One of the most common questions I’ve been getting from friends, family, and readers alike lately is, “are you taking time off? How are you handling that?” Maternity leave is always a complicated topic here in the US. But it becomes even more of a grey area when you work for yourself! I thought I’d share a post on how I’m planning to approach taking time off when LR arrives (which should be anytime in the next couple of weeks now! 😬) and I hope it can help some fellow moms to be out there!
The tough part, as you probably know, is that as a full-time blogger I don’t get paid if I’m not creating content–for the most part. Of course, I do make passive income from blog post affiliate links that continue to get traffic from SEO, Pinterest, etc. As well as some ad revenue based on how much traffic I get on my blog each month. But these are smaller chunks relative to the grand scheme of things. There is no PTO for self-employed people. That’s a downside. But on the flip side, I get to make my own schedule, I’m in charge of when/how much I work. And to me that far outweighs the benefits, so this isn’t something that keeps me up at night worrying! BUT, it does take a bit more planning when preparing for big vacations or life events where time off is required!
How I Plan to Approach my Self Employed Maternity Leave
Here is my plan (or lack thereof, if we’re being honest):
Front loading my workload pre-baby arrival
As you know, I don’t do a ton of sponsorships because I’m truly so picky about the brands I work with. A lot of bloggers have management companies who pitch them a lot and get them as many sponsorships as possible. That’s not my cup of tea. Because your trust means everything to me and I don’t think anyone benefits in the long run from me pushing a brand I’m not 110% obsessed with! And also, because sponsorships are a LOT OF WORK. And that’s particularly draining for me–so my goal has always been fewer, better partnerships!
Do I miss out on a lot of money? Yes. But that’s okay. I would choose happiness (and your trust!) over more money any day of the week. I have a good balance between doing work that fulfills me and making enough for my family! (This is a convo for another day. But this is one reason we always aim to live well below our means. Because I CAN easily turn down lots of potential revenue and easily have my, “if it’s not a HELL YES, it’s a no” policy.)
Anyway, back to the topic at hand–because of the reasons above, I haven’t really had the need for an agent/ manager for the past couple of years. Because I went through a period where I got too burnt out and decided to take a break from focusing on a lot of partnerships (and would only take on the ones that proactively reached out to me and were brands I already used and loved). BUT. I decided now was a good time to bring my agent back on. (We’d worked together in the past, she’s so incredible and SHE GETS ME 🥰.)
Why? For a couple reasons.
One, because I knew I wasn’t going to have time or energy to deal with the time consuming admin part of managing my sponsorships with a baby. And truthfully, we have a LOT more expenses now with LR coming into the mix. And I needed someone to pitch brands I really want to work with more proactively. (Between daycare and college alone, WHEW man! Not to mention, the expenses associated with a newborn!)
Molly REALLY gets me and my brand and knows my very high standards. And has been able to land me some partnerships I wouldn’t have been able to land on my own with brands I’m really really excited about (like buybuyBaby, Kindred Bravely and Ritual, to name a few!)
Anyway, long story short, this all is to say–with her help I’ve been able to front-load a lot of partnerships (if you’ve noticed, I’ve had more than usual over the past couple of months) PRIOR to maternity leave. So I’ll be able to hit the breaks for a bit and not feel the financial pressure.
If you’re also self-employed, I think this is a really great strategy. And if you can balance it with your current workload. Yes, it’s more work on the front-end, and I have three more projects to film and post before I’m officially “checked out” for a while, and that’s kind of dragging on me at the moment at almost 38 weeks along 😆 but knowing I have front-loaded this extra income is going to allow me to truly check out if I want to and not have to worry!
The most important part of my “maternity leave plan” is to not be attached to any specific outcome
Other than front-loading some extra partnerships, the only other part of my “plan” that really isn’t even a plan is to not be attached to any specific outcomes. (Which is kind of my philosophy going into motherhood in general.)
I have no idea how I’m going to feel about work once she gets here. I could see myself wanting to be totally immersed in her and not think about work at ALL, OR just as likely, could see myself still needing and wanting an outlet to hang on to some semblance of feeling like “me.” I’m sure reality will fall somewhere in the middle, and I know that my feelings might shift as time goes along! That’s normal!
However, the last thing I want to do is push myself to work when all I want to do is be present with her.
Time is so precious, and I know I will never get these newborn days with her back. I feel like so many moms I talk to say they didn’t let themselves be present enough when their first baby was born because of X, Y, and Z. I feel so lucky to have that foresight. So I can try and be more intentional!
Part of me feeling really strongly about waiting until now (almost 33) to have kids is because I wanted to be in the financial position to be able to afford the kind of “lifestyle with kids” that I knew would make me feel the most balanced. (Read: So I can embrace ALL THE HELP and still have a lot of freedom!)
I knew when this time came in my life, I wanted to be able to be present with our kids as much as I wanted to be (while having the freedom to work as much as I wanted, too) so I’m hoping to be very firm in these boundaries with myself and remind myself that I worked REALLY hard over the past few years to get to this place for a reason. And if I don’t want to do anything other than focus on LR during this new phase, I don’t have to.
I’m really proud of myself for getting to this place.
