There are nearly 10 million women-owned businesses in the United States. There are no exact statistics on how many of those owners are also moms, but you can bet it’s a fairly large percentage.
I never gave much thought to the balancing act many women perform as both business owners and mothers until I got pregnant last fall. Now that I’m expecting, however, I’m realizing how difficult it can be to grow a baby and a business at the same time. And I can’t yet fully wrap my brain around the idea of managing a baby or toddler while also managing my company!
To celebrate Mother’s Day, which is this weekend, I decided to elicit mompreneur advice from a handful of business owners who I admire and respect. I was pleasantly surprised by how many über busy and high-profile women agreed to answer this question:
“What’s your best advice for entrepreneurs expecting their first child?”
Whether you’re a mommy-to-be, want to be a momma someday, recently became a mother, or have been raising your kids for a while, I think you’ll find these responses useful and inspiring.
“Don’t think you can’t take maternity leave. In fact, schedule it now. You cannot feel guilty about prioritizing life and pulling away during this time. Be present in this precious season. Instead of spreading yourself thin, and trying to be the best at everything in the name of ‘balance,’ focus your attention on the responsibility that is most important…your bundle of joy. Give in to this moment, embrace it, enjoy it, and one last thing—take naps when your little one does.”
“The best tip I can offer is to let yourself step back and be the new mom. Releasing the grip on my business was terrifying, but trying to juggle both a baby and my brand at 100 percent was spreading me too thin. I spent my time pre-baby prepping my editorial calendars, delegating tasks, and assembling a digital ‘phone tree’ of people that could help me in a pinch.
Instead of being a stressed-out, frazzled new mom (okay I was sorta one of those anyway, babies are super hard) too burned out to grow my business, I was a woman who’d taken a moment to enjoy and soak in the life change, and had come back to my business with a whole new perspective. My child changed my voice, and that gave my work depth and access to a whole new audience.”
“My best advice can be summed up in one word—daycare. I know it’s a really personal decision, but I think far too many women who work for themselves think they can do it all. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be super mom and a total girl boss, and the truth is I couldn’t do both well at the same time. I had grand visions of designing brand platforms with my sleepy baby in a sling and I felt a lot of shame and failure when my fantasy didn’t manifest in reality.
I am just now realizing the pressure society puts on us moms. For example, I’ll go to meetings and well-meaning clients will ask me where my son is, but do you think anyone asks my husband where his child is when he’s at work?! Those little things add up to a lot of pressure. So my advice is to find a daycare that will be your village. It does not make you less of a mom to get help with childcare.”
“Expect to do less work than you may initially hope to do. So many expecting entrepreneurs have high hopes of sneaking away for weekly office hours, or squeezing in meetings during nap times, but—trust me—you’re going to need any in-between moments for you, not your business.
Basically, plan to do nothing in your business for 6-8 weeks. Don’t even expect to make time for email. Prepare for a complete shutdown, or set your team up to be fully self-sufficient. Then you’re off the hook to really focus on yourself and the changes in your family, and can enjoy being pleasantly surprised at working on your business instead of in it in the event you find moments to dive back in.
Otherwise, just enjoy the really special time that is the first weeks of your kid’s life. Your business will be waiting when you get back.”
“You protected, nurtured, and carved out just the right amount of time for your business. Although your business was not your first born, it was your first baby. Prepare yourself for the same sleepless nights, the same worry, the same multitasking you’ve been doing for your business, but now for your newborn. Be prepared to have that same (yet heightened) feeling of accomplishment, triumph, and pride for this new person to whom you have given the gift of life! The sacrifice and hard work is always worth it.”
“Watch. Wait. Listen. A child shrinks your life in the strangest of ways, and you might feel overwhelmed with how different your life is—the you now vs. the you then. But if you watch, and if you wait, and if you listen hard enough. the ‘you then’ comes back. It takes time for everyone (it took a year for me), but allow the time. Don’t rush it. Your creativity will come back (it will feel differently), your brain will come back (it will think differently), your body will come back (it will work differently) and your energy will come back (it will be used differently). Watch for the different. Wait for the different. Listen for the different. And it will become better.”
“My advice would be to hire help, if you have not already. Someone who is a virtual assistant or even a nanny. Someone to help with day-to-day tasks so you can take the time off you need rest and heal with the baby.”
“Women have been having babies since the beginning of time…but running a business and having a baby brings on an entirely new dimension. It’s so worthwhile to take the time to plan for the support system required so your business doesn’t suffer while you’re away.
I’d definitely recommend putting the support in place early—long before you need to. My husband Robin and I knew we wanted to stay unplugged from the day-to-day business needs for the first few weeks after our baby was born. So, we made a trial run and took an unplugged vacation a few months earlier…and found a couple areas that needed a bit more help before the real maternity leave started.
Apart from the business itself, it was important for us to also find support in terms of a postpartum doula, family visits, and a good childcare option for after the maternity leave ended.
This is a wonderful time to be a woman in business—and I know that being a mompreneur will only make things better.”
“Don’t expect to be able to work while the baby naps! I found myself really stressed out when I would try to work while he napped. I always felt rushed and it was frustrating when he woke up sooner than I expected. Instead, I had time that was 100 percent mom time, and time when he was watched by someone else that could be 100 percent work time. That worked much better for me!”
