My Impossible Dream of Maternity Leave

I have never felt more alone than I have since I got pregnant.

I’m not alone. I know that. I have a loving family and great friends.

But I don’t have anyone that truly understands what I’ve been going through.

My company is small — I have just one employee and three or four contractors. We used to be bigger, but we’ve gotten leaner as time has gone on.

We’re a services company. In case you’ve never thought about what that means, here’s the basic outline:

We get paid when we work. We don’t when we don’t.

Furthermore, keeping the pipelines full of work is my #1 job. I like to think of it as romancing potential clients and keeping the love alive with our existing clients.

“What’s up with you? Oh that’s what you’re working on! Well, we’d love to help…”

What it actually is? Sales. In other words, I am 100% responsible for providing for my team — ensuring there’s work enough for us to stay afloat.

Now, if I could go back in time three or four years, I’d force myself to focus (as much as I know how I would fight me). Focus on one service. Only one. Take a financial hit if needed. Market the hell out of the one service. Maybe it would have been logo design. Maybe it would have been fun, engaging PowerPoints.

But it sure as hell wouldn’t be what we do now. Which is whatever anyone wants us to*.

The thing is that I’m good at it all. I love the variety of our work. But this is my Achilles tendon.

This is why I will not get a maternity leave.

How do you train a sales person to sell everything? How do you train a sales person to scope everything? How do you have a small team that’s somehow skilled in everything without guidance??

You don’t.

I’ve worked so hard to systematize our processes to empower my team to work without me, but the bottom line is that it will never be possible as long as we offer so many different services.

I’ve daydreamed of the magical unicorn who will have the exact same skill set as me and be able to step in and take over so I can focus solely on adapting to life as a parent and changing diapers for a few months.

Scratch that. This magical unicorn has to be even better at selling than I am while still possessing all of my other skills that enable us to offer the myriad services we do and do them well. This magical unicorn has to be good enough at selling that they make enough for me to get paid while I’m off, pay the rest of my team and pay themselves.

I’m working hard to introduce new income streams that might give me some space and ease the pressure for my first few months as a parent. But I have three months until this little baby makes his or her debut. Three months to essentially transform my company’s business model?

Once again, I’m daydreaming.

I know the impossible can actually be possible. But I also have to be realistic. The reality is that I will give birth and go back to work. I’ll focus on sales and moving projects along as I always do. Only I’ll (probably) be struggling to stay awake and more frazzled than I can possibly imagine.

My husband will be home to support me. My friends and family will be there to support me.

But I will be as alone then as I am now.

Alone with the terror of having to lay off my staff.

Alone with the very real danger that I might not make enough money to pay myself or — gasp — my team.

Alone with the fear of debt.

Alone with the fear of failure. Not only of failure as a new parent, but failure at providing for my team and my family.

And everyone wants to talk about nursery accessories and baby names. Do I have a birthing plan??

*Within reason

Lets hear from the peanut gallery, eh?

3 thoughts on “My Impossible Dream of Maternity Leave

  1. Aww. So sorry Jen. That is really tough. :…( 
    I know it’s not going to be the easiest thing, but I do know that you’ll get through it. That’s what you said to me to finally hush my incessant nervous questions about the idea of you having a baby… you said, “People just do it. They make it happen.” Or something like that. 
    Even though you may not have the capacity for maternity leave, you do have the capacity to fine-tune your business to be all about one service. I think that’s a great reflection and it’s 100% not too late to transition to that, though it may take some time. What’s amazing about your business is you can work from home on your hours… that’s so huge! That means you and the baby will have all these awesome experiences together that you would totally miss out if you didn’t have this business. As far as getting more sales goes, you could come up with three strategies that you do every week to bring in more sales. I’ll bet that will help, though I know the other side of that is having to fulfill the sales. 
    Anyway, if that was an annoying comment, forget about it and just read this: Your fonts are really good on this blog!

  2. Well as a small business owner are the other small business owners you can turn to for advice? Or have a more flexible work schedule, so even if you don’t have a solid 3 months maternity leave maybe you could have 6 months of 1/2 work, with the baby at the office? Maybe you should turn to your exisiting team for help and see how they could help for the short term. 

    Just throwing ideas out there. As your own boss – you might have to get creative with trying to fulfil your own life needs.

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