Younger Jess would’ve said there’s no way she can go dark from posting on her blog for a month. I would’ve stressed myself out SO much trying to front-load content to go up while I was “on a break”–and that’s just NOT necessary.
You all are wonderful, I have the best readers in the world–I know you will still be here when I get back. And for those who aren’t? That’s okay too! I won’t take it personally!
You don’t get any do-overs in life. And let’s be honest–I’m not saving lives here. I’m not a doctor, I’m a blogger. 😂 I think it’s so easy to get too wrapped up in work and think so many things are a WAY bigger deal than they actually are! But then you blink and realize you’ve missed so many moments that you can never get back–and I’m really glad to be in a more grateful, present, and intentional headspace going into motherhood!
Planning to take a one month leave from posting on the blog
Roughly, I’m planning to take off posting on the blog from the time she’s here through the month of July. There might be a couple days here and there when I do end up doing a blog post or two, if I feel like it. (The Nordstrom sale is mid July. So I kind of feel like I will end up doing SOMETHING around that. 😆)
After all these years, I do still love my job–so I can definitely see myself being like, “I need to feel like “Jess” again and I’m going to walk to a coffee shop and write a blog post”). Again, not tied to any outcomes, but I won’t be sticking to my regular posting schedule.
Neal also gets two months of paternity leave. Which is incredible and we are so grateful for. He’s planning on taking the first month off with me. (So we’ll both be pretty disconnected from work in July.) And then play the rest by ear split between August/September based on how we’re both feeling and what we’re thinking we’ll want our schedules to look like before she starts daycare full time in the fall.
Spend August and September working part time (I think?!)
After that first month off, I’m going to just see how I feel! How much will I want to write and be creative? I don’t know! Maybe I’ll start back posting here 2 or 3 days per week, or just however often I feel like it! I’m not going to tie myself to shooting for a certain number of hours per week right now. I also have some partnerships I’m excited about lined up for August, with the agreement that timing on those might need to shift as necessary, which is great. And brand partners have been really understanding!
In August and September, Neal and I will get into some kind of groove between taking care of her and squeezing in some work hours where we want/need to. We are also so fortunate to have a lot of help–we are having a night nurse come for a couple nights per week for the first couple of months so we can catch up on sleep. My mom will fly out from Oregon at least a couple of times to help us, my MIL and SIL both work at schools. So will be off a lot of the summer and will be here to help as well. And of course, we have my incredible assistant/house manager, Janine.
A note on embracing help whenever you can:
It is such a privilege and luxury to have the help and support that we have. And at times, I have hesitated to share this because I know so many others don’t have this option. Childcare is so expensive, many don’t have support of their families, the list goes on–but I decided this topic is important to normalize, because “accepting help” is still something that has a negative connotation these days. (Because, of course, moms are supposed to “do it all” 🙄)
Well, I don’t subscribe to that notion. I KNOW I need help, I know I can’t do it all, much less do it all well. And I am willing to take as much help as possible! That doesn’t mean I’m not a great mom, that doesn’t mean my child won’t feel loved because I’M not the one doing EVERYTHING for her. I hope I can help normalize this concept and make it easy for those who have access to help (whatever that might look like!) to willingly embrace it!
So whether that’s as small as taking your friend up on an offer to come hold the baby while you shower, letting a family member come over and help you with laundry, or re-assessing your budget to allow for a date night sitter once per week, a cleaning service, or spending the money on the nanny or the night nurse even though you feel “guilty” about it. We all need help.
Long story short, I know these months will be a scrappy tag-team effort. There will be a lot of moments where it feels like a shit storm. But I know this will be a really special time for us, her, and our families.
Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere on stories 😉
As you can probably guess, blog posts take up the vast majority of my time–but stories are really easy to share, and it’s my favorite place to hang out with you! I still plan to post everything we’re up to and my normal everyday content on Instagram (I would miss you guys too much!!) it’s really more the blog post creation part (and the sponsorships part) that I’ll be taking more of a break from!
Daycare in October
LR will be starting full time daycare in October. So our full time schedules will start to get back into the swing of things at that point! Having her to ourselves for the first three months felt right to us. But “new full time life” needs to start eventually! I wavered over whether to start with part time at first. But ultimately, freedom and flexibility is just one of my most important core values for happiness as a human (I’m an Ennegram 7 if that tells you anything–my biggest fear is feeling “trapped”) and I know that trying to do the part time dance and having work and her pull me in opposite directions was going to REALLY stress me out personally. (I know for others, it’s the opposite! I think just knowing yourself and staying true to that is key!)
That being said, the daycare I chose is really flexible and wonderful.
And while it’s full time, if I don’t want to send her at any given time and want to spend the day with her instead, I can easily do that! (I won’t be sharing any more about her daycare for security reasons, obviously. But I encourage you to interview around and choose the daycare that most aligns with your values!)
I have been getting some questions about how we made decisions around childcare. And I’m happy to do a post on that, but it’s really quite a short story: We live in the city in a condo and there is absolutely NO way we would get any work done with a nanny and a baby in our house. It’s hard enough to work together in our condo with just us two. 😂 So daycare was the only option for us! But everyone’s childcare situation is different. And I encourage you to just go with your gut and do what feels best for you!