Don’t type on the baby


In Part 1 of my series on Self Employment and Maternity Leave, I discussed the technical aspects of getting compensation from social security for maternity leave. In Part 2, I discussed whether it is realistic for a business owner to disappear for three months and hope that the business will still be there when she gets back from her maternity leave. My conclusion is that it is not.

Having said that, I promised that I would explain how it is possible to get any work done while on maternity leave. There are two main “environmental” supports that I found play a significant role in my ability to get work done with baby in tow:

  1. Home office: make sure that you have a complete a home office, since you will need to work whenever you find time available. Also, getting to an outside office is pretty difficult during maternity leave. Computer, Internet, phone, email, fax, and software should all be available to you in your home.
  2. Baby sling: babies like to be held. A lot. If you are holding them with your hands, you can’t get much else done. But we women are all about multi-tasking, and that’s where the sling comes into play. Place baby in sling and voila! – two hands available for typing, juggling, knitting, and even archery.

Severe time constraints
Aside from the above support systems, it is important to realize that the time available to you for work with a baby at home is severely limited. In order to handle the diminished amount of time, there are two things you can do:

  1. Improve your efficiency, and adopt a better system for completing tasks. Many people are avid followers of David Allen’sGetting Things Done” time management system. Not only is there a book on the subject, there are blogs, wikis, and free online software dedicated to helping people become more productive. I personally am still trying to figure out what this whole movement is about, but it seems worth checking into.
  2. Make a conscious effort to shrink your workload. Understand that the current reality of a new baby means that you can’t work 24 hours a day, even if you wanted to. Baby cries, needs to eat, wants to be held, etc., and this can eat up significant parts of your day. Some ways to lower your workload is to avoid actively seeking out new work, to stop any marketing programs you may be running, and take a lower profile.

Don’t feed the computer
Here’s an amusing anecdote (at least I think it’s amusing). A colleague called to see how I was progressing on a project. I told him I was working on it, and that it wasn’t easy since I had the baby on one side, and the computer on the other.

He said “Just make sure you don’t start typing on the baby and feeding the computer.”

P.S. It is very hard to find information on how to plan your business for the arrival of a new baby. Well, there’s actually someone out there who helps businesswomen prepare their businesses for their maternity leave. See the comment on this blog by Bill Dueease, who describes some things that women can do in advance to reduce the conflict of choices that faces mothers, including putting together what he calls a “baby plan.” Take a look at his informative comment, and then visit his site!