Breedlove's Briefing: Challenges of Taking Maternity Leave

July 8 - Stephanie Breedlove
 

Hi! I’m Stephanie Breedlove, Co-Founder of Care.com HomePay, Author and Angel Investor.

I absolutely adore taking an idea and giving it life in the form a business, then leading it to its full potential. Nothing is more fun. (Seriously!) I’d love for every woman who wants to start her own business to say the same thing, so here I am, mentoring millennial entrepreneurs. When I’m not working, I like to recharge and head outdoors to hike, bike, or stand up paddle board!

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This Week’s Must-Read:

4 Female Entrepreneurs Discuss the Challenges of Taking Maternity Leave When You’re Self-Employed

Who it’s for:

All female founders – whether you have children or not.

Why it’s important:

Even if your company offers flexibility and support, balancing a career and kids is an enormous challenge. And what about having a baby and juggling it all when you’re your own boss? A successfully integrated life is key to business success, and the American business landscape is in an intense struggle to embrace this and execute at the right levels. We can’t talk about the subject enough.

The U.S. is the only industrialized country that does notrequire employers to provide paid maternity leave. Anyone who works for a company with 50 or more employees is allowed up to 12 weeks leave without pay. Those who work for small businesses, though, have no legal protection at all. Studies show that 34 percent of women do not return to their job after having a baby. (Wow!)

CNBC Make It spoke to women entrepreneurs about their own challenges with taking maternity leave (or, in some cases, not taking it), how it affected their business, and the advice they have for other entrepreneurs considering motherhood today. You’ll see from their stories that we still have a lot to figure out.

Leila Lewis, CEO, Be Inspired PR

Although Leila took two months off with baby #1 during her corporate career, she took only 2 weeks off with baby #2 as a founder. She said:

“I stayed accessible and was on email with staff and clients within two weeks. This translated into working from home a lot during the time I was supposed to be on maternity leave. With baby #3, I was on email with my staff and advising on client accounts within a week.”

Without any real maternity leave, Leila faced the challenges of balance upon returning to work by bringing her newborn with her.

“I brought the baby to work with me, and I even set up a full nursery in my office. It was a game changer. The biggest challenge was meetings and calls. I cut back to one long meeting and call per day for a while.”

Even though Leila did not take time off, she advises entrepreneurs to take at least 8 weeks off:

“And don’t stress about leaving the business completely for a few weeks. Be sure there are boundaries so you can prioritize your life as a new mom. And don’t be afraid to bring your baby to work.”

Mattie James, Lifestyle Blogger and Podcaster

Mattie was also an entrepreneur when baby #2 was born. She didn’t know how to approach it. She said:

“I was like, OK, I’ll take 3 months off. No 2 months. I ended up taking 12 weeks. I can teeter on the line of being a workaholic, so in the end, I did not take the full 12 weeks.”

Mattie incorporated some upfront planning that was a big help:

“I had meetings with my team to lay out what I wanted done, what they needed to take over, and how to handle new responsibilities. However, I didn’t plan ahead at the right level and think of the details. I advise you to plan ahead, be very transparent with your team, and be vocal about exactly what needs to be done and how you would like things handled.”

Mattie focused on prioritizing her maternity leave as much as possible.

“For a second, I was like, maybe I can just balance doing my work and watching the baby. That didn’t work. I needed to focus on one or the other. Within a few months, I made the decision to send her to daycare to allow me to fully focus at work and at home.”

Cara Clark, CEO and Founder, Cara Clark Nutrition

Cara didn’t actually take any dedicated time off. She just loosened her workload.

“I wish I had been better about delegating during this time,” she said. “My advice is to hire help for the work you don’t love. Whether it’s in the home – laundry, cleaning, meal prep. Or if it’s work – admin, emails, etc. When I was with my baby, all I wanted to do was focus on being there. Hiring help at home helped me achieve this.”

Cara didn’t plan and felt that going with the flow would work.

“That was not the smartest plan. I needed some sort of a plan for entering motherhood while balancing my business. I ended up scaling back on some work and transitioned a team member into new responsibilities. I wish I would have strengthened my team to better support me in running the business earlier in the pregnancy.”

Cara learned that flexibility when you return to work is very important.

“If you return to work and you realize it’s hard to manage both halves of your life, then maybe be open to making some amendments to the way your business is structured so that it gives you more flexibility.”

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