesson is if something's not important to your business or your life, we're gonna get rid of it. Part of this getting rid of and re-delegating is re-negotiating your relationship contracts. They're probably not written down, but whether or not we formally had a conversation about it, we're in contracts with those around us, right? The stereotypical situation is housework with our partner, just for years, you've been doing the dishes and your partner's been doing the laundry and that's just, we've been doing it for years. But other relationship contracts can be with your friends. Maybe you meet up with this one friend every Tuesday for dinner and she'd feel really put out if you didn't keep up that end of the bargain, right? So go through this worksheet, think about things that you do and who you have that contract with, and then as we're talking, you're gonna wanna re-visit this and think like "Oh, maybe I could tell my friend "that I can only do every other Tuesday," or maybe "I'm gonna tell my mom that my sister has to take her "to doctor's appointments now because I'm not going "to be able to fit it in with these new time commitments "that I have in my life," and these can be really awkward situations to have, especially if we've set up habits that are long standing with people we care really deeply about, but there's no better time to have them, right? So before your baby arrives, say "You know, I'm just "getting my stuff together, it's gonna be really hard "for us to keep the baby happy and also to keep "my work a priority, so I'm going to need you "to do the dishes" or whatever that is. So, Ellen told me, she said that "My husband did make "a conscious decision to take on more household "responsibilities after the kids were born, so now he does "all the dishes and most of the laundry which is plenty "in a five person household." So her mom lives with them as well, and we're gonna talk about that situation. "Definitely over the years he's had to change "the cultural schema he grew up with." So this was a super important conversation for them. Her husband's from Brazil and grew up in a really traditional, mom stayed home, did all the laundry, guys don't touch the cooking, don't touch stuff like that, and so they had to have a conversation and she was super lucky, her husband came to it kind of on his own, but changing your entire cultural identity with what's a person's role with respect to cooking, what's a person's role with respect to cleaning, but that's what's necessary sometimes for making this new household work, because that's what you're getting is a new household. So I encourage you, this shouldn't be like... "That's it, today at dinner, we're sorting this out." This should be an ongoing conversation that may last a number of weeks, or oftentimes in my experience, I've found that a partner may not fully get the severity of the time commitment that you're about to enter into, so it might not be until your little person comes along that your partner's like "Wow, right, no, this is intense, okay sure, "I'll do the laundry." So some of these changes, especially if you've been in a relationship for a number of year and have a number of habits built up, are gonna take a while to change, so my advice is to not get frustrated about it, but clearly state what your needs are and sometimes it may come down to like, walking through the pile of laundry or no one has a shirt to wear before it's like "Oh, something's gotta change," right? Alright, so now I want you to think about your household budget. So this is like, get out your taxes, get out your worksheets, get out all of this stuff, because one important component to a lot of people who are running self-employed businesses is figuring out "How much do I really need to earn this year?" Or two years, or whatever time period we're talking about. So pull out your household operating expenses, that's food, that's rent. It's your health insurance, it's everything that you're paying in your household, projected childcare costs, whatever childcare solution that is right for your family and we're going to be talking about lots of them, how much do you think that's gonna cost? Money that you want to put in savings. How much is that gonna cost? And then take that income that excludes your income, so this would be a spouse's income or rental income or whatever kind of income you have, add those all up, this is the amount that's left over is the amount that you need to make up to keep the household running in the way that you expected. So you may look at this and be like "There's no way that's happening" and that means you need to cut back on some expenses. For other people, this may be like "Okay, that's "a totally practical, doable thing," and you're getting ideas, "Oh, that means I need to "take on this project and this project, but I could "let this project slide." This is the time, money, energy thing. So really sitting down, really figuring out what your financial goal is for the time period that we're talking about is super important, and there's no better time to eliminate excess in your budget. Maybe it's the latte, maybe it's your work clothes for example, there's all sorts of really great budgeting kind of apps and software that you can find, so if you wanna go through your credit card statement and actually go through how much did you spend on clothes, how much did you spend on eating out, and start to slim down your budget, now's a great time. So here's our timeline. This is a timeline we're gonna come back to again and again and again. So there's a time before you have a baby, we're calling it the pre-baby preparation, there's going to be some time period called a short leave, everyone's gonna have it, of where you're just out of commission, maybe 12 hours for you or it may be a few months. Maintenance mode is really the heart of our system and what we're talking about, so how do you keep things going when you kind of still have two feet in the door? You want to keep everything rolling with your business, but you still want to spend kind of a bit of extra time with your home life? And then we have our new, integrated life. So this is where you are at full throttle, however you would consider full throttle, but you now have this new life with a family. So the pre-baby preparation stage, we're gonna develop our plan, that's what we're doing right now. And in the next lessons, we're gonna work ahead as much as we can to make our future selves really happy and we're gonna work on setting realistic expectations for those around us and also for ourselves, because those can be one of the hardest people to talk to is ourselves and realize, especially for us entrepreneurs who are like used to really nailing, accomplishing things, taking a step back and saying "Maybe I won't get all that done in the next year or so." It's a hard conversation to have with ourselves. For our short leave, immediate priorities rule. This is about doing the absolute bare minimum, the most elimination, the most streamline, the most delegating. This for me, this could be the time you're in the hospital it could be the day or two, it could be a couple months. This is trying not to piss off your customers while you have this thing in life that you have to do. So this is where we are just bare bonesing it, doing the absolute minimum. Now when we move to maintenance mode, now remember, this is the phase where we still have, we have a big foot in our business, but we also still have our big foot in our baby life, maybe we don't have childcare lined up yet or maybe we do but it's on a part time basis and you just still want to spend a lot more time at home than you do in a few years. So this is still eliminating your non-priorities. Still streamlining the essentials and still delegating tasks to other people, but we have our new eyeball, I'm not losing too much business momentum. So we still want to keep that foot in the door, we still want to keep things rolling, and our long term priorities peek in a little bit. Now we get into your new, integrated life. This could be five years, when your child goes to school, it could be a year, it could be a couple months, whenever you're ready to either go back to work full time or go back to life as you know it, we're never gonna let our efficiencies drop. You are still eliminating things that aren't priorities, because you're never going to have time for that stuff if it's not a priority to you, hopefully never again in your life are you gonna have to do it. Still streamlining the essentials, still delegating tasks, because we're gonna build up such great systems for delegating and hiring people that it's gonna be your new way of life, I think. But now you wanna focus on business growth as well. So for a lot of people who've gone through this process, your business is better than ever before, because you really great streamlined systems in place and now you're ready to just hit it full throttle. So that's the timeline that we're roughly going to be working at. We want to really figure out what we need to do for our business and to identify our short and long term goals, so that we can start planning strategically for our leave.

