It’s crazy to be able to finally say that my baby is due next week !!
I guess I’m ready? At least I feel like I’ll be ready if we can hang in there through the weekend, ha!
One of the questions I’ve been getting is whether I’m taking time off work or how I’m managing maternity leave being self employed.
Maternity and paternity support in the US is an issue in itself, but planning for maternity leave as a solo-entrepreneur and first time mom is uniquely tough because there are no established policies or standard procedures to follow, and although I can learn from the experience of my entrepreneur/new mom friends, everyone’s business, relationships, babies, and financial situations are different.
Honestly, the whole thing has given me a lot of stress and anxiety, especially since I am a Type A control freak and like to have everything planned out. Obviously when it comes to having a baby there are so few things that are actually in your control, so the process has also been a big lesson in letting go, trust, surrender, and practicing what I preach as a life coach. Mainly, that breakdowns come before the breakthrough. Oh my gosh SO MANY BREAKDOWNS.
I’ve approached this whole trying to conceive/miscarriage/pregnancy/matrescence season of life as a personal and spiritual growth journey which has given me a really great perspective and allowed me to feel more or less grounded as I navigate the anxiety, emotional breakdowns, hormonal rollercoaster, and the general fears that pop up when you grow a baby.
I’m not really taking an official “maternity leave” because my work and business is an extension of my everyday life, so there’s really nothing to leave from. However, I am making conscious shifts so that I can be as present as possible during the first weeks and months at home bonding with our baby.
I’m thinking of these first few months more as a baby sabbatical than a leave.
Luckily the way my business is set up gives me complete flexibility. But it’s also kind of terrifying to venture into the unknown.
I’ve always wanted to be a work from home mom, so I’m not afraid of navigating work/life balance or figuring out the actual nuts and bolts of WORK.
For me, the biggest stress has been the financial aspect of giving myself time off, while allowing for a flexible schedule and lots of change and transition.
We depend on my income, so I don’t have the luxury of taking an extended time completely off. But I also want to make sure the hours I’m spending on work over the next several months are as productive, efficient, and income generating as possible.
After months of stressing, obsessing, listening to podcasts, crowd sourcing entrepreneur friends, and trial and error, I’m finally feeling good about navigating this next season of business and new motherhood.
Whether you’re having a baby, dealing with a health crisis, or simply want to take an extended time off from work, I believe one of the biggest perks to self employment is having flexibility and freedom over your schedule.
And personally, one of my primary motivations for being self employed is to work to live, not live to work.
Looking back on the last six months, I can distill the whole messy process of planning for self-employed leave or sabbatical into three components:
Mindset work (bigger vision as well as finances and money)
Plan for your return
Creating and implementing systems
Before diving into the “how” and all the details, it’s always important to start with your bigger picture values and vision for how you want life to look and feel like through the changes ahead.
What do you want your maternity leave to look and feel like? Do you want to completely unplug, have flexibility, how much time do you want to take off? If money were no object, how would that influence your decisions? What are your childcare options? What if your baby needs extra care and attention and you aren’t able to follow through on your back to work plan? Do you want to work up until you go into labor, or slowly decelerate and start your leave at the middle or end of pregnancy?
In January I invested in a 6 month spiritual womens’ leadership mastermind with Sara Avant Stover, and with her guidance and mentorship decided that my number one priority for this year was to create a work environment that centered around my pregnancy so I could feel mentally, physically, financially, and spiritually supported through this immensely powerful initiation into motherhood.
My ultimate goal is always FLEXIBILITY. I want to be able to focus on my baby and recovery with no pressure to make money or keep up to date with my inbox. I don’t know how much time we’ll need or want, but in a perfect world I see myself coming back to limited part time work hours by the end of the year, and then working flexible part time hours from there. I’ve always wanted to be a work-from-home mom, to be able to be home to raise my kids while also maintaining a personal creative outlet through work that fulfills me and allows me to make a difference and feel connected to the world.
At first I wanted to have all systems in place, projects completed, and feel comfortable with unplugging the last several weeks of my pregnancy so I could focus completely on resting and self care, but in reality I discovered keeping busy with a little bit of work combined with baby prep has felt the best to me, and has kept me from feeling too isolated or impatient with the waiting game.
