Here’s why this is important: Being a new mum and running a business might not be for everyone, but they also don’t need to be mutually exclusive.
I had a baby in November 2020. And whilst this blog and my coaching is never going to be about running a business as a mum (the term Mumpreneur makes me feel a bit sick in my mouth ) I did want to share a few learnings about how I’ve managed to juggle having a baby with running my business.
Many people have asked me how I’m doing it. And I also know I can be an inspiration to others dreaming of a future where they can parent and run their own business but can’t see how it’s possible.
So for you, I am sharing this.
I’m not going to lie though. I have worried about writing this.
Because I don’t want the opinions of people who will argue strongly that I’m doing the wrong thing and not prioritising my baby by choosing to go back to work and juggle the two, especially while she is so young (I returned to work as my daughter turned 3 months).
I thought business comparison and judgment was the pits.
But parenting comparison and judgement is on another level
By working and bringing up my baby I get to be me the business owner and coach. Me the mentor. Me the cheerleader for my clients, me the creative making helpful resources and me the curator of space in my membership.
And because I can be all those things, I get to be a better mum too. Rather than a full-time carer to a tiny human, I get to remember that I have other skills, talents and strengths to offer the world. Other than my ability to make milk from my own body, change a nappy and shake a rattle to engage a tiny mind.
I also feel some shame when it comes to sharing this story of what I’ve done.
Like somehow it’s wrong to admit that I truly feel that right now I have it all and I’m incredibly happy with the lives we’re living.
That’s because there are so many mothers struggling out there.
Particularly with lockdown, some women have suffered horribly with difficult pregnancies (and losses), complicated or traumatic births or simply feel isolated and let down having to spend their maternity leave alone with their baby.
Unable to join groups in person to connect with other mums and with the niggle that babies are missing out on stimulation and social interaction, I see every day mums expressing how tough it is and showing each other solidarity.
I see that. And I sympathise.
Lockdown to me as a new mum has been a blessing and actually pretty enjoyable:
With nowhere to go and no-one to see we have created the most incredible routine for ourselves which has enabled my baby to sleep brilliantly and independently from just a few weeks old.
We have been able to spend quality time together as a new family and watch practically hour by hour how much our baby develops and learns new things. She has a bond with both of us and I will always look back incredibly fondly at the days, albeit monotonous sometimes, we have spent together just the three of us in our home.
I don’t see loads of other babies a similar age so I have zero to compare her to which means a hell of a lot less worry. I think she’s doing amazing and my beloved friends and family reaffirm that to me when they see her on calls, so that’s all I need right now.
I don’t have to buy loads of breastfeeding friendly clothes. Because quite frankly, I only breastfeed in the privacy of my own home so if I need to take my top off I just do.
My soft post-partum body stays hidden on Zoom calls or under coats when I meet people for walks, so I don’t feel the need to compare it to others who might be ‘bouncing back’ quicker than me physically.
I live in a different county from my family. At nearly 4 months old as I write this (March 2021) they have still not met my daughter, nor do I really expect they will for months to come.
So it’s not exactly been ‘easy’ for me either (not that this is the Suffering Olympics, as Brene Brown would say).
But I really think the positives outweigh the negatives. Or at least, that’s how I’m choosing to channel my energy.
Before I dive in to how I’m working alongside bringing up my baby I do want to caveat my ‘how I’m doing this’ points with my privileges:
I have a loving, very present husband who is actively involved in rearing our child. I can genuinely trust him (and more importantly he wants) to take care of our daughter for several hours at a time while I’m working. He also does shift work which enables me to do calls with clients in normal hours when he’s home. I know not everyone has this person in their lives to share the childcare with.
I have an uncomplicated child. I joke with people I manifested my easygoing baby by telling everyone when we were pregnant “don’t worry, we’ve ordered one that sleeps.” So far (touch wood!) she’s a joy and a pleasure to spend time with, feed and get to sleep. Things can and will change all the time of course. But I know many have babies who are incredibly demanding or have allergies, issues or are just more needy and fussy. Every child is different. We got lucky.
Setting up your own business and income takes time. No matter what people tell you about how you can make millions overnight (), in my experience anything worth its weight and that is truly sustainable is going to evolve over time.
I knew I wanted and was capable of creating, a flexible life for myself and any future family. But that was going to involve time working things out, building a reputation and honing my craft.
So I got started well before my baby came.
I see lots of people having their babies and only then deciding they don’t want to return to corporate work and are finally ready to go solo.
But at this stage your time is far more limited. You don’t have as much flexibility, way less brain space and hours in the day and naturally you will feel the pull to do the ‘sensible’ thing and stick with a job that offers maternity pay and ‘security’. And I use quotation marks on the word ‘security’ because I think COVID has proved that no job is ‘secure.’
Personally I am so relieved I went solo years before starting a family. It felt brave and scary at the time. But it set me up for the flexibility I have now. Given I was working in the music industry which has now been decimated by COVID, I feel lucky. But then I remind myself I create my own luck.
I realise going solo early is not possible for everyone. But if it’s something you want to do anyway in the long term and have the chance to give it a go, why don’t you just start now, before you have a dependent?
When I found out I was pregnant my business was almost exclusively based on working with people 1:1.
I love working in this way, but at my peak I was spending 4-6 hours a day on Zoom calls with clients. That wasn’t going to be sustainable with a small baby who I wanted to care for myself, as well as running my business.
So I needed to tweak how I made my income.