Class Description

If the term “maternity leave” makes you nervous, you’re not alone.

The big challenge: stepping away from life for 3 months with the expectation of returning to work after maternity leave like nothing happened. Many working women already put in 12 hours a day, so how does one manage with fewer? This common practice is particularly detrimental to small business owners, who find their business slipping away during maternity leave, along with confused and disappointed customers, even when the business has returned to normal.

There’s a better way.

Instead of a traditional maternity leave, in How to Take Maternity Leave without your Putting Life on Hold, Stacey will show you how to put your business into maintenance mode for as long as you want: keeping your business functioning at a high level to keep your customers happy, but not requiring your full-time attention. It will make returning to work after maternity leave much more seamless.  

Many business owners spend time on tasks that are not essential. By eliminating these excess activities, you can distill your business into a few hours a day of powerful productivity. Keep your business going while still spending the time with your family that only comes once in a lifetime. When you’re returning to work after maternity leave, you’ll find that your newly-discovered efficiency has transformed your business. You may even decide to limit work to a few hours a day, permanently!

You’ll Learn How To:

·       Determine which tasks in your business are worth your time and attention

·       Streamline your business down to the bare essentials, creating successful systems

·       Calculate how much money you need to earn during your leave, and work the minimum number of hours to achieve it

·       Take advantage of ‘down time’ in productive ways

·       Decide when to hire out tasks, even if you’ve never considered hiring contractors before

·       Find non-standard childcare options… there’s more than full-time daycare!

·       Effortlessly shift your business back into ‘full-rev’ mode

During Stacey’s daughter’s first year, she earned 65% of what she earned the previous year, working during baby’s naps and in the evenings. She was able to do this by streamlining her business and working on only what brought in results, cutting work time down to a couple of hours a day. Her daughter entered traditional daycare when she was 20 months old, with a transition that was seamless to customers, because it appeared as if she had been working full-time all along.

Learn how you can apply Stacey’s techniques and strategies to your maternity leave plan. Even if you’re not a small business owner, you’ll find ways to assess and streamline your work, make time for this once-in-a-lifetime period,  manage childcare, rev up and get back in the game.   


Patrice Horvath

Thank you for making such an important class!!! This is a topic we all really need to talk about openly and have some guidance on! I'm 29, recently married and went freelance last year because I knew I'd want flexibility when I started a family. My business has gained momentum recently and this will course be so important to have handy during the next few years when I start a family to help me maintain my business. Thank you, very excited!