One major personal lesson I’ve been learning the hard way is that whenever I’m stressed or overwhelmed (which happens a lot when pregnant or going through any major life change), it dredges up all my insecurities and fears around money and triggers my basic survival instincts around needing to feel supported...which in turn triggers obsessive worrying and feeling like I’m not good enough/not earning enough/not doing enough/won’t have enough.
Some women turn to emotional eating, drinking, shopping, or other outlets when reacting to overwhelm, but I start to compulsively freak out about how much money I’m earning or not earning, even if what made me feel overwhelmed in the first place had nothing to do with it.
So LET’S TALK ABOUT MONEY!
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset ever since I was in grade school, and LOVE earning money by selling things I create or do for others. The thought of my earning capacity being limited by a newborn really freaked me out and sent me down a desperation spiral of “MUST MAKE ALL THE MONEY BEFORE BABY IS BORN!”
But then I caught myself, because that’s a horrible energy to come from!
So when it came down to planning my work schedule over the last months of pregnancy and into the second half of the year, I had to be careful not to be motivated by my scarcity mindset and ego, and instead kept asking myself:
“If money wasn’t an issue, what work would feel fulfilling, supportive, and fun for me right now?”
In addition, I’ve been focusing on a lot of inner work around abundance mindset, and learning that true abundance isn’t just about earning or manifesting more money, but about releasing emotional attachment, and shifting from a scarcity mindset of “never enough//I need to control it” to a belief that money is energy ultimately is sourced and returned to a divine source.
If you’re sick of all the law of attraction//manifesting//just work harder dogma and interested in the spiritual and energetic aspects to money, I hiiiiiighly recommend Tosha Silver’s book It’s Not Your Money.
When we stop stressing out about having enough, our nervous system relaxes and this allows us to receive.
I’ve seen this happen magically over and over. Unexpected rebates, gift cards, hand me downs from friends, Facebook marketplace deals, extended payment plans with zero interest financing, generosity of our “village” of friends and family, we have been supported every step of the way.
I wanted to save more money than I did, but I am trusting I’ve saved enough.
I wanted to have more clients lined up than I do, but I am trusting they will be waiting when I am ready.
I wanted to be able to pay off my credit card balance before baby, but I trust it will be paid off in perfect timing and in the meantime it is a lesson in being ok with a little debt and re-writing old money stories and family beliefs about what it means to be “responsible.”
So most of my work prep for baby has revolved around doing energy and mindset work around my bigger vision, abundance, and shifting into a state of receiving, but obviously we live in the real world and need to make tangible plans as well.
It’s hard to find examples or blueprints of how to structure a sabbatical or extended leave as an entrepreneur because everyone’s business is unique and looks different, but in case you’re curious I wanted to share my plan and how I’m making it work in a way that feels good, which brings us to the next step:
2. Plan for your return to work
I think this is something I heard on the Startup Pregnant podcast and it is a GAME CHANGER:
Instead of getting caught up in the maternity leave itself, start with the end in mind and plan backwards from where you want to be when you plug back IN to work. This way, you won’t feel completely lost when you return and will be able to maintain or build momentum so hopefully your return to work is seamless and supportive.
I decided that what felt best and made the most sense would be to keep my Beachbody business “simmering” through the rest of the year, plan to enroll up to three private life coaching clients by November/December, and let everything else go.
3. Create your systems
This is where the details, strategies, and nuts and bolts come in. What moving parts, ongoing projects, or loose ends do you need to complete or delegate before baby?
I have three sources of income, and would recommend to any entrepreneur to diversify your income streams so you aren’t dependent on any one source.
Here is how I’m shifting biz around so I can still maintain base levels of income, while setting myself up for a successful return to the part-time working world when baby and I are ready:
The majority of my income actually comes from my health and fitness accountability biz with Beachbody, and is about 85-90% residual (subscriptions and bonuses), and 10-15% new sales. I know everyone has their own thoughts on network marketing, but Beachbody has been the KEY to making things possible for me to back off my work hours, because I know no matter what happens, I have dependable income coming in every week due to the organization I’ve intentionally built over the last 5 years. This has been such a blessing and relief!
