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My Impossible Dream of Maternity Leave

by Jennifer Heller on August 23, 2016

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

Questions? Comment? Cigars? Cigarettes?


Well as a small business owner are there 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 existing 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 fulfill your own life needs.

JenniferHeller moderator

Ironically, I'm literally not alone since I've got a wonderful little baby growing inside me.

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