I spent most of the year building and learning how to best run a membership programme and launched the Just Start Now membership, initially as a very small accountability group, developing into a full membership with content, weekly calls and guest coaches and experts to support people starting their wellness businesses.
I 100% believe I wouldn’t have had the skills or knowledge or quite frankly the audience to create a membership without 18 months worth of 1:1 work under my belt first. This is one of the reasons I strongly suggest working 1:1 first before you launch your own membership, course or group programme.
My membership doesn’t make the bulk of my income, nor do I expect it ever will. But having the ongoing earnings each month helps me feel secure financially and enables me to help through a one-to-many format that makes the best use of my time to help the most people.
Some will call this ‘passive income’ but I can assure you it’s anything but passive when you have members you care about and want to help get results!
I do still continue to work with people 1:1, but now it’s a much smaller number that can be fitted in around the hours I’m taking care of my daughter. It means I have a wait-list and have to stagger and pace myself. But that’s healthy and a great place to be in.
This is tough for anyone in business – I see my clients all the time making themselves perpetually available in evenings and weekends and supporting people at all hours of the day, to their own detriment.
With a baby that sort of way of working just isn’t realistic.
I was already fairly well boundaried before my daughter arrived, with set days I did and didn’t see clients, but now I’ve gone up a level with the limits I put on my time.
I have a tiny human who needs me and takes priority and whom I want to spend genuine, focused time with, not to mention a husband who I want to relax and unwind with and spend quality time with as well.
So my availability for client calls is now extremely limited compared to what it was before. Of course I worried that this would be an inconvenience to my clients and make me less likely to get booked. But it hasn’t impacted me at all.
I also cut myself some slack when I can’t get back to people as quickly as I would like, particularly my membership group. But here what I’ve learned is the power of a bit of a space; sometimes people figure it out themselves in the interim between asking and getting a response! And also the power of the group – I don’t in fact have to answer everyone’s questions immediately because the group can support each other.
As ever usually these ‘problems’ are in our heads rather than actual real-world problems that need overcoming.
Working in much shorter and more limited windows of time really does focus you. I’m still not perfect at it (I’m a sucker for procrastination just like the rest of you!) but I’m getting more and more adept at tackling the biggest more important tasks first when I get the gift of baby-free time.
Let’s talk a couple of baby related specifics about how I’m juggling both business and baby.
Combination feeding is not for everyone. But before I even got pregnant I knew that I was not going to have a baby that exclusively breastfed.
It was vital to me and my sanity (and eventually my work) that my baby took both boob and bottle so that I have the flexibility to work for extended periods of time (by which I mean 1-3hrs maximum).
I had heard far too many stories of mums who couldn’t even go for dinner with friends or get their hair cut without their baby needing them. I didn’t want that to be me.
We introduced bottles from early on and made sure our daughter had a bottle every 3-4 days in the first few weeks so she got used to both and never rejected the bottle.
I express every day to feed my daughter but it has quickly become clear what I produce isn’t enough for the bottles she needs while I work, or even for a bottle before bedtime. So we mix in formula to her days too.
If you want to give your baby exclusively breast milk there are ways to get your supply up by expressing regularly and feeding on demand.
But I didn’t want to do either of those things endlessly as it simply doesn’t fit with how I want to live and work. Some might say I’m selfish. But I’m doing what’s right for us both to be happy and healthy.
So a combination of breast milk and formula works brilliantly for us.
I’m pretty angry at the total lack of information that is available to mothers who want to do this. I searched and searched when I was pregnant and in the early days post-baby but never found anything helpful. All the information seemed to either be 100% breastfeeding or 100% not. No half way house.
This is poor. And not the truth about what’s possible. I’d love there to be clearer advice to help women embrace doing both simultaneously. But I don’t have the energy or hours to campaign about it.
All I can say is if you want to combination feed then please believe me when I say it can be done.
Again, this won’t be for everyone. But it was imperative to me that we get into a routine where our baby would nap on her own in her cot, and not need to be breastfed, rocked, patted, shushed, or cuddled endlessly in order to sleep.
I followed a plan from Baby Sleep The Night and it changed everything.
My days suddenly had structure, our baby napped brilliantly through the day and soundly by herself at night and the whole routine meant there was space for me to work.
When you have a baby, any time at all where you have both hands free and you’re not blowing raspberries or singing Wind The Bobbin up are precious.
Not everyone wants to sleep train their baby. But for me and my business, it’s been vital and the single biggest thing I did to enable myself to get back to work.
So there we have it.
And look. This isn’t a definitive guide on how to run a business with a baby.
There are millions of ways to do it and everyone who does it will find their own rhythm and way of combining fantastic parenting with delivering for their clients and communities.
But personally, because of all these factors and steps I have taken, becoming a parent hasn’t felt like a huge adjustment.
Don’t get me wrong, in the early days glued to the sofa for hours feeding or sleeping beside my baby I wondered if I’d ever get my life and business back.
And there are also still really sh*t hard days. Like today, I’m editing this blog post at 00.41 in the morning after a day with a grizzly baby meant getting nothing done on my business during daylight hours. I’m not perfect, no-one is.
But now we’re out of the early haze I genuinely feel my life and work is pretty similar to what it was before our baby arrived, except I now fit my work into ‘awake windows’, her routine and some days her mood!
I feel like I can hear the ‘just you wait’ brigade making noises in the wings.
And yes, of course. I am not an expert parent – I’ve only been doing it a mere matter of months.
I know things will change.
They already do, every single day.
But I’m in charge of how I think, feel and act. And where I can control what happens in the hours in my life I will.
This is how we’re doing it.
And I love it.