This post will be going live after I’ve officially started my ‘maternity leave’. I write it like this as I won’t be taking maternity leave in quite the same traditional sense of my out of office going on for potentially as long as a year so I can solely focus on life with the new baby and embrace those first few months. Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely taking a break and of course my focus will be life with baby Thorne but at the same time I have at the back of my mind that my work-life can’t stay on hold as there’s technically nobody else there to keep it ticking over for me. Which is very much the case for many many people out there. But I thought I would try and take a moment to articulate the slight technical (emotional?!) complications of taking maternity leave when you run your own business and the fear that comes from it.
Absolutely, this is not a unique situation – there are female freelancers and business owners all over the country/world who are faced with this challenge of knowing they will need to take a break around the arrival of a baby but also knowing that they have a career or business to maintain and that as much as we might wish we could hit pause on all things work related whilst we get our heads around the new role of being a mum too – life goes on and you have to find a way to juggle both.
There are many reasons for this pressure and why I’m not planning on taking more than two-three months of maternity leave max at the moment. Just for one, there’s money which sort of goes without saying. When I’m not working, there’s no money coming in. Until I find that magic money tree in the garden, then there’s a pressure there. But for me it’s more about other side of it – the business I’ve built is something I’m proud of. I started it from nothing and have built it into a career I both love and enjoy and I don’t want to lose that.
I’ve been told many times that once baby is here it won’t feel important or perhaps my focus will change and I just won’t care as much. Which it may very well do – I can’t predict how I’m going to feel when Baby Thorne makes their appearance. But I dearly, dearly hope that I DO still care. I’ve spent nine years creating, building and working hard on this blog. All time and effort that has created something I absolutely love, I’m very proud of AND that has afforded me the flexibility of working for myself. Which long-term, with a child to factor into the mix is ideal in many ways. It’s something that brings me a lot of challenge, but also a lot of satisfaction and it’s very much a part of ‘me’ I don’t want to leave behind as I become a mum.
Which is where the fear side sort of comes in. To be honest, I could probably write an entire post dedicated to the fears around starting a family, becoming a mum and the impact it will have. There are so many. But one of the major ones for me is making sure that – as much as is humanly possible – I still hold on to the ‘me’ before baby. No, life won’t all be the same and I am well aware of that. But I don’t want to just drop being Jen and suddenly become XXX’s mummy. I want to maintain my own identity, interests and things that have made me ‘me’ for the past 30-odd years. Wishful thinking at this stage? Sure, maybe. But that’s allowed!
The biggest fear for me in taking a proper break for maternity leave is that the blog and my other work will be ‘forgotten’ and I’ll become totally irrelevant as a blogger. To be fair, that’s a general day to day fear when working as normal as a blogger at the moment. It’s such a fast moving industry with the constantly changing ‘flavour of the month’. When you’ve been doing it for a longer time there’s always the fear that the familiarity and experience comes with a dose of ‘meh’. Every reader or brand out there (i.e. the two ‘audiences’ you want to try and catch the eye of) will always be looking for something new and exciting. In internet land attention spans are short and capturing the attention of any audience long term is a tricky one! So taking a break – no matter how important or deserved or wanted that break is – comes with the risk that you get swept downstream of the has-beens of the internet and have to swim a hundred times as hard when you come back to it to get back to where you were before. It’s a daunting position to be in. Plus that’s before you throw in the realities of baby-life with sleepless nights, nappies and bonkers hormones.
I’m sure everyone woman taking a career break around having a baby – no matter how long or how secure their job is – will have their own set of worries and fears. All I can really do is embrace the change and see what happens. I sincerely hope I somehow manage to juggle life as a new mum alongside keeping my first ‘baby’ going. But for now, it’s a bit of a leap into the unknown.
In terms of what will be happening on the blog whilst I take a break. There are a few posts scheduled in (such as this one) so will have things popping up whilst I’m away. Then when baby Thorne is a few weeks old I’ll be starting my handful of ‘keep in touch’ days where I’ll be spending a little time just keeping things ticking over. This might just be checking emails or it might be taking photos and creating new posts. I don’t exactly know what form these will take yet as all just depends on what life looks like at that point.
*Photography by www.bangonstyleblog.com