“Put the phone down, log off the computer, and make yourself a cocoon with your new blessing. Do this for increments each day of your little one’s life. The first moments, days, and weeks are a blur of overwhelming love, confusion, adoration, admiration, and sleep-deprived bliss. Soak up every moment with your newborn, study her eyes, bury your nose in her sheets and skin, and memorize the moment. Be in the moment. Those first few weeks, do not think about work. The business will be there, and if it’s not have the courage to start again. Each moment is so precious and I don’t want you to miss it.”
“As entrepreneurs, we believe that anything is possible. That’s what helps us get through the challenges and propels us towards success. Then we begin a new adventure toward motherhood and we feel like all the same rules should apply. But after having started my business while being pregnant with my son, and growing my business while being pregnant with my daughter, I can tell you that you are a unique creature in the entrepreneurial world.
Every single day you have to remember that while you build your business, you are also building a little body, nervous system, lungs, and heart. Each day you are spending precious resources on creating life, so don’t beat yourself up when you long for a nap. Don’t feel guilty when you just can’t seem to get as much done as you used to. Instead of fighting it, embrace it, build it into your schedule, and prepare of those down days.
Now, you may say that there is too much to do leading up to having your new little one, but planning in some good rest time will allow you to be more productive during your other moments. Trust me, pretending being pregnant doesn’t change anything will only cause undue stress. If you embrace it and plan for it, you will be surprised at how much you are able to get done while growing a baby and taking care of you.”
“You might be hoping I’ll tell you how to be a successful entrepreneur and a brand new mom at the same time…well, I’m not going to do that. I’m going to tell you what I really wish someone had told me:
Enjoy every single second with your new baby. Speaking as the mother of a now 9-year-old boy (who’s busy with sleepovers, school, soccer, etc.) I wish I had those foggy, sleep-deprived, cuddly, sweet days back. You have the rest of your life to work, but they’re only tiny for a little while…in short, cut yourself some slack. Enjoy those snuggles, sleep when you can, and don’t worry about work 24/7 because it will still be there when you’re ready. I promise.”
“My best advice is to use your pregnancy as a time to prepare your business for this new phase. Hiring help, automating, increasing your exposure, and having sources of ‘passive’ income are all ways to ensure your business will run with or without you so you can take a little time away to enjoy your new baby. Be sure also to set aside income from your business throughout your pregnancy so if your business does ‘pause’ after the baby is born, you can still enjoy your lifestyle. I was in the opposite situation and started my business after having my first baby so I was in hustle mode while he was an infant. I definitely wish I could have had an established business so I could have taken a little ‘breather’ after he was born.”
“If you’re a full-time entrepreneur you don’t get paid maternity leave, you have to create it. Something I considered before I gave birth to my baby was how long would I like to spend just being a new mom without having to acquire new clients or thinking about my next program, product, sales, or lead funnel. My answer was at least two months. During my pregnancy, I knew I had to create a few things and even launch a program or product before I gave birth to have income coming in throughout my leave. I also wanted to stay top of mind in the marketplace and still have leads coming in while I was away, so I created a few automated funnels as well. My advice is think about how you want those first few months with your little one to look and reverse engineer your business to fit that before you get to the eight month mark! Because we all know (or you will know) that you may not feel up to anything by 37 weeks!”
“When you own your own business, it can be impossible to take true maternity leave. Whether you’re on your own completely or have a small team of support like I do, it’s really tough. Do whatever it takes—outsourcing, leaning on your team, hiring a temp—to give yourself a true break in those first few weeks, and hopefully, first few months. After that, regardless of your childcare situation, realize the new Mom You isn’t going to be the same as the Old You. The new Mom You is operating on a lack of sleep and a severe case of mom brain—and if you don’t think it’s a thing, you’ll soon be saying, ‘I get it!’ when you do something like accidentally email a client an off-color joke instead of your co-worker, or put milk in the cabinet. Know that your sleep and your cognitive abilities will return, but to cut yourself some slack when and if you’re late on deadlines or can’t keep up the pace the childless you could. You’ll get your mojo back and be better than ever, but it takes time to readjust to your new life and your new priorities.”
“Keep your blender in your mixing bowl. Have a you ever baked a cake, brownies, or cookies using a hand blender? Did you take the blender out of the bowl for a moment before hitting the off switch? What happened? Batter flew all over the place and made a big mess. Not fun. Then, you had to take time away from making your delicious recipe to clean up that mess, which was a huge distraction and setback to what you were actually trying to accomplish.
That’s what happens to us when we lose sight of making our special recipe for success, whatever that means in our lives, and start paying too much attention to what others are doing. While it’s nice to have an idea of what’s going on around you, it’s also very distracting and messy to become too consumed and focused on what others are doing.
When you’re an entrepreneur it’s really easy to compare yourself to what others are doing, and the same is true for motherhood. When you combine motherhood and entrepreneurship, the urge to compare can be incredibly overwhelming—but it doesn’t have to be.
Being a mom is the most life-changing experience and how motherhood impacts your life will be entirely unique, important, and incredibly personal to you. To you. It’s your recipe for success that you want to focus on, and yes you can get some tricks and hints for improving it, but keep your recipe unique to you.”