(and am now required to share the disclaimer that Team Beachbody® does not guarantee any level of success or income from the Team Beachbody Coach Opportunity. Each Coach's income depends on his or her own efforts, diligence, and skill. See our Statement of Independent Coach Earnings for the most recent information on the actual incomes of all our Coaches.)
What I’m doing
Since the majority of “work” for Beachbody consists of sharing my life on Instagram, focusing on my own self care, and chatting with other new mom friends, I’m not really planning to completely disengage but am giving myself permission to view it as a positive outlet for my mental/emotional/physical health, and not a necessity. I don’t want to feel pressured to show up and work when I am not ready or don’t have the energetic capacity, so I have set up systems to support my team and customers while taking a backseat for a couple months.
I’m collaborating with a few leaders on my team to keep our groups fully supported, our team calls covered, our new coach trainings are on autopilot, and BECAUSE DIVINE TIMING ALWAYS COMES THROUGH there’s a brand new program with 20-30 home workout and a no-impact modifier releasing October 1st. Pending a smooth recovery this should be perfect timing for me to ease back into exercise, so I know my personal postpartum fitness plan is covered and I will open up my accountability coaching then for any other women or new moms who want to join me.
What I’m doing
I’ve turned three of my most popular group programs into evergreen digital courses. I’m most proud of my signature program Wild Synchronicity, which will teach you how to plan your life, work, and self care around the cyclical energy of your hormone cycle.
Since I obviously won’t be able to be present for client sessions, I’ve phased out my 1:1’s and am putting my life coaching business on hold until later this fall or winter once we’re all settled in and I know I’ll be able to get baby care a few hours a week. Life coaching fills me with so much energy and joy, so I can’t wait to get back into it! My plan is to start with just 3 new clients this winter, and see how it goes.
In the meantime, I’ve set up an email series sharing my best posts on mindset, self care, and authentic biz from my blog archives, which will be scheduled to my email list and Facebook page over August, September, and October. I’m excited to share this valuable content with my community while not having to be physically or energetically present to create new posts or newsletters.
The Anna Maria Locke Etsy Shop started as a way to fund my yarn and fabric addiction, but has evolved into a really fun creative outlet and small income source, bringing in about $2,000/year.
What I’m doing
Because it is so labor intensive (and not actually profitable when you account for the time I spend cutting fabric, sewing, and packaging orders), I am closing down the shop for the foreseeable future. This decision sounds kind of bittersweet but ultimately feels very freeing to me and not a loss at all. I’m easily inspired and could see myself shifting into the baby accessories market in the future… but for now I want to spend at least the rest of this year getting used to actually having a baby! And if miracles occur and I have a spare 20 minutes to sit down at the sewing machine, I want to be able to spend that time making things for my little nugget or my friend’s babies.
Final thoughts on prepping for a sabbatical or leave as a self employed creative entrepreneur
Overall I feel really good about this “plan.” It feels good, expansive, achievable instead of overwhelming and scary. I think the key is to remain completely flexible and detached from the outcome.
I’m learning it’s important to make plans, but even more important to hold them loosely and be open to things working out differently.
I am choosing to believe everything will unfold even better than I could predict or plan myself.
That having a baby will make my business EASIER, my overall life BETTER, my days more full of joy and happiness, and will launch me into greater levels of personal growth, service, and income.
And don’t hold back from asking for support, investing in a virtual assistant, and receiving help from others! I know it’s hard when you’re a solo-preneur and want to control everything, but trust me, you don’t have to do this alone.
Finally, a reminder for my fellow coaches: every time we grow and evolve, we bring that growth into our work so our clients get to benefit from our experience. Every time we are stretched past our breaking point, we gain resilience and a deeper capacity to feel and relate to others.
So lean into the breakdowns, the overwhelm, the panic attacks, feel the feels, honor the sacred unraveling of everything you’ve known until now.
The very fabric of your business, identity, body, and life is shifting and integrating into something even stronger and more powerful than you’ve ever experienced before.
Trust it and let go.
Remember that in the end, this too shall pass :)